couple from Up

LJ Idol Week 13: Inside Baseball

Inside Baseball:describes details or minutia of a subject so detailed or requiring such a specific knowledge about what is being discussed that they generally are not well known or appreciated by outsiders.

I may be young, but it has not taken me long to notice the fact that some people are passed over by the general population because they aren't as social as others might like. The person who does not draw attention to him or herself at a party or a social gathering may not be worth getting to know, so they are easy to ignore. People mistake silence or shyness for disinterest. I learned this when I began dating Rob. He is shy by nature, so some of my friends vocalized their concern/confusion about our compatibility. What was someone like him doing with a loudmouth like me?

I suppose it never occurred to these concerned individuals that I had no interest in dating my identical twin, or that we were more alike beneath the surface than people realized. True, I'm loud, dramatic, Cuban/Italian, and naturally tan, while Rob is reserved, passive, and fair-skinned. Yet underneath we share a love for reading, politics, dinners out, movies, and true crime shows. Even deeper than that is our shared love of and commitment to family, our core values, and each other. The past five years have taught me what it means to know the "inside baseball" of a shy person, to understand the inner workings of another human being and speak their unique language.

Some people give it all away in the first five minutes. You can tell exactly who they are and what they are about. There's no mystery, no treasure hunt for understanding and deeper interpersonal knowledge. Rob is the opposite. It takes a little digging, a little patience to understand what he's really about. Yet when you put in the time, you discover his dry yet fabulous sense of humor and his passion for all things baseball. You look into the ocean blue of his eyes as he tells you about historical events as if he was right there, and it's impossible not to want to know more. Perhaps I'm biased because he had me from the very beginning. I was crazy about him from the first date, so naturally I wanted to know everything about him. I spent time scouring the sports section that summer just so I could speak knowledgeably about his favorite team. One might say I was trying too hard, but I say I was just interested. I wanted to know the details he didn't share with everyone else, and the time I spent finding them out was well worth it.

To love someone for exactly the person that they are, for all the minute details, is a gift. When we open ourselves to the opportunity, sometimes we are able to go from being an outsider to an insider and meet the people in this world who are most worth knowing in the process. In my short time on earth, I have learned that much.

This has been my entry for therealljidol. Thanks so much to all who have supported me this far. Please remember to vote for me if you enjoyed this entry.
I love you

LJ Idol Week 12: The Sincerest Form of Flattery

We all want to be someone else at one time or another. Let's face it: we idolize other people. In the US, it's a full time job for some people. We are always checking out the lives of celebrities and national heroes. It seems there is always someone to emulate. Sure, we are happy being ourselves (at least some of us are), yet there is a small piece of each of us that yearns for something more. The next rung on the ladder, the next pinnacle of success. I spend my time trying to work as hard as my mother always has, learn enough to be the kind of therapist I've been lucky enough to work with, and cooking like I'm on the Food Network. Yet my relationships are the most important thing in my life, and I try to put all the former aspirations on the back burner for the one thing that matters most to me: my relationship with my partner. When it comes to that, there is only one relationship I want to emulate: my grandparents.

My mother's parents have been together over fifty years. My grandfather is the only man my grandmother ever dated, ever since she was fifteen. Their relationship astounds me. My grandparents are from Cuba, and in the sixties took my mother and uncle to the United States, leaving the only home they had ever known to flee Castro. They had to start a new life in a completely different country, a place that did not speak their language. They could not take all the trappings of their former life with them: it was not allowed. They took jobs different from the ones they had in Cuba, and embarked on a different life. Yet their relationship remained strong, throughout one of the most challenging situations a human being could ever face.

Only one photo exists of their wedding, and it is a treasure in our family. Black and white, slightly faded, it captures the excitement of the day. My beautiful grandmother on my grandfather's arm: young, in love, and awaiting the life to come. Although I am sure their life today is not what they thought it would be in that moment frozen in time, I have never sensed any regret or bitterness from either of them. The one thing Castro couldn't take was their love. Love for their family, each other, for service to others.

