Friday, May 31, 2013


“It's seizing the day and accepting responsibility for your future. It's seeing what other people don't see, and pursuing that vision no matter who tells you not to.” ~ Howard Schultz

There is a narrative I've lived with most of my life. It went something like this: 

"You're never going to get anywhere in your life because you screwed up." 

"You don't have a degree. You'll amount to nothing." 

"Writing and photography won't make you any money. Stop thinking about that and go into the medical field where you'll make a lot of money." 

I come from a family who believes put-downs are ways of pushing you to excel in life. Their strategy escapes me as words of encouragement are more powerful but I've learned to accept it and move on. 

My choice to work in the medical field came from necessity and desperation as I became pregnant at 19-years-old. The photojournalism career I dreamt of wasn't an option as I raised 3 kids but I found ways to channel my creativity through writing and taking pictures. I was never without a journal and my film camera was always on hand. 

In the medical field I moved up in my company and learned valuable skill sets which helped me get to where I am today. (Without a degree.) My job as a pharmacy technician in the corporate world gave me the knowledge to interact with my photography clients and meet writing deadlines. Living hand-to-mouth wasn't a result of lacking a degree but poor financial stewardship on my part. 

Perseverance is key when you feel deflated. 

In the past 20 years, between the chaos of life, I continued to build my dreaming muscles in writing and photography. They were the outlets for my creative energies fueling the vitality of my life. 

I wrote on this blog even when I thought no one cared about my written words. Waiting for affirmation before taking action meant stagnation. Fascinated with the rhythm of powerful sentences I practiced writing in different ways until my unique voice sang from my pen. Writing was and always will be synonymous with breathing. 

Consistency builds your dreaming muscles. 

Five years ago I took a leap of faith and resurrected my dream of becoming a professional photographer. I taught myself by attending workshops, reading hundreds of blogs and books, practiced consistently, joining meet-ups, taking short courses, and aligning myself with other inspiring photographers. You can find the results of my hard work here.

As for my writing I have an arsenal of journals I write in, have taken a few online writing courses, continue to write in this blog, and photography blog. Each year I re-read my collection of grammar books and never fail to learn something new.  

This month I became a monthly contributor to the social justice team for the online magazine The Good Men Project. Through providence and hard work this opportunity came in my direction through a connection I made during my volunteer work with My Refuge House. Thanks to my editor and fellow justice warrior, Cameron Conaway, he was the impetus for making my writing dream become a reality. 

My journey has been fraught with naysayers, haters, doubters, obstacles, unwise decisions, disappointment, discouragement, and disillusionment. But the reward for my persistence in making my dreams come true outweighs the negative. 

I'll remain deaf to the voices of the haters and keep pursuing the vision no one else sees. 


Saturday, May 18, 2013


Gramma & Rylee's first One Day Without Shoes with Toms Shoes
"What are we doing, Gramma?" 

Her gaze was suspicious because she's five years old now and knows better. Grandma was going to encourage her to do something her young brain sees no point of. But for me a 5-year-old child's mind is primo territory for planting seeds of global awareness.

Every year Toms Shoes holds the One Day Without Shoes event on April 16. Since Rylee recently acquired her first pair of sparkly multi-colored Toms I wanted her to understand the mission of Toms Shoes. 

I explained we would be walking barefoot to the post office brandishing the Toms flag to pique curiosity. We'd begin telling them about the hookworm parasite that "affects 740 million people worldwide." Toms shoes wants to educate people, provide medication, improve hygiene and sanitation, and provide shoes that will prevent people from suffering the long-term physical effects of hookworm. 

After reading the information off the web-site to her she shrugged but willingly followed my lead. We removed our shoes, took our photo above, and walked a few steps across the street. We didn't make it. The scorching asphalt burned the soles of our feet so fast I swear I heard sizzling. 

We did some two-step-hop-skip-and-a-jump dance back to the house with my tail tucked between my legs. Rylee stomped her seared sole with indignation. "I'm over this I just wanna play outside!" Oh, the nerve. 

My intentions went bust and I could only hope that a kernel of a seed was planted in the fertile soil of her brain until it flourishes in due time. Or maybe one day she'll look at her old sparkly Toms shoes and remember her Gramma was crazy for global issues. 

