Posted in Family, Life, Spirituality, Universe

Eaton Canyon Baptism

Yesterday, my mom arrived in Cali for a week visit.  We decided that since the weather was so nice today, we would go for a hike.  This was my mom’s first “mountain” hike.  So we paired up with my California sister and her mom and headed off to Eaton Canyon.  We decided to do the hike up to the waterfall (along with tons of other people).  Since it rained yesterday, the water levels were up, making for an interesting trek.

It started off fairly easy but on our second pass over the stream, my mom lost her footing on one of the rocks we were using as a bridge and she fell into the ankle-deep water.  I tried to catch her but wound up landing right beside her in the water.  My California sister started laughing at us and said “you have now been baptised by the Eaton Canyon waters.”  Little did we know how this simple comical moment would turn into a cosmic (or karmic) joke.

As we continued to hike up the canyon, my mom told stories of my childhood and all of my many quirks–one being how much trouble I would get into with the nuns who ran my catechism classes.  We talked and talked as my California sister and her Mom still used the rock bridges to forge the stream–while my mother and I opted to just walk through the water (our feet and pants were soaked already).  I continuously made jokes about how the waters “cleansed my soul”–if only I knew what was coming.

So we made our way up to the waterfall, took pictures and started our trek back.  At some point, I wound up being the leader of our little hiking group.  We came to a point where there was a rather large traffic jam of people trying to get across the stream.  I just made my way through the water with my mom close behind.  I was looking down into the stream, trying to avoid some of the deeper pockets of water so I wasn’t aware of what I was about to bump into once I reached the other side of the stream.  I was just about to step onto the shore when I looked up and immediately froze, causing my mom to bump into my back.  Right in front of me, standing upon a rock above, I gazed upon two Nuns.  Hiking nuns dressed in full habit garb, carrying a walking stick in one hand and a rosary in another.  I am sure that my face turned sheet white.

This is my life!  I can’t even make this kind of stuff up.  My heart started pounding and I immediately averted my eyes from the women I often referred to as “Sister Mary Holy Water.”  I suddenly turned into the young girl who would always get disapproving looks from the nuns for asking too many questions.  I ran up the shore and up the trail as fast as I could.  I could hear my mom and California sister laughing somewhere behind me.  I just started booking it as fast as I could.  But in my haste, with my eyes on the ground, I managed to miss four more nuns headed in my direction.  Four nuns that I literally ran right into, causing my California sister to burst out in a fit of laughter.  I had no escape this time.  I just stood there, frozen, with my back against the mountain.  I only remember seeing a flash of black and white followed by a parade of wooden rosaries.  I had an instant flashback to my days of sitting in a corner saying a bunch of “Hail Mary” and “Our Father” prayers as I made my way around my own communion rosary.  I stood there as my California sister walked past me, still laughing, saying “this never happens to anyone else but you.”

Her mother agreed.  They have been hiking Eaton Canyon all their lives and never have they seen hiking nuns.  And not just any hiking nuns, hiking nuns in full habit and dress.  This was my first time hiking up to the waterfall, I was joking about being baptised and then I run into six nuns.  Seriously?

It’s like the time I was joking about the Mormons when driving into Salt Lake City and then my truck broke down in the middle of the Salt Flats, leaving me stranded for five hours.  I had no choice but to return to Salt Lake City and actually stay there, delaying my trip to Reno by a day.  You think I would have learned my lesson back then.

The Universe has this way of playing Cosmic jokes on me.  Someone up there was having a mighty good laugh at me today.  Nice April Fool’s Day prank on me, Universe.  I know my California sister enjoyed it immensely.

