When the Weather Brings us Together 

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A wise person once said, “We could all take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.” 

He was getting ready to go to work. He had a suit on, his briefcase in hand. It looked like a normal workday in Denver, Colorado—covered in white. He locked his front door, approached his Lexus, and shoveled his vehicle out of the snow

Continue reading “When the Weather Brings us Together “

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“Sending positive thoughts..” Sometimes it’s just not enough

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I prayed for Las Vegas… but then I went on with my day. And that’s the problem.

We were struck with tragedy in Las Vegas this past weekend…

Continue reading ““Sending positive thoughts..” Sometimes it’s just not enough”

Share your Story

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We want to take this moment to say to the people of Las Vegas and anyone who lost a loved one the night of Oct. 1., that we’re with you and we’re hurting with you. We invite anyone who was there that night to be a guest author on our blog and share their story.

Writing is not only therapeutic for the author, but to all who read his/her written works. We have love for you today and always. For information on how to share your story, just leave a comment (to the left of this post) and we we’ll reach out to you. #PrayforVegas Continue reading “Share your Story”

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In honor of the recent tragedy in Orlando, Fl.

Words cannot express our heartache. To all those who lost loved ones this past weekend, please stay strong and know that we love you.

[Follow @PaperBag.Poetry]

When Death Waited for Me

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There’s never a good time to talk about death. Most of us have experienced death at some point in our lives, some more than others. Whether we’re expecting it or not, it hits all of us and doesn’t give us a choice. It’s hard, it sucks and it puts everyone’s world on hold. Death is probably the biggest fear that no one can control. And we hate it.

So what happens when death waits for us? And I’m not talking about waiting to die, I’m talking about when death waits for us to say goodbye.

We recently traveled to Brawley, California, to visit my great grandpa who was 105, about 25 miles north of Mexicali. It’s crazy to think about how much you can actually do in 105 years. His birthday was on New Year’s Eve and something deep down inside told me I had to see him. I hadn’t seen him in 7 years. He was my mom’s grandpa. She adored him. I adore him. I had been thinking about him for a very long time and I knew, since he was 105, he didn’t have a lot of time left. Even when he was 99 I remember thinking wow! What a life.

Miraculously (and I mean that in all seriousness), my publisher gave me 11 days off in a row. (Keep in mind 11 days off is unheard of in the world of publishing) So I figured this would be my chance to see him, since it’s a four-hour drive. At the time I was short on funds, so I thought about possibly postponing it until my next vacation, but like I said, something told me he didn’t have much time. So I went. And my, was it a sweet time. I got so much out of it.

Three months later, he died.

A lot of times death sneaks up on us, and then there are those times where we expect it, but either way it’s still devastating. Death never really waits for us because no one will ever be ready, but when death does wait until we say our last goodbyes, it’s worth taking note of.

My mom was very sick for a very long time. The Doctors thought they could help her; she was even back to her old self during her last few months. I used to look at her death and think, “I thought I had her back, and then she was taken away from me.” I was angry. I felt cheated. But it was cancer. She was in a lot of pain and although we had high hopes, cancer is fierce and it spread very quickly in an extremely difficult place. As I get older I start to think that perhaps I was not cheated, perhaps those last two months were my chance to say goodbye.

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[Dianne Lynn Ornelas ‘mama’]

Some of you may be thinking, “well, my loved one is already gone, how is this going to help me now? I miss them and I didn’t get my chance to say goodbye.” Don’t hold on to that grief; just consider it as a learning experience. It’s life and remember they will always love you.

Do you feel in your gut that you need to see somebody soon? Has someone been on your heart lately? Well, follow your gut instinct and pay them a visit. Pick up the phone and call them. So there’s tension? Bad blood? I think it’s time you get over that. It’s much better than living with a lifetime of regret.

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[Great Grandpa Sanchez on his 105th birthday.]

Be Your Own Audience

Four artistic ways to relieve stress at home or on the road.

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Life can be hard. It’s only Tuesday and you’re already feeling or have felt stressed, sad, heartache, frustration or any other kind of bothersome feeling, so early on in your week. Well, don’t fret, because you’re not alone. Sometimes we can’t explain the feelings we have, and other times, life just hits us like a giant red rubber ball from early 2000. So what should you do during times like this? It’s always good to talk about it, but sometimes, you just don’t want to. When that’s you (and it’s been me many times), try these four stress relievers that cater to the artist in all of us.

1. Paint or sketch. You don’t have to be Banksy to get your feelings out through some drawings. Painting and sketching requires focus, concentration and thought. But there’s no rule book that says you have to be a professional to own a canvas or some charcoal pencils and shaders. The cool part about painting and sketching is that it can take you hours and you can lose track of time very easily. Got something stuck on your mind? Draw it out. Post it on something. It will be a great release.

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[a messy sketch by a completely average and non-professional artist, me]

2. Poetry. Feeling emotional? Bust out some rhymes. Poetry is a wonderful and emotional way to get out your feelings without having to speak one word. Find a quiet place and start writing down not just your problems, but exactly how those problems are making you feel. Some people feel like poetry is hard, but a lot of the best pieces come from pure emotion. So if you’re feeling down or just emotional, sit somewhere beautiful and write down everything that comes to mind. Having trouble rhyming? Start with simple words and try going through every word in the alphabet to see if you can find another word that rhymes with it. Think of it like a game. Once you’ve found the words, it feels good to read your finished work. And don’t feel discouraged if it takes you a while. Some of the best poetry takes long hours, days, months and even years!

Cannot find the words to say?
Continue the search, they’ll return one day.
Certain minds can be complex,
It’s the reason I’m not like the rest.

