29 November 2011

A dream or divinity

It was strange, but but for some reason this evening, while I was at an activity tonight with some Spanish friends, I suddenly realized that I was glowingly happy. Really. It's strange, because I didn't even realize it until I thought, Wow! Why can't I stop smiling? I just wanted to sing (which I actually did since we were practicing for our choir... which will perform on Sunday!!!) and give everyone hugs!

There are many contributing factors: I talked to my sister today. I received a beautiful card with inspirational quotes I definitely needed to read in the mail from an amazing woman who I love dearly. I had a great day with my classes (things seem to be much better this week now that they are done with their exams...). And I have been feeling extra blessed, protected and loved lately, which is rather amazing.

But mostly I think it is because this weekend I experienced this:

The pictures I took cannot even begin to capture the magnificence of La Sagrada Familia or any of the other incredible Gaudí creations I was lucky enough to experience with weekend in Barcelona. But I know that being surrounded by this incredible and truly inspired beauty touched my soul and changed my view of the world by exposing me to something so ethereal and yet so grand and magnificent. There is no way to see this inexplicable masterpiece and deny that there was something greater than man behind its creation.

I am still stunned. Just thinking about it leaves me speechless and jubilant!

28 November 2011

Add one more to the list

I am also grateful for this beautiful work of art from a girl I knew once upon a time in college. She is an incredible woman, and I have been inspired by her since we first had a class together a few years ago. Now, she is a beautiful mother and an inspiring artist who has created this lovely tribute to a some strong, faithful, independent, and generally amazing women who inspire her. I love it!

The women in my life have always been a vital part of changing me, influencing me, inspiring me and helping me in basically every conceivable way. I am convinced that there is a power in sisterhood that we have only barely begun to tap into or understand. I love that. I love the power and influence of good women in my life! And as most of you who might read this are women, let me say, thank you, my dear sisters, for your love, your examples, your laughter and hugs and encouragement. Thank you for sharing; for talking and listening and for sometimes knowing how to sit in silence. Thank you for your patience and your advice. I love you!

23 November 2011

never enough

Even though my last post was about Christmas, I didn't forget Thanksgiving, nor could I. Perhaps never before in my life have I been more aware of the incredible blessings that allow me to function from day to day. More than anything else, I am overwhelmed by the kindness of others and the incredible strength I receive from my friends and family (and sometimes even complete strangers who show up out of the blue just when I need them most). I am completely incapable of expressing how much love and gratitude I feel for all those who love me and help me and keep me sane from one day to the next. I think many people will never realize how much they have blessed me and how I have depended on them; how they have been for me blessings from God and answers to prayer. Nor will I ever be able to fully explain what all the hugs and smiles and talking and listening, the calls or emails or texts or letters, the examples, the words, the images, the inspiration- all of it and more- I cannot begin to wrap all these things into words or any expression that I know of that could express what it has meant to me. For now, suffice it to say,

Truly. Sincerely. And with all my heart. Thank you. I love you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. Just now, after writing this post, I read this verse
that is only too perfectly fitting not to share:
Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people,
whatsoever land they may be in;
yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth.
Now this is my joy, and my thanksgiving;
yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever.


20 November 2011

when we went a-caroling

Maybe because I have recently been singing in a Christmas choir, I keep thinking about Christmas 2004, when I was a Senior in high school and my school choir spent the whole month of December singing. Or at least so it seemed, with concerts and performances in hotels and stores and nursing homes and parties. I remember feeling so proud of our music. It felt like we were really doing something special, partially because we were excused from so many classes. But mostly because we worked really hard to make the songs beautiful--to learn our parts, to blend and balance, to use good technique and to make our voices the best they could be, to memorize the words and the music and the dances--and then to transmit the message of the songs to those we sang for. And also because there is something special about Christmas music. There is something really powerful about the fact that we sing these songs year after year; that we all know the words and the tunes and everyone can sing along; that the music brings back memories we have of Christmases past; and most especially because they talk about peace, love, joy, beauty and the birth of the Savior. It is music that brings us together and reminds us of the love and blessings in our lives. It makes us want to be our best selves and show a little more love to those around us.