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Posted in Life, Relationships, Spirituality, TV

Show Compassion for All

In response to last night’s GLEE episode, I feel that as a high school teacher I need to say something.  At first, I was shocked at where the storyline was going and then I was feeling a sense of Deja Vu when the “Adults” (why aren’t there more teachers in their high school?) were talking about how to react around the students and how nervous everyone is about “copycat” syndrome that often occurs after a student attempts suicide.  I sat through a very similar session just two weeks ago when a student killed himself at the high school where my best friend teaches.  Everyone in our school district is still dealing with what happened.  A young sophomore was picked on, pushed around and teased to the point where he felt the need to take his own life.  I personally never knew the boy but many of my students and friends did.  But what I do know is that he wasn’t even at the point where he could really live his life when he decided to end it.  No one should be made to feel like death is the only solution.

Bullying is a serious problem.  I have heard people from my generation talk about how they don’t remember Bullying being such an issue when we were in school.  The thing is that back then, we didn’t have the Internet.  If something happened, you didn’t usually hear about it.  Now, your cousins in Canada will know if someone at your school is gay or short or fat or a nerd or whatever, all thanks to the Information Hellway we call the Internet.  We didn’t have Facebook, Formspring, Tumblr, Twitter and the like.  We didn’t have cellphones that could text or go on the Internet instantly.  Rumors spread like wildfire these days and it is terrifying.  And the majority of the rumors are not even true.  It is the high-speed version of the Telephone game.  Information travels at light speed.  I knew about the student’s suicide before my friend, a teacher at that school, knew what was going on.  I had kids in my classroom crying 10 minutes after it happened.

And yes, as teachers we make the students put away their cellphones and stay off the social networks while they are in school but they are smarter than we are when it comes to high-tech sneakiness.  We used to try to figure out how to sneak out of our houses at night.  These kids know how to take notes and text without a teacher having any idea.  So if someone in class farts, the whole school knows about it within a matter of minutes.  We can try all we want but as a society everyone is addicted to their “Smartphones” and the kids today don’t know a world without them.  It is a battle we will never win.

I do love how realistically GLEE portrayed the instantaneous rumor spreading.  He came home and checked his Facebook to see what they were saying.  (Though if it were at my school, he would have checked his iPhone when he left the locker room).  It is sad but true.  The majority of kids see their friends teasing someone so they join in to be a part of the crowd.  So before you know it, hundreds, maybe even thousands of kids are participating in cyberbullying.  Many may not even know the person they are attacking.  So how do we make it stop?

As a teacher, I try to be someone the kids feel they can come to if they are having a problem.  Last year, I had a student come out of the closet to me and tell me about how they were being teased.  They were suicidal.  I followed procedure and instantly got them help.  I went to my administrator, the counselor and the school psychologist.  We all rallied around them to let them know that we all cared.  I found out about the Trevor Project.  They have experts that students can talk to and give the appropriate support.  We made sure that they knew they didn’t have to suffer in silence.  There are people out there that care and would be there for support.  There are people out there who would never judge them.

These kids need to know that life gets so much better after high school.  High School is full of drama and stress.  Everyone is in everyone else’s business.  They need to start thinking past themselves.  They have to learn what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes.  I always tell them, “treat others the way you would want to be treated.”  It’s sad that I have to remind them “how would you feel if someone was saying that to you” “or how would you feel if someone posted that about you.”

Teenagers are not zombies.  It is possible to get them away from the computers and away from their cellphones.  It is possible to get them to talk and to open up.  It is possible to teach them to have compassion for all.  But we, as adults, have to set an example.

We need to stop going after the gays in “the name of God.”  I don’t know what Bible they read but I remember Jesus saying he was dying for all our sins–not just the straight people.  Jesus said to love everyone and forgive everyone–right?  If Jesus, or God, was telling me to hate someone for any reason, then that isn’t someone I want to believe in.  We are all human beings and we should show compassion and respect to all other human beings.