To this day, my grandparents still go on date nights. My grandfather takes my grandmother to a lake with countless swans, to sit with her and watch them go by. Their love is what binds our family. When my grandfather told me that Rob and I reminded him of himself and my grandmother, it was the greatest compliment I have ever been given. He believes we have the kind of love that will last a lifetime, and he would know. In my relationship, I have already seen the kind of commitment and strength that bound my grandparents through the tough times. Yet we are young, and we have a long way to go. If we begin to lose our way someday, I will take his hand and emulate the two people whose relationship will always have my utmost respect. With that kind of example, we could never go astray.

This is my entry for therealljidol. Thanks so much for reading and helping me get this far. Please vote for me if you enjoyed this.
be the change

LJ Idol Week 11: Haute

As a child, I often sat in front of my mother's vanity, legs tucked underneath me upon the blue and white cushion as I played with her perfume. The bottles were of cut glass, and to my young eyes they were the loveliest things I ever laid eyes on. Surely this is what it meant to be a lady, I thought, taking the small glass stopper from the bottle and using some of my mother's perfume. I dabbed it on my wrist as my mother taught me and waved my hands in the air like a conductor to take in the scent of my mother's elegance. At some point, I would snap out of my reverie and realize that I had done it again: I used my mother's perfume when I was not supposed to. To remedy this, I did what any five-year-old might find acceptable: I filled the perfume bottle back up with water, truly believing my mother would never know. In this way, I made my first attempt at becoming the lady she was, and still is.

Yet my admiration for the class and elegance my mother displays as easily as breathing did not end with her perfume bottles (although I did learn that my water trick was fooling no one). No, I began to realize growing up that my mother possessed something I rarely see these days, and that is good taste. My mother has impeccable taste for interior design, her clothing, and food. She can transform a modest house into a cozy cottage, a shirt into an outfit, a holiday dinner into an event. Her Thanksgiving dinner? Renowned. Martha would put her spatula down out of sheer respect. Her flair for picking something as simple as a faucet has contractors shaking their heads because they can't believe that the room they thought would never come together is actually way more beautiful than they ever realized it could be. Most people see something for what it is, but my mother sees it for what it can be.

I often watch in awe because I am as far from elegant as it gets. I say this not to be self-deprecating, but simply because it's true. I live in sweats and a ponytail. It took me days to notice that I managed to take off part of my toenail, leaving one of my toes looking haggard. Make-up? What is that? I wear the same ratty shoes everywhere, and I have been carrying a brown purse with black clothing for several weeks now. Style? Not so much. Haute? I had to look that one up in the dictionary.

Yet the thing that makes my mother the most classy, elegant, and respectable woman I know has nothing to do with how she cooks, dresses, or designs a kitchen. It's the fact that she takes care of her family no matter what personal sacrifice she has to make. The fact that she is respected by all that know her. Her generosity even when selfishness would be acceptable. How she roots for the underdog and asks for people to buy a chicken for the underprivileged for her birthday instead of giving gifts. The level of class and generosity she shows the world on any given day makes me proud to be her daughter, and in this way, I hope I can be even close to how elegant she is.

This is my entry for therealljidol. If you enjoyed it, please remember to vote for me when the polls open on Saturday! As always, thanks for reading.
as much as I love you

LJ Idol Week 8: First World Problem

I hold the phone between my ear and shoulder, listening as intently as possible while still appearing to be working.

"I went to the doctor yesterday," the familiar voice is saying to me. He sounds tired, too serious, so unlike himself. "I got up and I remembered I promised you that I would go. I had to keep my promise to my girl." I smile a smile he cannot see. His promises to me are so important, he wants to keep them. I am that important.

