This past week I’ve been thinking back about the past few years and all that has happened and what I believe I’m supposed to do. A lot. Such a large part of my heart was left in Texas when I moved back here to Cali and though I’m not one that likes to live in the past, I’m guilty of that when it comes to the relationships that I built there and the thoughts of what could have been seem to plague my mind quite a bit lately; and yes I do mean about a boy but not the way you would think.

I’ve always seemed to have a hard time finding someone who I just clicked with more on the emotional level than just personality. I have a few close friends who I see myself being friends with til the end and though they get me, they don’t at the same time and it makes it hard for them to comprehend what’s in my mind because of the way I process information.

As I was straightening some papers out on my desk this evening, I found an old journal that I had written all my random thoughts and ramblings in the first few months I was in Livingston; and I know I didn’t dig this journal out and to be honest, I forgot all about it and I still don’t know how it came to be on my desk…

As I was reading my entries I couldn’t help but laugh at myself a bit because they are written in a way that not many people would truly understand and as I came to the end of that first entry, I saw my buddy’s comment on it; and that just brought me to tears. You see,  my buddy was the one who I hit it off with right off the bat and we became very close and he’s the one who understood my ramblings that no one else could. He had wanted to know what I was writing all the time so I made the journal and gave it to him; later that day he gave it back to me and he commented on every. single. entry. A few of the comments were fairly lengthy which was nice because I was able to see how his thinking is about a certain subject; but what many of them were about how they were him, how he thought, what he believed, and how he felt. When it came to sharing out testimony’s of how we came to know God, we talked for hours and not only did we realize we had a lot in common but we felt this comfort around each other and ended up sharing more details about certain things that we wouldn’t share with anyone else, and here we are acting as if we’ve been best friends all our lives when we’ve only known each other a few short weeks.

We still keep in touch though it can be difficult with the distance and time difference but when we do talk, it’s as if nothing has changed and I guess that was one thing that I was dreading about when I move back, “How much have things really changed between us?” when we’re face to face again.  Life for the both of us has gone on and though our lives are much different; the more we talk we realize that we’re at the same cross-roads and we take comfort in knowing we aren’t alone and know that the other understands and will be there for the other.

Seeing his comment, “This IS me whether you meant it to be or not…” clarified for me that; even though a lot of time has passed and our lives have gone down separate paths, we’ll be there for one another and still understand each other like before and there is no greater comfort than that and knowing though we may not always say what’s on our minds, we don’t need to say anything because the other already knows.


Poison Oak

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”   – Romans 8:28

I have come to learn so many verses that are within the Bible and when I was living out in Texas it was amazing as to how much they would correlate with what was going on in my life and seeing them acted out so to speak. I loved that God was working things in my life and in ways that I was able to learn and understand that He is who He says He is.

Romans 8:28 is probably one of the few verses that I remind myself of quite often; especially when things seem to be going through a rough patch. Back in 2008 when I was guardian of my brover; it was a tough time for the both of us and my other ‘family’ would recite this verse to me, mainly Jeremiah, and I could not for the life of me understand what it was he was trying to say. Long story short, things happened and at that time it seemed like it was going to be the end of the world, but I kept reciting that verse to myself in the hopes that it would calm me down a bit and finally make sense to me. A few months down the road things seemed to be right again and though I still cringe at the thought of that one bad moment in my life, I still remember that it was that moment that helped us get to where we are today and I wouldn’t change it for the world and that’s when I learned what that verse was saying.

Last weekend was the reception for the “Wings” exhibition at the Whittier Art Gallery; which was also my first. It was an experience to say the least and though I was nervous as could be, I enjoyed seeing all the work that was a part of the show and meeting other artists. I ended up placing second for photography and it was an amazing feeling but it also hasn’t hit just yet.

I was talking to Vicki about the show the other day and while we were talking she had said that she remembered the other day about how I had come down with poison oak up at camp this past summer by a freak accident from a mattress mind you (and there is none up there what so ever). It ended up being bad enough that she had taken me up to Big Bear to get it checked out and while we were driving up there she had asked me what I did for myself since most of my time is spent taking care of family. I started telling her about how I was getting into photography and that’s when she asked me to take some photos for her when we got back down the mountain and everything kind of fell in line after that.

As we were talking about everything that verse came to mind and she was right, had I not come down with the poison oak she probably would have never known that I’m into photography and I wouldn’t have my work in this show or these other wonderful opportunities that are because of her. At the time I knew something good was going to come of this eventually but I honestly wasn’t really thinking much about it; I saw it more of a lesson learned and I’d go on with my life laughing how something like this would only happen to me.

