Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Me Voy! (Me Fui!)

Greetings from Califas!
After 8 years, my time in the Beehive state came to an end.
I just want to be a bit of a numerologist and point out that I first moved to Utah in 2008, I left in 2018, I spent 8 years there total (mission separating), and I left just shy of my 28th birthday. SO MANY 8s!!! 8 is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE NUMBER!

I gradually "broke up" with Provo this summer. Usually the drawn out break-up process can be sticky, and mentally draining, but after having an 8 year relationship with this place—it was just what I needed!

It started with moving out of my townhome in Highland Park and moving to Orem to house and pet sit for a BYU professor and his family. I had the entire home to myself and incorporated my pet duties into my bar prep schedule.

Also thanks to bar prep, I only was able to attend one hour of church most Sundays and had to be *mostly* relieved of my calling in my ward's Relief Society Presidency.

There were less and less visits to campus and even when I did reach campus, I was only within the confines of either the main campus and law library. These last few moments spent on campus were particularly stressful as I felt the full weight of the bar exam on me.

The Friday before the bar exam, I sat in the Rex E. Lee reading room of the law library and heard a voice say, "look at the clouds!" I looked out the window and watched the clouds for a solid 15 min or so as I heard a voice tell me, "your ancestors saw these exact same skies, and as long as they have looked up, I have looked down and blessed them, and the same goes for you." The only music I was listening to up to the bar was the Entre Los Andes playlist on Spotify (a MUST if you haven't ever heard it!) and my Living Legends-Native Section CD. All weekend leading up to the bar I felt the presence of ancient spirits comforting me, and helping me manage the stress of it all.

Most of my free time this summer was spent doing #letsbesupermexican -esque things. Are we surprised? Not really.

The absolute last thing I did on BYU campus was participate in a really great meeting with Latino professors and other BYU allies of the Mexican-American community to prep for some really exciting future opportunities for BYU students to learn about my rich cultural heritage and the struggles of my community. This is all I can reveal on the matter for now, but I am excited for the future of Mexican-American students on campus!

Honestly, I couldn't imagine a more fitting way to end to the BYU chapter of my life.
Relief Society Presidency from Provo YSA 65th! It was never a dull moment with these ladies as major changes were announced to the way Relief Society functions in the church. We joked that we were running a "Not Your Mother's Relief Society." I'm constantly feeling like a guinea pig for the Church's new projects. [I'm looking at you age change and Missionary Leadership Council!]
Immigration Initiative at the Law School with Kimberly from my MPA program
the BYU Community Clinic crew. 
Fourth of July festivities with the family
I reprised my role as Elena of Avalor, but this time for the Taylor Made costume shop on Center street in Provo.
A Sunday evening hike with Jared. It was beautiful (see below)
La Santa Cecilia concert with Katie—she's my go to "super Mexican things" friend in Utah. We ran into Sharona who had been in Living Legends with us in our undergrad years. A fun little reunion at an incredibly fun concert.
Nicole and I catching up with our friend Michael. We introduced him to Fruta Crush, Provo's take on the refresquerias that I grew up with here in LA.
Gah! I miss these two pups and their owners more than I ever thought I could. I found myself feeling like another member of the family. As a parting momento, the family gave me the dog tags with my cell phone number on them, tags the dogs had worn while the family was out of town. I miss being a pet owner, even if it was only for a few months. 
This is the skyscape I mentioned above from my somewhat anxious moment the Friday before the bar exam. It was a spiritual moment, and I felt I had to capture it.

Thus ends the Utah chapter of my life.
An 8 year saga filled with joy, sorrow, but most of all growth.
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& now the adventure continues in California!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

reunited & it feels so good!

Last week I flew home to L.A. for my 10 YEAR HIGH SCHOOL REUNION!

Seriously can't believe it's been that long. I'm a proud alumni of Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet (say that 5 times fast) located in East Los Angeles! Magnet schools are a fancy phrase for schools created around the time of the civil rights era to offer special programs to students across a district and create a diverse student body. 

I chose to go to Bravo. I can still remember telling my Mom when I was 13 to pick Bravo on my magnet school preference. I knew nothing about Bravo except a fellow 8th grader had told me there were cute boys there. 😂😂😂 Like most things education-wise in my life, once I heard the name Bravo, I KNEW I had to go to school there (& maybe the cute boy rumor helped sway me a little). 