So, as I am officially kicking-off the Christmas season, turning on some Christmas tunes and singing Christmas songs, here is one song that I really loved from my Canyon Singer days: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." I particularly am thinking of the line "through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow." I am so grateful for all the years I have had together with my wonderful friends and family! I hope there will be many, many more. And even though I wont be near everyone I love this Christmas, I am already and always thinking of you all and sending you my love and, of course, good luck vibes :)

P.S. Any favorite Christmas tunes/renditions of Christmas songs you'd like to share with me? I am always looking to expand my collection of favorites!!

Merry beginning-of -a-lovely-Christmas-Season to one and all!! xoxoxo.

15 November 2011

Is this real?

Lately it has come to my attention that I have a somewhat strange perspective on my life here in Spain. It's as if I see this is a step out of reality; some kind of intermission in the story of my life. I didn't recognize it at first, but when I noticed myself continually having thoughts like, "In real life I would...." or "If this was my normal life..." or "When I get back to my real life..." The problem is, I haven't stepped into some alternate reality and left my life behind for me to pick back up someday when I get back.

How did I get this strange notion into my head in the first place? I don't quite know. But I suspect it has something to do with the fact that I am far from home and far from the things I have normally done (like being a students, which only consisted of, oh I don't know, practically my entire life). Because I knew when I came here that it was a temporary and I expect to go back to the United States again next year... and also back to school. But also because I have an overly active imagination that causes me, at times, to blur the line between fantasy and reality. Because for months I imagined life here in Spain and now that I am here it is almost as if I have been subsumed into one of my dreams--something that, although close to my actual life, is not actually true, but a realm of semi-reality and unlikely possibility.

I have this problem often--I have to make a concerted effort to differentiate between what is really going on and the imaginary scenarios that I create in my (day) dreams. Just today, for example, I had to yank myself out of an imaginary situation when I realized I was tearing-up as I was walking home from the train and someone on the street might notice. How do you explain that you are crying over an imaginary event that you created in your mind--not something real, but an imagined possibility (though quite distant) based on certain real life events that have occurred. If you don't think I'm crazy by now, I'm sure some Spanish stranger listening to my broken, confused explanation certainly would!

Anyway, the point of this rambling (which in my world of imagination my many readers are raptly interested in, as always :) is that I have somehow convinced myself that I am on a break from reality. I imagined this experience so often perhaps, or the feeling that I have been scooped up from the normalcy of the life I knew and deposited into another world is so strong, that I have started subconsciously dividing my time here from the rest of my life and my "reality." But that can be no more. I am here. And this is real. My life is not on pause, nor can it ever be.

I don't want my life in Spain to be some hazy dream experience, but a vivid piece of my life that can connect with the many other experiences I have had and that will blend into my future and prepare me for what lies ahead. And so, I commence with a new effort to change my mindset and to really live my life here in Spain.

So, saludos y besos from Spain!! I'm really here :) xoxo

13 November 2011

Caution: Work in Progress

If you can't tell, I'm having a blog identity crisis. For some reason I had the urge to change the "look" of my blog awhile back, and I haven't quite gotten it to the point where I really like it again... So sorry if it seems like every post has a new design. It's a work in process. And with me, it's a slow process. But since this blog is in some ways a representation of me, my life and my thoughts, that's actually fitting.

Thanks for your patience. Suggestions welcome!

