Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Human Rights Council of Washington County

So, you may have noticed a sidebar on this blog mentioning something about the Human Rights Council of Washington County. Perhaps you are wondering what on earth that is. I figure I've given you enough time to guess, so now I'll try to explain it as well as I can.

When I moved back to Hillsboro from Corvallis, I wanted to be a part of something that spoke for underrepresented groups in my community. Luckily, I found the HRC, which is made up of all sorts of very intelligent, like-minded people with equality in our community as their (and my) main goal. We sponsor various events around the community that deal with human rights, equality, or even to celebrate amazing people like Martin Luther King, Jr. We also have listening forums with leaders in the community and Oregon to talk about important issues, like immigration, bullying in schools, and hate crimes.

I really adore being a part of this. I feel like I'm making a difference in my community, or at least trying to. I hate seeing or hearing about the ignorance in my community, and feel that it could be so much better if we all just took the time to listen and learn about the amazing diversity our community has to offer.

I am a part of the Human Rights Council for so many reasons. First, I like feeling like I'm being proactive in helping my community grow closer and more accepting of the wonderful diversity around us. Second, I have family and friends in this community, and hopefully someday I'll have children growing up in this community, and I want them all to feel safe and accepted for who they are. Third, I just want to feel that it is possible to live in a community where differences are embraced and celebrated.

I realize that I must sound so idealistic and somewhat naive, but I feel like I'm justified in feeling just tired of all the ignorance and hate in the community. Especially when it's based on such stupid, trivial things that are usually out of one's control. Why does this have to be around anymore? We have so many resources and people available to teach us how to be accepting and reach for equality; I just don't see why so many refuse to use them.

I'm doing my part to try to make my community a better place all around. If you would like to know how you can do the same, please visit our Facebook page, (and "like" us to learn about upcoming HRC events or forums!) or learn more about Human Rights here.

Equality is not an idea we strive for; it's our goal.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Twenty Five!

You know, birthdays are funny. I remember when I was younger, I would start getting excited about my birthday months before it actually happened. I would seriously lose sleep just thinking about it.

Now, not so much. I honestly hardly even noticed it approaching, until I realized with a start a few days ago that I indeed, was turning 25 in a few short days. I felt like it took me by surprise, and I felt like I wouldn't even have all that much time to celebrate it, considering I'd be in school most of the day, after having been in school for eight hours every day for the past two weeks. I was exhausted, grumpy, and not totally in a celebrating mood.

But, life has a way of showing you that you're wrong about most things. That morning, I woke up to a cheerful Evan, who had strung up some "Happy Birthday!" banners and had gotten me some beautiful flowers. He drove me to PSU that morning and I couldn't help thinking that did in fact, have the best fiance in the whole world. Here he was, supposed to be celebrating summer break and instead is getting up with me at 6:15 and driving me to class. As he dropped me off, I couldn't help feeling a little grumpy, because I would have rather spent the day at home with Evan and my flowers than be in class. At least, I thought, I was able to celebrate it a little bit this morning.

 Again, I was wrong.  I walked into room 206 on Friday, and was greeted with "Happy Birthday!" from a lot of my classmates. It meant a lot to me, because we've all grown so close. See, we're all enrolled in these week-long classes that get you three credits if you survive until Friday, but it's a lot of intense critical thinking and it's even more sitting. Eight solid hours of class, sitting in uncomfortable little desks from the 50's (the class was held in St.Mary's Academy. Let me tell you; if I was a parent paying upwards of $10,000 a year for my child's education there, I would demand slightly more ergonomic desks) will definitely bring people together.

The class was taught by an instructor that hailed from the former Soviet Union, and oh my goodness, it showed. She would start class promptly at 8:30 am, and when she gave us "free time" to discuss, she would say things like, "Okay, I will give you 15 seconds to discuss. Discuss. Okay! 15 seconds is up! Back to your seats!" Her motto was, "When I say time is up, finish your sentence, not your paragraph."

So you can imagine my fear when my friend Julie wanted to take me out to a Lebanese restaurant close to campus on my birthday. I hesitated because our instructor gave us thirty minutes for lunch, and she was spookily accurate on starting class back up as soon as those thirty minutes were over.

Anyway, Julie showed up on campus with a balloon and flowers and I just couldn't deny her invitation. We went and chowed down on some chicken shwarma, falafels, and hummus. We sat at a small table next to the window and as we caught up, we basked in the amazing sunshine that had also decided to show up on my birthday. I didn't even realize how much time had passed until I looked at my phone and saw that it was 1:13. We had been allowed out for lunch at 12:10. I'm totally going to the gulag, I thought, as I bid Julie a hasty farewell and walked as fast as my very full stomach would allow back to class.