I was part of the planning committee for our reunion, and  I could not wipe the silly smile off my face the minute I stepped onto campus. Bravo is hallowed ground and holds such a special place in my heart because it's really the place where I "came to myself." 

One by one classmates trickled in and I was shocked by how little we've changed. Everyone looks exactly the same, the only difference is we've done so many incredible things with our lives: doctors, lawyers, PhD candidates, several nurses, medical researchers. I mean, our high school has a reputation for strong academics, so not super surprising, but waaaay impressive. 

Being back reminded me how much I miss diversity! Don't get me wrong, I've loved BYU, but I've missed having a student body that represents the populations of our world. Our school's "white" population was predominately made up of Russians and Armenians and the rest of our student body was Latino and Asian. 

The most moving part of the reunion came in the form of a video presentation by my AP Biology teacher, Mr. Furukawa. Los Angeles Unified Schools don't usually let out until June, a full month after the AP tests are done with, so Mr. Furukawa would have us put on mini musicals. My particular group was in charge of a number set to Annie's "You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile." The video Mr. Furukawa played back was from 2006, I was 15 at the time, and I was shocked by how skinny I was! Shocked because I remember being in high school and feeling very concerned with my weight and the way I looked. This perception of myself led me to believe that I had been "chubby" in high school. You guys, I was so small! I couldn't believe it. Seeing myself on screen caused me to pause and think, "what am I obsessing about in my life right now that 10 years from now I'll wish I hadn't spent so much mental time dwelling on?" This reflective exercise definitely helped me to look at my fears and worries in a different light. 

When I left the reunion I could not help but start making mental plans for our 15th reunion! I had such a great time catching up with everyone, that I wanted to make headway on our next get together. 

I feel very fortunate to call myself a Bravo Knight!

(L to R) Brittny, Christal, Me, Yuliya, Masha, Maria
Planning Committee Members! (Brian, Harut, Davis, Masha, Me, Brittny)
(Brittany, Christine, Nathalie)
I've always loved this mural just outside our high school. Every day after school, I'd cross the bridge take the stairs down this mural and wait just to the right of it for my public school bus to arrive. There is an ARMY of busses outside of Bravo each day. I'd venture to say that close to 70% of Bravo's student body took a school bus to school. That's what happens when your students come from all around Los Angeles County!

My high school reunion wasn't the only reunion I had last week!
This woman is the mother of one of my best friends from elementary school who is currently incarcerated. I've alluded to him several times on this blog, but have yet to divulge the entire story—I'm waiting for the right time to do so. We're still pen pals! Every two weeks I get a letter from him. While at home I decided to pay his Mom a visit—a true miracle! This woman is such an inspiration. I met her when I was 7-10ish, but hadn't seen her since my 5th grade culmination. This reunion was an emphatic reminder that Heavenly Father loves ALL his children, that he is intimately involved in the details of our lives, and that every person he places in your life is there for incredibly specific reasons. 

With all these happy reunions, I'm now on a quest to track down every single one of my 5th grade classmates and attempt to host a reunion by the end of the year! 12 down, 16 left to find!

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Bar Prep //

Studying for the bar is literal HELL
Graduation now seems like some cheap party favor because my last four years of school all hang upon whether I can pass this dang test.

My routine is the following:
6:15 am Wake up
6:30 am Go on a run
9:00 am Bar prep
12:00 lunch
1:00 resume Bar prep
5:15 go on a loooooooong de-stressing walk

(rinse & repeat day in, day out)

I do it all day everyday, including weekends.
I would willingly go through one more year of law school if it meant I never had to study for the bar again. & yet, somehow I'm crazy enough to sign up to also take the California bar next February.

The minute I sit down to study, my mind wants to focus on a trillion other different things, so I'm constantly waging a war with my thoughts to focus. My Facebook is deactivated and 80% of the time my iPhone is on airplane mode. (Sorry if you've been trying to reach me!)

My original plan was to go home after graduation and study for the Utah bar there, but in a crazy/random turn of events I'm now house sitting for a BYU professor and his family while they're away on a study abroad.

For some reason, God needed me to stay in Utah. 

I feel really posh being able to refer to my current abode as "the professor's house." Put me in a BBC period piece already! Actually, scratch that, one from Spain (I enjoy those sooo much more).