I watched this great documentary by His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, entitled Compassion in Emptiness.  It is on NetFlix streaming and I recommend it to everyone.  In this film, His Holiness is giving a talk about Compassion.  He says that we need to stop looking at things from a complicated level.  We need to go back to basics where we are all just human beings.  When we start talking about race, religion, and sexual orientation, we are looking at the secondary level where things are too complicated.  Complications lead to strife.  So in order for us to achieve peace and happiness, we need to stick to the basic level of understanding, “we are all human beings.”  We need to show compassion to all human beings, even if we disagree with their life choices.

And we need to stop making politicians speak for us.  All politicians lie.  Trust me, I was in Public Relations.  They all have an agenda.  All they care about is winning and getting your vote.  They will say whatever you want to hear.  You can’t trust them.  Power is corrupt, ergo those with power are corrupt.  So why do we let them do what they do?  We seem to forget that they are supposed to be working for us.  And what kind of example are they setting for our youth with their campaign ads that are designed to “destroy” their competition.  The kids are taught at an early age to look up to our Senators, Governors, and Commander In Chief.  But when you turn on the TV, you see them bullying each other in ads and in debates.  What are we teaching our children?

There are many in this world who view the United States as a Bully.  If you are one of those people, I apologize.  I am an American but I am not a Bully.  I am a human being.  I am a teacher who goes to work every day because I know I have the chance to make a difference in the lives of my students.  I teach photography but my kids often say my class is “the real world” class.  I try to go above and beyond the simple practices of how to work a camera.  I don’t do it for the money–believe me, there is no money in teaching (which is why I have two other jobs on the side).  I do it for the kid who came to me for help instead of committing suicide.  It is about helping your fellow human being.

I once heard a woman give a speech about how we have two purposes in life.  One is to be a Student, learning all of life’s lessons.  The Second is to be a Teacher, teaching what we have learned.  I took it literally.

My story and the GLEE story had a happy ending–the kids survived.  But unfortunately it doesn’t always turn out that way.  It is sad that it often takes the loss of a young life to bring society to an awakening.  We need to open our eyes and see what is going on around us, see what our kids are seeing.  Start that conversation.  Stop saying “oh, it is just teenage angst.”  If you see a kid in pain, give them a hug.  Ask them what is wrong and LISTEN.  You have to become aware of the truth in order to make a difference.

Posted in Family, Life

Happy Paczki Day!

That’s right, it is Paczki Day!  I’m from Detroit, I am part Polish and I am a recovering Catholic.  So while others are getting their Mardi Gras on, I am wishing I was home, in the D, enjoying a lovely custard-filled Paczki straight from Hamtramck, My Mom’s hometown.

If you have no idea what a Paczki is, then you are not from Detroit and you are not Polish.  A Paczki is a traditional Polish Donut.  It is about a million calories and a million grams of fat.  In Hamtramck, the Polish capital of Detroit (maybe even the USA, or at least it used to be), they make them fresh for Fat Tuesday.  People special order them and wait in line for hours to get a fresh made Paczki.  I can smell one now–thank god for sensory memory and imagination.

There is no other donut in the world like a Paczki.  You savor every bite and imprint the enjoyment into your memory because you will have to wait an entire year before you once again taste the sweet nectar of the Polish Gods.  For me, it has been years since I have enjoyed the doughy goodness of a Paczki.  It is on this day, every year for the past 4 years, that I have hated being in Los Angeles.  For just one day, I would love to fly home, drive into Hamtramck and pick up a dozen Paczkis (& some White Castles, Faygo, Better Made, and National Coney Island Hanis).  That would be my perfect “Fat Tuesday.”

But alas, I am in a city where you can get food from every nationality except Polish.  Well, at least I haven’t found any good Polish establishments anywhere.  I am usually the one who makes the Polish food for my friends at parties.  From sauerkraut & Kielbasa to Piergois, it is up to me to bring a little Polish-American culture to my friends and adopted family.

But to be completely honest, I would give it all up–the sun, the sand, the weather–for just one custard-filled Paczki.  That’s how good it is!

