Tuesday, December 25, 2007

on fitting the mold of stereotypical american ignorance

Somehow, even though it just started, the end of the Christmas Season is crashing in upon us, and in twenty-four hours, to me at least, it will probably seem like lifetimes ago. I have learned a lot of lessons these past two seasons. Fall and winter, that is. I think there are periods in every person’s life that tend to feel more like learning seasons than others; this is one of mine.

Tonight my family and I went to see ‘Charlie Wilson’s War.’

We were some of the first people arriving, so obviously picked the best seats for optimal viewing pleasure. Brittany and I propped up our feet happily on the chairs in front of us, thinking it was Christmas Eve and it would probably remain a mostly-empty theater. Much to the peril of our legroom, however, an enormous family event or gathering came and filled up half the theater. My sister and I exchanged glances, or at least I did, and reluctantly confined my legs to the space in front of me.

The movie was about the Cold War, about people in the Middle East getting butchered by the Soviet Union. They showed clips of refugee camps, of children with arms that had been blown off, heard one little boy’s testimony of how a child he knew got split in half thinking a shiny bomb was a toy. Tents and poverty stretched as far as the eye could see. At one point, one of the characters from America asks a little girl, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with good intentions. I mentally winced when I imagined what the response might have been.

‘Alive,’ I thought. Just alive.

My car is packed and ready to drive home from here in Seattle tomorrow, and it is loaded with more presents than half the world could ever hope for, and as the credits rolled, I realized how petty my worldview has become, and how shallow I can be. There are countries filled with people who, from our standpoint, would have no reason to wake up in the morning. They worry about bombs, or open gunfire, or their children being blown into unrecognizable pieces.

And I worry about legroom.

I’m so tired of being an ignorant nation. Of people who turn on each other, and people who claim to hate those on the opposite end of the political spectrum. Of people who focus so much on differences than the aspirations we all share. I’m so tired of being part of a people who can rest easily knowing the conflict is far away tonight; knowing that at least we have a safe roof over our own heads. It’s so easy to ignore genocide and war when it’s not in our backyard isn’t it? I, like most, am also thankful for a roof over my head; for gifts and new memories to take home with me. Those are great things, and I’m not implying we should not enjoy them. But unlike most, for some reason I can’t just rest easy anymore. My heart is filled with unrest, knowing that my world is changing, and I know nothing of it. Political boundaries are being defined, nations are being crumbled, people are dying and I don’t even know where most of those countries are on a map.

I was really convicted today.

Bill, my stepdad, was sort of weird this morning, a little bit left-of-center. We opened stockings this morning (we celebrate a day early because us kids leave tomorrow) and he didn’t seem quite right. “I just feel that there are needy people, hungry people, in our area, and we spent all this money on knick-knacks and things we don’t really need,” he explained, after being approached. “We, unlike half the world, have everything we need, and almost anything we want. When will we ever use this, or that?”

Our family’s table sat in uncomfortable silence.

“I agree,” someone voiced. “Then let’s pick up all our presents and give them to a kid in downtown Seattle,” Bill retorted, knowing it was easier said than done. In the end, we decided to work out a plan next year with fewer gifts, and more giving. Surprisingly, the whole group of us was excited about it. But the way he was passionately disturbed about it struck a chord in me. I want to be that passionate about things that really matter. Not my Christmas list. Not the new iPod, or the new laptops, or the latest fashion trends.

We are blessed beyond what we could ever dream, in abundance or need. I know not everyone follows Jesus, and I’m not saying I do the greatest job, but even if you just think he was a great guy, he pushed feeding the poor. The hungry. The needy. He pushed for love over hate and peace above violence. Most of all, just love.

And I want to be more like that. Socially conscious and active instead of asleep.

I know the world is big, and we individually are small. I know sometimes in the rush of life, it’s hard to stop and take a moment to think of those less fortunate than you are. I know we get consumed in our coffee cups every morning, in traffic and in the work days that never seem to end. But I suppose what I’m getting at is that change starts with attitude in one. And when that attitude turns to an action, even if it seems small, it’s still getting us someplace.

Have a great rest of the season… enjoy time with others, in your relationships and the way you interact. And when you give thanks this year, be it in prayer or just in your soul, be sure to give thanks for the little things.

Because I’m realizing that it’s the little things in life, that make life everything.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2007

on how christmas haunts me

I am often haunted by Christmas.

I don’t mean that it’s evil or that it carries negative connotations, or even that this ‘haunting’ is something bad. But Christmas for me is something that year after year continues to defy what I think it is, and what I think it will be. It’s daunting. I think I have my definition all packaged and under my sleeve, and then it slips between my fingers again. It’s much like the word ‘home’ in that it is relative, and you could stop ten people on the street and ask what it means, and come up with ten different responses. It’s also like the word ‘home’ in the sense that it’s constantly changing.
Our whole lives will be spent redefining what it means.

Growing up in a Christian home, Christmas it has obviously always meant the birth of the One that came to save me. That came to wear the skin of all of us. This definition hasn’t really escaped me, it’s just that more and more I’m realizing how deep and profound this season of the year really is. I’m beginning to think that the older we get, the more complex our perception of it will be.

During and shortly following the divorce it was redefined as ‘the switch.’ Christmas Eve with one parent, Christmas Day with another. We would be bundled up in the snow of Eastern Washington, our bags packed, parents exchanging cold greetings, and then the awkward silence of the car ride home. I might envy people whose parents are still married just for not having ‘the switch.’ It hardly felt like the season to be jolly when all you could think about was the other parent driving back home alone.

When I was in my first serious relationship, it became the time to share our families, our traditions, and our first gift exchange, all smiles and good memories that I still have today. To me, nothing compares to sharing those things because they are so inherently a part of who you are. Even if you try to escape your history, it will always find you.

As of this week, with the birth of my new little brother Paul, it has come to mean new life. New little eyes that squint open and look at you fascinated. It means new tiny hands and feet to be fawned over by the family women, a new heart beating in a chubby little chest. A whole, tiny, complete little person that can fit in the nook of my elbow, who will have his own dreams and hopes and wishes, and family memories. It doesn’t matter that he is only half my blood. He is entirely my brother. And I will punch anyone who tries to tell me otherwise.

And now that I have arrived to celebrate Christmas on the west side of the mountains, it means reconnecting with the sister I love and miss living with. Reconnecting with old friends and catching up with more recent ones. Visiting places I used to work and know so well, and being happy that my life hasn’t taken me farther down that same road.

I get stressed out and frustrated sometimes about stupid things, especially during the holidays. There are things I spend my time worrying about that will matter no more in a year than what the weather was this afternoon. I worry that I’m not where I’m supposed to be, geographically and spiritually, and I wonder if I will ever be content with where I am. I suppose if you asked me though, I would say I never want to be content where I am. I hope I never am. It’s when people get comfortable in only living where they live, in only seeing things they’ve seen before, and in only reading about the rest of the world in books and magazines that we become stagnant. And I’m guilty of that too sometimes.

I’m happy to relay to you that this Christmas I have come to realize how blessed I am. I have not one, but two halves of my family that love and adore me. Where there once was one sibling, there is now four. Where relationships have ended, new people have come to fill my life with laughter. There are gifts downstairs enough for a small country, underneath a beautiful Christmas tree, it’s white lights glowing like smoldering embers in a dying fire. I have a couple bucks in my bank account, a roof over my head, and a job to go home to.

I might not ever be able to define ‘Christmas,’ or ‘home.’ They may always haunt me, continuing to change with every year that passes. And although that used to bother me, I’m starting to be okay with it. Maybe defining words like those is what life is about. Finding new meaning to add to tradition. Finding new ways to count blessings.

I know that I have already found many.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

on that night on beach boulevard

It could have been me.
I'm happy that you are happy, finally.
And I am even more happy that you found someone happy to be with you.
Because that's what you deserve.

Sometimes I get down on myself for the way it ended.
For the way you won't return my messages.
The way I dragged you through my dreams
kicking and screaming.

But the more I think about it the more I realize that this is life.
It is learning through mistakes
growing through pain.
It's being mature enough to see a picture of someone you used to love
with someone they love now
and smile because they are where they need to be in life.

It is difficult sometimes,
but when I smile, I smile because I didn't settle.
I didn't settle for what we were
even though sometimes that was beautiful.

It could have been me in that photograph
all smiles and eyes glazed over in happiness,
but I know when the flash ended
and the camera was put away
we would have been where we started.
Finishing another bottle
probably beginning another endless argument.
Me running down Beach Boulevard with you chasing after me,
my head in my hands,
your heart beneath my feet.
Huntington Beach had never seemed so cold
as you found me sobbing on a street corner
in a parking lot far away.
Making promises you couldn't keep down on your knees
and me making them right back at you.

I was so good at stepping on your toes
and claiming that you were crowding my dreams.
You were so good at accepting me for all I was.

I'm sorry, for what it's worth.
Not because I would wish us back
or because I would ever try to pry you away
from the happiness you have found.
But because it's a shame we have to be happy apart,
with no promise of friendship or ever keeping in touch.It's a shame our paths can't cross again.

