I am a Woman Moving Forward with President Obama

Just hours before the Republican National Convention, Ann Romney’s interview with CBS “This Morning” aired on national television.  During this interview, she revealed the details of her unfortunate miscarriage.  She explained how it began at 3 AM…yet she simply waited to wake her husband until 6 AM– Three. Hours. Later.

No worries, Ann.  You’re only bleeding profusely from your uterus, probably in a shit ton of pain (excuse my language), keeled over from the agony– but, please, Heaven forbid you wake your husband!

And that’s just the way Mitt likes it: the Woman–her rights, her body, her equal opportunities– pushed aside for the better of the Man and his dollar.  A true businessman you are, Mitt Romney.

Extreme Rightist, Romney publicly addressed the topic of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that recognized a woman’s childbearing rights and legalized abortion nationwide,  stating he would overturn the ruling and put it back in the hands of state legislature.  This essentially puts a woman’s body in the hands of the government–because, after all, the government knows exactly how every woman, teenager, and even young girl is impregnated: it’s God’s Plan, right?

Wrong.

I am an avid believer in God.  Though I do not believe in organized religion, I occassionally attend church, I pray every night, and I even dig my nose into the Bible for some spiritual guidance every so often.  But, as Vice President Biden explained during the second debate, I would never implement these beliefs on any one else other than myself.  And this is exactly how I believe our President, Vice President, government, courts and legislature should govern America.

America: the land of the free. 

Our nation is based on freedom, according to the first amendment: freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom to peacefully assemble, freedom to petition the government, and freedom of religion.

Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, half the United States, you, your mom, your boyfriend… Heck! I may even believe it’s God’s plan to decide at what exact moment in time a woman becomes pregnant–be it in marriage, during a one-night stand, or in the most horrendous of ways, rape.

But God’s plan doesn’t necessarily apply to every woman.  And that’s in a woman’s constitutional rights to decide.  It’s her choice to decide if she’s following God’s plan or not.

Or, perhaps in her spiritual beliefs, she is following God’s plan entirely:

There’s a young woman, 16 years old.  She loses her virginity to her boyfriend of 3 years.  She didn’t use protection because, by law, she couldn’t purchase what she needed.  Her parents never really educated her on the topic of sex, protection and pregnancy.  All she knows, at 16, is that she loves her boyfriend, her boyfriend loves her, and she feels ready.  But at 16, no young woman is ready because she has no idea the consequences of sex.  (And yet, I can count on two hands and two feet the number of girls who were having sex at 16, or even younger, at my middle-class high school in the suburbs of Los Angeles).  Well, this 16-year-old girl misses her next period and soon realizes she is pregnant.  She is a 4.0 student headed for college, and there is no way she can have this baby without ruining her future and the future of the unborn child.  In her heart, she truly believes God will forgive her so long as she learns from the experience and moves forward in helping prevent others from going through the same tragedy.

It’s her right to choose.  This decision affects her and her body; God’s plan for her is only between herself and God.  No one else. Not the government. Not Mitt Romney. And certainly not Paul Ryan–who believes a fetus owns the rights of a human being at the moment of conception and therefore any woman who takes Plan-B or any other type of contraceptive to prevent that fetus from growing is a MURDERER.

My mom always told me never to trust a man with two first names. She was right. Paul Ryan, you are a beautifully ignorant human being.

If you are not a woman, you are not making any decisions that affect my body. Period.  (A thing no MAN has to endure; so therefore, SHOVE OFF).

If we really want to protect women from unexpected pregnancies, let’s give all women the opportunity of education and protection, and let’s continue supporting Planned Parenthood.

Oh wait, Romney doesn’t support Planned Parenthood and wants to cut tax money in this sector of our society.

Now this is just confusing.  Romney doesn’t support abortions yet he doesn’t support an agency whose goal is to protect women from unexpected pregnancies that would lead to abortions.  What a debacle!

Romney says he doesn’t support tax money for Planned Parenthood because the organization carries out abortions, but poor little Romney didn’t do his research.  In fact, abortions are only 3% of Planned Parenthood’s total procedures.  The other 97% of the time, Planned Parenthood is busy preventing unplanned pregnancies, doing mammograms to protect women from breast cancer, stopping the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and helping educate and counsel the population on the consequences of sex without protection.