"Thank you," I say. "I am so glad, Daddy." I am twenty-three and will forever refer to my father as "Daddy". I will also continue to nag him and look after him until the day one of us leaves the planet. It is the nature of our relationship. On a recent visit, I noticed he wasn't eating much at all. He insisted it was a stomach virus, but something about the situation wouldn't leave me alone. He dropped eighteen pounds without even trying, and found it difficult to eat a normal meal. It terrified me. I made him promise that if he still felt sick when he went to Connecticut to see my grandmother for Christmas, he would see a doctor.

Later that evening, he called me again. His doctor called that evening with the results of his blood tests and asked how soon my father could get to the emergency room. Fifteen minutes later, my father had an IV in his arm with several types of antibiotics dripping into his veins. The stomach virus he thought he had was a serious infection in his blood, which could have killed him. The doctors were especially concerned because he has a defect in one of the valves in his heart, which could have caused the infection to spread there as well. Thankfully, it didn't get that far.

My father spent over a week in the hospital being pumped full of antibiotics, going through test after test to assess his health. This would be concern enough for anyone, except there was one additional problem: my father does not have health insurance. I can't remember the last time he did. He never sees a doctor, gets blood work done, gets a check-up. He's been turned down by health care companies for his heart defect (before pre-existing conditions were eliminated), and his job in catering does not provide health care. I think my father believed he could wait until he was old enough for Medicare before he needed health insurance, but he is two years away. For most people in this country, being without health insurance does not equal an eight plus day stay in the hospital, with all necessary tests and medications provided. For most people, no health insurance at some point puts you out on your ass, blood infection or no blood infection. Yet my father is not most people: while he barely has any money, my grandmother does. Our last name wouldn't mean a thing in Fort Lauderdale, where my father lives, but it carried some weight in Greenwich Hospital.

In America, your last name and who your parents are can hold weight, if you're lucky. It can say all the things you could never say out loud, like, "We're good for it; run all the tests you need." Money and the promise of money can turn a real dilemma into a first-world problem, and in this case, I'm pretty damn glad.
I got here on my own terms

LJ Idol Week 7: Brouhaha

Where the hell is the brouhaha?

In my mind, there is a significant lack of interest in the United States when it comes to current events. We are a country at war, yet I rarely hear anyone around me discuss it. Fifteen million children live in poverty, but you wouldn't know it from the lack of discourse. A bill to support 9/11 first responders was being held up in the Senate so that a tax break could get passed, but where's the outrage? There is so much going on in our country, in our world, but when I discuss state elections with a coworker, she can't tell me both of the candidates in our governor's race. When I mention a current event to a friend to get her take on the issue, she's never even heard about it. When I ask why they haven't heard about it, people tell me they don't have time, or they aren't political. Are you kidding me?

I suppose my sense of duty to be informed and be civically engaged comes from my mother. My mother, though she has lived in this country for about forty-four years, is not an American citizen. She is a permanent resident, a Cuban refugee. She has been actively working with lawyers to obtain her American citizenship for what feels like a century. My mother isn't allowed to vote, but she is more engaged in her surroundings than most people I know. She campaigns for candidates she supports, and spends time researching different amendments and points of view. She reads and watches different sources of news to hear varying opinions. My mother cares, yet she is limited in how she can express her views. Do you see why it breaks my heart when my friends won't even go to the polls, or say they "don't have time" to read one news article?

Although there are millions in the United States who have very little, we do have something that other countries do not: we have the privilege to pretend that what is going on around us isn't actually happening. We're privileged enough to be able to ignore an election, instead of being told that we MUST vote and that there is only one name on the ballot. Some of us are able to pretend there is no war, while other families we know are reminded of it every day. A number of people can look away from poverty, while others experience it daily, or are reminded when they look into the faces of their students, patients, friends, neighbors. We can pretend nothing is happening, but there is so much to see. In my opinion, if you're not just a bit outraged, you're not paying attention.

This is my entry for therealljidol. Thanks so much for reading. If you enjoyed this entry, please remember to vote for me. As always, I appreciate everyone who has supported me in the past and allowed me to get this far.
Jesus called

LJ Idol Week 6: Not of Your World

I used to be an Evangelical. At least, that's what I think we were. All I know is that when I watched Jesus Camp, there were a few moments when I said, "Oh, I remember that."