Posted in Life, Spirituality

The Universe Is Speaking

>For the last few weeks, the Universe has been screaming at me–throwing signs at me from all directions.  This weekend, one of my closest friends served as a witness on Friday the 13th, of all days.

Practically every day, I look at my watch at exactly 11:11(am and pm) or 1:11pm.  I finally transferred my license plates back to California and the numbers are 6655 (5+6=11).  I noticed that when I am driving home from my friends’ house in Sylmar, my exit off the 210 East is exit 11.  I bought a box to send things to my parents and 11-11 was printed on the bottom.  I went to see a Psychic on Friday the 13th and she asked me to pick 11 cards.  And a song that has a lot of meaning to a particular dilemma I am dealing with played on my car radio at 11:11pm on Friday the 13th.  (My friend witnessed this one and started laughing at the irony).

I can go on and on about the “11” signs but I think you get the point.  The Universe is definitely trying to tell me something but what?

According to Doreen Virtue’s “Angel Numbers 101: The Meaning of 111, 123, 444, And Other Number Sequences,” the number 11 means “Stay Positive!  Your thoughts are materializing rapidly, so you want to ensure positive outcomes by focusing only on the good within yourself, others, and this situation.”

Others say that 11:11 is a prompt that Angels and Spirit Guardians use to let us know that they are there to help you, guide you in any way you need.

Another theory is that 11:11 is the opening of your doorway of Destiny.  A new course in your destiny has been prepared and that whatever you were thinking about at this time, something has come into play that will alter it somehow.

Ironically, on Friday the 13th, after I had a Psychic reading, my friend and I went to Barnes and Noble for our Friday night ritual.  We went to the New Age section to look at Crystal books and the first book I noticed on the shelf, out of place, was a book entitled “11:11.”  I flipped through it and it was filled with theories at to what this could mean.

I personally would like to think that is the Universe telling me that it is listening to me and if I pay attention, especially to the other signs that come into play when I notice it is 11:11 or 1:11, the Universe will guide me toward the right path.  Many things in my life have changed over the last few months and for the first time in a long time, I am pretty clear on what I have to do to follow my dreams and make my wishes come true.  Maybe this is the Universe’s way of telling me that I am making the right choices.  I guess time will tell.

Posted in Life, movies, Music

"I carried a watermelon"

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Most people would say that their favorite line in Dirty Dancing is “Nobody puts Baby in a Corner.”  I am not most people.  My favorite line in this classic 80s dance flick, “I carried a watermelon.”  If they put that on a shirt I would totally buy it and wear it proudly.

It is Sunday evening and I have decided to have an 80s flashback night.  After attending a memorial service for my friend’s grandmother, I decided I needed to do something to cheer myself up.  So I pulled out my Super Mario Brothers All Stars (limited edition) game for Wii.  I played the original 1983 version of this classic Nintendo game. 

This was a game that I played on a daily basis with my friends–good childhood memories.  I used to know all of the tricks and now, 25 years later I can’t remember any of the secrets and I am stuck on level four.  After some colorful language and almost throwing my Wii remote at the TV (thanks for the wrist strap Nintendo), I decided I should move onto a less frustrating 80s flashback moment–i.e. Dirty Dancing.

I loved this movie–I still love this movie.  It is a bit sad to watch now, with the passing of Patrick Swazye, but there is a bit of joy in knowing that Jennifer Grey won the last season of Dancing With The Stars.  Either way you look at it, happy or sad, the ideals behind the film are still there–as well as an amazing soundtrack.  I’ve had the Time of my Life, She’s Like The Wind, Hungry Eyes, and countless others that put you back at Kellerman’s for the perfect 60s summer vacation–and love story.

