My Latest Article for Curve Magazine #2

A Girl Named Lucy

 

I met a girl named Lucy a few weeks ago. She is the middle child of a conservative family. Lucy is a 14 year-old Hispanic girl who identifies as bisexual. Lucy is also what some would refer to as a “cutter.” Being a middle child can be difficult enough. Being a bisexual one makes things all the more difficult. To be a young teenage bisexual middle child in a conservative family is more than Lucy can bear sometimes. And so, to deal with the pressures that come from all of the cards that Lucy feels are stacked so firmly against her, she cuts.

 

It started by accident really. Sitting in her room one afternoon, reeling in the words of her parents’ last tirade about how her Facebook profession of love to another female was bringing shame to the family, she scratched herself in a fit of anger and frustration. The scratch did something for her. Lucy said that it was as if a release valve was opened and all of the emotions that were overwhelming her from the inside escaped and set her free. Free from the pile of disdain and loathing that her family had just dumped on her. Lucy figured out rather quickly that she could not only make herself feel better by cutting, but she also found that self-mutilation was one thing she could control in her life. Her sexuality was not something that she could change nor could she change how her parents chose to deal with her. For Lucy, ‘cutting’ became that: a sense of control.

 

The freedom that Lucy felt she had gained from ‘cutting’ quickly became something else. Lucy was cutting so regularly as way to deal with life’s difficulties that it just became another thing that slowly took control of her rather than the other way around. What started out as small incidents of self-harm in secret corners of her bedroom quickly turned into a near obsession. By the time I met Lucy she had been hospitalized at least three different times and her cutting had become such a frequent thing that you could barely see a patch of skin on her arms that did not have scars or freshly healing wounds.

 

The first time Lucy opened up about her ‘cutting’ she talked about the loneliness of being different and the helplessness of not being loved by the ones who are supposed to love her, “no matter what.” There was such power in words adorned with so much pain. My job was to “fix” Lucy. Get her to learn better coping skills for dealing with difficult emotions. I did that. I taught her strategies to manage anxiety, cope with sadness, and deal with pain and disappointment. But every time that I left Lucy, I couldn’t help but wonder: was she really the one that needed fixing? Sure, she was using dangerous coping mechanisms to deal with issues that affected her. Certainly she needed help finding other ways to cope. But, all of the strategies in the world can’t help her family change the way they feel about her sexuality. No coping skill I teach her can ever make the pain of being put down by her own family at all bearable. How can any coping skill make her feel loved and accepted by those she loves the most.

 

Cutting is an epidemic that is much more wide spread than any average person could ever imagine. Kids today are doing it much more habitually than ever before and the cutting gets deeper and more widespread. Today it seems more like a team sport as kids are enlisting one another to join in the behavior. The sad part is that the fix is usually much simpler than their worried families may dare to believe.

 

Being a teenager is a difficult part of life. What makes it more difficult is that teens are not yet developed enough biologically to be able to solve life’s difficulties in very productive ways. They need “Us,” the adults in their lives to help them along. Why do we instead provide them with additional baggage to carry in the already heavy backpack of life. Love, accept, validate, embrace, support, acknowledge. These are but the things that they seek. These are the things that they require in order to survive life. It is what they deserve, simply because they are. Loving a child with all that makes him or her different is not a choice. It is a requirement!

 

“To all the Lucy’s in the world; we hear you!”

 

 

Short Bio

 

Liz Diaz is a wife and mother of two teenage kids. She is originally from Ponce, Puerto Rico (Ponce es Ponce…) She is a counselor and coach in the Metro Atlanta area working in the areas of substance abuse, parenting, anger management, self-harm, and LGBTQ issues. Liz works with children, teens, and adults but her specialty is working with teens who consider themselves misunderstood. She serves her community as an advocate, teacher, and mentor. Liz has spent over 14 years working with children and families in the community. She dedicates her life to helping others find their voice when they need it most. Liz hopes that her writing will inspire some and help others. Find her at liztruly@wordpress.com

Check out the actual published article here: http://www.curvemag.com/Culture/A-Girl-Named-Lucy/

 

My First Article for Curve Magazine

Latina girls are trained up not raised. From the moment we can stand on a step stool we are taught to cook and clean. By the time we reach adolescence we have become like a second mother to our younger siblings and once we reach young adulthood, we can run an entire household with one arm tied behind our back to the rhythm of any good salsa beat. Our Hispanic culture has deep traditional roots. Even the most contemporary families still cling on to those core values. One of those most deeply held is the idea of what a ‘woman’s’ job is versus that of their male counterparts. And so, from a young age girls are taught all there is to know about the art of being “a woman.” We are “trained” to do and be the best at every one of those so described ‘female’ jobs.