So stay warm in the California sunshine;
I still have my mix that makes me think of you.
We listened to it when times were easier.
With the windows rolled down, my feet on the dashboard,
the sun glaring off the windshield and slicing
between the boughs of the palm trees.
And you know how I loved the palm trees.

I don't wish you back. But I wish you well.

Monday, December 10, 2007

on simplicity and seasons changing

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Even though I've seen it a hundred times, falling snow is one of those sensations in life, for me anyway, that can't be explained. It gets me giddy like a child inside, and I watch the way the flakes fall to the ground with wonder. How can something so simple be so beautiful?

I think that maybe it's the way that snow makes everything look more simple. More perfect. There are no blemishes, no muddy colors to cloud the purity.

I used to feel a little melancholy whenever the snow season would come crashing in around me. It felt gloomy, like some shadow was being cast over the earth. But now I feel like life is somehow mirrored in this scene.

There is a purpose for the seasons, and for change. When things fall down or drift away in the autumn; when everything stands still in the winter, it is only making way for spring. And in the same way the ground is, I am covered, to be made new in the coming season.

With my cup of tea in hand, in the middle of this night, I'm finding comfort watching the sky fall to rest on the ground. Hope.

on openness and delicious ambiguity

Sometimes there is so much to say, but so little that can actually be said. I have felt that way a lot lately. Struggling to stay open when this world is screaming at me that being open is dangerous. Risky. Foolish, even. That spilling my heart out on my sleeve is overrated. That 'open-ness' belongs in fairy tales and PG-13 romantic comedies.

Lately I have been less than the person I want to be. I'm sure that most people come to that point in their life and spirituality, where no matter how hard you fight to stay sane, insanity comes crashing down on you regardless. Self-inflicted sometimes; more difficult. It doesn't seem to make a difference whether you have been following all the rules of right and wrong, turning left when you get green arrows and skipping over the cracks in the sidewalk. Outwardly you can look like you have it all together, that you live life as it should be. And maybe you do.

But what I'm finding more and more lately is that I don't think there will come a day when you wake up and say "I made it. I am who I always wanted to be, and all of my finish lines are now behind me." I think life is beautiful because you can wake up every morning and start over with everything new. You can open your eyes as if for the first time and see it. New weather. New mercies. New blessings. Sunshine on my window pane and a couple of dollars in my wallet.

Jeanine (the friend I live with) has been teaching me a lot lately. She has become a mentor of sorts, one who has more wisdom than I do and one that has lived a life for others. When I stepped in the door tonight, she couldn't wait to give me two things she bought for me today at the Co-Op.

"Look, Dayna, check this out!"

She smiled and handed me a bag of cashews. I was momentarily confused.
My eyes slipped over the packaging until I saw the name. 'Sing Buri' Cashews. I smiled and her eyes caught mine. I might be cheesy, but I felt like that was meant for me today. Sing, Buri. Sing Buri! Not just literally, but resonating in who you are. Life is a song to sing. If you aren't who you want to be, and if you wake up wondering where you're going, the fight doesn't have to be over.

Jeanine handed me my second gift. A magnet with a quote on it. "I just felt like this was totally you," she said.

'Some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, and taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.'

If I am learning anything through the difficulty that is this year, I think it can't be said better than that.

on personal politics and closed mindedness

"Nothing on earth scares me more than a conservative Christian." -random person at work

How did America get to this point?... this point where name calling and finger pointing are what we spend our time and energy on? When did some "open minded" liberals give in to the notion that everyone in a category is alike? That because of outspoken extremists, we are all ignorant and lofty.

To me, nothing is more ironic than a closed-minded liberal, standing on a soapbox pleading for the peaceful existance of society... and in the same sentance assuming that the entirety of a political or religious group is corrupt.

I'm not claiming a lack of hypocrisy or a wealth of perfection on either side of the spectrum, but one must realize that (for instance) the small percentage of Muslim extremists who spread terror and destruction do not speak for the entirety of their (inherently peaceful) faith.

So it is with Corporate Christian America.

You can't only focus on the TV evangelists and grand Presidential failures, but on the hearts of the people inside the faith. Most of this is often overshadowed by the media frenzies and the recent marraige between political parties, their candidates, and their assorted faiths. But look close, and hidden closely behind the flaws in our humanity is a heart of love.
THIS was and still is the real message of Jesus, who, instead of pursuing politics and personal gain, dined and dwelt among the least of us... the lowly, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, and those deemed unfit for society.

If Jesus was visibly walking through the streets of today, I think he would hang out in the corners of the world that most 'Christians' would be terrified of. With a homeless man on his street corner, in gay bars, on the front steps of whore houses, and in soup kitchens. THIS is the real message of Christianity, which is misrepresented in the church mostly because we ARE human and make mistakes, both in our thinking and our actions.

Anyway. It's a saddening thing to me that what people (including Christians) live for these days are the things that divide us instead of the things that unite us. That people would rather picket and make rash generalizations than actively pursue chage. And by 'pursuing change' I don't mean bashing liberals or putting down conservatives... I don't mean standing up for your own personal politics. Who really cares? I'm talking about feeding the hungry. Uniting nations instead of waging wars. Fighting for equal educational opportunities and for understanding among all people.

As a nation, we stand divided. As a people we are rich in our differences and perspectives. We all see the horizon differently, the light hitting our faces at different times and in different ways. Why do we find it so difficult to grasp the world of the things we share? Is it because we dwell in the realm of our differences?

In this supposedly 'great' country, the reasons we can't see past the end of our own metaphorical noses are endless. But I think mountains could be moved if we would drop our assumptions, break apart our soapboxes and recognize that the problem is not, in fact, in one political party or in one particular religion, but it is in each of us. It's me. It's you. It is statements like the one I heard in passing today.

"I am not everyone, but I am one." -Helen Keller

You have the power to choose (and I'm talking to my fellow moderates and conservatives as well as anyone else). To choose between ignorance or open-mindedness. And true open-mindedness is recognizing that we will never see the sun set or rise the same way. It is the humbling of ourselves and the understanding that the different ways we exist and were created is not a burden...not the root of another problem. But it's a blesing to help jump start us closer to getting a more complete understanding of this world we find ourselves in.

Seeing the horizon from five different angles can only help us paint it better.

But I digress.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

on the beautiful nights

Apr. 21, 2007

Summer has never seemed so cold.

As May approaches, bags are being packed. Plans are being made for next fall as the new season comes crashing in around us. Some faces won't be back when September rolls around, and it's hard to feel like this year is really this close to over. I know most people are just telling me not to worry about it, because fall will come, and with it will be new friendships and faces new memories and certainly new Facebook albums (psh, of course). But every year is different, and while I know a lot of things will be the same, there will also be a million things different.

I came to this place skeptical of what it could offer me. Still clinging to my past back home, I was slow to pursue a life here and slow to make attachments. I was quick to judge and hesitant to really get involved.

But over time, I noticed that few things can compare to walking down the street with the California sun on my face and some good tunes in my ear. To living vicariously through APU, and getting to know some amazing people in the process. To standing at the top of a mountain looking down on the valley with some of the people you love the most. To getting to know my beautiful sister in a totally new way. To the nights I would bring pie to Bowles on Waffle Wednesdays. To Richie's juice party. To driving with the windows down, wind playing in your hair and face, looking out on the ocean. To driving down the PCH singing along with songs from the 90's. To Ian's playlists. To donut man runs at 1 am. To really living instead of just existing.

This year I feel like even though I made some mistakes, no one cared less about me because of it. It's one of the first times in my life I felt like I was really accepted not just for who I am, but for who I am supposed to be, and everything I'm going to be.

So thanks to all of you who made this year what it was. Because to me, it was everything I had wanted and more. I can't wait for more memories, more laughter, more new friends and another new beginning.

Live it well.

maybe our eyes have been closed our whole lives

Mar. 27, 2007

We try so hard to fight past the facades
and the faces we put on to look stronger or better; faster or wiser.

We're not fooling anyone.

Our faces scan the crowds for a heart
that could maybe give us that much needed shoulder to lean on.

We've been searching for love since the day we were born
looking in every corner of every empty room
and broken heart.

We put up walls to protect ourselves from the hurt that might get us
while spending our free time breaking down others.
What are we searching for?

What are we looking for?

It seems like the whole world just wants something worth fighting for
or worth dying for.
A hand to hold on the open seas when the tide is coming in too fast.
Could it be the answers to life are easy to find?
Easier than we ever expected?

Could it be that maybe the kinship we've been longing for
is in the one beside you in an elevator
or behind you in line?

Could it be that maybe our eyes have been closed our whole lives?
Everyone has a story.

there's something about california

Feb. 19, 2007

There is something beautiful about the way the sun sets in California. I don't know if it's the palm trees, the smog, or just my imagination, but it's true.

