Then They Came For Me

Free and open to the public until November 19th is a very honest, powerful, yet heartbreaking exhibit at the Alphawood Gallery in Chicago. You must see it if you can. Then They Came For Me is about the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and the demise of civil liberties.

I went to go check out this exhibit finally over the weekend. I’ve gone past the building a few times and was struck by how they decorated the outside. How will you stand up to injustice?…giant posters ask as you go by. I’ve done my research in the past about Japanese internment camp incarceration so when the exhibit popped up I had to go see it. 

Then They Came For Me takes a look at a very difficult and painful part of United States history when the government forced over 100,000 American citizens and permanent residents out of their homes and put them into internment/relocation/concentration camps. because they were Japanese-Americans. This happened immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. 

The exhibit is wonderfully done with a number of life-size photos, artifacts and videos depicting the experience. They show what led up to that point in history, the experience of the people who suffered through that time and how that impacted their families for generations. 

Many “friends” and neighbors completely turned their backs on these Japanese Americans because of demeaning propaganda. They were treated like enemy spies even though there was no truth or proof or due process or charge or trial or sentence, just fear and hate driving policy that led to the infamous Executive Order 9066.

When the camps closed in years after the war, these families returned to racism, little hope and no opportunity. They were treated as outsiders, foreign enemies even though they were born in America, were Americans and called this country their home because it was their home. 

There was an interesting statement during a film in the exhibit that said there were 18 people arrested as spies in connection to the bombing but none of them were of Japanese ancestry. These citizens deserved the same human rights, civil liberties, respect and dignity of anyone else and they were denied all of it.

The exhibit also makes parallels between that experience and present day rhetoric and policy proposals driven by a culture of fear around Muslims in America, for many citizens and permanent residents who love their country and are loyal to a home that still treats them with on-going suspicion since 9/11. 

Decisions, laws, bills and executive orders seeking to make it legal to discriminate against people because of their religion or what they look like or the color of their skin or what they wear and using war and crime as the catalyst and propaganda to turn against anyone who looks like they could fall into that category. People in and outside their communities become black sheep, isolated, condemned, harrassed and the list goes on.  

Obviously we’ve seen this kind of hate and intolerance bubble up over and over again with many communities including the African-American community, the Latino-American community, other Asian-American communities and so on. Many people who are made to feel or believe that they don’t belong in a country that is theirs. 

For example, I was in a bar watching football a couple months ago and when the national anthem came on and a few players on the telly protested, a man in the bar began yelling, “Go back to your own country” and “If you don’t like it then leave” and other inappropriate comments which at the time I was thinking for a person who is trying to make a statement about disrespecting the flag and anthem, he sure was showing disrespect to both in that moment. I also thought to myself, this is their country so maybe if you don’t like it, then you can leave.  I’ve got stories like this for days and not just since the 2016 election.

It’s obviously very upsetting that these stories continue to happen. There is a saying that if we don’t know our history we are doomed to repeat it. Some days it feels as though we know our history well and still choose to repeat it, meaning that we don’t often learn from it. We don’t extrapolate the lessons that could make us not circle back to those same experiences. We can all use a dash more self-awareness, love, empathy and speaking up when injustice happens. Even you can be an agent of change.

If you can get to the Alphawood Gallery and see this exhibit before November 19, I would absolutely recommend it! 

Many of the photos and artifacts come from Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams who were photographers sent by the government to the document what was happening. There is also a daily screening of a film called “And Then They Came For Us,” created by Abby Ginsburg and Ken Schneider. The documentary is shown at the top of every hour.

Star Trek’s George Takei, a big advocate for human rights and civil liberties shares a lot in the exhibition because his family went through living in those camps, feeling betrayed and humiliated as they spent years behind barbed wire with armed guards from a watchtower.  He did a TEDTalk on it as well. 

Like I said before…honest, powerful, yet heartbreaking. 

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26.2 Miles of Commitment

So hard to believe it’s already been a week since the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon where 45,000 people from across the world raced through the streets in the city of neighborhoods. 

Part of the route runs through my own neighborhood. This year I was nestled between miles 6 and 9 to the East and West. I had a few friends in the race this year who I could track progress for along the way. I saw several others I knew and could cheer on during that beautiful fall Sunday.