I was not raised Evangelical from the beginning, rather, I attended an Episcopal school for ten years and a Catholic church on the side. My concept of religion involved larger-than-life crucifixes, polished wood pews, and kneelers that crippled me after a Rite II Eucharist service. When my aunt died in a tragic accident, my grief-stricken family changed their religious path. We began to attend my aunt's church, a different world of Christianity. Services were held in a large converted warehouse downtown. The sanctuary packed people in by the hundreds, then thousands, sometimes so many that the sanctuary overflowed into rooms where congregants watched the services on a television screen. It was a megachurch, one of the country's largest.

Our church had rules, and all of them came from the Bible, which was the pure, infallible word of God. Every single word was true. It called for all of us to be born again, to commit our lives to Christ and confess our sin before the congregation. Wash me clean, for I have decided this day to follow You, Jesus.... The pastor intoned that when we said this prayer, the angels in Heaven rejoiced. God would write our name in His book of life, and we would be "saved". My entire family said that prayer and attained salvation. I became immersed in the world that was our church. I began to speak the language of Veggie Tales, contemporary Christian music, "Praise God!", and life verses.

I cannot explain the sensation that came with being a part of this world. When I try to tell people about it now, I am often met with confused expressions. It is the most intense happiness you have ever felt, I say. You're almost always happy, and other people ask you why. No one has ever understood this, perhaps because they have not been a part of it. I experienced an inexpressible joy in that sanctuary, the kind of joy that made others wonder. I could close my eyes and go into a world where I was alone with the Creator of the Universe, a being who cared deeply for me and knew me intimately, in a way no one else could. God was my drug, yet the high could not last.

As I grew older and entered high school, I began to see the cracks in the seemingly flawless facade of this place. The hammer came down on the chisel again and again as I came out of my euphoria and heard things my heart would not allow me to push aside. Anyone not like us, who did not subscribe to our beliefs, was not saved. Therefore, unless they became like us, they would go to hell. This included my friends at school, my homosexual neighbors, and anyone of a different religion. Since I was a girl, they suggested I learn how to cook and clean now, in order to prepare myself for my future as a wife and mother. Dating was frowned upon. Secular music led people like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to carry out the Columbine tragedy. Homosexuals could become heterosexual, if they prayed about it. Women should submit to men. To truly love God, to obey Him, I would have to become part of this world completely.

I reached a point where I had to walk away. I never felt good enough for the God of this church. Not because I was a sinner, but because I could not subscribe to every unwritten belief and rule He seemed to require of me. I wanted to slip back into that euphoria and comfort, but it no longer fit. I shed that life as a snake sheds its skin. There were people there that I loved, and aspects of it I truly enjoyed. Prayer, Christian music, and a relationship with God came away with me. It was heartbreaking to walk away, but impossible to stand in that sanctuary and pretend I was the same girl who was on fire for Jesus. I lost the religious fire and dove into an expansive ocean of spirituality, where I could be free to explore my God and begin to know what it was like to believe as I chose, rather than how I was told. One could say I was burned by the church, and perhaps they would be right. Yet that burn has left an indelible mark upon my heart, and I will always be grateful.

This is my entry for therealljidol. Thanks to everyone who voted in the tiebreaker and kept me around! I hope to stay around even longer and continue writing. Please remember to vote for me if you enjoyed this entry.
don't fuck this up

LJ Idol/Tie Breaker: Balancing Act

I can't do this anymore. The words escaped my lips before I could even register the thought, and then they were hanging precipitously in the air. I could not catch them, and instead I waited for a response. Lately, it seems whenever I say something like this, whenever I reveal that I am at my breaking point, nothing is said. No one grabs onto those words like a life raft and comes to my rescue. Perhaps it is because this is something people say, but rarely mean.

I can't do this anymore.