There's something hopeful there; you can drive around aimlessly with the mountains beside you and sun sinking behind the L.A. skyline, and know that when all is said and done, you're going to be okay. Life will go on. The way your relationships come and go does not always reflect who you are as a person. And even if thinking all that isn't enough, you can look out your window at a passing palm tree and say, "Screw it, I'm in California, it's 85 in February… what else matters?" Then take a moment to laugh at yourself because you sound shallow and uneducated (but you still know that it's true).

I'm not going to lie; life for me lately has been a little less than beautiful.

Life throws you a curve, and all of a sudden everything you had planned out is now unscripted and improvised. But I think the moments and days I live for, are the ones when I realize that life isn't about beauty, it's about perspective. It's not about your petty struggles or the way your last relationship ended. The best thing about it all? That it's not all about you. Not at all. In fact, no matter how many mistakes you make today, or how many people break your heart or let you down, the world will turn tomorrow.

You can either let that depress you because you feel like you aren't the center of attention, or you can look at it like I do. If the rest of the world is still functioning, so can you. Most of the world knows what it's like to love and be let down. You're not alone.

If nothing else, and if it's not about being in California, then that's why my sunsets are beautiful lately.

I know that there are millions of people out there looking for the same things that I am, searching for a heart that beats the same way. Trying to find someone to understand you in all your imperfections and dreams; trying to be someone more than just a face in a crowd. I guess I find comfort in knowing that right now, someone else is wide-eyed awake wanting what I want. They are unsettled, just like me.

Even though what I have in life now is not what I always thought it would be, I wouldn't trade where I'm at for anywhere else. What I have is beautiful, and it's an adventure, it's an opportunity to make a life for myself somewhere new, and it may be far from ordinary, but it is mine.

And that's all I could ask for.

go ahead and chase your youth

Feb. 11, 2007

I would have given you the world -
or at least as much of it as I could've salvaged.
I moved my personal mountains
and offered to give you my heart and my devotion.
I gave you pieces of myself that I won't ever get back. Can't get back.
You say you like being free? You say you like doing what you want?
Then go ahead. I will genuinely support you.
Chase after that, and see how long it takes
to realize you are unfulfilled.
To realize that when the day is done and the bottle is empty
you won't have me to come home to.
No, I am not the most beautiful, or the most perfect;
not the most interesting or the most wise.
I may not light up a stage again or sing another song in my lifetime.
But I would've given you my everything.
I would have given the world to see you smile
to hear your heart beat for awhile.
No questions asked.
Maybe that's not enough to make you trust me -
I guess I don't understand why it's scary to let me love you.
Life is putting yourself out there. You take a chance.
And it's true. You might get burned.
You might get torn down, and ripped apart
but you can keep running.
Don't be scared to walk the line; I believe in you
and I know you can do it.
So make your decision, and make it wisely -
I honestly just want you to find happiness, whether that is with me
or without me.
But I can't wait around forever
for you to realize that while I am not perfect, I am still priceless.
While I am not the most beautiful, I am the most passionate.
I may not be able to give you the world, but I gave you my songs -
my chords and melodies.
The most intimate thing I could ever give -
words I wrote in my deepest moments.
So go on; chase your youth. Live the (single) life.
Pursue doing what you want to do.
But when you come home at the end of the night
and flip the light switch on,
and no one is home to throw their arms around you
to tell you how much you mean to them...
it won't be because I didn't want to be there.
Because more than anything... that's what I wanted.
Just you.

when life is crazy

Nov. 23, 2006

Sometimes the combination of a bunch of seemingly random things... can make life so hard. So there isn't even one thing wrong really, it's just the culmination of all the small things.

And most of them are your own doing, and some of them you couldn't change. But in the end, when it all comes down to it... you just want to change everything.

Life is funny, and so beautiful. But sometimes it throws me a curve I wasn't ready for. Sometimes the people that know you the deepest and the best are the hardest to approach with problems you need to let out. Especially when you just need to feel beautiful, and loved, and to curl up in one of your friends arms and just cry. Like maybe being closer to the situation makes it harder to understand.

I don't know what I'm getting at. Happy thanksgiving.

on liars and actors

Nov. 14, 2006

It's hard to be different sometimes.

Different from what the world or your friends tell you to be. Different from what your culture or your family predetermined you to be. Hard to push past the surface and ask yourself... 'who do I really want to be?'

I know a lot of people that change who they are depending on who they're with. Not just little things... they change completely. Like two separate people. It would be easy to judge them, only I am sometimes guilty of the same thing.

Why can't we all just be real? Why can't we all just be who we are, and let that be that - no facades or fakers, or liars or people who pretend to be something they aren't?

Why can't people be genuine? And committed? And true?

Why. This world is so messed up.

Be who you are.

on hollywood and broken dreams

October 10, 2006

Walking down the crowded streets of Hollywood.

People of every shape and kind and color wander these streets, each for their various reasons. Some are snapping pictures of theaters or things they have only read about in books. Some are selling their faces in costume for the benefit of making a dollar by appearing in the photographs of tourists. Some wander without a cause. Some are looking for fame and the American Dream of rags to riches.

I take a look around me at the empty faces and vacant stares of some, and the hopeful and innocent eyes that belong to others. And I wonder: how many dreams were born and buried on this avenue? How many seeds of ideas were born, and hopes turned to dust because of the hold that the idea of 'Hollywood' has on people? Are we all just actors on a stage as life is being played out or our actions the result of Something Greater... something that we, as finite humans, could never understand?

What is it that we find so captivating about the faces on the screen?

Is it their unattainability, their distant status? Is it the way they display many of the universal human emotions with such accuracy… or sometimes inaccuracy? They stun us with their beauty and shock us by always knowing what to say and when to say it. We marvel over their perfect homes and beautiful lifestyles. After all, that's what television and movies have become. Beautiful plots with beautiful characters who lead beautiful lives.

We love them in all of their glory and perfection, and we despise them for somehow attaining the lifestyles we will spend forever trying to achieve.

What if we were content with the simple life?

I know that in dreams there lies something beautiful. I know that there will never be any harm in reaching for the stars and that there is something simple and amazing, human and finite in the way we will all cling to hopes that we know might not ever be completed.

What if there is something more that I'm missing?

I spend my days dreaming of the ways I could change the world, if I only had the abilities… or the money… or the support… or the experience. I dream of changing people with my lyrics and appealing to the human heart and the human experience. I cry out for passion, and for peace. I dream of getting the high and lofty to look down at the mess we've made of what we were given. And we were given so much.

I hope someday, one day, I can be satisfied with where I am.

It seems as though I'm always wishing time away; wishing I were older or wiser, wishing for the days that my eyes will finally see the rest of this world, longing for days when I won't be plagued by school and its rigor. Always wishing for tomorrow, never lingering in today. How much more effective would I be if I would live in the moment instead of yesterday or the days to come?

It's easy to wish time away. I think at one point or another, we all do. But today is all I will ever have. It is all I can grasp. It is all that I can fathom. More importantly, it's all that I can change.

There's nothing wrong with shooting for the stars, and only making it to the moon, as long as you remain content with what you have and where you're at. I look up at the big TV's and the billboards, the skyscrapers and the empty looks in peoples' eyes. I look down this boulevard of hopes and fears and dreams, and I see beauty. Beauty in the hope that one day I won't long for all of this material compensation. Beauty in the dream that one day I will reach what I'm running towards, and I won't have sold my soul in the process. Beauty in that one day I might have the courage to look beyond my own needs and use what I have to fulfill the needs of others.

There is beauty in looking beyond circumstance and into your undiscovered future. My dreams are to change the world. But it first has to begin in the changing of myself.

And therein rests the journey I will come to call my life. I wonder where the path will lead tomorrow, but more importantly: how I will walk that path with what I have been given today?

on the beauty of sponsored children

Oct. 2, 2006

Entering my apartment is always the same routine.

Juggling books and my overweight purse and trying to dig for keys in the rubble that I can't ever seem to find time to clean. I flick on the lights and try to find some sense of order as I kick off my shoes and look around to see who is home.

Yesterday after this routine was all but played out, I noticed the mail on the counter. Two letters from two of my three children that I sponsor. There is nothing more beautiful to me than the letters I get from these kids. Always overflowing with gratitude and excitement from the last letters I sent them, they thank me for every sheet of stickers I send them and they tell me how much they and their families love me. Yes, I am a pansy, but I am brought to tears almost every time I open one.

Geographically, they are so far away from me.

From Peru, to El Salvador, and into the jungles of Rwanda, my letters somehow make it to each of them. Somehow, I get this amazing opportunity to give these kids some part of myself. About five cups of Starbucks coffee that I don't drink gives them everything they need to excel in life, and gives them the chance to make that difference that we are all craving to make in this world. They get food. Clean water. Vaccinations. Materials for school. Bibles to read. Tutors to help them study. I can't even comprehend how giving so little can produce so much in their lives.

I get caught up sometimes, in these petty struggles of daily life. Of paying bills and getting to work on time; of finding my keys in the abyss of my purse and worrying that I won't quite make a grade in psychology class. Then I get these letters... that are so full of hope, and gratitude, and childlike faith, and I realize that life is about so much more than what we make of it.