Whenever I watch big marathons or parades or large scale celebrations with participants from all walks of life, I get so emotional. There’s something about the power of community that gets me in my feelings. I shed a few tears of joy as my boyfriend and I stood and clapped for both strangers and friends.

I was watching people in the midst of accomplishing something major…26.2 miles worth of sweat, grit, self-talk, joy, pain, victory. A metaphor for life like no other. Alongside other spectators, I spent much of my time cheering along and encouraging people I didn’t even know. 

There were people of all ages, fitness levels, races, religions, genders, etc but we were all there to rally around the same cause. We all wanted to see people accomplish some variation of the same goal — to finish and to do so safely. 

It was a beautiful day and so many accomplished goals. My favorite part was feeling part of one positive community and I hope for more of that in my town and yours. 

Don’t grow up, it’s a trap :)

I was raised in the 80s and 90s. Every year that I get older, I love fond memories of being a kid. 

You know when you’re a kid, you’re in such a rush to grow up. I used to think adults had it so easy. They could buy what they wanted and they didn’t have rules to follow. When I got older, I realized it wasn’t always as glamorous as I made it seem in my little brain as a child. 

1. Bills to pay

2. Still lots of rules…lol

I am fortunate to enjoy my adult life most times but I think part of it is me maintaining the sense of joy and wonder kids often have. 

I am the adult who every now and then just craves an Oscar Meyer Lunchable or Fruit Roll-up so I buy it. I love playing games and watching classic Disney movies. My boyfriend and I spend lots of time at a local arcade playing Street Fighter, Super Mario, and NBA Jams. I’m a big kid sometimes.  On the wall of that arcade in giant neon letters are the words, “Don’t grow up. It’s a trap.” 

Just the other day, my co-workers and I were going on and on about jumping double-dutch rope as kids and singing all the rhymes we used to recite. It immediately takes you back. 

Sometimes it is nice to remind yourself life can still be simple and fun if you choose to live it that way. Life doesn’t always have to be bitter and boring and complex as you drudge through just trying to survive. It can feel like adulthood is supposed to be dull and always serious but it does not have to be. Do not let growing up trap you in unhappiness.

On my Pinterest boards is full of good memories and favorite 80s/90s throwbacks. You should definitely check it out and reminisce on the good ‘ol days with me. I think you’ll like this board… http://pin.it/ak8XaVc

Actually just this weekend my boyfriend and I bought super soakers so we can head to the park one afternoon soon and blast each other with water for kicks. It will be a welcome relief from the extreme heat hitting the Midwest. 

At the end of this year I will exit the decade of my 20s. I had been wracking my brain about how to celebrate. Almost everyone I know jumps into that milestone with a grown and sexy theme. I thought about doing the same for a while…Fly to Miami for a wet and wild weekend vacation on the beach. Then I decided I would really rather have the kind of fun I did as a kid.

I am certainly not afraid of getting older. I do not mind “adulting” at all. I am often the mature and responsible one. Consider me a super adult some days and because of that…

…I just think little reminders that getting older does not mean you have to BE old are so important. That statement is true no matter what age you are. I choose to have tons of fun in life.

So for my birthday, I decided I want to run around a theme park and just laugh, be carefree and ring in my birthday in a totally unexpectedly perfect way. Right now my solution is a trip to Florida that includes some time at the ultimate theme park, Universal Studios.

I am in the process of planning so if you have any tips or suggestions, please send me a note. 

What favorite thing did you have or do as a kid that you wish was still a regular part of your life today (bonus points: or actually is)?

Throwback of Me and Mom

Celebrating the View

Yesterday I was bundled in 2 layers, winter coat and snow boots just in case. Chicago can be unpredictably brutal this time of year.

Today I have the extreme pleasure of penning this post from the Caribbean island of Trinidad.

This post won’t be that long because I am eagerly awaiting my ride to Maracas Beach on the other side of the grand mountain here.

This experience even from last night to today has been fun. We have no true plan or itinerary. Our goal is to go with the flow and we are. Sometimes life is like that and those can be the most memorable moments.

The country is beautiful like they said it would be. I am feeling quite nostalgic because so many things are reminding me of when I lived in Nicaragua.

