Loving Well & Daring Greatly

one woman's documentation of His glory

Where My Heart Is

We were sprawled out on the floor last night laughing so hard my sides hurt, playing cards center, and three other faces staring at me. “She has blue,” one teen whispered as the other two eyed the final card in my hand. Then I slammed down the red in triumph as they groaned, “NOOOO!” and my hands were in the air and smiles on their faces. An hour or so later a small quiet girl shyly giggled as a I bit the head off my marshmallow snow man craft just to see them smile, and at the end of the night I sat with a nine or ten year old who wanted to make sure he made his brother a beaded wrist band. As they filtered out and I said my goodbyes, “until next month,” became a common phrase of reassurance mostly for them - and some for myself. 

My friend and I sat there over our beers decompressing and discussing the night and what it meant for practical needs to be met. When I woke up, I drug myself into the shower and then out the door for some time to step back, recenter, and head into another meeting. Before getting in the car a friend, who in the past year became equipped to receive foster children, text me to let me know four children had shown up at their door at 3AM looking for pillow to rest their heads. “Emergency Placement” is the term we use for situations such as these. I prayed and I cried for those babies the entire car ride in. 

I think everyone has a justice theme in their life - for me it has always been speaking up for or alongside those others wish to silence. As time passes it has become more of learning how to love people, how to break open this cold and calloused heart of mine over and over so I can meet them where they are. But mostly, it has become about seeing people and all their gifts and potential - and speaking life into them. 

That’s why I love working with children - why my journey from a young program developer in a transitional home to an overseas teacher/tutor/volunteer to a nanny has led me to working alongside the foster care system. It is why I want to teach them how community and independence can be found in gardening, cooking, and feeding themselves. It is why at some point foster parenting is an incredibly real and tangible idea for me. 

Because my heart belongs to the children. Because I look at my city and I see the harm done to them by oppression and gentrification. Because they deserve the chance. Because one day - they won’t be children. 

There are a lot of justice causes, and some we each feel more of a pull towards. But children are not a cause - they are people. And I think that’s what I fight for the most, that I, and you, and the rest of the world who decided to grow up would remember that they are beautiful humans just starting out on this crazy journey of life. And they should have a chance to not only make it, but see their dreams come true and justice roll like a river. 

Tonight I feel thankful for such an opportunity to be on this journey. If there is one thing I keep learning over and over as I continue working with and for them, is that I constantly learn more about myself and life from them than I do anywhere else. 

You Never Forget

It is impossible to forget - that soul crushing weight of depression. It isn’t just a feeling you remember - it is a state of life, of being, of numbing ache. It doesn’t matter how long it has been since you’ve climbed out of that hellish pit of despair; how many minutes, days, months or years - You don’t forget once you’ve been there.

I quietly sank back into my depression in 2011 - attempting to salvage the disarray of my life. I was good at presenting it to be perfect despite the realities. By the summer of 2012 life altering events triggered a plunge into the darkest place I had ever been. I was floundering, attempting to not sink into the abyss that was pulling me under.

I laid on the floor of my studio apartment a lot, drinking until the tears dried up - or I’d curl up at the bottom of the shower and let the water pound over me to muffle the sobs that shook my body. I lost hours, days, months in that apartment. The only place you’d find me was at work, a bar, or at home. Social endeavors were a mess of their own.

One afternoon, I crawled out of bed hungover and listless - My ex and I had just had another “final” conversation, and I lay on the cold tile of my bathroom and sobbed for hours.

"I am so fucking alone," I told myself, and I believed it.

From there to here, has been nothing short of a miracle for me. I cannot tell you it has been easy. I cannot tell you it happened overnight. I cannot tell you I don’t still struggle.

Some days something will trigger an old emotion and the darkness - it threatens to pull me down and in. Because depression is an asshole like that. The type of asshole that shows up when you don’t want them around, and who sucks you dry.

But I will tell you this.
The fight out was worth it. Because I’m worth it. Because you’re worth it.

I want to tell you that we are here, standing up for you, saying we understand your struggle and your pain. I want you to hear this today:

You, all of you, matters.
It is a long, hell of a journey, but we want you here standing beside us. We want you to know that outside the searing pain - there is a brighter hope.

Lift your chin up and let the tears fall - but see the horizon? That is tomorrow, and tomorrow is full of new beginnings and new chances and love and hope and joy. And tomorrow is always coming - and we want you here with us. Because we know you won’t forget, just like we can’t, but your story and all that you are - matters.

Racist Apathy

I am Bi-Racial. Half caucasian. Half Mexican. 

I want to say first that I absolutely do not know the first hand struggles of being a black woman or man in a racist country. I have however had my own experiences, my whole life, and therefore I can and will always empathize and stand with those who are oppressed because of the color of their skin. 

We lived in a small town, and the high school I attended was made up of 400 or so teenagers. In my entire education I was one of perhaps 10 (maybe) students who were not 100% caucasian. When I was entering High School I still rode the bus and dealt with two girls who were the nastiest mean girls you could find in that small town. That year was the first time anyone ever used a racial slur towards me. 

"You’re such an oreo," she jeered. I had no idea what it meant until a few weeks later. 

"Definition: To much of the public, an Oreo is simply a black cookie sandwich with white cream filling. In the African-American community, however, an Oreo is used as a racial slur to insult blacks who “act white” or identify as such. The racial name Oreo is controversial because many blacks recount being called the racial term for doing well in school or speaking proper English, not because they didn’t identify as black. In short, these African Americans were singled out as sellouts simply for excelling academically and in other areas. Many blacks find this term hurtful, for they are proud of their African-American heritage.”

For one, the mean girl didn’t actually have her facts straight about myself in particular. But the intent was there. And for the first time in my life I felt the stab of cruelty that is racism. I won’t ever forget it. 

Later in my life I dated a man for half a decade who was black. We traveled an enormous amount. Once, in the beginning of the adventures, he explained to me why he liked to wear the simplest clothes as possible and leave early for the airport. 

"I get stopped every time. For my name and for my skin." He told me. 

I paid attention. Every time.

A couple years ago I took a long visit to my father’s childhood home in San Jose, CA. I stood on the plot where my great grandparent’s once lived. I drove past the old house that my grandparent’s raised their six children in. And my uncle drove me around to some of the places that still exist and told me stories from the past. 

One in particular was about my grandfather who stood up with other non white citizens and fought for their rights to use the public library. He won. 

I’ve heard a lot of things from people, who truly don’t mean any harm, about racism or the gentrification of Portland. But the most dangerous statement that continues to stand out is this one,

"I just don’t look at people and see the color of their skin."

If you don’t see my skin color. You are not empathizing with the struggles that are my family’s, my friends’, or mine. If you do not see skin color, you refuse to acknowledge that racism is alive and thriving in our country. ALIVE AND WELL. 

Just look at Ferguson. 

Just look at New York.

Just look here at Portland. 

Just look at the ignorance sprawled across social media by white people just “not understanding the issue;” or just plain out keeping silent. 

This is not a time for silence. 

If we want reconciliation we need recognition that this is REAL. 

If we want peace, we have to talk about it. 

If we want justice, we all need to OPEN OUR EYES. 

Don’t be ignorant. 

Don’t be apathetic. 

Because truly, those two things might be more dangerous than the racism itself. 

Solidarity comes from empathy and understanding of struggle. Because I hesitate to say anymore this is the land of the “free” when not enough seem interested in maintaining that for all humans that reside here.