I daydreamed tonight about getting to someday go to El Salvador and meet Jennifer. I can imagine it all in my mind; the way that she would smile at me, and the hope and beauty that would be in her eyes. I can imagine the way she would take my hand and show me her family. I can picture trying to communicate with her in my limited and broken Spanish, and I can hear her laughter as I mispronounce every other word. She calls me 'Tia Dayna'. Aunt Dayna. She draws me pictures with broken crayons on the back of every letter.

And to me, they are the most beautiful pictures this world has ever seen.

There are many places in this world that I dream of visiting. There are scores of civilizations and peoples that I am passionate about visiting and experiencing. But I think that the day I get the chance to throw my arms around one of my little boys or my beautiful little girl will be one of the most spiritually satisfying days of my life.

I think that they bless me infinitely more than I could ever hope to bless them.

on riding waves and rising above

Sept. 3, 2006

I am the type of person to get annoyed when people use metaphors excessively or in situations that are out ouf place. Fully aware of this, I apologize if this fits the mold.

Today I was out at Huntington Beach with Brittany and Cody, and it was wonderful. We dropped our stuff off and headed into the waves. We kept trying to get out past where the waves were breaking so we could ride the swells as they were on their way into the shore.

And it hit me tonight that that's what life is about.

Living life isn't about riding waves the way you plan to. Life is about working hard to get to where you want to be; you won't always get there, and most of your time and energy will be spent in the journey. Sometimes it will be easy to just float past things and let things go and other times you'll get knocked over and knocked down and get metaphorical saltwater in your nose. Sometimes it gets hard to fight all the nothingness that crashes in on us, and we give up, and we lose hope, and we give in to the notion that we won't ever be where we need to be. And the harder we fight it, the more endless we feel.

But there is hope.

And when you can't win over a wave by hiding beneath it or fighting it head on... sometimes you just have to take what you get. And you might get pushed back, and ripped apart. But there is beauty in the fleeting moments that we can rise above the swells to see the bigger picture. There is peace in those few seconds when we almost get swept away by a massive wave... but live to ride the crest of it and know its power.

It is only when we have been crushed and knocked down that we begin to realize how beautiful it is to finally defeat that which often defeats us.

And we will overcome, after all, in the end.

I know where I'm going.

on the unsatisfaction of an empty life

Sept. 1, 2006

Does life ever just creep you out?

For no apparent reason? The fact that time is around us and passing us by just hits you, and you realize that life is short. Life is valuable. And we waste it. Or don't recognize it.

I was browsing through the madness that is myspace tonight. And it is madness. I know so many people that it's insane, but it's always fun to skim the pages of my friends and see how people are doing when I get the time. It's weird to catch up with people via myspace because you have no idea where they're at or what they've been through since the last time you heard from them. All you have to go by are these pictures, or their words, or the people in their Top 8 (or top whatever). And whatever ties you may have had with this person, whether it be work, school, friends... those might be gone now.

You realize that change happens. People change. People change what they value and who they want to be. And that in itself changes who they are.

For some reason, life never seems as simple to me as it does to most people. I dig for complexity. Hidden meanings. Lost relationships. I struggle with finding a spirituality that fits me... it's Christianity. Yet the way the 'church' runs things sometimes is just so foreign to me. I try to make friends on all ends of the spectrum, in all walks of life, and try to discover their secrets. What do they find happiness in? Why do they struggle? Who do they value? What are their dreams? Why do we all unravel at some point?

I'm happy, but I'm discontent.

I was singing a song I wrote awhile ago called 'Song for the Unsatisfied.'

And I think I will always be unsatisfied. I think that humans were designed to always feel like there was a little something missing... some part of them that is incomplete. So that in the places that we lack, we can realize that outside of this life there is Greater, and there is More. I am unsatisfied when I can't be there for someone. I am unsatisfied when I feel like I'm not reaching my potential. I even get unsatisfied if I see that 47 people look at my blog in a day and not one person has anything to say. Isn't that silly?
We live lives based on the responses of others. We live for their encouragement, and we run from their critiques. We strive for social perfection and shy away from inner beauty.

What a funny thing, this life.

on chasing rainbows and faded dreams

August 26, 2006

Chasing our dreams can feel fruitless sometimes.

We spend our days wondering what waits at the end of this road we're on. We dream of changing the world, and touching the stars, and making a difference. We make plans, and set goals. Some of us spend our days in full pursuit of the things that inspire us, while other saunter casually down the road of life, knowing that the end of the road will rise up to meet them regardless of their pace. We are all so different from one another. But so much alike.

We bump our way along this road we travel, and at an obstacle or trial we bail out or compromise. We settle for less. While shooting for the stars we settle on a mountaintop and set up camp, because it's safe... it's comfortable. Men and women who dreamed of feeding the hungry or becoming doctors instead become janitors or telemarketers. One of the most promising minds in a college drops out because he feels inadequate. A girl walks away from being a dancer for a better paying and less satisfying job. Every day thousands of people just let life pass them by, deciding to put their energy towards being the best they can where they are at.

Look around you.

The grocery lady in her faded uniform who smiles gracefully as she slips into middle age. This was not her dream. When she was asked as a child who she wanted to be when she grew up, this was not her answer. The man in his fourties flipping burgers didn't always aspire for a 40 cent raise. It's hard stuff... this chasing of the pot of gold that may or may not be at the end of the rainbow. And who really knows? Who is to say that it won't be full of something worthless when you finally arrive? What defines who you are if the rainbow you've been chasing your whole life turns out to be a false promise?

I've been thinking a lot about what I want to do with my life and the person I want to become; the musician that I long to be, the dreams I want to call my own, the wife I want to be someday to someone, and the mother I want to be to my children... the legacy that I will leave behind when I am gone.

Chances are, the world won't know my name. My face won't illuminate a billboard or rest on the cover of a magazine, and that isn't the way I always dreamed that my life would be. I dreamed of people singing along with my music, or sitting on a stage with my guitar in hand, and knowing that things that I wrote somehow made a difference. That they changed something.

I'm not implying that my life is over, or that those dreams aren't possible now. But I've realized now that making a difference or changing the world is something I can accomplish without my name being known. Who ever said that the healing of a wound was more dramatic than the healing of the human heart? Who decided that being a full-time mother was less noteworthy than going platinum or gracing the pages of a medical journal?

What does it really take to change the world anyway? And what's stopping you?

I will dream. I will sing and I will dance. I will aspire and I will change things. And while the world may not know my name, I will know the difference between a failure and a success. While my music may never make it past the ears of the people that love me, it might make a difference in one of them. And the smallest difference might mean the world to someone else. Life is a chain reaction. It is the dedicating of yourself to the people around you and the surroundings that you're in. It's doing the best you can with the things you've been given.

Maybe chasing our rainbows isn't so fruitless after all.

when you remain

August 21, 2006

There comes a point in every sleepless night when everyone else has long turned out their lights and closed their eyes to the world.

And you remain.

No traffic whizzing past your door, no friends awake to remind you of your inner beauty, and no song to play that could perfectly fit the loneliness that matches your mood. Because you aren't really alone; because really, across the expanses of land and ocean, there is someone somewhere who is lying there awake and dreaming the same dreams and naming their fears. Just like you.

This world is such a funny thing. How could I feel so alone when I'm in the middle of one of the world's most densely populated landscapes? Surrounded by city lights. When I'm blessed with friends beyond compare, in numbers some can only dream of?

I know we all feel a little bit alone sometimes. Like we're lost in the blur that becomes our days. Like we're just a face in a crowd. But knowing that other people feel the same never takes away from the odd and not-quite-melancholy sensation that comes at this ungodly hour of the night [that has somehow become morning].

But it's alright.

Come tomorrow morning when I roll out of bed, this will have passed. I'll forget for awhile how I could have ever been this empty. And the sun will shine, the traffic will fly past my street again and the palm trees I can see from my window will look as Californian as ever.

And life will go on.

the people collector

August 9, 2006

It's time to go.

Leaving almost anything is difficult for me. I'm one of those people with a cluttered life... I don't mean cluttered as in messy, and it's not for a lack of cleanliness. I have a hard time letting go of anything, whether it be people, old CD's, books I will probably never read again or trinkets that for one reason or another used to hold some unique significance to me. Between all of those, it's mostly just people.

I am a people collecter. Some people collect beanie babies, others collect their stamps or old fashioned model cars. But me? I collect people. I revel in memories of people, the outcasts and the beautiful, the ones that are going places and the ones that are going nowhere, the bold and the meek alike. My soul rests in the comfort of knowing that I have spent every day investing myself into the lives of others.

So I suppose it's natural that now, upon the leaving of the place where most of the people I love remain, that I feel a sort of disconnectedness with the idea of leaving them. Like everyone else is staying while I'm taking a step in another direction, unsure of whether returning to this place will ever be in my future again.