 

In our culture family is very important. It is quite common to see three, four, and sometimes even five generations of women working together in the same kitchen. When you have so many staunch examples of years of traditions, one is presented with few opportunities to consider that there may be other options to what we have been taught. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t those who manage to challenge the system and vacillate with ideas of those other possibilities. Plenty of us have daydreamed and talked about the things we would accomplish in our future that didn’t necessarily include fulfilling the roles we were taught to conform to. But in the end, there is great comfort in what you know and so for the most part, things just kind of remain status quo for a great many of us. We go on auto pilot blending in to the family roles and expectations without so much as skipping a beat.

As a Hispanic lesbian who came out much later in life, I struggled with understanding why it took me so long to figure myself out. I couldn’t grasp how I could have gone through so much of my life without really knowing who I really was. Eventually I came to realize that I was so caught up in perfecting my role as it was defined for me by generations of tradition that it simply didn’t dawn on me that I could be anything different. I simply took on the static definition I was given from the moment the doctor announced, “It’s a girl!”

 

Today, my traditional Hispanic values continue to run just as deep. I can still cook a mean pot of carne asada while leaving the kitchen looking like it had never been used. Like many of my Latina sisters, I do find some comfort in the traditions and in the role that I was taught to fulfill. The difference however, is that today it is not about female versus male roles but about taking care of my family as I was taught to do. Discovering your own identity in the midst of deeply held cultural traditions can be quite a challenge, but finding the right spot between the two is bliss.

Going Places!

I just published my first article EVER! I am so excited to see that slowly but surely my life is shaping up to be exactly what I dreamed for myself. I hope that others find that they relate to my stories or at least enjoy reading what I have to say.

Follow the link to read my article on being Latina and Lesbian. Curve Magazine Online Edition on Culture: Skin Deep March Issue.

http://www.curvemag.com/Curve-Magazine/Web-Articles-2014/Latina-and-Lesbian-Living-tradition-in-new/

The Fairytale of LIFE

I heard a song the other day that took me back to my day-dream days. Back when I was a young girl often lost in thought thinking of what life would be like when I finally got to grow up. Will I be married? Who will I love? Is it possible to love one person forever? Will I have kids? What will they look like? Will I like the people that they are? Is real happiness how it is in storybooks? Is that real? That song I heard on the radio took me back to all of those questions and many more that often stumbled around in my pondering head. And in that instant, I remembered everything about that young girl. I remembered how it felt when I imagined what love was and what I anticipated life would be like. Almost as quickly as I remembered her I realized; I am one of the lucky few who get to live life just as I imagined it to be.

I think life itself is more like a fairy tale that we care to take notice of. It has it’s drama, it’s heroes, and it even has the occasional villain. The question is, do we take the time to LIVE it, NOTICE it, APPRECIATE it.

I’ve had the distinct pleasure of living what I call two lifetimes. I lived one life for the first half of my existence and underwent a rebirth that will take me to the end of my days. I can’t say that I regret either one. My first life allowed me to create two amazing individuals that already add to this world of ours in their own right, but this second life…this second life is my fairytale come to life. Everything I dreamed of as a young girl complete with all the feelings I felt then in anticipation. Life is so much richer when you can truly appreciate the simple things in the blessings that surround us each and every day rather than focus on what we lack. I choose not to focus on the fact that I am not rich or that I don’t have the perfect shape. I choose not to notice the many less than favorable aspects of my life or who I am. Instead, I like to focus on the fact that watching my kids play their instruments in school functions fills my heart. I choose to focus on the fact that my daughter’s kindness and philanthropic spirit are awe-inspiring. Or that my son’s level of intellectual ability leaves me thinking, “ I created him?” I also choose to focus on the fact that my life partner is the perfect balance to my often out of sorts approach to life. That after three years together, she can still make my knees weak and butterflies dance in my stomach just from entering the room. I choose to focus on the fact that I have had the presence of mind to know that I have been blessed and to live in that reality long enough to not take those things for granted. I focus on nurturing what I have in order to protect my “Happily Ever After.”

And so, as the song on the radio ends, so does the momentary flashback. And in its wake, it leaves behind a trickled smile that lasts for days; for I have arrived!

A Special Place

A Special Place

Atlanta is home to one of the most diverse communities in this great country of ours. Typically, you move to this city (finding a native Atlantan these days is like finding buried treasure) and you will find that it’s people are welcoming and just all around affirming. Here in Atlanta anyone can feel free to be who they are and we will love them for it. That is until, you step into a little niche found within the neighborhood of Druid Hills. A place now known to some and as the ‘stepford’ wanna be ‘twilight zone’ of the “A.”