I just love how certain people are brought into our lives and we don’t think much of it until certain events come together and that random piece that you remember and put in the “not so important” category, and God brings it back up to remind you that it is Him making this all happen and that we need to keep our eyes open and not take those small random things lightly because we never know when that one itty bitty thing can change our lives.

I have received many congratulations and compliments about my work and though it is nice to hear those; it wasn’t just me, it’s God that has blessed me with an inspiration and talent for photography and it was because of Him that I was able to win that award the other weekend and though I’d like to take credit for it, I can’t; all of my successes are and will be because of Him.

A New Chapter

Seeing how my grammer’s Alzheimer’s has progressed over the last year and a half, more specifically the last few months; I’ve been wondering if I’d even know when I should make the conscience decision that I couldn’t care for her anymore. I’m not one to ask for help and it’s rare when I do; mainly because of my pride but also, I don’t want to be seen as a failure. I’m not at the stage anymore where I worry about what others think of me but how I see myself. That constant thought in the back of my head of “you can always do something more for them that can make a difference” seems to be the driven factor behind that. I don’t know if it stems from when I lost my mama when I was a kid or not but I seem to think it does.

Tuesday a few weeks back started off a very hectic week and it kind of snowballed to something I didn’t want to face but at the same time it was a blessing. After much prayer and meditation along with a seemingly never ending source of tears while talking with my ‘adopted’ mothers; I’ve made the decision to relocate back to Livingston, Texas and the ones that know me well will tell you that this wasn’t an easy decision to make and one I know I’ll be questioning for quite some time.

I’ve finally learned that I need to do something for myself and actually take care of me. I’ve been taking care of family most of my life (and I know it sounds like I’m trying to talk myself up though that’s not my intentions) and put them before myself even if that meant leaving everything I knew behind. I don’t regret those decisions because those are what make me who I am today and they have taught me many life lessons and given me many precious memories I’ll cherish forever.

It breaks my heart knowing that I’m going to be leaving my brover out here because we are so close, though I’m still trying to get him to move back out that way with me. It’s a small town so there isn’t much out there for a teenager from the city and does that boy love the city… I also don’t want to leave my grammers just to be placed in a home because she’s done so much for my brothers and I; taking care of her when she needs it is the least I could do. It’s been a hard decision to make and I believe that I’ve done all that I can do without hurting myself anymore in the process.

So, come November I’ll be moving once again where I believe I’m supposed to be. I plan on coming back at least once a year to visit California, especially to go back up to camp but my home and heart is in Texas and it always has been and it feels good to be able to finally go home. I don’t know what awaits me on this new journey of mine and I’m not a big fan of the unknown most of the time; though I am learning to trust God with my life more; I’m still excited and nervous for this new chapter to begin. I want to thank everyone who I’ve met and worked with on this journey of mine, yall are amazingly wonderful and may God bless you.

The Bark of Life

I am fooling only myself when I say my mother exists now only in the photograph on my bulletin board or in the outline of my hand or in the armful of memories I still hold tight. She lives on in everything I do. Her presence influenced who I was, and her absence influences who I am. Our lives are shaped as much by those who leave us as they are by those who stay. Loss is our legacy. Insight is our gift. Memory is our guide.
–Hope Edelman, Motherless Daughters

I love that quote and even though I knew what it was saying, I didn’t really understand what it was saying. Well, not until yesterday that is and the sad part is it took me a few years to finally get it.

I’m the caregiver for my grammers who was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few months back so between taking care of her and being the ‘guardian’ of my younger brother as well, I’ve been stressing to the point of overload where I didn’t even want to take my camera out which is something I love to do and I didn’t understand why I wasn’t wanting to anymore. I admit, I am the world’s worst when it comes to asking for help and knowing when to ask for it; that I know I get from my mama.

I was telling my uncle how my grammers is remembering her past more and blaming things that I know I didn’t do because, well I wasn’t born yet and as I was telling him about certain things all he could do was shake his head and laugh.  He ended up telling me that I remind the family of my mama because I look like her when she was my age and just how I am is how she was and no one ever told me that before and that’s when it finally clicked. My grammers sees my mom in me and when she starts to blame me for things (that I know are from the past), she’s upset at my mom because of what she said or did, so when those times pop up; instead of stressing over them like I have been, I can’t help but smile because I’m learning more about my mama when she was younger that I otherwise would know nothing about.

There has been so much going on that I needed to spend some time to myself reflecting over all the things that have happened in my life and how they all brought me to where I am today and usually when I start reflecting, I tend to notice those things that most people wouldn’t. After all the meditation, reflecting and spending one and one time with God; my day was brightened; so I took my camera out to the backyard to see what all I could find that I hadn’t already shot.  There’s this pine tree we have in the back that really isn’t that pretty looking if you look at it as a whole and the closer I got to it and really paid attention to the detail that’s in the bark, I realized that though it may look rough and ugly, it’s actually quite beautiful.