Loving people is such a funny thing, in a completely serious way. You live your life surrounded by them, guided by them, befriended by them, betrayed by them and loved by them. They each make you who you are, their actions shaping you in a different way. Life consists of the making, breaking, changing and letting go of relationships, so it's odd that letting go of them sometimes feels so hard. There will obviously be the whole-hearted attempt to still know people back home as well as you always did... but I know that things change. I can only hope that I made a memorable difference in at least somebody's life while I was here.

I think that's all any of us could ask for.

the vision of starbucks

August 9, 2006

There are few things comparable to a cup of coffee at the original Starbucks on Pike Place in Seattle. I don't mean just the cup of coffee. I mean the entire experience it takes to actually receive that cup of coffee.

The aura is intoxicating, with rich smells of coffee beans from all corners of the earth filling the air; coffee grown in places like Guatamala, Kenya, and Indonesia, the names of which you only know in text books or by pictures in geography class. The titles of the present blends available, 'Kopi Kampung,' 'Sumatra,' or 'Sulawesi' roll off your tongue as exotic as a midnight in Morocco must be. It is a whirlwind of activity, with people calling out drinks and crowding in and out of the door to catch a glimpse at the Mecca of native Northwesterners. The smart natives however don't get their coffee from this establishment on their way to work every morning. No, they go up the street a block to avoid the often irritating swarm of tourists who pronounce the name 'Starboo-ks' and can't ever decide what the word frappucino really means (it's a blended cup of frozen goodness... why is it so difficult?).

Sometimes, though I've been immersed in this place of madness many times, I return to it again. There is something charming about the chaos that hits me the instant I walk through the door; the cashier expertly tossing the newly designated cups to the baristas waiting behind the counter. It's like a perfectly choreographed dance, people's cravings for both history and coffee being fulfilled while a trio of soulful black men sing a capella outside the front door to a clapping audience on the sidewalk. The refrain from 'My Girl' wafts through the air and the iconic image of a Siren graces the beverage of every satisfied customer.

The truth of the matter is that the rest of the world does not understand our undying love and passion for a steaming cup of coffee brewed by our favorite baristas nor the necessity we have for a Starbucks on every other corner. I will let you in on a secret. I think people go to Starbucks for the ideal it represents and the lifestyle it promotes. It is an advocate for conversation and for good company. It extends an invitation to walk inside its doors and put life on hold for a moment while taking a sip of your favorite beverage; you know, the one that will help fight alongside you the headache that is the rest of your day.

I'm not assuming that Starbucks coffee has magical properties, or that coffee is the maker of all things good, or that life without coffee is an empty existance. Just simply stating that when people from 'out of the area' (you know, those people that carry umbrellas... we call them tourists) think of us as being addicted to the coffee, or the caffeine, or the mochas that they deem as overpriced, that they are misunderstanding the entire concept of why we do what we do.

It's about people. It's about community. It's about relationships. It's about feeling a part of the world that is so much bigger than just yourself and who you are with (if anyone). It's about an idea: that people can gather together for the purpose of good conversation, or reading a good book, or just enjoying a tall nonfat black and white mocha with no whip, and know that thousands of miles away, at a Starbucks somewhere in Philly, Madrid, London, and Zurich, someone else is doing the same thing. Coffee is just a wonderful added bonus. Yes, the topic of conversation varies. Yes, the prices vary from dollars, to pounds, to franks, to euros and back to dollars again. But somewhere in the world, as you read these words, someone is seeking familiarity and comfort in a cup of coffee. It would be silly to say that all my memories are measured tall, grande or venti... but a good portion of them are.

So if you're ever in need of the chaotic ambiance and familiarity of a place that is both contemporary and classic, charming and alive with activity, or you just want your grande iced caramel machiatto without diversion, the original Starbucks represents a shining beacon of hope for all who are seeking.

the road less travelled

August 8, 2006

Isn't it amazing how drastically things can change in the course of a week?

A little over a week ago I was given the opportunity to hang out with some of the coolest junior high and high school kids ever. I spent my days playing games, sitting at the lake, in the sun, on a boat, surrounded by sunshine and good conversation. I got a chance to get to lead worship and be a counselor.

That was last week. When I'm scanning ahead seven days, I see something completely different. While it looks beautiful in its own way, part of that beauty is found in the mystery of the unknown. I have no idea what it will be like. I don't know where I will work, who my friends will be in a month (although my amazing sister is a given), what our apartment will look like, or where I'll be at spiritually.

It's like this larger-than-life question mark over the next year of my life.

I worked my last shift at Ruby's tonight.. my home away from home for the last three years. I did my walk through of the empty and dark building as usual, and it just felt okay inside. It's unreal that I'm leaving on Thursday, but so much of me just feels at peace. About everything. About leaving my family, my good job, and all of my friends. Like a part of me knows I need to go. To get out. To kick off my shoes and experience something new, whether I end up liking it at the end of the year or not.

It will be new. And different. And scary. And beautiful.

There's no doubt that it's hard to leave a few things behind for awhile, but there's something about an empty and untraveled road that will always appeal to me. So I will step forward in anticipation. And hope that the road is there to meet my feet even when I can't see the ending.


another sleepless night

June 19, 2006

Sleepless nights always keep me awake.

I know that sounds sort of redundant, but when I am already awake at an indecent hour of the night (or morning in some cases), I am already thinking about so many things and people and situations, and just life... so much that my head is spinning. It just makes it impossible to get any good rest at all.

Someone told me today, "Dayna if your life was to be lived in a straight line.. you know, the 'four year' school plan, and knowing exactly where you want to be a year from now... just like everybody else seems to be doing... I don't think you'd be happy. Now, we know that the shortest distance from one place to another is a straight line. But in your case, the journey getting there matters as much to you, if not more, than where you end up in the end."

I would have to agree.

I know that I'm looked down upon a lot by people I know (not all, mind you but a good portion) as just having no goals, and not knowing where I want to end up because I'm apathetic towards living life. People think this because I go to community college. Because I haven't picked a specific major. Because I don't go to a four year like most of the 'upstanding citizens' of my generation (not downing on people that go to those at all, because some of the finest people I know are taking that track, and are loving it, and they totally made the right decision).

But she's right. I want to enjoy the journey.

The days. The moments. The small things. The walk in the sunshine from Ruby's to Starbucks every morning. Getting to go work out with my beautiful sister. Having a new chance every day to start over. I'm not saying it's impossible to enjoy these things by following that straight path. I just mean that for me, I want getting there and finding out where I'm going to be half the fun. I have goals: to be the best I can wherever I'm at. To continue writing. To keep singing. But to be honest, knowing what job I want to end up with in four years is the least of my worries.

Just because I spend my days at Ruby's doesn't mean I'm going to be waiting tables forever. Just because I don't follow a four year plan doesn't mean I'm not going places. I am going places.

on the definition of home and belonging

May 15, 2006

Coming home can be difficult and beautiful.

Especially when 'home' itself is undefined; it is relative and changes person to person. What is a home anyway, and what constitutes the name of 'home' in a certain place? Is it the people that remain there, or the memories latched onto small things, like buildings, facades, or porch swings? Does 'home' mean a place where a certain feeling is felt?

Because when I am in Seattle, among the buses whirring by, and the sights and smells and sounds, with the Olympic mountains decorating the horizon, I feel like I am home. But so much of me wanted to remain in Moscow this last weekend... where I touched up on memories I felt were left unfinished and was given the opportunity to meet new people as well. The rolling hills and the hearts of the people captivate me, and I am at a loss.

'Belong' is probably a word that is relative too.

Because I couldn't pick a place where I belong above the other. And wherever I am, it seems like I am wishing to be living someplace else.

A mystery.

this makes no sense

April 28, 2006

The silence is deafening as I sit alone, watching credits of yet another late night movie rolling by. I flip on a few lights and migrate to change into a sweatshirt, when my reflection catches my eye. I spend a few moments pouring over my exhausted blue eyes, my faded brown hair... "You look sad," I whisper to the stranger I see. "Keep your chin up. There's tomorrow." A melody sings from my stereo as I steal a quick glance around my room. A picture from tour catches my eye, and I rest for a moment in the smiles and the laughter I remember so clearly.

Flashes of time are spinning before me, and I see Brenton singing to Miranda, and Becca wiping away my tears one lonely night, and Seth whipping out his guitar, and Faith kneeling beside me to hold me. I remember lives changed, and every night a new stage. I remember what it felt like to change the world and to feel the world changing. It all seems so distant now, so many months later. I wonder how things have fared for them. Were they really 'committed' like we all claimed? Or did they slip at the first opportunity to fail miserably. Like me.

Late nights have a tendancy to get me down. And I don't really have nights that aren't late.

Definitely not by my own choosing. The hours dwindle away and I try to avoid watching the clock, but when it reaches midnight and I have no physical desire to sleep yet, there just isn't any place I can go.
It's empty here, at this hour. And it's dark. But it's a waste of money to just turn on lots of lights for my own self satisfaction (there's always the Oreck I suppose). It's too early to go out to Denny's. It's too late to make phone calls that wouldn't freak people out. I spend countless hours watching movies by myself just passing time hoping that my eyes will get tired. All the while I assure myself that, no, I am not without many friends that care about me. No. I have many friends. The problem doesn't lie there.