Druid Hills is a sweet looking little place nestled in the city of Decatur. It sits quietly, just outside the hustle and bustle of tall skyscrapers and harried commuters. It is a safe haven just outside this great metropolis that is Atlanta. Driving through you’ll see the typical signs of suburban life; mom’s strolling about pushing baby carriages, folks jogging along trails of horticultural masterpieces, dog’s playing with their human families on the well manicured lawns. It is regular Norman Rockwell kind of stuff. Druid Hills has so much to offer but, there is a little gem, within that indisputably lovely little place that makes Druid Hills just that much more special.  It is known as The Frazer Center.

Every town in every city has a number of academies and schools.  Druid Hills is no different. What is different is that in this affluent area of private schools and prep academies also lies one of the greatest learning environments this city has to offer. The Frazer Center is an inclusive learning environment that offers vocational training to adults with special needs and a rich education for preschool children at all levels of ability or disability. The center was founded in 1949 by a couple who had been disheartened to find that very little was available in terms of early education for their own child who had Cerebral Palsy. Though the Frazer Center started in the basement of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, in 1952 the center was relocated to where it stands today.  Through the years the center has grown and expanded in so many ways. The center began to offer services to adults with disabilities in the 80’s and in the 90’s a beautiful garden was added. The center has continued to evolve and serve the community in immeasurable ways. Much like the center has changed, so has the neighborhood surrounding it. Beautiful homes were erected throughout the perimeter of the Frazer Center’s lush grounds and the small enclave known as Druid Hills grew to the picturesque small utopia that we see today.

Utopia would be the perfect word to describe this a area of Druid Hills if we could base the truth on mere appearances. The reality however is a sad one. See, all of those beautiful homes that popped up all around the center serve as dwelling to a group of citizens who are not at all impressed with the Frazer Center, what it has meant to a great number of families or what it continues to do for those who really depend on it’s existence. I must clarify, I do not imply that every homeowner of Lake Claire shares this sentiment but the handful that does have made quite an impact. For some time now residents of Lake Claire have all but declared war on the Frazer Center. It seems that those pesky special transportation buses have posed a danger to the neighborhood of magnanimous proportions. To hear the feedback from the “select few” neighbors one would think those busses are more like torpedoes barreling down their perfect roads just aiming for unsuspecting victims to demolish in it’s path. The “select few” have brought up a number of concerns and have caused such a ruckus in getting those concerns heard that this non-profit special needs center has been forced to spend an obscene amount of money to defend its right to be there. To say that this is a sad situation is an understatement of monumental proportions.

There is enough by way of research on the subject to find that at the onset of the issues the neighbors may very well have had some legitimate concerns, however since the disputes have gained steam, the arguments have become less compelling and the neighbors of Lake Claire firmly secured a place in the Ogres Hall of Fame! Time is their weapon and bullying is their ammo. They sit at the back gate of the center watching each and every car that goes in and out of the center. They log every little detail and write letters of complaint to all who’ll listen about it. There actually is a woman who apparently has enough time on her hands to whip out her RADAR GUN and literally clock the speed of cars as they drive by. At this point, honestly, will anyone care about the concerns and see any validity in what these neighbors have to say? From where I stand, these “select few” now look less like concerned citizens and more like suburban bullies. They make demands almost on a daily basis and as much as those demands are addressed by the center, it is never enough. The center has had to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars (did I mention this is a non-profit program) no only to pay attorneys to defend them and their right to be there but they have also made numerous modifications in order to address the neighbor’s concerns good faith. Anything and everything that the Frazer Center can do to alleviate the situation has been done. The only thing left would be to close its doors. Personally, I think that is the outcome that the “select few” are aiming for and I don’t believe they will rest until they get it. My question is, why? Why have they sunk their teeth into this center which has been there much longer than most of them have? What is the outcome that will finally allow this center to get back to what it was created to do: serve special families in the community? When will the center be able to use their resources to purchase much needed special needs equipment instead of wasting it away in defense of their right to be there?

I believe that the Frazer Center is a very special place; a place of selfless devotion to the care of the flourishing futures of special children and adults. I also believe in another special place.  I believe in a special place for people who pick on the weak; a special place for those who have a selfish disregard for others. A special place for those who lack the diplomacy to express themselves or meet their own needs without decimating the needs of others.