When I say it, I mean it. I am not sure how I can go on living this way. My graduate program preaches wellness and self-care, yet between my schoolwork, my full-time job, and my relationships, I can't seem to find the time for either one of them. We are expected to find balance, yet I have never found the secret to keeping everything going at once. If this balancing act were one of my classes, I'd be failing; if it were my job, I'd be fired. I often feel as though I am losing my sanity, myself. When I step out of myself and watch the woman who throws a tantrum in her kitchen, who is crying and yelling at her partner because she is truly at her wit's end, I do not recognize her. I observe from afar, fascinated, thinking, Wasn't she fine a couple of minutes ago?

This is most likely what my partner is thinking when I call him out for his failure to respond to my previous statement. Doesn't he care? I am crazed with the thought that perhaps he does not see my desperation, my precarious position on the very edge of myself. Perhaps I could dive in to the angry, churning sea of my frustration and no one, not even the person who loves me the most, would even notice.

I didn't know what to say, he said. I didn't know how to help you. I want to, but I don't know what you want.

I am frozen by that statement. I am not sure how to voice what I want, what I fear the most. Eventually I find my voice and tell him I am afraid. I am afraid that because I have been to that place before, because I have not only jumped into that churning sea but swam in it, became it. I am afraid that my mind knows its way back there all too well, and that it is where I am headed once again. I am afraid that this time, like all the other times, I will slip away and no one will notice. Once again, I will pretend so well that no one knows I am drowning in there with a fake smile on my face. I tell him that I need to know that he will notice the signs that I am slipping away. I need to know that he is concerned, that he cares. I am tired of being alone in this process, this madness. Save me.

This is my tiebreaker entry for therealljidol. I really hope that I will be able to continue on in this competition...but if I don't, thanks to all who got me this far and gave me advice. You rock. Please vote for me if you enjoyed this!

LJ Idol Week 4: Afterthought

Afterthought (n): an addition that was not included in the original plan.

I thought I would meet him in high school, my true love. We would know each other, but not well. He would look on from afar, a secret admirer afraid to share his true feelings. When finally the secret came out, we would discover that we both adored each other and wanted the same things. There would be a kiss, our first. It would be one of those wonderful, out-of-control, I-wasn't-planning-this moments. I imagined that he would find me beautiful, despite my distaste for makeup and the fact that I was not Homecoming Queen material. I dreamed he would love me for exactly who I was and no matter what anyone said, he would be proud to stand by my side. The two of us would go off to college together and our relationship would be endless. This was my personal fairy tale, and I clung to it like a security blanket.

The problem with my fairy tale was that this mysterious man was terrible at showing up. I couldn't figure out why he didn't appear in high school, as I hoped he would. As I got older, I thought that he must be in college. I was always a little more mature than my classmates, so perhaps my fairy tale hero was a college student in disguise. I looked for him my entire freshman year. I waited for a while, indulging my friends in their stories of crazy sexual encounters and romantic dates. My fairy tale love was a no-show. Then it occurred to me. Of course! Maybe this incredible guy wasn't going to find me, I thought. Maybe I needed to find him. I began dating around, searching for a glimpse of the real thing among each man I met. I was so desperate for the fairy tale that I bought into the illusion, which evaporated the moment each guy decided he was ready to move on.

I became so blinded by skepticism that I nearly failed to recognize the real thing when I stumbled upon it. Nothing happened the way I originally planned. First of all, he wasn't my secret admirer. He was someone I met online, and after several weeks of phone calls, semi-reluctantly agreed to go out with. The day of our first date, a rainstorm of biblical proportions hit my city.When my date showed up (in a Scion, not a white horse), I looked like a drowned rat. I stepped into his car, and we laid eyes on one another for the first time. I was unprepared for his ocean eyes, which made my heart skip a beat. My knees shook as he drove us to the movies. When he parked the car, we had our first kiss.

