Friday, March 14, 2014

Salt Air

Driving down PCH,
Breathing in the salt air,
My windows down and music up,
Deminishing my worries and cares

My mind goes back to college,
Nearly ten years ago,
I think of all that has happen since,
As I drive down the same road.

Like the highway,
There were hills and dips,
Good and bad times,
And I learned so much from it

On my drive I reach,
An elongated straight path,
I have not driven this far before,
I paused then step on the gas

Bring on the new adventure,
Be it mountain or valley,
This life long drive is so cherished,
It is the life of yours truly  

Monday, February 17, 2014

Presidents Day

I was talking with a co-worker (who lives in a different country) last week and explained that I would be off work for our Presidents Day holiday. She asked about it and what we did to celebrate (if there was a parade, if we eat a special meal) and I said "its really just a day off to celebrate many former President's Birthdays, as many were born in February." 

I guess it sometimes takes someone outside a situation to make you dwell in things... and it just so happens I finished a great book about some Presidents who dealt with mental illness, but I realized I don't give much thought on this holiday to the leaders who made this country what it is today. 

Though there were some horrible things that happened under some of their leadership, there were also some amazing things that happened too. America has been far from a perfect country, but there are a few principles that make me proud to be an American: that all should have access to freedom and liberty namely. 

So I thank the men (and future women) who have & will continue to make this possible. Though we are far from perfect, I am so grateful to be an American and for those who have upheld these values over the years. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Few Who Ruin The Blue

The few who ruin the Blue,

Seem more prevalent lately, 

Getting away with horrific crimes, 

Injustice shown blatantly. 

How on earth can it be?

In the year 2014,

A raped teen exhiled from her town,

A homeless man dying of a ruptured spleen? 

All at the hands,

Of those sworn to protect and serve,

And when their day in court comes,

They escape the punishment they deserve. 

I know they represent,

A small fraction of the Force,

But it's hard to swallow, 

As it is part of my history's course.

When I was 11 years old,

On my way to school,

I saw my best friend on a gurney,

Hit by a man who wore blue.

This off duty policeman,

Was driving while drunk,

But he never saw justice,

His case hidden in a county trunk 

Or my friend in college,

Who had an ebony skintone, 

And couldn't drive off campus at night, 

The cops would harass and not leave him alone.

Or when my husband was pulled over,

And he was asked if he had ammunition, 

Nothing he did deserved that first question, 

His ethnicity was what caused the suspicion.

Or when we were stopped in the Midwest,

The officer infered prostitutes were what we are, 

For driving with my husband, a brown man, 

Who without cause was held in his cop car.

And all of these cases,

Which made my blood boil,

Fail to compare,

To the brutality which makes me coil.

How can those who used a taser,

On a man who was hog tied,

Escape all charges? 

Even though they are the reason a man died? 

I have to remind myself,

That most are not this evil,

Many have good intentions,

And are honest and real.

But to the good ones,

I make this small plea,

Don't turn a blind eye to injustice,

Don't use your union to set them free.

See in the history of Orange County,

A cop has never been found guilty,

Of any charges of murder,

And that can't be coincidently.  

Don't bail out the guilty,

A blind band of brothers won't do, 

Please stand for what is right,

And don't be part of the few who ruin the Blue.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Is Intercultural Competence Privilege As Problematic As White Privilege?

Now this article might sound strange coming from a white girl, so let me explain my background a bit: 

I grew up in Hawaii and loved growing up in such a diverse environment. Every May we would highlight our diversity through our May Day celebration, featuring songs and dance from each culture. We learned to value and respect the many different cultures that make up Hawaii. 

However, on a couple occasions, I experienced something that most Caucasians do not- I was picked on because I was white. For example, I had gum spit in my hair and was pushed against a wall while a girl yelled "f-ing Haole" (a derogatory term for white people) when I was in Junior High. 

In spite of the hurt that comes with being picked on because of your ethnicity (none of the people who picked on me knew me- they just knew I was white), I also had a good understanding as to why there was hostility towards white people by some locals. Missionaries taking over their beautiful land and culture, real estate investors building monstrosities of hotels on the beautiful and serene beaches and the loss of native land to name a few. 

I knew all of this because I had the privilege of growing up in Hawaii and knew how to interact with a diverse group of people as a result. The negative incidents were few and far between, partly because I knew the situation (and got along with all the other non-Caucasians who knew me) and partly because there are only a small number of hostile people. A white kid who had just moved from the mainland would usually be picked on a lot more than a white kid who lived there their whole life. 