But Romney doesn’t support it because Heaven forbid he spends a few dollars out of the $15 million he earned from the car bailout or the lump-sum of money the Mormon church is kicking back to him because they are exempt from paying taxes.

WHAT. EVER.

Romney is simply a businessman. All he sees are the $$ signs.

He doesn’t care about the lower class.  He doesn’t care about the men and women who can’t afford protection.  He doesn’t care that women may not have the proper education about sex and protection.  He doesn’t care that, if Roe v. Wade is overruled and abortion becomes illegal, that children will be born into the same, uneducated, unprotected circle of sex and pregnancy that their parents were born into before them.

Romney simply doesn’t care.

Well, I don’t care about you, either Romney.  I am a woman. I have rights. I am not just a resume in a binder. I am a real human being, and I am a WOMAN.

And as a woman, I don’t need a businessman as my President. I need a diplomat.

A businessman  like Romney doesn’t understand the concept of the American dream–growing up from nothing, learning lessons, struggling, persevering, succeeding, becoming a role model and seeking a nation that creates the same opportunities for all people of every color, background, race, culture, religion, ethnicity and dreams.  Romney never had to dream–it was just given to him and it always will be.

I want a President who has earned his title to be a national and worldwide mentor.  Someone whose money doesn’t influence every, single one of his actions.  Someone who isn’t too concerned about his pension, or lack thereof, as Obama told Romney in the second Presidential Debate,

“I don’t check my pension much.  I’m sure it’s not as big as yours.”

No one can trust a businessman because you never know what he is doing to make himself richer in the end.  No businessman can peacefully communicate to the people of Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc, etc because there is no relationship between a powerful, first-world businessman and a third-world citizen.  The first is blinded by the monetary value of all that exists, seeing nothing other than power in wealth, while the latter if often taken advantage of, with little to no money to even discuss economic matters.   There’s no trust between an American businessman and a third-world citizen; thus, how can there ever be peace?

America needs a diplomat. Not a businessman.

And since Republicans care so much about God, let’s take this into account: God did not create money; people created money.  God did not create this world for money to reign; God created this world for people to live.  And this world needs an American leader who cares about giving people an opportunity to live this life God created. The world needs and American diplomat who cares about people and their lives.

The world does not need business; the world needs peace.

Obama is the diplomat who will receive my vote today.  I trust the future of a better (more) United States in his hands: for women’s rights, for equality, for freedom, for change, for moving forward, for peace.  He is the American Dream.

And if Romney wins–you bet I’ll flee to Mexico, just like his estranged great-grandfather did with his 5 wives in order to escape the crackdown of polygamy…except I’ll be escaping from something much, much worse.

OBAMA|BIDEN 2012

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Pizza, Beer and Fate.

It’s 1:55 A.M. Saturday morning. Or I guess, for most people, Friday night. I’ve eaten three and a half pieces of pepperoni-jalapeno pizza, drank three Belgium White Blue Moons and watched two movies: Anchorman and 500 Days of Summer.

I’ve seen Anchorman at least a dozen times and have easily memorized every other line. It has been a favorite movie of mine since Freshman year of high school.  I don’t know if it was my favorite movie because I had always wanted to be a journalist, because I awkwardly related to the “special” character Brick…or because my very first boyfriend introduced it to me; and therefore I fell in love, simply because I was in love with everything that embodied him.

I had never seen 500 Days of Summer before.  It’s beautiful.  In fact, I haven’t written in over a month because I’ve been stuck with very little motivation in my life to find something meaningful to actually write about.  It’s amazing to me how a movie can provide that motivation–it can spark an emotion in your heart that you thought had left long ago, but then all of a sudden it appears again as your eyes unveil, scene by scene, the picture that fills your screen, and at the end you’re left crying, tears flowing down your cheeks, and you don’t quite understand what happened until you look yourself in the mirror.

Fifteen years old.  Seven years ago.

My life encompassed the following: 4.0 GPA, honors classes, varsity soccer as a freshman, captain of my club soccer team, a stellar body (thanks to sports), a confident personality, a group of 16 girlfriends, my first love and an unbreakable, All-American family.

I say unbreakable because I always look back on that “blissful” time and somehow seem to overlook one thing that weighed down on my family, something that could have easily caused destruction but didn’t.  Despite everything that seemed so “perfect,” my life also encompassed a father who was taken out of his position as caretaker and was forced to let his family support him.  A father whom I had never seen shed a tear, let emotion get the best of him or ever disarm his strong, steady demeanor.  A father who, even as he was struggling to defeat cancer, I still pretended was unbeatable, untouchable, undefeated.