Is it in my dreams? I feel like it is sometimes. Does the issue lie in the places I long to visit and to see. Is it wrong or weird to want to just skip out on all the tourist attractions and GPA's and transcripts, and just go feed someone who's hungry? Or play the guitar with a homeless person? Or hug the little girl whose school and food I have the honor of paying for? It's a small price to pay for a life. A small thing to sacrifice so that a little girl can know she is loved.

I sit here useless. I dream of change, and of living in Buenos Aires and studying to become a teacher so I can teach people how to read and write in countries less fortunate than ours... yet here I stand. On the western coast of one of the biggest empires this world has ever known, more blessed than 97 percent of the rest of humankind. And my hands sit idle. I dream of visiting the families I met in Spain, and getting to know their culture and their lives and their hopes and dreams... the things they wake up every day for... I want to know all of that.

Maybe late nights just make me frusterated. But it's me! It's Dayna! My life is supposed to change lives. I'm supposed to actually do something with my guitar instead of just sit on it. I'm supposed to make a difference instead of just talking about making a difference. These eyes were meant to see the world... to walk the sands of Egypt and to see the mountains of Peru. To teach little kids that they're loved, and that they have potential, and that they can read and write.

I want to make a difference. And on nights like these it eats away at me like some disease. DO something... anything!... GO somewhere... anywhere!

There is so much of me that is kicking and screaming to just live. To really live. Not just exist somewhere, on one planet out of trillions in a universe of endless proportions. No. Not for me.

I will not go down without a fight. Apathy won't get me.

an ode to coffee and my girls

April 25, 2006

I have a deep appreciation for people who love coffee as much as I do.

I have an even deeper appreciation for the girls that introduced me to my loving of coffee. It's true. Before moving here, I had coffee perhaps once a week. Maybe twice if I was feeling in the mood. It was reserved for days that I would, for one reason or another, deem worthy of a cup of steaming hot goodness. After moving to the 'other side' of the mountains, however, and becoming assimilated into their culture, I have come to find something very important. The most seasoned of my memories with 'my girls' over here; the memories with the most passion and spirit and adventure; the ones that carried the best conversations and the heaviest debates; the ones that helped us along the journey to making decisions that will shape the rest of our lives... they all happened over coffee.

I'm not assuming that coffee has magical properties, or that coffee is the maker of all things good, or that life without coffee is an empty existance. Just simply stating that when people from 'out of the area' (you know, those people that carry umbrellas... we call them tourists) think of us as being addicted to the coffee, or the caffeine, or the mochas that they deem as overpriced, that they are misunderstanding the entire concept of why we do what we do.

It's about people. It's about community. It's about relationships. It's about feeling a part of the world that is so much bigger than just yourself and who you are with (if anyone). It's about an idea: that people can gather together for the purpose of good conversation, or reading a good book, or just enjoying a nonfat black and white mocha with no whip, and know that thousands of miles away, at a Starbucks somewhere in Philly, Madrid, London, and Zurich (yes I've been to all of them, so I know they exist), someone else is doing the same thing. Coffee is just a wonderful added bonus. Yes, the topic of conversation varies. Yes, the prices vary from dollars, to pounds, to franks, to euros and back to dollars again. But somewhere in the world, as you read these words, someone is seeking familiarity and comfort in a cup of coffee. It would be silly to say that all my memories are measured tall, grande, or venti... but a good portion of them are.

And that leads me back to the beginning. My girls.

There is something beautiful about being able to call up Bri and meet her once again at the Starbuck on Rose Hill, even if all we will do is laugh about good memories and sigh about when Brittany is coming home and how much we wish Shani was there too. Even if no life changing decisions are made, and no new favorite memories are created, it is the beauty and grace of something so simple as knowing you have gone through think and thin with someone, and still meet them for coffee.

We're getting older, and making decisions, and getting our apartments for the first time, and getting ready for the great reunion of all of us girls again for the few precious months this summer. We will laugh, and we will lay in the sun together, and we will drink coffee together in Kirkland again. I have no doubt that before it's started, it will be over again, and we will be sorry to see another summer come and go so quickly. But I also have no doubt that come the holidays, and come the following summers, we will still carry on.

We are intrepid. We are timeless. Our friendship runs deeper than geographical separation and time between our visits. That's the beauty of true friendship. We represent everything... art, music, athletics, writing, conservatives, liberals, blondes, brunettes, introverts, extroverts, and beauty of every kind and color and fashion. We think alike. And we think differently. It has been proved that no matter how long it's been, we can always pick up where we left off. That is what's beautiful about who we all are, individually and as a whole. At the end of the day, whether I am singing to people someplace random in Europe, or sitting back in my living room in Duvall, I know that there five girls out there that know what they believe, why they believe in it, and are intensely passionate about living life, and living it well.

I will always love them. And I will always love the thing that brought us together the most often... coffee.

"Let the world change you, and you can change the world." -Ernesto "Che" Guevara

vacant dreams

April 9, 2006

An empty page.

It glares up at me like I'm guilty of wasting the trees that were cut down to somehow formulate itself. There's a pencil in my hand, and something in me is crying out to write something, but no words will come. Sighing in annoyance at my lack of originality, I pick up the notebook and rest it on the higher octaves of my piano keys to use later when words will come. I adjust the mic stand so that it rests a few inches short of my chin, and I routinely go through a check of the keyboard.... power on... reverb off... classic and modern piano combined... the mains are on... it is finished.

I take a sip of the chai that rests a few feet away on a desk, and then turn to face the monster that is my own lack of genious. It couldn't have been this hard for all those bands that have come before me to just come up with some stupid lyrics to sing. Why does it suck so much for me? I wonder as I chuckle a little, thinking of all the people who admire my few songs.

Good Lord, I haven't done this forever. The light is subtly reflecting off of my guitar [Lailani] resting in the corner; I'll tackle that later. For now the mass of black and white keys is what concerns me. An empty audience of chairs and moniters and music equipment watches me as I tentatively graze the surface of the keyboard with my fingertips before letting a melody fill the empty corners of the garage.

It's my typical progression (C, Am, G, F, and C again) that I always use when just starting out with a new song. To find my pitch. To figure out whether I want to let my voice ring high or reverb low. That might be the hardest part of this whole thing. Thinking of how I must look makes me feel a little dumb. Just standing there in my all american rejects shirt and torn up and faded jeans, my hair pulled up into something messy, just waiting. For what, I'm never exactly sure. But I probably look odd regardless. Unsure.

What will it be like someday, if everything is how I want it to be? If I finish college and get to just sing for awhile? If I get to do concerts again and sell CD's again, and get to just write. When the lights fade and the curtain falls will I still feel the same? When I sign a few autographs here and there like I got to do last summer, will it bring back the same adrenaline and spirit that it brought me before?

My dreams seem so vacant sometimes; like they aren't mine anymore, they're just things that have to be done. Like trying to write a song today. Who am I writing it for anyway? How many worthless pages will I have to go through until I find another song that actually means something to me? I have a few that I love to play; that make me feel something when I sing them; that make me relive the way I felt when the words were first poured out. But the rest are just... missing something. And I wish I knew what it was.

Empty pages are the bane of my existance.

the epitaph of the taurus

We always had a bond between us somehow, it was just a little hard to explain to anyone who asked. I remember that in the beginning you were a drifter; youd never stayed with friends for long. Friends were for fun times, but not all times you were a drifter, and I was trying to find my place - I was the new kid. You were the one with the somewhat undeserved bad reputation. Somehow the pieces just came together. It seemed like an oddly matched pair of fiends there was me, the sophomore in high school, and you, the fraternity boy from the University of Idaho. At first it was just you and me. We would drive around in your Taurus almost every day.

There were times we had nowhere to go and nothing to do in fact that was most times. Days passed when nothing would be accomplished, no vivid memories would be formed, and no life-changing conversations took place. Wed simply drive around, you and me and the Taurus, drinking our almond steamers from that little coffee shop on the corner near Theta Chi. I remember you introducing me to steamers and cheap college coffee, telling me that Starbucks wasnt always the way to go especially when you have no income and youre living on ramen and macaroni and cheese.

My house became your house. My mom became your mom. The Taurus became our retreat some might say institution. My school got out at noon, so youd pick me up and wed drive home. I would change out of my hideous mock-Irish school uniform. Then wed just drive. Sometimes we had a destination. Other times wed find ourselves out in the country or in Pullman, the nearest town. There were days wed be in the drive thru to McDonalds, only for the sake of ordering nine waters because if you ordered less than ten waters you got them all free. Wed be at a loss for things to do with them, so, just like everything else we had and didnt need, wed throw them out the window at the random bikers and pedestrians we saw by the sides of the road. Wed laugh and high five each other and then go back and do it again. People thought we were crazy, and rightly so.