In addition to this, I saw the racial caste system in Hawaii. Tongans and Filipinos were often made fun of or treated as less than by other racial groups. Those who had more Hawaiian blood were on the top of the system (and often made it known by writing "100% Hawaiian" on their backpacks and folders). 

I grew up with 4 of my teachers being Japanese, and as a result, I learned a lot more about the horrific treatment of that culture during WWII than a lot of my friends who didn't grow up in Hawaii. 

It is partially because of this, that I realized some minorities have less of a platform than others and some of our horrific incidents in history as a nation have been essentially brushed under a rug. 

I loved my upbringing. I would never change where I grew up. Hawaii is a beautiful place, and 90% of the time is a benchmark for diversity and other cultures coming together to form a wonderful culture of their own. Living there has caused me to constantly desire and appreciate a diverse environment. But it's wrong to say everything is perfect... If we deny that, we can never move forward in terms of race relations. 

As a result of my upbringing, I have a very diverse group of friends, from all different ethnicities, cultures and backgrounds. My husband is Hispanic (which really confuses people when they see my last name and then meet me). Throughout our relationship I have seen my husband encounter a lot because of his race... Things I would have never imagined possible in this day and age. As an interracial couple we have experienced a handful of racist incidents too- cops harassing us, a restaurant in southern Missouri refusing to serve us and people giving us dirty looks.

I present my background merely as a foundation- I am not a white girl who feels like she can talk about different races because "my best friend is black" (though incidentally one if my best friends is). I am a white girl who has experienced a lot when it comes to diversity and race relations. And I am thankful for that, as I know it is a privilege.  However, I also acknowledge I will never fully understand the life of a black man who has been beaten because of his skin color, the life of a homosexual who has been sexually harassed by bullies or what it is like to be an undocumented immigrant who is constantly harassed by ICE. We each have different experiences and our different experiences shouldn't be used as a way to compete with one another as to "who has it worse." Rather these experiences should be used to learn from one another and grow as people. 

Though some of us have experienced varying degrees of racism and hurt, those of us who come from diverse backgrounds have the privilege of having a good foundational understanding of diversity. 

So here are 5 things that those of us with intercultural competence must note:

1. Intercultural competence is a privilege 

My husband and I were shocked when we moved to Missouri. People were so "white" (both skin tone and culturally). Many of them really only knew white people (which made sense it rural Missouri). The move was tough for many reasons, but the worst part about it was the lack of diversity (especially in the food). ;) 

One time, there was woman who we worked with who saw my husband at the store and wished him "Merry Christmas." Then she said "oh I am sorry, do you celebrate Christmas?" My husband was holding stockings and a popcorn can with Santa's face on it.

We had a good laugh about it at her expense, but in hindsight that was wrong. She has lived in an area with only white people her whole life. And tv and the internet can only do so much when you have never experienced living in a diverse environment.

When people say "stupid things" we shouldn't jump at the opportunity to demonize them... We should instead learn more about their background. Yes some people are just bigoted- even if they come from a diverse background. But we shouldn't assume that all people who don't say interculturally competent things are racist- they just haven't had the privilege of living in a diverse environment. Those of us who did, have learned many lessons they have not- we hold knowledge, which is a privilege  This isn't to say that they don't have privilege in many other ways, we should just note this is an area where they do not have the privilege we do. 

2. We often forget about the other minorities 

SNL was in the news for months after Lorne Michaels was confronted for the lack of black female actors on the show. He made a controversial statement saying that they would hire a black female actor when a talented one was available. This statement upset many people, from many different races because there are many talented black female comedians around. The public outcry eventually led to SNL hiring a black female actor in January. 

Though I am glad that SNL responded to the public outcry that there is a major diversity problem, people are acting like SNL is diverse now... It is not. There have been 4 black female actors in SNL's history, but only two Hispanic (males) and no Asians. This is not ok- we should all be continuing with the momentum and outcry for the lack of racial diversity on this show, yet we all seem satisfied that just one group's demands were met. When we only come along one group and forget others who are being marginalized, we are just lying to ourselves. We must not forget other minorities. 

3. We think we are exempt from being racist or bigoted

I love the movie "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." This movie was so ahead if it's time for many reasons, but namely because Spencer Tracey's character was a progressive man. He stood up for civil rights and believed everyone should be treated equally. But when his daughter brought home a black man, it brought all his true feelings to the surface... and he was conflicted with what he felt. 