And this is what I always did.  I always envisioned this life of mine to be something a little skewed from what it actually was.  I saw myself as a princess with a fairy-tale of a life story, and I simply ignored anything that interrupted that happy ending.  Well, I learned that when it comes to people you love other than yourself, that happy ending isn’t going to be just the picture-perfect moment I had doodled in my Geometry notebooks all throughout Freshman year.

In fact, my life wasn’t going to even be CLOSE to the fairytale-esq story of the First Woman President I had planned practically since  the day I emerged from the womb.

You see, I never expected myself to be in the position I sit today.  When I was fifteen, I thought that, by 22, I would be living this Gossip Girl lifestyle, wandering the streets of New York with a trendy fur coat, Louboutin heels in one hand and a martini glass in the other.  I thought my family would be happy and whole, my job would be a dream-come-true and my heart would be filled with the love from my high school sweetheart, marked by a diamond ring on my left hand (probably the one holding the martini glass).

Well, just as the director of 500 Days of Summer juxtaposes Tom’s expectations with Tom’s reality when he goes to meet Summer at her roof-top garden party overlooking the buildings of Los Angeles only to find out she is engaged to another man, it seems my expectations also clash with my reality.

I am 22, sitting on my used-leather couch, with a half-eaten piece of pepperoni-jalapeno pizza in front of me, wearing a pair of yoga pants I stole from my sister and a shirt I wore this afternoon for an interview that didn’t actually appeal to me whatsoever.  Needless to say, I am jobless. My family is still unbreakable, yet we are not whole. And Tom–whose name ironically coincides with the main character of the film that motivated me to write this entry–has turned out to not be the love of my life; thus, no diamond ring.

Just as Tom figures out in the film, I’m surrendering to the actuality that, for two years–no, for seven years, I have continued blinding myself with the sunlight of a fairy-tale vision that was blocking the rain of my reality.  And, though some people call it strength that I was able to come out of such experiences with an un-skewed perception, I honestly believe it was a weakness.  I was too weak to face the burdens of my reality and crush my picture perfect plans.

But, I’ve recently discovered what I believe to be real, genuine strength.

Strength is understanding that my life is not a fairy tale, and I am far from being a princess. Strength is taking the steps toward bettering myself and seeking a brighter future.  Strength is being able to step away from a dream of helping others in order to first help myself.  Strength is finally opening up to my reality.  Strength is putting aside all the plans and expectations I had set in order to let life just…..happen.

My life today may not be where I envisioned it seven years ago.  But seven years ago, the picture-perfect life I doodled in my Geometry notebook left me with my only B in all of high school.

In fact, I’m okay with where I’m at today, despite my broken vision.  I enjoyed my Friday night tonight, or Saturday morning, or whatever you want to call it. I don’t even like Louboutin heels because they’re overrated; in fact, I had to look up how to even spell Louboutin.  I don’t even like fur because I don’t believe in killing animals, and quite frankly, I sweat way too much to wear fur even if I didn’t give a flying you-know-what about animals. I don’t particularly enjoy drinking mixed drinks, let alone martinis because the sugar gives me the hang over from hell and a vodka-soda is less caloric anyway.  And, overall, New York is way too trendy and way too cold for me.

I enjoyed my 3.5 slices of pizza tonight over a pair of Louboutins (at least pizza is easy to spell).  I preferred my 3 beers over a martini. I liked my two movies instead of a night out.  I love my small apartment on the beach, as opposed to a more expensive one in crowded city thousands of miles away from my family.

And my family.

I like the fact that my family is far from the All-American, postcard, toe headed group of completely normal individuals. In fact, we are quite the opposite.  We are as un-normal and dysfunctional as they come. But one thing definitely different from that picture-perfect family I envisioned, and something I cherish most of all, is that we aren’t just a group of individuals: we are a team, a unit, a bond, a real, tried and true family.  We may not be complete physically, but we are unbreakable spiritually.  An angel continues to keep us together. And because of this angel, together we can continue to smile and laugh through it all.

And finally, I am able to laugh, too.  I giggle at the fact that I imagined my first boyfriend to be the man I would marry.  I chuckle at my pre-economic-downfall aspirations of finding my ultimate dream job right out of college.  I can laugh at myself for envisioning all of these crazy, unrealistic ideals because I’m 22, and I still have absolutely nothing figured out.