I remember summer nights. Volleyball in the yard by the side of my house. We set up the net one hot Easter afternoon in April. Soon it became a ritual after church on Sunday nights to play the game after dark, only I couldnt hit a regular volleyball, so wed make special trips to Wal-Mart to buy an especially large beach ball. We would sometimes have twenty kids over, all laughing and making jokes about me and my hopelessly lost sense of direction. There was that one crazy time where I actually vanished into the shrubs as I attempted to hit the volleyball soaring overhead. Everyone thought it had swallowed me whole, but I emerged a few minutes later, with bush stubble in my hair and all over that sweatshirt of yours that I always borrowed. Mom would make a quick run to the store to provide snacks for everyone.

Watching every game begin and end, and watching every Sunday come and go with you and me was the Taurus, parked outside my house almost every day, ready to whisk us off to some exotic destination, like the arcade inside the Palouse Mall.

We found the swing one day, or rather, I remembered where it was from a biology trip to a creek during my freshman year. It was in an old abandoned park on a dead end road far from town where no one ever interrupted our escapades. We found Raleigh then too. Soon there were three where there had once been two. And surprisingly, no one knew the difference. So the three of us would venture out almost every day to the swing, making plots to kidnap mattresses from dumpsters on campus to break the fall of our constant crashing into the trees. We could never find a truck to haul them though, and handy as the Taurus was, the backseat wasnt quite spacious enough.

Times were hot and humid as summer crashed in around us. Windows were rolled down, sprinklers on, and grandparents would rock back and forth on front porches. I would illegally drive your car, and you would laugh nervously, telling me I should slow down. Raleigh would just laugh and play with the radio dials. We were the three musketeers, looking for adventure, mischief, and the American dream of escapism trying hard to overcome the realities of life. Realities like the fact that things can change all of a sudden, leaving nothing untouched.

I found another boy. You and Raleigh didnt approve much, not out of jealousy, just out of honesty. He occupied my time, wanting to be with me whenever we could be together. You would tell me that I was so caught up. Raleigh would say that I'd never been so wrapped into another person before. At the time those seemed like good things. But what did I know?

Every day for a month he came over, sometimes interrupting our evening traditions of watching Kung Pow and eating Ben and Jerrys ice cream. He was never happy to see you, always wanting time alone; always needing things to be his way. Still I didnt see it. You began to come by less. While that was still more than most people ever visit friends, we were used to more. We were used to almost living at my house, you talking to my mom like she was the mom you didnt have.

In the midst of me losing you, I lost my new fling as well. He stopped coming by. He stopped calling. All of a sudden my life contained a void of empty silence on those nights when you would usually be there talking with me or watching movies with me. When I looked outside my window, the silver gleam of the Taurus wouldnt shine back at me as often. But just when I realized you werent there, change was bearing down on me again.

I was moving. Mom was getting remarried again, and wouldnt have time to be a mom to everyone in the town anymore. And we were going to Seattle, over three hundred miles away. You commuting to have your evenings with us somehow seemed far fetched, although it was funny for awhile for us to talk about it. It was the three of us again for a few weeks, driving out to the swing. But the radio wasnt on anymore, and we didnt laugh as loud as we used to laugh when things looked brighter. The windows were still rolled down, but wed let the wind sting our eyes in silence, taking in the rolling hills of the landscape, imagining the way things would be soon.

One night, we were leaving my house to go to WinCo, ready to stalk up on energy drinks and junk food. Raleigh was in the lead going down my front steps, and all of a sudden he broke out into a run. You and I looked at each other as he went and stretched his body out on the pavement, face up, looking up at the sprinkle of stars in the sky. He spread his arms out above his head, and spread his legs wide, like that creepy drawing by Michelangelo or Da Vinci. You and I werent sure what to think until we heard a laugh escape his lips as he cried, 'Asphalt angel!'

It was just like a snow angel only there was no snow. Only asphalt.

Now things are different; mostly for me because Im not there anymore. Youre still at Theta Chi, my fraternity boy. Raleigh is still just as weird as when we met him, but thats why we liked him so much to begin with. We dont talk all that much anymore. I have my license now, and so does Raleigh; no longer the kids in need of a free ride. Things seem so adult-like now. In six months I'm eighteen, and you'll be twenty soon. We never wanted to let go; it was just something that had to be done. I came back and visited every now and then, and we'd climb back into the Taurus and drive out to the swing together in reverent silence for the good times that came in lives before. Conversation was attempted here and there, but we soon realized it wasnt worth it to try and describe the change the way it didnt feel the same anymore. Its a haunting numbness we can all relate to, but cant put into words.

Things change. People fade. Memories turn into shadows, and soon all we remember are the highlights the life changing moments. With us, though, it was the numerable meaningless days that made up our existence. The days wed drive around and have the deep conversations that shaped our actions, which, in turn, shaped our futures.

The Taurus isnt around anymore; it got totaled in a freak accident, which was only to be expected by the way you let people drive it around without even having insurance. But it carried cargo with it that cant be destroyed by one accident, or a hundred accidents. It carried an era of our lives. An era of laughter, tears, craziness, and our struggle to feel alive and okay; an era when life seemed so beautiful, complicated, and new. Time can take away many things. But I can still see the imprint of Raleighs asphalt angel on the pavement of my mind, and I know it wont just fade away. Some things, it seems, are here to stay.

the definition of me

April 4, 2006

There are few things comparable to flying into SeaTac Airport when the sun is setting over the Olympics and the Space Needle is shining back at you, and the ferries are making their runs across the Sound to Bremerton and you see them coming and going, and the outline of Mt. Rainier looms like a giant welcome banner in the distance... the San Juan islands cut the Sound into jagged patterns that separate Seattle from the ocean.

No, it isn't California. Or Arizona. The sun definitely isn't here all year round, and there aren't any waves to catch for miles. There aren't any beautiful palm trees, and it hasn't been 80 degrees since early fall.

But flying in last night, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
There just aren't many places like it. You can catch waves many places. You can have sand many places. And palm trees too. My favorite things about places elsewhere. But where can you see a giant metropolitan area tucked between two mountain ranges with green as far as the eye can see?

Where cultures collide and wilderness meets the modern?.... I just appreciated the familiarity I suppose after a whirlwind month that was good, but hard to fit into sometimes.

I feel like I'm kind of in that phase where I'm testing my wings out and I'm not quite sure where I want to go with them yet... I know they'll take me places. I'm just trying to make my beliefs and my life and my faith my own and trying to figure out how I fit into everything else... I know I'm gifted when it comes to music. I know that I'm blessed. I know that I want to see the world. I want to meet the little girl I sponsor in El Salvador, and the boy I sponsor in Peru, and the boy Usengimana that I write to in Rwanda...

I want to see how people live in worlds different than mine. I want to play guitar in Argentina while sipping mate and studying for classes... I want to teach English as a second language. I want to backpack from Spain to Greece and spend three months doing it. I want to change things.

It all started at the top of one of the Alps.

We had been touring together for two months, traveling across 20 states and 3 provinces, singing a concert every night to get us to where we were... and we found ourselves on top of Santis... one of the Swiss Alps that marks the beginning of the giant chain of mountains. I stood precariously on top of a rock that marked the highest point I could reach. I stood up, and I spread my arms out wide (like the picture of Brittany and I that made it onto a Jones Soda bottle). On one side of the world, there was a plateau of villages, and to the other there was a sea of mountaintops... each one seeming to hold its own secrets.

I was talking to a friend the other night about what defines our lives... if you could pick one moment that would define who you were and what you stood for... one moment that would set your life apart... what would it be?

For me, that was it. The world was at my feet. And I do mean that literally.

There's more to life than a GPA and a good job, and making money. Those are good things, and I want them. But I want things that are more important. I want to go back to Venice and walk across the Rialto Bridge again and listen to a man from Hungary play Spanish music on his guitar (yes I did that). I want to learn languages. Learn people. Learn how they live, how they breathe, what they value, who they want to be. I want to let a little girl in El Salvador know that someone thousands of miles away loves her enough to pay for her school, and food, and clean water, and vaccinations, and to write her letters.

All this does tie together, I promise.

Arizona helped me a lot. It helped me find out who I want to be. I don't have to be the person everyone else wants. I don't have to make a grade or worry about disappointing anybody. I just have to be myself, and make myself well-rounded and aware and educated. I just have to love more. Live more. Laugh more. Flying into Seattle last night, I realized that this is home to me now. But I'm still going places. I'm going back to Spain to dance in the Mediterranean with kids from Valencia again. I'm going back to Switzerland to see the market at Andelfingen and the way the sun sets over the Alps.

And as much as the Northwest is gorgeous and beautiful, and like no place on earth... I'm going to see the rest of the world. And I'm going to change it.

truthful lies

Feb. 5, 2006

Can't sleep tonight.

I tossed and turned for a good forty-five minutes before deciding that something inside me just needs to get some venting out. So here it goes. You will either agree or disagree very strongly, but I am unapologetic, regardless. Not out of arrogance, but out of steadfast faith in what I place my beliefs in. (this does not take away my interest in your comments and opinions however, whether they are the same as mine or different)

I am sick of the crap this world feeds us. I was deeply disturbed by my class yesterday, Multicultural Communications. I just can't shake it from my mind. So many things were flippantly said, and so many people are so closed minded, while declaring their 'open mindedness.' Bull.