I think we all have feelings that are racially motivated whether we realize it it not. Sometimes an incident can bring these ugly feelings to the surface and we are forced to confront them. 

One of my best friends and I were talking once about how we notice we will either think or say something with racist undertones about other drivers while driving through Garden Grove (a predominantly Asian area). We know that we don't really believe a people group can be categorized as bad drivers, nor would we, two seemingly progressive people, want to ever admit we think these things if we are in a bad place. Yet, if we don't acknowledge these feelings when they come up, we will keep pushing them down, and we will never be able to work on our issues and move forward. We must admit that we all have feelings and thoughts we are not proud of, but should acknowledge them and strive to move towards understanding and respect.

4. As a result of #3, we treat all people who are privileged as others

Socioeconomic status, mixed with race is doing more harm than good in academia. It's actually quite offensive. 

Affirmative action in its present state assumes that all minorities come from a lower socioeconomic class and thus will often provide countless scholarship opportunities based off of this logic. This is problematic for two reasons. First; we are mixing socioeconomic status and race. While they are not always mutually exclusive, it's racist to assume and blend them into one category. When we do that, we are placing preconceived labels on people. Secondly, those who are from a lower socioeconomic class, but are not minorities feel as if they are not being offered a fair chance. This builds up feelings of resentment and will cause more racial strife between groups down the road. Those who are white are not always privileged across the board... In some cases they have even less privilege.  We must realize that privilege is categorized (yes you have some privilege as a white male in some areas, but it doesn't always mean you have it across the board- finances, religion, education etc also all play a role in privilege). 

Look at socioeconomic status and race- don't just assume the two are combined. If we do that, we inadvertently treat those we deem privileged (whether correctly or incorrectly) as others.  

5. We need to show more compassion to others 

Since many of us from a diverse environment know what is right and wrong from an intercultural standpoint, we also know what we can and cannot say. And we must acknowledge that this is a privilege  Not every person who says something that is interculturally incompetent is bigoted, some just have not had the privilege that we have had in knowing what is and is not racist (and more importantly why). Yes, books can teach us a lot, but real life experiences give us the ever coveted street smarts, which proves to be much more valuable. 

When I first moved to Missouri, I was taken aback by the ignorant things I would hear. But after two years there, and many heart to heart conversations, I realized there were very few bigoted people, just some who were uninformed. But once they became informed, they changed the way they acted and spoke. Sometimes it takes those of us with privilege to come alongside those who don't have privilege to progress together. 

So there it is... Based off of my looks alone, one would never think I would have the right to talk about such things. Judging someone by their looks is wrong- we need to accept that all of us have a unique background which forms us into the people we are. We need to respect one another and show compassion to those who were not privileged enough to grow up in diverse environments. That is the only way ALL of us will progress and the only way we will make our world a better place for our children. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Ten Years Man! Ten Years!

One of my husband's favorite movies (and it's up there on my list too) is Grosse Pointe Blank. If you haven't seen it, it's a really funny movie that involves a ten year high school reunion. The main character runs into a friend who cannot believe it has been ten years since they graduated high school. He goes on and on about it and keeps obnoxiously shouting out "Ten years man! Ten years!" 

And in 2014 I find myself in a similar spot... Realizing that it has been ten years since I graduated high school. 

When I graduated high school in 2004, I wondered what life would be like in the year of my ten year reunion. Would I be married? Would I have kids? What kind of job would I have? 

In 2004, I had no idea about all that would happen over the period of ten years... 

I didn't know that I would volunteer at a non-profit organization the following year and end up working there for 9 years (and going) and eventually become a director of a department there. I didn't know that God would use my skill set and the passions from my youth at this job (like my interest/borderline obsession with geography, different cultures and talking/storytelling ... or communicating if I want to sound more professional). I didn't know that when I was 20 years old, a stranger had a word from God confirming this call on my life and that he said "God has you going to many countries throughout the world and you are going to see miracles like blind men seeing and lame men walking." I didn't know that I would go to countries in Africa, South America and Asia with my work and experience the miracles this stranger had prophesied. 

I didn't know that I would graduate with a degree in Communications from Vanguard University (I started with a Sociology degree) and a Leadership Master's degree from a small university in rural Missouri. I didn't know of the deep and amazing lifelong friendships I would make while I was in school. 