Life in a way is kind of like the bark. It can look ugly and rough but the more you look at it the more beautiful it becomes. It’s one of those small things that’s overlooked like many of the rough patches in life that are beautifully disguised as life lessons.

Arbolado ♥

A few weeks back I went up to Camp Arbolado and those of you that know me, you know it’s a must that I go up at least once during the summer because I love it that much. Most of you who have never been to camp before probably wouldn’t understand this love and it’s one of those things where you just have to experience it for yourself to get what I’m talking about.

I don’t think I could have asked for a better group of girls ever, they were that amazing. Lindsay (my co) and I had five girls that were all 10, three of which were from mainland China as well as a teacher that accompanied them; so as you can imagine the first few days were a bit difficult with the language barrier.

Meet the girls of Cabin 3

Our cabin just clicked with each other and if you’ve been a camp counselor before, you know what I’m talking about and that’s the best group to have. The language barrier didn’t last long once we found out that we didn’t have to speak each others languages to understand one another and it just all happened without even trying (if only this happened each session) and that in itself made this session that much more special to me.

Lindsay and I had gone shopping for cabin decorations about a week before and came across a turtle pinata and we fell in love with it and of course because this whole thing about me and turtles started a few sessions back, I just had to get it. The girls decided that it was going to be our mascot and we were going to be called the ‘oogways’ which is turtle in Chinese. We even changed Beyonce’s Single Ladies a bit to go with our cabin name so that was interesting to say the least.

Our  mascot and his partner in crime

The girls were able to try new activities such as the climbing wall which many hadn’t tried before and I was so proud of them because not one of them gave up until they reached the top which was quite an accomplishment for a few of them.

Callum helping Yuija with her harness. Talk about a spider monkey.

Once we were able to get across to our Chinese girls what ‘Dress Your Counselor’ meant, they had a blast! It was neat to see them go at it because they had never seen something like this happen before let alone seeing someone go out for others to see.

Only at camp do you let kids dress you up crazy

The boy counselors in a water chugging contest

My girls didn’t want Lindsay and I to be the only ones looking funny so they decided to dress up funky as well

We were able to learn basket weaving as the Native American’s did and it was a task learning how to do it. I’m just glad I wasn’t the only one that had problems learning :)  Yuija on the other hand seemed to be a natural at it so she helped the other girls out at the beginning.

Yuija and her basket

Every session I bring a big jar of peanut butter for my girls and I think this was the first session where they all loved it. The end of the week we ended up taking the jar with us around to our activities. I found it pretty funny seeing all these girls walking around camp with their spoonful of peanut butter but you sure knew who’s cabin they belonged to :)

My girls and their peanut butter. Notice Yuijia and Lijia’s big spoonfuls?

The Primitives out hike… And as my girls would put it, “Oh my lady gaga!”  It was the best hike I’ve been on. The best way to describe it would have to be ‘out of context.’ I don’t think I’ve laughed as hard all week until that night and I definitely won’t be forgetting it anytime soon. And of course Lijia pouring hot chocolate on Jacob’s head because he wouldn’t get off the girl’s sleeping bags…hilarious!

The gameboy that started it all…
Callum didn’t listen to us about suffering the consequences of kicking Jacori off his sleeping bag…
All the girls wanted Justin to do their lanyards and only him
The start of “Out of context”
Cherry after the hot chocolate incident
Lijia getting ready to head back up the hill

After the hike the girls were drained beyond belief. They had an amazing time at the dance and boy were they dancing machines!  Lijia was so tired after she fell asleep in her dress, talk about adorable.

Yuijia falling asleep at Native American the next day
Lijia wasn’t too far behind her
Ready to go polar bear swimming!
Tired counselors after polar bear swimming
Jenks Lake

This one week was unbelievable and one I don’t see myself forgetting about anytime soon. I love all my girls, including the ones I had years ago and each session I manage to keep my tears in because I knew I’d see them again. This time around though was different. There is a 99% chance that I won’t see my girls again this time around since they are from China and not being able to see what kind of young women they grow up to be was depressing and sure enough, when the last day arrived I was a mess. Waiting for our girls to be picked up though was the toughest because it wasn’t like they were going one by one as it usually happens, Yuijia, Lijia, and Xiao were all leaving at the same time and that hurt because we had grown so attached to them in that one week. Just as I got myself under control I noticed Yuijia trying to hide her tears as she’s leaning up against me and of course I started up again. I do hope the girls are able to come back for a visit again one day down the road but most of all, I hope they remember that one week of camp.