All I really know is, like both Tom and Summer figure out in 500 Days, fate works in crazy ways.  All we can do is laugh through the obstacles that we endure until fate finally figures it out for us.

Afterall, as Tupac says:

“Theres gonna be some stuff you’re gonna see that’s gonna make it hard to smile in the future, but through whatever you see, through all the rain and the pain you gotta keep your sense of humor.”

Now, fate is leading me to my current path: a cozy bed, next to my sweet boyfriend, with a tummy full of beer and pizza, a mind at ease from writing, a heart filled with content, and a future–undetermined, unscathed, unplanned.

Goodnight, world.

The Story of Me & Why I am here

I decided to join Teach for America for a number of reasons.  But when asked to pick just one aspect in the “Story of Me” to share with a group of my colleagues, I  realized I joined due to an overarching theme of adversity I shared with our inner-city students in Los Angeles.  My best friend (Erin Esaki) shared a quote about adversity with me in my Pink Buddha of Quotes–long story short, a couple years ago I bought a pink Buddha piggy bank (if you can even envision that) in San Francisco in which Erin filled with different quotes and phrases to inspire me.  It worked. (Thanks Er-Bear!)

Thomas Carlyle wrote:

“Adversity is the diamond dust that Heaven polishes its jewels with.”

Though I have not faced adversity in terms of racial inequity, socioeconomic injustice or other civil concerns and battles, I have faced adversity through heartbreak.  I’ve faced adversity through death.  Though this was hands down the most difficult challenge I have ever faced in my life, it was also the most life-changing, not only negatively, but in a number of positive ways as well.  It was this adversity through which I saw the “jewel” (if you will) within who I wanted to become and what I wanted others to see.  Today, I was able to share with my colleagues how this fight against adversity has shaped who I am and how I want to use that knowledge and experience to form authentic relationships with each one of my students.  Here is the “Story of Me:”

Keep Fighting

Cancer (noun): pathology; a malignant and invasive growth or tumor. That is the dictionary definition. But to me cancer is so much more.

Cancer is a test– a test of character, of strength, of love, of belief and of miracles; it is a test of faith in yourself and those around you.  We have all been tested by this terrible disease in some way or another.  Some of us are currently fighting, some of us have helped to fight, some of us will fight in the future and some of us—those you cannot see but whose spirits surround us—fought until the very end.  No matter the results of this disease for each one of us, if we keep fighting, we will never be defeated.

I was blessed to know this amazing woman, and she will forever be in my heart.  She was one of those people who could walk into someone’s life and immediately add a little bit of sunshine, even on the rainiest of days.  She was beautiful, smart, bubbly, loving and an all-around genuine person.  But there was one characteristic about her that made her stand out from the rest…she was a fighter.

This woman was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer in 2006.  She was forced to go through a year of chemotherapy and radiation.  She went into remission for a bit, but unfortunately the tumors came back, as it often does for women with ovarian cancer.  For the next 4 years she continued with chemotherapy, one surgery after another, one procedure after another, one sick day after another.  But the odd thing about it was, if you didn’t know her, you never would have guessed she was even sick at all.

She continued to teach her second grade class, day after day, year after year.  She didn’t just teach though; she made a difference.  She was every child’s favorite teacher because she cared so much about each and every student.  Even with everything she was facing in her own life, her students often came first.  She would fight for their success day in and day out, simultaneously fighting for her own life. 

She continued going to the gym, taking motorcycle rides with her husband, raising her three children, going on trips with her friends.  But most importantly, she continued to live her life to the fullest in any way she could.  She never held harsh feelings towards the cards she was dealt, but rather, she embraced her fate.  She proved to everyone around her, and even those who she never met, that cancer did not dictate her life.  She admitted that she was glad she was diagnosed with this disease because it made her better…it made her stronger—strength she shared with all those who crossed her path.

This woman left her mark on this world.  She touched peoples’ hearts.  She altered peoples’ perceptions; she changed lives, simply by continuing in her fight, by never giving up and by sharing that determination with others.  She was the epitome of a beautiful life with no regrets.  She was a hero.  She was my best friend. She was my mom.