I'm a mom to six pets (two dogs [Allie + Buffy], two cats [Sabrina + George Henry], and two rabbits [Angel + Lucky]).
In my "free" time I watch YouTube videos on Cardi B. Guys, she's so genuine and I'm legitimately a fan of hers. Plus, "I like it" is fuego.

Also, by the time I'm back from my de-stress walk my mind is complete mush, so I've been watching all the films I've ever wanted to see. Mamitas, Quinceñera, Erin Brokovitch...just to name a few.

Honestly, the pets keep me sane.

Allie is really just all of us, or just me when period hunger kicks in. She sneakily tries to steal Buffy's food and constantly wants your attention. She's incredibly hyper and will find any chance to lick me silly with kisses.

Buffy's the smart good child that your parents never think to punish, but is really the evil mastermind behind the trouble. She's an escape artist and will lead Allie astray anytime she can. Oh wait, that's also me.

I am both dogs.
Seriously, if you're reading this, please pray for me! I need all the divine help I can get.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Faces: The Women who made me

My Faces series is a little project I started while living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The project is a reflective and introspective exercise, a way to express my gratitude for individuals who have played a crucial role in my personal growth. In anticipation of graduation, I decided to highlight specifically the Women who were most influential to my growth during these last four years of graduate school at BYU.

There is one woman missing from this list—Raquel Flores—one of my closest friends during Law School. Unfortunately, Raquel now lives in Chicago, IL, and it was impossible to take her picture. 

These women have been my guiding light over the last four years, and I would not be the Woman I am today without their love, wisdom, and support

Alyssa D.
I honestly couldn't pinpoint for you the moment in time when Alyssa and I became friends. She's been present in my life for most of this experience. We met in the celestial corner of Provo known as the 97th ward, and because we had pretty solid mutual friends, I knew this friendship would be a win. Lys is the kind of friend who texts you when you least expect a text, but you need it the most. We haven't seen each other as much as I'd like since she moved to Lehi, but when we do see each other the conversation picks up as if we'd seen each other just the week before. Alyssa has the unique ability to validate your feelings, and help you work through the various paths and thoughts in your mind. I think her talent as an artist helps her to work through your life and visualize each step stroke by stroke. I am blessed to know her!

Amber R.
Amber is a storyteller of miracles—whether its miracles that take place in her life or the lives of others. I always leave her presence with a strengthened testimony in the truth that God is a God of miracles. One of my favorite things about Amber is how seamless she weaves stories of personal revelation into updates on her everyday life. Ever time I visit her she reaches a point where her retelling of an experience goes something like this: "I said, 'Hey, God. I'd really like to do this. But, then God said, 'No, Amber I think you should do this.'" I think what I admire most about Amber is her ability to take her passions and turn them into beautiful projects that greatly benefit all around her. Whether it's her extensive research into a Native American tribe that results in a beautiful play about the strength of Native Women, or her desire to learn how Women in the Church live the gospel of Jesus Christ that becomes the incredible Splitting the Sky YouTube series, or her latest endeavor an upcoming podcast for Mormon Women. By her strong example, Amber has taught me that I can continue to use my talents and create well after my formal education is completed.

Ashley P.
Ashley was the first woman I met on this list! I had this larger than life romanticized idea that I could work at the MTC as a Spanish teacher during my first year of law school—silly me! Ashley was the first person to interview me, and when I moved into my ward a few months later, I was surprised to find Ashley was my Relief Society president. Ashley has wisdom beyond her years and is one of the most poised women I know. She handles her challenges with such grace and calm collective; it's honestly inspiring. Being around Ashley makes you feel like everything is going to be all right in the world. She builds you up and shows genuine concern. I love gospel talks with Ashley—they're a reminder that we're all trying to figure out this thing called life. I especially have benefitted from our talks about balancing waiting on the Lord and acting in faith. Though the future is a mystery, talks with Ashley help me remember that with faith it will all work out.