Last cabin group photo

The 2nd floor…

As I was sitting in the hallway on the second floor watching the elevator doors open and close as people came and went, I couldn’t help but wonder what it is that these people must be going through, especially to visit this floor. You see, this floor is mainly for oncology but you would never guess by looking at the people who come and go by the smile that many of them have and if it weren’t for their beanies and scarves covering their heads, you would never know.

There seem to be many more women that come and go on a daily basis and as I wait for my grammers to finish up her treatment, I can’t help but notice how beautiful these women are, and yes I’m speaking of the ones that I have lost their hair.  It wasn’t until today that I realized how much one’s hair takes away from the beauty of the face and it’s amazing how much we miss those features and can’t help but wonder, if we were to shave our heads; would anyone recognize us at first glance?

Yesterday morning there was a woman who I would guess to be in her early 30’s who brought in a lady who I can only assume to be her mother. She opened the door while trying to push her mother’s wheelchair through the opened door while carrying a large pink tote bag swung over her right shoulder towards the front of her chest that looked fairly heavy and you could tell that it was one of those days for her and it was taking every ounce of energy to not break down. She looks to be from out in the country somewhere by the way she dresses you can tell who works hard and seems to put off a strong persona though she’s about to crack; and you can see it in her eyes.  I’ve never seen this lady nor her mother before so I’m assuming her mother was just recently diagnosed. As I was sitting there listening to my music, this lady comes back towards the elevator alone and she looks like she’s fine but once those doors started to close I could hear her let out all her frustrations and a loud cry; and I wanted nothing more than to comfort her; and I’d only wished that I had noticed her sooner so I could have been that stranger that could turned her day around even if it was only a tiny  bit.

It is so easy to go on with our days and not say even a hello to someone, when that simple hello can brighten someone’s day. This past Wednesday I was told my dad was in the hospital and that they didn’t know if he was going to make it or not and all of a sudden, my world came crashing down; not only was there a possibility of loosing a parent but a possibility of loosing my only parent left and that is one of the worst feelings in the world. The next day as I was waiting for my bus home after visiting him, I was a wreck! I had barely composed myself when my aunt called and said those four words, “How are you doing?” Was she trying to upset me even more or what?  Sure enough the water works started up again and it didn’t help that I didn’t have anyone to talk to that I knew who would understand even a bit. As I’m trying to compose myself so I didn’t look like a complete fool, a man who was fairly hard looking as if he were to belong to a gang or something similar, spoke up and asked if everything was alright and what was wrong. I didn’t know this guy so obviously I wasn’t going to spill my heart out to him but left it vague by telling him my dad was sick and left it at that. I didn’t seem like I wanted to talk and I know darn well I was very stand-offish but there was also the part of me that wanted him to dig deeper and ask questions so that way I knew someone actually cared. As his bus came up he stayed behind to be the last one to board and waited til I looked up so I could see him leave and all he did was smile and nod his head like he understood what I was going through and I could see it in his eyes that he actually cared and that meant more to me than anything else at that moment. That simple gesture of kindness was all it took to turn my day around, just to know that there are still people out there who care even though we many not know each other.

As I was waiting in my usual spot for my grammers to finish up, a lady in this long blue and pink flower printed dress with a magenta flower print scarf on her head who seemed just there waiting for the elevator when I remembered that man by the bus stop. I asked the lady how she was doing and all of a sudden her face lit up and it was amazing how her face glowed. I complimented on her dress and she went on to tell me why she wears bright colors on her visits, and it was to brighten the moods of others in this usually dreary room where many sit and stare at one another while the are receiving their chemo in the hopes that it will cure what they have. I thought it was amazingly wonderful and caring of this woman to do her small part in trying to brighten someone’s day.

Father’s Day, another photographer I’ve been following, Rebekah Tillotson, had the opportunity to photograph a wonderful little girl named Cheyenne who has cancer and it was because of her, that my eyes were opened to see something that I’ve been so blind to these past few months; and I thank her for that.

As I was sitting there thinking about everything and trying for it to sink all in, I realized that I can do so much more with my photography; I can bring joy to someone and help them feel beautiful again when their life may seem worthless so to speak (I can’t think of a better word). I don’t believe that I would have ever be able to realize this had it not been for God, I truly believe that He’s pointing me in a direction that I would have never thought to go and I can’t wait to see where He leads me.

To pass the time some more this morning while my grammers was on the second floor once more, Taylyn and I decided to have an actual photo shoot we planned out this time and I must say, she did an amazing job! And we had a blast doing it, and yes she’s wearing my boots so they look much too huge on her :)