I tried to sneak into the classroom, but of course, the doors at a Catholic high school are never oiled well, lest you be late, and the entire class turned to welcome my late, huffing and puffing arrival. I walked over to the instructor, balloon bobbing jovially next to me, and tried to explain what had happened. She cut me off, and as I was mentally preparing myself for a USSR style bashing, she said, "It's your birthday, Mariela, and your friends wanted to celebrate. It is okay with me that you are a little late," with a smile and a pat on my shoulder.

My next surprise that day came from Dimitar, an older, Bulgarian gentleman who has decided that his life's work should be teaching and had joined the BTP cohort with me. He stood to give his final presentation, took a deep breath, and said, "before I begin, I will sing a song. Please feel free to join me if you are familiar with the lyrics." Now, Dimitar is kind of a strange duck, so we were all anticipating the Bulgarian national anthem or something, but instead, he began to sing "Happy Birthday"!! I was totally surprised, and I felt myself blushing as everybody else joined in.

I'm going to try to figure out when Dimatar's birthday is so I can sing him "Happy Birthday" in Bulgarian.

After class was over, Evan picked me up and we went to Papa Hyden on NW 23rd. We lucked out and got a table outside, where we feasted on desserts (I had this amazing thing with hazelnut gelato in it) and people watching. It was nice to sit and talk and not have our conversations tinged with stress, because Evan recently found out that he got his job back (yay!) and I was done with school for the time being. I felt okay taking my time and didn't feel any of life's other petty urgencies tugging at my conscience.

Once we had had enough of dessert and pale people basking in the sun, we met my parents for dinner at Pastini and then went back home for more dessert (funfetti cake!)  and presents. I got some amazing things, but I have to say I'm most excited about the Josh Groban concert tickets! My mom and I always joked about seeing him someday, but usually ended up missing him because his tickets tend to a)sell out quickly and b)be astronomically expensive. I really can't wait to experience his concert with my mom though. It's like one of our joint dreams coming true.

I really felt so loved on my birthday, after feeling like it would simply pass me by because of everything I had going on. It was nice to finally sit back, relax, and truly enjoy my time with those who matter so very much to me. Plus, I got to eat an amazing Lebanese meal, was forgiven by the keeper of punctuality herself, and was serenaded to by a Bulgarian. Pretty awesome birthday, after all, if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

An amazing person, leaving behind an awesome legacy

I recently stumbled upon a headline during my break at work. "Blogger Posts His Own Death."

Of course, I was intrigued, if not a little confused, as typing may prove difficult in that particular state. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by what followed. See, the article was about Derek K. Miller, who was a pretty well-known blogger in the tech and science circles. He had started his blog about ten years ago, and in 2007, he was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic colorectal cancer. The posts that chronicle his journey through chemo and radiation, as well as his drive to live a "normal" life despite the fact are nothing short of inspiring.

And yes, he did ask his family to publish his "Last Post" after his death, and it is amazingly well-written and insightful. He doesn't sound angry, bitter, or resentful. Instead, he sounds grateful for the time he had with his family and the experiences he was able to have.

I love the fact that he was incredibly straight-forward about his particular circumstances. Yes, he had cancer. Yes, it was going to kill him. No, he wasn't going to let it completely consume his life. And really, he didn't let it.

Derek Miller reminded me that life is still, and is always beautiful, regardless of one's worries and troubles. We get so mired down by the petty things, constantly moving those things up our priority list until we completely lose sight of what's really important. It seemed to me that Mr. Miller never let cancer obscure his vision of what was truly significant to him.

I'm sorry I just found your words, Derek, but they serve as a powerful reminder  that life is full of complications, yet so very precious to us all.

Here's the link to the blog itself: http://www.penmachine.com/

Saturday, May 7, 2011

It's only been what, a few months?

Hi everybody! I'm not sure you all remember me, but you can just call me the worst blogger every in the history of blogging. And it's not like I haven't wanted to. Trust me. But, life has a way of running away with  you, especially when it's stuffed with things like work, graduate school, trying to get rid of this flab in my middle, planning a wedding, and chasing after two rather neurotic cats. If you're reading this, thank you for being so very patient. I appreciate it.

Life has been pretty great these last few months, but its been marked with moments of uncertainty. Not in regards to the wedding, mind you (unless you count me wondering whether it's really necessary to have menus when we're having a buffet-type dinner) but about where it is I'm going with my professional career. If you've been watching the news at all, you might have noticed that the field of education is not exactly stable. This isn't exactly comforting, as I'm getting my Master's in Education. I feel like a person studying Finance right before the Great Depression. So, there are days when I wonder whether this is the right path for me. Those are the days when I wish I was one of those, "just wait and see what happens," people. Sadly, I'm not. I'm pretty proactive when it comes to my future, especially when said future is proving to be rather expensive at the moment. I don't want to drop thousands and thousands of dollars on something that isn't going to make me happy in the long run. There are those people who say that a job is just that: something to go to for the majority of the day and get paid to do. But I can't subscribe to that school of thought. I want a job where I wake up excited to go and contribute. I just don't know what job that is, yet. And that is somewhat frustrating.