"I didn't say hello to you properly," he said, and kissed me on the lips. I barely kissed back due to surprise! This guy was nothing like my fairytale hero, with his shy, secret-admirer ways. This guy was bold. What kind of fairytale was this, anyway?

Over the past five years, I've let go of my fairy tale. I discovered that reality is much more satisfying. The love of my life is not my rescuer, but my partner and equal. He is handsome and slightly nerdy, and he makes me laugh with his dry wit. I am often astounded by his brilliance, and even more by how unaware he is of it. He has the kindest, most loving heart of anyone I've ever met. Love comes easily to him, and he loves me more than I ever imagined someone would. We don't live in a grand castle far away, but in a little apartment with three crazy animals and some slightly beat-up furniture. It is far from perfect, and yet I can think of nothing I love more.

True love is not always a part of the original plan. Sometimes true love is the afterthought.

This is my entry for therealljidol. Thanks so much for reading and supporting me in the competition so far. I hope you will vote for me if you enjoyed this entry.
agree with everything

LJ Idol: Topic 1/Week 1: Winding Up

I finished my sentence as my heart thudded in my chest and the flames in my cheeks began to die down. The embers still glowed on my olive skin as I touched my face, feeling the warmth. Seeds of doubt planted themselves in my brain as the professor moved on to the next student's comment.

People are going to think you're crazy.
Maybe you misunderstood that guy, and now you've just gone off on a rant for no reason.
Does anyone agree with me?

As a student, hell, as a human being, there are moments where I feel I have to stand up for something I know in my core to be true. I am constantly surrounded by people with differing and sometimes opposing views, and I would not have it any other way. I am a passionate person, though only certain topics wind me up and light the fire in my belly: politics, women's rights, child welfare, racism, homophobia being a few. I am prepared to discuss and, if necessary, defend my views on these subjects. They are part of the essence of me.

I am wound up by these subjects. Sadly, some people I know (good friends, even!) are afraid to even discuss them with me. Either they are unprepared, or unnerved by the fire that alights in me by a good discussion or debate. It is not because I fail to hear out their side of the argument, because I am willing and able to do so. At the same time, I should be allowed to express my views on the topic. Instead, I am considered "too sensitive", "too liberal", and, more recently, "snippy". Snippy? My passion is often mistaken for anger, and it has made some people turn away. My excitement for a good conversation, for an educated debate, is interpreted as irritation. It reminds me of something Ani DiFranco sang in her song, "Not a Pretty Girl":

I am not an angry girl
But it seems like I've got everyone fooled
Every time I say something they find hard to hear
They chalk it up to my anger
And never to their own fear

I have no desire to be surrounded by a million others who think and act as I do. I am a flawed human being, and I am constantly learning and re-evaluating my beliefs. It is part of the process of being human. What I would like, however, is for someone to see me get "wound up" about a subject and come toward me instead of running away at top speed. Rather than buying into the old adage that no one should discuss sex, religion, or politics, why don't we break every rule and discuss them all? Can't we clear the air and still be friends afterward? Even if we disagree, even if what you say makes my blood reach dangerous temperatures, I want to hear it. I will listen. I will always respect the person behind the words. I will never let politics get in the way of a good friendship. Winding up and feeling that fire, that spark within us, is one of the greatest things about life to me. It reminds me that I am alive and capable of feeling, of reason, of constructing a sentence.

Let's do it together. We can even like each other afterward.
all your heart

Week 0- The Real LJ Idol

I live life in a state of in-between. I am both a graduate student and a full-time employee, and at times I do not feel fully present with either part of my life. I am twenty-three years old, and I feel I have become an adult in most senses but that I have not quite arrived. My boyfriend partner and I have been together for almost four and a half years, and he is more than my boyfriend but less than my husband. I even live in the middle of the state of Florida, for goodness' sake. I am going through a period in my life of learning more about myself, my desires for the future, and life in general. It's an interesting time, and although I find myself longing to hit "fast forward", I am trying to stay present and live in this moment.

Welcome to my in-between.