Just like Republicans can give conservatives like me a bad name by being thoughtless and blurting out random comments, Democrats in my class are slowly eating away at me.. not because of their beliefs, or the fact that those beliefs differ from mine, but because of the way they present those beliefs. In my class right now we're talking about current events, and about what's going on in the media, and I am usually the only one to speak up, mostly because I'm one of the few who pays attention to news and media and such.

"Well there's the NSA scandal.. if you can call it that." I stated, and as I was getting ready to add some truth to the situation, my teacher (who gets riled up about just about anything) startes flailing her arms and announcing to the class, "Yes, have we heard about what this dictatorship - oh, I mean our Presidential Administration - has decided lately? That it's okay now to go against our constitution and invade peoples' privacy? To tap lines without warrants to do so?"

Stupidity at its finest is being shown in the people that our taxes pay to educate our youth.

First of all, just because the president isn't on your half of the political spectrum, if you will, doesn't mean he's a dictator. Just because we don't have time to issue an entire flipping election to decide one thing doesn't mean that Bush is trying to control our lives. Think we're a dictatorship?

Why don't you whine to people in North Korea, whose government refuses to feed them and give them the aid that countries, like ourselves, send them by the millions. The food we send them gets sold to merchants on the black market so that the rich people can buy them,and the poor stay hungry. Tell that to their starving children who won't ever get to see past the age of 11 because their parents were beaten to death for disagreeing with their government. Or better yet, whine to people in Communist China who are being thrown in jail by the thousands for believing in anything other than their state religion... which ironically, is actually a branch of anti-religion... it isn't just Christians getting thrown in jail, it's anyone who has any faith in anything but their government at all. As soon as you want to whine about American being a dictatorship, you automatically assume the position of the self-serving, self-concerned, self-seeking nation that the world perceives us to be. Way to go ace.

And another thing... NSA scandal? What scandal? Do warantless wiretaps violate our constitution? Yes... so does killing people. Does that mean we won't ever go to war to defend our country? No. (this is not a reference to the war in Iraq... my opinion is undecided... merely an example) When you think about it, wartime procedures, especially after 9/11, call for desperate measures. If my neighbor is planning to bomb my neighborhood, I would rather the government listen in on my conversation (since I'm innocent anyway) and save my family, then have them succeed when my government could have intervened. It's a means of protection, not of violation. No one in the White House sat around thinking, 'Gee, what can we do to piss off our citizens today? That's it!! I think we should invade their privacy!' While I admit whole heartedly that I can see the other side of the argument completely - the violation of our rights, and the denial by Bush that this was even occuring - if you look at the facts, the situation isn't as 'scandalous' as it might first appear.

Off my soapbox.

To be honest, I don't have a problem with liberals. In fact, most of my friends are liberals, and I love them dearly. To be honest again, I don't vote a straight ticket - whoever does the best job wins my vote. Opinions can differ, and debates can be productive. When I debate with my friends, we gain a stronger friendship, as well as stronger roots in what we believe in. No, liberals are not the problem. That is not what this is about. This is about me feeling unfairly discriminated against in a class that is meant to educate us on discrimination.

I feel offended and uncomfortable when my teacher says things like, "This is what those righty's are doing in the Supreme Court now"... or "Well, the conservatives think that this is not okay..." It's like, lady, I love you and know you have good intentions, but treat us all like equals, regardless of what side you're on. If it were a Republican up there, I would expect the same from them. Don't diss on Bush... I voted for him... and I am not ashamed to say it. If you want to prove your side of the story (which trust me, isn't really that hard since the guy has, like all of us, made his fair share of mistakes) then just tell us the facts.

Facts. Not opinions.

If they are opinions, then let everyone voice them freely. No, I don't agree with homosexuality. Do I hate them? Am I a gay-hating person? No. Do I think they are less than human? Of course not. Do I think that me disagreeing with their lifestyle justifies discriminatory behavior against them? Absolutely not. Should the government decide for them if their marriage is legitimate? Probably not. So don't get up there and tell me that because I don't agree with something that I am 'closed minded' or 'backward' or 'a little too far right.' I have friends that are gay, and I love them. They're people for goodness sake. They have lives, just like everyone else... they snowboard, or play music, or are doctors... they live life. If this is a class based on my ability to communicate with them, then why are you trying to change my views, if I communicate just fine?

I want to learn. I want to have friends from all religions, races, orientations, and genders. I want to visit other cultures and see how people live. I want to make a difference, no matter how small it seems. I want to debate, and to form opinions of my own, and to see life from a perspective that is completely mine. All of the events in my class that have offended me aren't listed here... those are a few, but definitely not all of them. I'm not just freaking out about an isolated incident.

I want to be real. Not some person who takes in everything they hear as truth... not everything is as it seems. I want to question things legitimately before admitting their truth... I want to make sure that I don't fall into the role of the mindless consumer who believes everything they hear. I want to be educated. If anything, I'm discovering that an education - even while presented from a differing point of view - is so valuable. It teaches you to overcome obstacles, to think for yourself, and to be more than just a bump on a log.

I'm excited for this journey of mine. To see where God takes me in life, and the adventures that I will have. To have faith in someone bigger than myself. To change things for the better.

I hope I can. Somehow.

ships are safe at port

Dec. 16, 2005

I'm home now. It's weird. And I don't know what to think. Everything here at home has stayed the same, yet I feel like I'm a completely different person... and whether I've had the chance to prove that in my actions or not yet... I'm sure it will be discovered eventually.

But that doesn't seem right.

Because sometimes tonight when jokes would be made, they weren't funny to me like they used to be. It's like my sense of humor changed too. I'm just different now. And that in itself is not a bad thing, but all of a sudden I find it hard to fit in where I've always belonged before.

I know that in a few days, it will all be routine again. I will get phone calls, and go shopping, and go to work again, and things will resume the way they left off three months ago... but part of me doesn't want it that way. Part of me wants to be in a different state every day again, and to see the world, and to stand on top of mountains in Switzerland, and to swim in the Med Sea in Spain, and to spend hours in Heathrow Airport in London again... yeah... a big part of me just wants to stay different. To stay a wanderer; a performer; a seeker.

Unrealistic as it may seem, a person can completely change in three months. I don't want to compromise the change that has been made for anything - to make others comfortable, or to help people remember the 'Dayna' that was Dayna before. I want to be real. And as negative as this entry may sound, it's really a good thing that I'm back again. I get a second chance. To start over. To re-begin. To wipe the slate of the past clean.

My biggest fear is progressing backwards... unlearning everything I've learned to melt back into the person I was before I left. Change in reverse is not a good thing. If anything, my resolutions for this coming year, are to branch out... to not limit myself to living in a certain place, or listening to one certain type of music, or hanging out with the exact same people every single day...

I want to be stretched. And moved. And reshaped. Turned into something beautiful.

'Ships are safe at port, but that's not what ships are for.' -Levi Smith

the last chapter of tour

Nov. 30, 2005

Sunday night.

The source of so many fears and beginnings and endings and unknowns.

Our last concert. Our last night together. We will sing 'Let the Glory Come Down' for the last time, and the lights will dim, and fade away, and we will laugh, and cry, and stay up all night wishing we had another three months to relive this adventure that is somehow ending so soon.

I am excited to go home. But so much ends on Sunday night. So much of me will be missing after that day.

Because these other 22 people have been my life for three whole months... they have been the ones I eat with, sleep with, cry with, pray with, and live with for what seems like forever. Like we were meant to be family since Day 1 back in LA at rehearsal camp in September.

Together we have changed lives. We have traveled the world... from the streets of Philly to the packed out concerts in Spain; from LA to New York, from Seattle to Switzerland. Sharing every memory, every moment, and sometimes even our sack lunches... we have just always been together. As tour comes to a close, I'm hoping we can hold on.

Every night for 16 weeks, we have run up onstage, and performed. Some nights were filled with enthusiasm, and inspiration, and fun, and others were trying, and challenging, and beyond what we thought ourselves capable of. Sometimes we would perform encores... sometimes there would be 6 people in our audience. But we pulled through, and overcame challenges, and became better and stronger people because of it.

I've decided that I will miss tour infinitely more than I thought I would initially.

To know that only four days remain of this life changing adventure is a haunting thing. Trying to remember everything - every memory, every picture, every inside joke. I can look back and see things that I would change if I could... my attitude sometimes, my wishing time away, and my wanting to have alone time so badly, and things like that... but I look back and also see how I have changed. How I am not just existing... but truly living. How I am no longer as concerned with how my friends treat me... but with how I can treat them first. How my worth isn't found in the logos on my shirts, or how stylish or tan I am (even though I miss it very much)... but in the content of my character.

Tour has changed me. Has changed all of us. Even if it's in subtle ways, we are all different.

Finally, we are all united. One love. One Body. One mission. And nothing else could matter more.