This brings me back to my favorite quote, “I carried a watermelon.”  Baby fell for Johnny the first time she saw him, he was the bad boy who danced his way into her heart.  So now she has the opportunity to finally meet him, the man she has been drooling over and all she can muster is “I carried a watermelon.”  Every girl/woman can relate.  We have all had those moments where you finally have the opportunity to have a real conversation with a person you like and your brain malfunctions.  I have had many a brain fart in my day.  So that moment felt so real, that’s why it is my favorite quote and moment in the film (aside from Patrick Swazye shirtless). 

Think about it, ladies, how often do we have a man stand up for us and tell our parents’ that they shouldn’t make us sit in the corner?  I personally have never had that happen.  Of course, my parents never made me sit in the corner–now the nuns in Cathecism, that was a different story.  Where was Johnny Castle when Sister Mary Holywater made me sit in the corner, face the wall and do a rosary when I asked too many questions during my Cathecism class?

Posted in Endometriosis, Life, Relationships, Spirituality, Writing

A Quest For Knowledge: Part One: The Beginning

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As a child, I remember hearing the story of Adam and Eve in Cathecism.  They were punished for eating from the tree of Knowledge in the garden of Eden.  It was very scary, especially the way the Nuns told it.  I had so many questions that I wanted to ask about this tale.  A few questions I attempted to ask and I was always told that it wasn’t my place to question the teachings of the Bible.  I was not to request any additional knowledge beyond what was presented to me. 

As an adult, I know that the stories of the Bible are parables and are not meant to be taken literally.  Even though the Nuns were scary, they were not using the story of Adam and Eve to stop me from asking questions–were they?  I mean, we want our children to have a thirst for knowledge, a desire to learn–isn’t that why we send them to school for 13 years? (more if they seek higher education).  We want them to ask questions, right?

I often got in trouble for asking so many questions in Cathecism.  My young mind was so filled with questions.  My mind is still filled with questions.  Except now, I have the power to look beyond what others want me to learn and look for answers in any manner of my choosing.

Generally, I quench my thirst for knowledge through books and documentaries.  Anyone who knows me, or has helped me move, knows how important my books are to me.  My books range from “Anne of Green Gables” to “Shakespeare’s Complete Works” to “The Ultimate Adult Joke Book.”  I have very ecclectic taste.  I have moved all over the country and my books have been my one constant–I never leave home without them.  I can get rid of furniture and clothes but never my books.  The books contain something that I will always need throughout my lifetime–answers.

Despite the hundreds of books I own, it is never enough.  I want to learn more.  While working as a photojournalist, I once covered a lecture where a woman spoke about how we have two purposes in life: One is to be a student to gain knowledge and the Second is as a teacher, to teach what we have learned.  I am literally a teacher but I feel that I will forever be a student as well.  There is still so much left to learn, so much left to explore.  My bucket list is very long.

But right now, I have begun a new quest.  I want to learn more about myself.  Recently, someone whom I care about a great deal pointed out my lack of knowledge in certain areas, specifically relationships and communication.  This person, without realizing, forced me to look at myself in a different light.  I guess this was an awakening of sorts, forcing me to enlighten myself–look within.  Coincidentally, I was also reading Dan Brown’s “Lost Symbol,” a book talking about finding the “god within,” looking past the obvious and digging deeper.

So now I have set a mission for myself, to find our more about myself.  And for some reason, I am drawn to looking at the spiritual aspects of my being.  Now this could be in response to the fact the Endometriosis is flaring up big time and I am currently struggling physically from the pain.  But nevertheless, I am going to focus on my spiritual mind and deal with my physical body another time.

So, first step, find a place to start.  That’s fairly easy and logical–start with birth.  I was born on October 21st into the Libra Sun Sign, but on the Scorpio Cusp.  According the astrology.com, a Libra/Scorpio cusp has the following characteristics and personality traits:

01. Libra/Scorpios strive to create balance and harmony between self and other through investigation and probing.

02. They are often strongly intuitive and penetrating. They have a need to be liked.

03. Libra/Scorpios are diplomatic and cooperative; they are skilled at initiating group projects. They can be stubborn, refusing to give up when others have long since become bored and abandoned a project.