Britney D.
There's no other way to put it: I met Britney by divine plan. I was sitting in my HR class my first year of the MPA program listening to a panel discussion. One of the panelists was a representative from Latinos in Action (LIA), a local non-profit whose mission is to help bridge the education gap with Latino students. I had previously looked up LIA and reached out to them my first year of law school, but nothing solid came from it. So, when one of their employees came to a panel, I jumped at the chance. I met Britney once I got to LIA, and I have gained so much wisdom from this friendship! Britney is incredible; she cares so much about the success of Latino students and is passionate about her work. We go out to lunch from time to time and talk about our dreams of building up our communities, the idea of eternal partnerships, the power of womanhood, and the fulfillment of prophecies in latter days. She has been my role model and an example that I can bring my passions to work. Also, random tidbit, turns out she was college roommates with Elisse (up next). I am constantly amazed by how like-minded women can find themselves in the same circles!

Elisse N.
I first met Elisse when we both independently decided to take Federal Indian Law. After hearing a few of her in-class comments, I knew we had to be friends. She worked as a public school teacher in New York City before coming to law school, and has a passion for making high quality education accessible to all. Halfway through law school, she decided she'd tack on a PhD in Education Policy (!!!!!). There was a semester where we literally took all of the same classes together, and it was probably the best semester of my law school career. Elisse is incredible, and the kind of super-mom I hope to someday be! Her two daughters are adorable and you just know they mean the world to her, and yet she still manages to balance motherhood with her devotion to making the community a better place. She's involved in ALL the things and is basically a role model for the kind of woman I want to be when I'm married. She's a true example that being a champion for your community does not need to be put on hold because of motherhood!

Emmanuelle V.
My beloved carrel-mate. We met a little late in the law school game, just before we took the Civil Rights Seminar course together, but we bonded quickly! I affectionately call her "Manny." Manny knew how to keep things real, and would be my go-to source for all things law school related wokeness. Because of Manny I can now proudly say I've experienced a full-fledged Catholic mass. Manny's been my number one hype girl in law school, nominating me for awards, and sending applications for jobs and fellowships my way. She reassures me that all will be well when times are tough, and she reminds me that I have the power to do great things. Even though she graduated a semester early, she still makes it a point to text and FaceTime me regularly. She hates avocados, but because I love her, I forgive her for it.

Jennafer R.
To most she's "Jenna," but to me she's Jennafer. Our friendship is one of the MANY reasons I'm so happy I audited Sociology 323. Jenna was the TA for the class, and we sat in the same vicinity and rejoiced when we found out we'd both gotten into the Civil Rights seminar. She's maybe the worst texter I've ever met—no, seriously. Yet, somehow she's an incredible snap chatter. No joke, she one time sent me a whopping 20 snapchats in a row. Jenna has an incredible way with words, and can articulate her feelings and beliefs in a way that leaves you feeling refreshed and uplifted. I recently converted her to the gospel of Gina Rodriguez and the genius of Jane the Virgin. We occasionally send each other "vent" texts when we just want to pop Provo's "colorblind" bubble. Knowing Jenna makes me a better human.

Lauren C.
Technically, Lauren and I should have become friends way back in 2012. We were in the same ward right before our missions, but I guess it just wasn't our time? God wasn't having it. We were put into the same ward post-mission. Lauren is the type of friend who will give you really meaningful compliments that let you know she loves and cares for you. My email has been blessed by many an insightful article or podcast episode Lauren has sent my way. Even if Lauren hasn't seen you in months, she'll go out of her way to tell you she misses you and will make solid plans to meet up, catch up on your life, and leave you feeling like there's so much good in the world! You will not find a more empathetic creature. She's an incredibly loyal friend and will shower you with love when you need it the most. Lauren is a piper & scoot expert, a master decorator, and a collector of beautiful cards. You'd be luck to have her in your corner!

Nicole I.
Nicole is the prime example of visiting teaching (RIP) gone right! We met in the 97th ward three years ago when I was assigned to be her visiting teacher, she later would become my 2nd counselor in the Relief Society Presidency, and now I'm lucky to call her my roommate. Nicole is the most service-oriented person I know. I've NEVER heard her complain about serving. Even when she's not feeling super well, I know that she'll put her whole heart into serving, sans any sort of complaint! Nicole pushes me out of my comfort zone whether its by encouraging me to talk to men I'm interested in or convincing me to sing a Selena song at a Dominican restaurant for Spanish karaoke. We watch Jane the Virgin and the occasional Law & Order: SVU episode together. Nicole is also the girl I can gush to about anything family history related, she's always down for family history research parties. She's been my number one way to escape the craziness of grad school and is always quick to rub my back when things get a little too stressful. I love this woman!