I didn't know that I would meet the love of my life when I was 19 years old and all that we would experience together. I didn't know that four significant members of my family would not be at my wedding and that they would not speak to me or the rest of the family for three years. I didn't know that God would use the situation to allow me to become closer with every other family member and that He would speak His truth through all of them, helping me overcome my people pleasing issues and the extreme anxiety that parliyzed me. I didn't know that God would bring His restoration to this situation and how He used it to help me grow more than I could have ever imagined. 

I didn't know that I would grow in my independence while living in Portland for a year and that after I got married I would move to the middle of nowhere Missouri. I didn't know that my husband and I would be "Mom and Dad" to over 60 teenage boys while living with them in a dorm (and I didn't know how much we would love them and have many of them in our lives for the long haul). I didn't know that we would have so many adventures while living there and be able to travel so much in the US and that we would be able to backpack through Europe.

I didn't know that my husband would drop down to 115 lbs and that he would almost die from his hyperthyroid. I didn't know that our school in Missouri would make a tax mistake right before we moved back to California and completely drain our savings. I didn't know that my husband would be out of work for a year and a half and that we would be so poor that we could only eat food like soup or Mac & Cheese and that we still couldn't make ends meet. 

I didn't know that in the year leading up to my ten year reunion God would drastically change our lives by providing my husband with a job in his field and that he would provide me with two unexpected payraises. I didn't know he would allow us to move from our dangerous old neighborhood and bless us with an amazing new apartment. 

And these are only some of the things I didn't know. 

I don't think the 18 year old version of me would have ever been able to guess all of the things that I would experience over the next ten years. I am so thankful for all 3,650 days- both the blessed and difficult seasons. I'm thankful for every experience and how God allowed me to grow through those times. I am so thankful for His faithfulness and the amazing life He has blessed me with and I am so excited for all that 2014 (and the future holds). 

Despite the likelihood of not keeping New Year's resolutions, I still like to set goals each year. Last year I aimed to memorize the book of Philipians, but only memorized most of chapter 4. I set a goal to eat 1200 calories or less a day and workout 3 days a week, but probably only did that 75% of the time. But I set a goal to read 2 books a month, and read 28 (4 more than I had to). Even if I didn't meet all my goals, I think the goals challenged me to do more than I would have, had I not set any goals. 

So without further adieu, here are my top ten goals for 2014:

1. Read through the Bible in a year

I have not done this since I was 13 years old, and thought it was about time to do this again. I decided to go with a plan that is a chronological reading (to the best of these Bibical historian's knowledge). Excited to see what God reveals this time around. 

2. Use myfitness app everyday 

I hope to record my 1200 calories (or less), 5 minute ab routine, 8 glasses of water and different workouts (with hopefully more being outside activities like hiking) everyday. 

3. Write a blog once a week 

My job involves lots of writing, so I have been slacking on my personal writing. I hope to use this blog to write blog posts, short stories, thoughts, poems and any other form if creative writing once a week. 

4. Read at least 2 books a month 

I learned so much from the books I read last year. Whether they challenged my theological beliefs, taught me more about leadership in the work place or were a stunning example of wordsmithing and storytelling, I learned so much. And I want to learn even more in 2014. 

5. Use my duolingo app everyday 

I have been trying to learn Spanish since I was 20 and have been failing miserably. This is the best language app I have ever come across and only requires 15 minutes a day. Wish me luck amigos!

6. Do at least one art project a month

Art has an amazing way of centering me. I get busy and forget to do art, something I very much enjoy. Whether it is painting, drawing a comic, finishing my photography class or doing web design I need to make more of an effort in this area. 

7. Take at least one walk by myself everyday at work

This is a great way to get centered, inspiration and most importantly a time set aside to spend with God, whether it is just being still with Him or getting His guidance. 

8. Take a picture everyday

We are so blessed to live in 2014 and as cheesy as the #photoadaychallenges are, it is an awesome way to document daily life and reflect on all the different experiences I have had. 

9. Incorporate more music in my life 

I need to listen to more music and play my instruments more... Period. Music centers me like art and sadly I have been pretty neglectful to one of my favorite parts of life. 

10. Seek out more ways to grow in certain areas spiritually

I go to my church twice a week, work at a Christian organization and most of my friends are Christian. I don't have many opportunities to evangelize, but don't want to use that as an excuse. I have always loved the song "Make my life a prayer to You" by Keith Green and want seek the ways in which God can allow me to grow and share His goodness with others. Excited to see how He will do this in spite of me and all my flaws.

I hope this long blog post reflects my thankfulness for the life God has blessed me with and pray it serves as an encouragement to you as you reflect on the life you have been blessed with. Happy 2014!