04. Libra/Scorpios get things done when no one else thought it possible. In this way, the fixed quality of Scorpio is expressed.

05. When Libra/Scorpios set goals for themselves, they are determined to succeed. They have their own agenda and work to achieve their desires.

06. Cultural awareness and a talkative nature help them shine in the social situations they so enjoy.

07. Libra/Scorpios are skilled at communication and abstract reasoning, and their intelligence combines with their interest in others to become an intellectual exploration of those around them.

08. They may repress their emotions, but underneath they are lusty and perceptive.

09. Libra/Scorpios are motivated and loyal, but they are often misunderstood and may be seen as dictatorial or sarcastic. If they have an ulterior motive, they can be overbearing, but in a subtle, sly or manipulative way.

10. Libra/Scorpios are both mystical and scientific, a combination that makes them very aware of what is happening around them; they are a sign of great depth. If they aren’t careful, though, their passionate nature may lead them into self-indulgence or compulsion.

11. Libra/Scorpio-born is in their drive for peace and harmony and their determination to see things through to the end. Their skill at seeing all sides of a situation with great passion and strength makes them one of the most powerful characters of the zodiac.

OK, I am a bit more Libra than Scorpio but I can’t deny that the majority of these traits and characteristics are true!  But there is still so much more to look at.

To Be Continued . . .

Posted in Holidays, movies, Relationships, Spirituality

Saint Valentine’s Day!

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Today is St. Valentine’s Day!  As a journal entry, I made my students find out the real story behind this day, a day that makes all of us who are single feel like shit because we have not been hit with cupid’s arrow.

If you look back at history, there are several Saint Valentines–they were martyrs in ancient Rome.  There is very little known about the Saint Valentine whose feast is on February 14th.  It could commerate one saint or all of the Saint Valentines.  All we do know is that it was removed from the Catholic calendar of saints in 1969 (ironic and dirty).   So if February 14th was originally a day to honor a martyr saint, how did it become a holiday about lovers, cupid, flowers and chocolate?
Some think Valentine’s Day was created by the Catholic church to go against the Pagan festival of Lupercalia, a festival observed from February 13th through the 15th designed to ward off evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility.  But some scholars are saying that the Catholic church would never do such a thing.  Really?  What about Easter, celebrating the pagan beliefs as well as the Spring Equinox?  But I guess that is just my beef with the Catholic religion, religion forced upon me at a young age.
OK, so then the question still remains, how did Valentine’s Day become a day linked to Romantic love?  The answer: Geoffrey Chaucer.

The current legends that we believe about Saint Valentine came about during the early 14th century, invented by Chaucer and his circle.  The traditions of Valentine’s Day that Chaucer documented in his “Parliament of Foules,” traditions set in the fictional context of old traditions, didn’t exisit before Chaucer, according to historian Jack Oruch.  All we know is that Saint Valentine oversaw the building of his temple in Terni, there is no indication that he was ever a patron saint for lovers.

So basically, the romantic traditions of Valentine’s Day were created by an English author/poet/diplomat.  I have personally seen a copy of the Canterbury Tales (Huntington Library in Pasadena) and just looking at it could make me fall in love, it is a beautiful book.  And one could only hope that his heirs also have stock in Hallmark–hey maybe they even created Hallmark, FTD Flowers, See’s Candies, etc. 

So for all of you lovers out there, Geoffrey Chaucer is your real “saint” and for those of us who are singletons, he is our mortal enemy who has found yet another way to make us feel bad–cause all those engagement parties, wedding showers, weddings, and jared commercials weren’t enough.

For single people everywhere, our real Valentine’s hero is Al Capone!  And I can’t speak for all singletons but on February 14th, I love watching the 1967 film “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” while eating chocolates and ordering pizza.  This is a tradition that truly warms my heart every year.