We're Going Home

For some reason I was thinking about the song "Two of Us" the other day, and it brings me so much joy to listen to it! I think this is my favorite Beatles song! And lets be honest, that's saying something :)

It is a random connection, but this song reminds me of Christmas last year. I would listen to this song in the car sometimes as I drove all over Utah County for my job. I was always busy often hurrying from one place to another, bringing name cards for the Angel Trees, meeting with organizers and volunteers, picking up gifts, delivering materials, helping at the warehouse. There were so many different things to do for Sub for Santa and Angel Tree. I LOVED those days, even though they were long and tiring and there were a million problems to deal with (and it was cold outside), because I really felt like I was accomplishing something that would make life a little happier for children and families during Christmas. I think those few months will always stand out to me as one of the best experiences of my life. I am so glad to be reminded of it now as we're entering into that lovely holiday season once again (can you believe it's already here??!?!?!), living somewhere far away and doing something quite different. It's strange how quickly things change!

And so, a seemingly unassociated song that I love and will always remind me of my long drives around Utah County last year for United Way!

12 November 2011

Advantage. And it's opposite.

A dear friend of mine recently started a graduate program in Social Work. She is learning so much and loving the way her awareness and way of seeing the world is changing the more she understands about social welfare and social justice. She is an incredible woman--brilliant, loving, hard working, insightful, patient, forgiving, tolerant, caring. I love her and I know that she will be an incredible social worker and help so many people!! And I was really excited when she shared this article about racism Because it sheds a lot of light on what goes on in the world and in America, especially the things we don't usually tend to notice. In this particular case it is "white privilege."

The article is written by a woman who studies women's issues. But during the course of investigating the ways in which men are privileged over women, she began to see the ways in which one race is also privileged over others. In "small" ways sometimes. But, when it comes down to it, in ways that make a difference in the way we interact, the opportunities we have,the way we feel about ourselves and the way we fit into society. The accumulation of these little, unnoticed privileges turns into a system of inequality and division.

The things she sites as white privilege really struck a chord with me-- little things like being able to easily find products for you skin or hair type; "flesh" toned band-aids that at least approximate the color of your skin (a black friend and I were joking about this very topic not long ago!); the knowledge that on any given day, if someone treats you poorly you can be confident that it is not because of the color of your skin; the ability to see people who look like you in the media, in positions of authority, or even among your friends and neighbors. The list goes on. And some things seem like a bigger deal than others. But the truth is, when you look at these details, and when you start adding up the ways these factors affect us on a daily basis, they are all part of a system that privileges, and not benignly, one race.

When I look at my experience and my own life, as a white American, I begin to recognize how distinct the differences are. I realize that out of all of my close friends, only two are black. And, in fact, I don't recall ever having a close black friend before starting college. In reality, I have only really gotten to know a handful of black Americans during my lifetime. Why? I don't completely know. Partly because they have been the minority in my communities, schools, and social circles. Because there are still dividing lines. Because we do not live in a country where all people have equal opportunities and where our skin color is irrelevant to where you live, what you do and who you interact with. And the truth is while it has been easy of me not to notice these divisions and the lack of diversity in my own life, it a loss for all of us.

So here is a bit more from the article:
"Disapproving of the systems won’t be enough to change them. I was taught to think that racism could end if white individuals changed their attitudes. (But) a “white” skin in the United States opens many doors for whites whether or not we approve of the way dominance has been conferred on us. Individual acts can palliate, but cannot end, these problems. . .

"To redesign social systems we need first to acknowledge their colossal unseen dimensions. The silences and denials surrounding privilege are the key political tool here. They keep the thinking about equality or equity incomplete, protecting unearned advantage and conferred dominance by making these taboo subjects. . .