I realize that I'll figure out someday. But, I want that realization to come sooner than later. When you realize what it is you want to do for the rest of your life, you want that life to start as soon as possible.

In the meantime, however, I'll appease my troubles with cute little wedding details and my new music obsession, The Weepies. I'll even share one of my favorite songs with  you all.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Playing Catch-Up

Hey everyone!

 I'm sorry I've been such a slacker at this whole blogging business, but to tell you the truth, I've been having a really amazing couple of weeks. Things have finally calmed down a bit, so I figured I would come here to share a few of my most recent adventures.

So, my biggest piece of news is....

I'm ENGAGED!!!!!!!

The ring!

The spot where Evan proposed. It was awesome. 

If I had known that we were going to get engaged, I would have at least put on some mascara and left the thug beanie at the hotel. Oh well! We're engaged! 
It's true; Evan proposed during a mini-vacation to one of our favorite spots, Rockaway Beach. I honestly had no idea he had even been thinking about proposing, and I had been totally oblivious to the fact that he had been talking to his family and mine about asking me to marry him. He actually was hiding the ring under the bed for a week before he proposed!

Anyway, the proposal was perfect, and of course, I said yes. I can't wait to start this new adventure with him, but at the same time, I'm taking my time enjoying being engaged and am currently poring over wedding magazines and books for wedding ideas.

Right after we came back from our mini-vacation, we slogged through the last week of school and went on our full-blown vacation with Evan's family to Maui, Hawaii. I was nervous about flying for so long, but Xanax came to the rescue, and as soon as we touched down in Maui, I forgot all about my flight anxiety and settled into an amazing week of relaxation and fun with my fiance and future in-laws (that feels unbelievably weird to type, but in a good way!). Mainly, my days went like this:

- wake up
- have coffee and cookies while looking admiring the ocean from our balcony
- suit up, lather on sunscreen and beach supplies
- walk the fifty paces down the hall and the ten paces to the beach from the lobby
- plop down on the sand with a book
- turn over
- go boogie boarding
- almost drown (seriously, I was the worst boogie boarder ever)
- more beach/book/mai tai/ shave ice time
- dip in the pool
- walk back upstairs, shower
- have huge, calorie-loaded dinner with everyone
- admire each other's tan/burns (Evan got a really impressive one)
- go to bed

My view for most of the day

Happy to be in Maui
The view from our hotel room! 

Evan and I at the Luau
We also went to a really amazing luau where I ate enough to feed a family of four, and where we met a really cool couple on their honeymoon from Sydney, Australia. We swapped engagement stories.

Watching these girls was the best guilt-trip after eating all that food
Oh yeah. 
One of many amazing sunsets
Hibiscus flowers grow everywhere! 
I also was introduced to the amazing thing that is Hawaiin Shave Ice. Can you tell I was completely off my diet the whole time I was there? Anyway, we had to have shave ice whenever we saw some, and I'm missing it dearly now that we're back in Oregon. Actually, I'm missing the whole island. It's tough going from 84 degrees to 43.

We flew back in on December 23rd, and so we only had one night to relax and unpack before getting geared up for Christmas with our families. We spent Christmas Eve with my parents since that's the day we celebrate most (that's just the way Hispanic families roll) and spent Christmas Day with Evan's family. It was a lot of fun to hand everyone their little island goodies. Especially my dad, since he had requested a dashboard hula girl for his car.

For Christmas, Evan pulled another surprise on me. On Christmas Eve, he handed me an envelope, which had Post-It note in it that was the first in a scavenger hunt. He had me going all over my parent's house, and finally, I ended up in the garage, where I found a vintage leather loveseat that I had been lusting after for months waiting for me! You see, Evan and I had visited Sorel's Vintage on Hawthorne Boulevard one afternoon this summer, and I had completely fallen in love with these leather loveseats. Of course, there was no way we could afford them, so I put them on my mental wish-list and vowed that some day, I would have some just like them. So, imagine my surprise when one shows up for Christmas!

There are a lot of exclamation points in this post. But really, I was that surprised!

And then, Evan and I were at his parent's house for Christmas Day, and he handed me another envelope. Again, I was led on another scavenger hunt (which took a lot more effort, because Evan's parent's house is huge) and when I finally made my way back to the living room, there was the second loveseat!

My chairs are kind of like this, but even more awesome! 
Apparently, Evan had bought the chairs the same day he bought my engagement ring (how I was totally unaware of all this, I really have no idea; I'm not that clueless normally) and had hidden one chair at each house until Christmas. It was awesome, and now both chairs are sitting perfectly in our living room.