The weather, the houses, the scenery, the hospitality among many other things.

I love traveling and telling people about new places they can make their own adventure to. If you have never been, consider booking your trip in the future.

It is so important to take some time to enjoy the view everywhere you are. I hope on this Sunday you take a breath, say a prayer of thanks and enjoy the view.

See you next Sunday when I take a deeper dive into all I will learn from this stunning place. For example, did you know it is illegal to curse in public in Trinidad? As in, people can actually get arrested. Stay tuned for the ins and outs of Trinidad including the greatest show on earth…Carnival.

Peace & Blessings

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The Aloha Life: Giving Thanks in Hawaii

I wrote this to you from aboard a Hawaiian Airlines flight headed home Sunday evening from The Big Island,  Hawai’i,  where I spent the last week enjoying the holidays with my family.

Vacation always has such a nice ring to it. It is set on a pedestal as an escape from reality and our regular day-to-day lives. Having been to Hawaiian islands before however has confirmed to me, I can live in Aloha more often than just while on hoilday.

A few years ago I was invited on a trip to Hawaii with a girl friend and her family and even though I was stretched to afford it, I felt as though I couldn’t say no. What if that was my only lifetime chance of seeing the most exotic paradise in our country?

It was paradise indeed. I visited Oahu for a few days and stayed in Honolulu. Walked the loud and busy streets of Waikiki Beach, full of sun-tanned tourists. I saw the sites of Diamond Head and Pearl Harbor. After a few days, we hopped on a jet to Kauai and THAT was even more so  the Hawaii I dreamed of. The Hawaii you see on calendars and in peaceful movie scenes is what Kauai is made of. It was breathtaking, gorgeous, stunning.

Fast forward to this year when my own family decided we would spend our Thanksgiving holiday on The Big Island together. I was beyond ecstatic. How many people get a trip of a lifetime…twice!?!

The Big Island was much different than the others I have seen. Much of the land is covered in volcanic rock.  Far fewer lush green fields that go on for miles. Yet it was still beautiful at every twist or turn. During the day the sun glistened off the ocean, illuminating the white, black, green and red sand beaches around the island. At night the full moon felt close enough to grab right out of the sky. On the nights with no moon, the stars shone bright like diamonds.

I enjoyed the sea and the shore. The trip I shared with seven of my loved ones was my most favorite vacation yet. We did lots of activities together but I aso took time each day to sit alone, reflect, enjoy, introvert and so on. It was so peaceful and fulfilling.

Whenever my mind would start doing too much, thinking too hard or remove me from vacation I would snap back to the present. “You have this moment only. Exist here right now,” I might say to myself. It worked.

I took and posted lots of photos but never did I stop fully living in my mental and physical vacation there.

Even now as I sit on this long journey home to icy Chicago streets probably filled with snow, I am reminding myself to keep in the Aloha.

Aloha is a greeting and salutation but also a state of mind and a state of being.

Living Aloha to me means two things:

1. Life Isn’t Perfect
2. But It Can Still Be Damn Good

There were plenty things that did not happen exactly how I wanted on this trip. Life goes that way sometimes — on vacation, at home, at work, in public. Sometimes it is good and healthy to let the controls go so you can ride with the tide. Or sometimes you get the chance in those moments to stand at a crossroads and decide, whether what everyone else chooses is best for you right now. If that is not what you want or need, will you be bold enough to go another way? 

That was the damn good part. I made decisions like am I going to roadtrip with the group or chill and catch up on some reading by the pool? Do I want to climb a mile down this scary looking mountain or miss the experience because of fear? I did climb the mountain by the way. It was exhausting and scary at points but turned into my highlight of the trip.

What kinds of questions, mountains, decisions, challenges are you trying to answer, conquer, resolve and overcome in your life?

I am thrilled to say that I am on my way to becoming a regular Hawaiian island visitor.

I will do as many trips as it takes to remind and instill the Aloha in me, whatever place I travel.

May you find your Aloha.

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Kona Coffee Shop
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Oceanside at Hilton Waikoloa Village
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Polulu Valley for sunrise & mountain climbing
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Legends of the Island Luau
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Kilauea Volcano at Volcano National Park