Two years ago, I held her hand as I watched her take her last and final breath.  August 5th 2010: a day a mother lost her daughter, a husband lost his wife and three children lost their mom.  A day that will always bring tears to my eyes, but a day that is beautiful nonetheless. Although she is no longer with us, her fight continues on, in all those who watched her never give up.

Life (noun): the period of animate existence of an individual.  That is the dictionary definition.  However, in reality, life is about finding strength through the inescapable obstacles that it offers; it is about realizing that each day is a blessing and that nothing should ever rid a person of that gift.  Life is about fighting on no matter the difficulties we face. 

As I join Teach for America, I realized I will be part of a movement that encourages this fight.  We have all faced some type of adversity, whether it is cancer, another sickness, the struggles of inequality, racial challenges, or any other obstacle that life throws our way.  However, it is this adversity and the fight we take to overcome it that will make each one of us in Teach for America and each one of our students a hero in our own way.

So to me, life is when a daughter loses her best friend, her mentor, her hero, her mom, but that daughter can still look up and smile because no matter what she knows that her mom is still shining down on her, and shining down on anyone else who has ever wanted to give up.  Life is being able to overcome the most horrible of heartbreaks and the most difficult of struggles, and move forward, using that strength it took to overcome those obstacles and helping others do the same.  So, for my mom, I am telling all of you: never give up, never surrender to life’s challenges, never let your soul be defeated…and continue to fight.

A new beginning. Another chapter. A step toward equality.

Hello!

This is my very first post on this blog and I am absolutely ecstatic to start sharing my thoughts.  So let’s give it a shot.

Cliff notes on my life:
-Born and raised in So. Cal.  (Moorpark, CA)
-Small town girl with big dreams and passions
-Graduated from USC in May with a degree in Journalism and Spanish
-Was accepted into Teach for America, Los Angeles Corp 2012
-Will be working as an elementary school teacher and leader in Compton.
-Currently a graduate student at Loyola Marymount University and pursuing my Master’s in Educational Policy and Reform.

So this brings me to now.  I’ve had so many excursions in my life but none that equate to what I am currently facing with Teach for America.  Thus far it has been an incredibly long process with a lot of anxiety to just get going and start working.  Now, you’re probably wondering what exactly is Teach for America?  So let me give you the gist: Teach for America, or TFA, is a non-profit organization in correlation with AmeriCorp that seeks to reform the education inequities and achievement gaps amongst students in this nation.  The TFA long-term goal is:

“ONE DAY all students in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.”

Our short-term goals as members of the L.A. Corp is to manifest TFA’s beliefs and values into a reality in our individual classrooms and beyond in order to help close the achievement gap between high and low-income students.

It sounds, well, quite impossible doesn’t it? Believe me, this burden of wondering about the possibility of minimizing the achievement gap has rested heavily upon my shoulders every, single day since committing to this organization and this movement.  I question my ability to make even an inch of a difference in a problem that is so very complex and deep-seeded in Los Angeles.

But I have an importance in this movement.

I am here to serve children who have been underserved undeservingly their entire lives due to their pre-distinguished socioeconomic standing.  And not only will I serve them, but I will exceed all expectations…as will they.  Our children deserve the right to an excellent education and a brighter future no matter their background, culture, skin or class. I am determined to help them, not only as a teacher, but as a mentor, a leader, a helping hand and a companion.  Teachers do not just teach.  Teachers must lead, guide, model and transform.  I was drawn to Teach for America because I’m drawn to being this teacher.  I’m drawn to this movement toward educational reform, equality and making a difference.

To question my abilities to make a difference as one person in this huge movement is reasonable.  But to question my determination and will to do so is not.  I understand that–as a first year teacher in a program that is highly challenging, in neighborhoods that, quite frankly, will be a major culture shock to a girl from a small suburban town–I am DESTINED to make mistakes…maybe even fail.  But in this program and in this movement, I have to be okay with that; I have to be okay with making mistakes and not being successful.  I have to be vulnerable.

So here is my public commitment #1 for those who read this: I promise to lead from my gut but to open my mind to anything and everything.  I promise to teach with love and to form authentic bonds with my students beyond just a teacher-student relationship.  I promise to be vulnerable and allow myself to make mistakes.

And finally, I promise to believe in and build on the vision that ONE DAY all students in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.

That’s it for now.  I’m off to a cocktail party as a celebration for the end of our first week and as a conclusion to our induction into the Los Angeles Corp 2012.

Cheers! 🙂