Evan and I were able to relax for a bit at home in the week before school started back up, and on one of those afternoons, my future maid-of-honor, Karla, came over and we decided to kill some time at David's Bridal. Truly, I went in with the intention to just browse and "get ideas." Well, my intentions flew out the window when I spotted some dresses that I liked and Karla said, "you know, you're already here; you might as well try some on." I quickly called my mom (because I couldn't put on a wedding dress without her there) and I ended up finding the absolutely perfect dress for me. Really, it's beautiful. And now, I have to keep it a secret from Evan for the next 16 months or so. I have to have at least a modicum of tradition with this whole thing!

Before we knew it, we were back at school, and that same Monday I started my winter term at PSU. Luckily, my schedule is a little less heinous than last term, with classes on Monday, Wednesday, and some random Fridays. It gives me a break to read and do homework, which is greatly appreciated. It also helps that I'm getting to know my cohort a little better so those three-hour long classes don't feel quite as long.

So, yeah. That was my amazing winter break. If you've made it to the end of this post, I'm very impressed. I hope you all had an amazing time with your families and hopefully the new year brings you all sorts of adventures and memories. I am so excited to see what 2011 brings us. Maybe a new leather couch?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How I Feel

There are just some days, like today, where all I want to do is forget about work, grad school, and the million other things on my mind and just snuggle with my love on the couch. This song pretty much sums up how I've felt on those days.

It's only on days like this, when I come home to such an amazing guy who welcomes my griping, whining, and complaining with a big hug, understanding smile, and a kiss, that I realize that all those other things don't really matter. I guess you could say that overwhelming things are a part of life, but a great love tends to cancel them all out. Thanks, Evan, for reminding me of that. I love you!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Update in Yays and Nays

 I'm not totally sure where to start. I guess I should start by saying that this year has gotten off to a great start, and I can only see it getting better. In the spirit of keeping things concise, I think I'm going to just do a "yay" and "nay" post.

Yay to starting at Portland State University!

PSU = Rhinoceros
Nay to feeling like I've been run over by a rhinoceros by Thursday of every week. I am taking 3 classes, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, plus working full-time. Oy.

Yay to after-class beers with my fellow grad students

Nay to realizing that I am not a real college student anymore and do actually have to go to work at 7:30am the next day after I have an after class beer.

Yay to realizing that after 18 months of feeling like this, I will have my own awesome classroom, and I will be able to teach my own way.

Nay to knowing that in the meantime, I have to work with icky high schoolers and even ickier coworkers. Seriously, they are poo-heads.

 Yay to the fact that the school I work at is super close to the middle of nowhere, which is ideal for escaping the icky highschoolers/coworkers and taking pictures.
I almost got run over for this one. Totally worth it. 

I may actually frame this one. 

Nay to not having quite enough time after homework to edit said pictures.

Yay to spending what precious time I have with my absolutely amazing boyfriend Evan and my family.

Nay to driving. I hate it, because it's so boring.

Yay to books on tape. I don't care that it makes me feel 98 years old to have a book read to me, but it's the only time I have. I'd probably listen to NPR if I didn't have a book on tape anyway.

This was my book on tape. It was excellent, and I kept trying to find excuses to drive so I could listen. 
Yay also to losing my fear of driving to Portland. It's not so scary anymore, and we've had some awesome adventures/picture opportunities (pretty much interchangeable in my book).
Adventure/Photo opportunity at the Pittock Mansion in Portland! 

Lioness at the Oregon Zoo. We went on Halloween, and the predators I was afraid of were the parents of the tiny humans. We seriously almost got mauled! 

Nay to having our exploring cut short because of the rain and it getting dark right after lunchtime.

Yay to cozy nights at home with Evan, a glass of wine, and the newest Josh Radin cd.

Nay to spending my Saturdays on the couch doing homework.

Where I can dance like a moron and get a great workout!
Yay yay yay for Zumba! I will always drag myself out of my graduate school stupor for Zumba!

Yay for dropping close to 20 pounds!

Seriously, YAY for dropping close to 20 pounds! (frankly, it deserves two yays)

Nay for the silly holidays coming in at full force. I am such a weakling in front of mashed potatoes and stuffing!

Yay for having a trip to Hawaii being more than enough motivation to turn away those mashed potatoes. At least the first time they're offered. I am, after all, only human.
I plan on sunbathing right here. No mashed potatoes for me! 
In love with this! 

Yay for buying the perfect swimsuit that actually makes me want to get out on the beach.

Yay for finding shorts, capris, skirts, and my whole Hawaii wardrobe for under $50 bucks. I may just become a flip season shopper!

Yay for Black Friday! Ladies, watch out. I've been working on my elbow throwing skills.

Yay to not having very many Nays in my life.

Yay for having everything to look forward to and nothing holding me back. What an amazing feeling!