Some Resources:

VirginiaHighland-DruidHillsPatch Residents, parents, discuss frazer center traffic issues http://vahi.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/residents-parents-discuss-frasier-center-traffic-issues

http://www.lakeclaire.org/wpsite/2013/05/a-request-from-the-frazer-center/

http://www.eavbuzz.net/forum/off-leash/need-help-legislation-to-block-frazer-center-bus-service/

It’s An Honor to be Cheezy

I walked into my neighborhood Starbucks today for my regular dose of caffeinated goodness and as I stood in line I noticed just a few folks behind me stood a sharp looking soldier. A young PFC to be exact. Now, I have not always agreed with the battles that our nation’s leaders have seen fit to stick our noses in. Nor have I always understood the mentality behind why those in power felt our troops needed to go where they have been sent, but one thing I have never wavered on is the immense level of respect that I have for our men and women in uniform. The sacrifices made not just by our soldiers but also their families must NEVER go  un-recognized. To me, the wars we have fought and continue to fight are less about the leaders who made the decisions to put us there and more about the human beings that in those front lines. I could care less about the politics behind the choices our leaders make, I care more about the individuals affected by those choices. I like to believe that my one little vote does make a difference and so, I go to the polls when the time comes. B,ut the reality is that politics is often about who has more clout with more people, who is on good terms with the right folks, who is holding a grudge, what party controls what, etc. This crap goes on and on while the lives of selfless human beings gets tossed around over and over as each political decision is made.

So today, as I stand in line at Starbucks, if I can do the tiniest little thing to let this PFC know that WE THE PEOPLE appreciate him for our freedom to stand in this damn line and over pay for a cup of good coffee, I will do it!  In my presence, no soldier will ever go unappreciated. If I see you walk by, I will take a second to thank you. If you are ordering food, I will pay for your meal. If I see you at the Starbucks, you better believe that coffee is on me! Anything that I can do to offer the hardiest of “Thank you!”

Great is the day when more than one of us fumbles around to be the one to pay for the soldier as just so happened today. My friend the PFC got the message when a couple of us simultaneously handed our cards to the young man at the register. As we all smiled at the bewildered soldier, the Starbucks manager seemed one step ahead of all of us. She handed the soldier his coffee and wished him a great day. The coffee was on them today 🙂

It is a great day when you can see the good in our humanity and today was a great day indeed.

Up In Smoke!

I have to ask, what is the damn allure of this effin’ WEED?! I know intelligent, capable, grown ass individuals still messing with that shit like they’re still that awkward kid in high school trying to just get by another day in social hell. What is the deal? I have seen careers lost over this crap! Otherwise healthy people slowly become more and more chemical while becoming less and less a healthy human from putting this shit into their bodies. So, explain if you will because I do not understand. What is the big draw? What need are you all filling with this shit? Why can’t you get what you need out of living life to the fullest?! Why must you experience all things good through the foggy prism of a weed smokin’ stupor?

I hear the arguments about legalization, about it being a natural substance, yada yada. First of all, legal or not, do you really think its ok to put shit into your system that clearly was not natural enough to be a part of you already? Second of all, yeah, it’s natural, but so is shit and you don’t see anyone taking a hit of that here and there or calling for the legalization of IT’S consumption. Get a grip! The arguments I’ve heard so far are stupid and the reason why people do it, just plain sad.  Is there anyone who could offer just ONE, ONE simple valid m’effin reason why this is supposed to be so damn good you can’t put it down. One reason why you can’t have yourself a good time without lighting up. ONE! Other than “It makes you feel good or just makes you feel chill” for a little while.  C’mon folks, use whatever intelligence you have yet smoked out of that blunt and give me a viable, valid reason for why so many of you bow down to the lords and gods that peddle you this shit. Why are you making others rich at the expense of your own diminishing intelligence? What is your well being worth to you really? Rather the real question is, IS your intelligence and well being worth anything to you at all? Cause where I stand, maybe not so much :-/

It makes me sad when most of the smokers I talk to claim they are at their best when they are high. “I paint better than ever when I’m high.” “I can sing up a storm when I’m high.” Please, make no mistake; when you attribute your talents to a foreign substance, something outside of yourself, what you are saying is that in all actuality you have no real talent at all. Your talent is more like smoky courage that puffs into your otherwise talentless state of existence. Want to prove otherwise, do your thing in all your sobriety. Show what you got when clear headed and 100% naturally YOU!

One thing is to be sad for you but it’s another thing all together to be pissed off AT you. Why pissed off? Because, you egotistical tar for brains, the rest of us don’t want to smell your shit! I too would like to enjoy the occasional concert out in a public venue without you imposing your pitiful personal problem on me! Got a habit, handle your business where I don’t have to participate against my will.

Essentially, the point is that I have yet to encounter the individual who can intellectually articulate the merits of this drug and how it’s constant and prolonged use, however “recreational” can possibly enhance anyone’s existence. So I challenge you, worshippers of the weed. What say you?