"It seems to me that obliviousness about white advantage, like obliviousness about male advantage, is kept strongly inculturated in the United States so as to maintain the myth of meritocracy, the myth that democratic choice is equally available to all. Keeping most people unaware that freedom of confident action is there for just a small number of people props up those in power, and serves to keep power in the hands of the same groups that have most of it already."
In all honesty, I don't know exactly what the solution is. I don't know how we break an "invisible" system of privilege, whether it is based on gender, race or other factors. But I think a start is recognizing it. And confessing to ourselves that we are part of it-- that we are a part of a culture ingrained with prejudices, as is every culture I've ever encountered. And once we recognize these advantages and disadvantages, we need to speak up. I am reminded of a quote a recently read in an essay by a wonderful friend of mine. She sited Elie Wiesel, who said, I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

I love that! I want to be able to say that. I hope we can all take that to heart and live our lives with that conviction. We cannot be silent. We cannot be neutral. And we cannot ignore the injustices in our midst, even if at times they seems small or unimportant. It is our responsibility to recognize them and then to stand up against them, however we can.

I end with the insightful words of one of my best friends. She is hilarious, gorgeous, loving, innocent, yet unbelievably perceptive and wise. She is also a black woman. These are her thoughts on this article:
I wonder what can be done be bring people to look within themselves, both black and white and human in general, to question their (my) preconcieved notions about the world and the people they interact with? I believe that I as an person born in the U.S., even as an African American female, have many hidden privleges that others do not. Not only do I think think there are privleges with being White, but I think there are hidden (and obvious) privleges with being able to speak English in the U.S., or being "educated", or having health insurance for instance. How do we bridge the gap? How do we address the issue of communities not feeling that they can be in a position of authority, even though there has not been anyone that looks like them doing it? How we change the way people think? There are so many comforts that people would not want to give up. It just makes me want to re-assess how I view others and work to be more concious of the biases I carry and work to change them, because I definiely have them.

05 November 2011


Well, more like, BASKET!

Incredibly, I played basketball on Wednesday night. I don't even know how many years it has been since I played b-ball... probably at least 5. But a friend called me to see if I wanted to play, and honestly, I would have done anything! I mean, my social life here in Spain isn't exactly keeping me overly busy right now. So, even knowing that basketball is always a very humbling experience for me, I readily agreed.

So, it was joyously unexpected when I WON!!!

Yes, folks, you read that correctly. I won... while playing basketball. And I didn't even cheat. Nor, in fact, was I very good. What happened was, we played "21" and I got 21 first! How could that be, you ask?? Well, both of my opponents missed 21 (and thus had to score 31, then 41 and even 51 points in order to win because you can only win with EXACTLY 21 points). So, with less than half as many points as the other players, I won. And you know what, I'm perfectly happy with that.

In sum: I won. And you should feel free to congratulate me :)

01 November 2011

On my little heart

I can't stop listening to this song. Because every time I do, I feel like my heart is breaking, but only so that it can be rebuilt, stronger and more full of love than ever before.

Everything about it makes me want to be better. Not only is it a gorgeous song with a beautiful message, but the fact that it is a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., one of my greatest heroes, makes it all the more powerful. It stirs in me a desire to be the best I can be and to give to the world, and to the Lord, everything I have. I love it!

The same old thing

Someday I will grow up and be responsible.

Until then, my life will always be the same. I will know what I should do and think I'm going to do it. But in the end, something will happen and I'll end up with the same pathetic, guilty feeling as usual, knowing I have been irresponsible... again.

For example, tonight was "Home Evening" for some young adults at my Church. Because today was a holiday, the family I live with, who usually go to Home Evening and open the building, didn't think anyone would go. I offered to go, just in case, and bring the key to the building. They told me I didn't need to, but I could go if I wanted.

I knew I should go, because I had a feeling that some people would be there. And it isn't a big deal to go. So I was planning on it. But then...

I am moving from my room to a different part of the house and I got caught up with that,
And I talked to my mom on Skype,
And I was tired,
And I didn't want to put on any make-up and get ready,
And then it was already past the time I needed to leave to catch the train....

so I didn't go.

Then I found out that some of the group did go, and they couldn't get into the building. And if I had just done what I knew I should do, there wouldn't have been any problem.


So anyway, if you were wondering, that is my life in a nutshell. Yay.