Monday, June 13, 2016

Light Blue

Life has taken me lots of places and shown me that everyone experiences and cherishes things differently. I'm grateful every single time this act of magic happens- when a person or place stands before me and reveals a way of living that I never knew existed. It makes life feel all the more unified and still so very personal. We all look at the same things, but what are each of us seeing?

Every single time I meet new people, I replay the mantra that has been spoken to me since birth- be an expression of love. Be an expression of radical kindness and empathy. Life moves so quickly and I find myself making the motions but not always being fully present when loving others. I've been in serious need of time to slow down. Breathe. Look people in the eye and have conversations that stimulate the sleepy parts of myself. The parts that know this life means relatively nothing if I can't share my experiences, listen to others, learn, support, and love.

This knowledge that I needed a little change prompted me to volunteer for a few days at Camp Krem. Camp Krem is a camp for adults and children with disabilities located in northern California, in Boulder Creek. It's on a camp ground tucked on rolling hills and surrounded by lush trees, the whole landscape is so picturesque and comforting- the scenery of what our world looks like when we allow things to thrive and grow instead of trying to alter and change. 

I was in a cabin with the most wonderful ladies. The campers have disabilities that range from Down Syndrome, Autism, Global Developmental Delay, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, William's Syndrome, and more. I am not trained in special education and before I went I thought about what I should prepare myself for and try to understand.

Arriving at Camp Krem, I quickly learned no specific set of skills was needed besides patience, love, and the ability to drop judgments. You spend your days singing, dancing, creating, and learning from people who just want to feel part of something greater, people that just want to feel unconditional love and have fun. I was so humbled and blown away. The camp has little to no cell service, getting ready consist of throwing on sunscreen, bug spray, and clothes already thick with dirt and dust, and the occasional costume when there's a dance party to go to. (And the campers know how to party). Here's a photo of one dancing in a Cruella De Vil costume.

view from the arts and crafts building

We had a protest day, all about peace and love

I posted this photo on my Instagram with the caption:

I love helping and serving but I learned that without these experiences, I would not be okay or capable of becoming my best self. These incredibly lovely people helped me, taught me, and showed me how good life is when you just let go and embrace the natural ebb and flow of things, how everything eventually goes as it should and that a meaningful life is one where you don't alter what already is but instead embrace it with open arms and a warm heart.

On my last day, a radiant women in her 60's who is blind and has autism, was sitting with me as we made crafts together. She made beautiful earrings for everyone at camp, feeling the beads, asking their colors, and then placing them together. I would tie the ends and wait for her to create her next pair. She asked to feel my jacket. Then she asked what color it was. I told her blue.

"What kind of blue?"
"A light blue."
"What does it remind you of?"
I have never looked at an article of clothing or a color and thought about what it reminded me of. Surprised I replied,
"Like the sky, first thing in the morning. Or the beginning of the ocean."
She sat with her hand on the jacket and said,
"What does that make you feel like?"
I could have cried right there. I never reflect on how a single color makes me feel, or where it takes me. I just see it, because I have my sight and it is so often taken for granted.
I told her what the color made me feel like and then she asked me about the beads, if the sun can go through them and what they look like then. She asked me what the color red makes me think of, what it makes me feel. I told her how much I liked to read and what words look like on a page, and I thought of how every single time I read I feel apart of something greater than myself. It was this whole reflective, life-changing conversation with someone I may have overlooked anywhere else. And that fact alone made me feel a little ashamed at first, how many people have I passed or made assumptions about, when in reality they had more to teach me than I could teach them?

And so everyday I will say thank you. I will be kinder than necessary. I will look at my limbs and thank my legs for carrying me everywhere I've ever wanted to go, I will read with the new appreciation that my eyes can so easily dance along the page and treasure every word. I will pass people and say hello, meet strangers and help them, ask how people are and not just want to hear "fine" or "okay" but actually what they are feeling. I will help and give because I have an abundant, wonderful life. Even when I feel like I don't.

I will look at the sky early in the morning and remember what it's light blue color makes me feel: that there is hope in everyday, value in every life, and magic hidden in the ordinary sights I've often overlooked.

To learn more about Camp Krem and find out about employment and volunteer opportunities, click here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Reflect & Relax/ Time in Laguna

This past weekend I went to Laguna Beach for a short weekend trip with my family. The drive is only about 4 and a half hours from my home in Las Vegas, nearly 2 hours of that drive on the same, straight road.

I ended up taking the drive alone, filling the time with podcasts, playlists, and thoughts. I realized it was the most amount of uninterrupted time I've had completely by myself in a long time.

I was alone but not the least bit lonely, realizing that my whole life I've been surrounded by some type of love and acceptance and that I could offer myself that same thing on the drive.

I got to the beach safely and felt myself sink into my breath and my shoulders relax. I felt peaceful. This past month I've been feeling so stuck and sick of certain things in my life, trying to make the right decisions while being in the midst of the troubles that caused them. I think it's impossible to make rational, educated decisions among the wreck of our trials. We have to sometimes step back, drive far from our problems, sit someplace new, with people who unconditionally love us, unplug and just breathe.

I left my phone in the room and laid in the sand and thought of all the blessings that have been spoken to me. All the goodness I have in my life and all the times I have felt so incredibly in tune with myself and the universe. I thought about having the wonderful opportunity to just lie still, to be, to not have someone asking for me but instead being able to reflect on what I need of myself. Feeling present, I thought to myself, "Why am I always looking forward?" Planning, wishing, staring at screens, thinking what I will do in an hour, a day, a month. To just rest in the present moment and not stray, but embrace what my life is now. Realizing it is always enough.

I need my life to be intentional and purposeful- a platform to serve and help others while staying authentic to myself. I need to live in my truth and let go of the people in my life go who lead me astray. I need to always practice gratitude, saying, "thank you" when things feel extra hard, always reflecting on the abundance I have.

Every time I get to spend time on the beach I read Mary Oliver poems because I think she is an absolute gem with a beautiful zest for life. Sharing one of my favorites today and wishing you all a beautiful Sunday.

The Messenger, Mary Oliver

"My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
   equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
    keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
    and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
    that we live forever."

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