3. Keep a journal. If poetry doesn’t work for you, buy a journal and start writing. Write how you’re feeling, what kinds of moods you’re in and how you got to where you’re at. Everyone can write. To write is to simply put your thoughts on paper. Don’t think about grammatical errors and don’t think about who’s going to read it. Just write. And keep writing. The cool part about this is going back to your old journal entries and re-reading how you felt and what you did to get over that. Because the truth is, although we feel sad today, a better tomorrow is on its way. And once you get out of this rut, it will be fascinating to follow your past, gloomy self. And you could use that the next time life throws a punch at you. I found an old journal entry during my times of grief when I lost my mom. It was interesting to read the words of myself 6 years ago, and it was mind-blowing to realize how far I had come from that point.

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4. Play some music. Don’t know any instruments? Learn. Not only is learning how to play an instrument an extremely valuable quality, it’s also very therapeutic and another thing to keep your mind busy. You don’t have to be the best singer, piano player, guitarist or etc., you just have to have the desire to learn. Playing music is something that you can improve at, it’s something you can challenge yourself with, and ultimately something you’ll be proud of, no matter what level you reach. I’m not the best with rhythm, so I picked the easiest instrument I could find, the cajon! It’s literally just a wooden box you hit with your hands to make a beat. The best part about music is that it’s so encouraging and when other people see/hear you play, they want to either learn, or join in. Have friends who know how to play? Start a weekly jam session! Thirty minutes will go a long way. Don’t know anyone who can play music, or aren’t ready to play in front of people? Well, that’s why God made YouTube, right?

We all feel blue sometimes. It’s one of the downsides to this thing called life. But a lot of times people try to convince us that the only way to get through it is to sit on a couch and pay someone to listen to us, or open ourselves up completely to all our loved ones. Although talking through things can be very helpful, sometimes there are just no words to say. So when that happens, turn to art. Oftentimes we’re convinced that just because we aren’t “known” for our art, we are not artists. But anyone can be artistic. To practice art is to practice beauty, so instead of sharing your feelings, share your creations.

Love Thy Fellow Stranger

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How often do we wish a stranger well? I’m not talking about your colleagues or your classmates. I’m talking about the person walking past you in the grocery store. The person next to you in the locker room, or maybe the person next to you right now.

While traveling through Dallas, Tx., we came across a rather chipper-looking gentleman while shopping at one of the stores who was staring in our direction. His smile stood out like a sore thumb. At first I thought, ‘does this guy recognize us from somewhere?’ And I’m sure my sister was thinking something too. As he got close to passing right by us he simply said, “have a nice day!” This stood out to me. It stood out to my sister. Did we think it was odd? I would be lying if I said no.

Have we developed into a society where it’s weird when a stranger is friendly to us? Although our community has come a long way when it comes to things like technology and human rights, can we really same the same thing about interpersonal communication? And if we are someone who enjoys being personable, whenever we do come across an extra friendly stranger, we carry them with us. But this should really be a way of life.

It’s a little strange that these days our minds are trained to think that if a person goes out of their way to wish us a good day, we either (A) think they are hitting on us, or (B) think they are just…. different. Some people might even think strange or even annoying and bothersome. The truth is they aren’t strange, they’re just rare. The only thing strange is the fact that they’ll probably be the only one that day, maybe even that week, who will do that.

So why is this? I have an old colleague who would say that she feels she can be somewhat closed-off when it comes to people she doesn’t know because of her upbringing. “My mom stopped showing me affection when I was seven, and I’m sure that has something to do with it,” she explained. Another reason could be if you’re an only child. Perhaps you’re not used to growing up around someone your age? Maybe someone can be anti-social if they grew up in a small town or had to make a transition from a small community, where they saw the same people everyday, to a large one.

I went to the same small catholic school for nine years. I was in the same class with the same kids every year. There were probably a total of no more than 200 kids. So when it came time to go to a public high school (well over 5,000 students), let’s just say it was quite an adjustment and not easy for me. I learned a lot. 

One sad reason is technology. How many people do you see looking down at their phones? I’ll be honest, sometimes when I don’t want someone to talk to me, I’ll avoid eye contact. Phones help make this happen, and I’m not proud of that. Technology is a blessing, but make no mistake, it can be a curse too, if we allow it.

We are millennials. We’re a generation known for innovation and efficiency, but we should never be known for being the generation buried in our phones. The majority of people who are extraordinarily friendly to their fellow strangers are from an older generation, at least that is what I have found. And chances are it’s because they were once in a world where all they depended on was eye contact and personal conversations.

Another reason is quite simple and probably the most common: We’re afraid.

This doesn’t mean we should be best friends with anyone who wants to have a conversation. Always keep your guard up and follow your gut instinct. Of course there’s a reason why our parents told us, “don’t talk to strangers,” but that doesn’t mean we have to stiffen up every time someone at the grocery store tells us to have a good day.  

When I went running last weekend, I must have passed over two dozen runners, and one runner in particular said “good job!” and gave me a quick fist-pump. I still think about him a lot. This isn’t to knock down all the other focused runners I passed by, this is simply a testament to the fact that when someone goes out of their way to be kind and friendly to us, we remember it.

Have you ever heard of the 15-five rule? When you see someone 15 ft. away, make eye contact with them, when you hit five ft., greet them. This is something The Marriott uses to train its employees about being personable. Perhaps we ought to give this a shot in our everyday lives.

Only 2% of our life conversations are with strangers.

Be careful, for if we pass by every stranger like an unread book on a shelf, we will never know what we may have missed. And try not to  judge a book by it’s cover, because everyone has a story.