Monday, May 13, 2013


For 3 weeks my stomach has been in knots after I received a call from my friend, Danny. He's one of the senior pastors at New Heart Community Church and has been hounding me to tell my testimony. Public speaking is one of my phobias. I prefer riding Disneyland's  California Screamin' 3 times in a row to public speaking. Firmly and politely I've declined until Danny asked if I could speak on the trials and lessons of motherhood on Mother's Day. This time I knew if I chickened out I would be robbing myself of an opportunity for inner growth. What I didn't expect was the outpouring of support, fellowship, and love I received after I presented yesterday. Honestly, I was shocked. Men and women thanked me for sharing my testimony because it was "beautiful." Some said I spoke to their hearts, as if I was telling their own story, and another said it was eerie because I sounded like her mom who passed away years ago. She wanted me to know that she loved her mom so much and if I had any doubt that my kids didn't I shouldn't. I decided to post my talk on my blog to help anyone who reads it. 

Thanks to my friends and "family" at New Heart CC; for Ray who came to support me while I almost barfed up there; for Chloe and Tristan who sat, listened, and loved me through it. Maricelle, you were missed, but this talk was also for you.  

Hi, everyone! For those of you who don’t know who I am my name is Nannette. I’ve been attending New Heart off and on since 2009 and have known Pastor Danny since the 7th grade. Although, he's much older.  I have 3 kids; 2 of them are here, Chloe and Tristan, and a 5-year-old granddaughter, Rylee, who LOVES this church so much she asks me to take her every day. She can't understand why church isn't open every day.

Pastor Danny has asked me a few times to tell my testimony but I’ve refused until now. Speaking up here is absolutely terrifying so I ask you to please bear with me.

First, let me give you a little bit of my background. I grew up and was raised in the Catholic Church and my parents were strict disciplinarians who were incapable of showing affection or verbally expressing their love. My parents are old school Filipinos and they didn't know how to encourage, speak blessings, or comfort my siblings and me.

When you add that with being raised Catholic the kind of God I knew was a distant, cold, and punishing God. Since I didn't have a relationship with my father the narrative I heard in my mind was that I wasn't good enough; I was stupid; I wasn't worthy because I kept screwing up. I deserved to be punished. So, I became rebellious.

When I was 18 and my boyfriend started shoving and hitting me it never crossed my mind that I wasn’t supposed to take that. I felt I deserved it and it was as good as I was going to get because I was a screw up and wasn’t worthy. After all, that’s what my dad had told me my whole life. When I found myself pregnant by that same boyfriend I didn’t choose to keep the baby out of a moral obligation but a selfish one. I would finally have someone to love me and want me.

Even though my parents knew my boyfriend lost his temper and hit me they arranged for us to get married. You see, their reputation and image was more important than my safety. They said I brought a scandal to the family and when my mom begged me to get an abortion I refused. So, you have to get married, she said.  My boyfriend and I got married, had a total of 3 children, and our marriage lasted for 10 abusive years.

It lasted that long because I listened to my parents who said there was no divorce in our family even though they witnessed us fighting every day. When I finally did leave I was the bad guy in everyone’s eyes. My family didn't speak to me for 2 years and said my kids would grow up into prostitutes and drug dealers. But I knew deep inside that I wouldn’t let that happen.

The following 10 years I was a single mom raising 3 teenagers. I didn’t think I would survive those tumultuous years. My kids and I hated each other equally, I think. But I didn’t blame them. I was a mess; on a downward spiral of partying, drugs, and alcohol. At that time I didn’t believe in God because he was never to be found. And I believed I wasn’t worthy of him. I was lost and looking for peace in the wrong things. I dabbled in other religions, even the occult. I railed at every Christian who tried to talk to me about Jesus. I wanted nothing of him. But the last thing I wanted was the one thing I needed.

In 2003 I sat in a church in Palos Verdes with a friend who wanted to check it out. It was there that I felt something break inside me and this warmth poured down from my head down to my toes. I have never felt such pure unadulterated love. It was there when Jesus finally said “Come, follow me.” And I haven’t looked back since.

Last month I told Pastor Danny how happy I was to see that we do communion every week. In the Catholic church you had to confess your sins to a priest and he would give you a certain number of Our Fathers and Hail Marys to recite before you could take communion. Well, because I got pregnant before I was married my parents said I could never take communion again. When I first became a Christian and found out I could take communion I fell to the ground and bawled.  I couldn't believe it was freely offered to me. 

I know this is Mother’s Day but I want to say something to the fathers. You play an important role in your children’s lives. It begins with you. Even if it’s not your style to show affection and say I love you, let your daughter know she’s still loved even when she messes up or disappoints you. Because in doing so you’re building her confidence as she grows to be a mom. Spend quality time with her and let her know that she matters in your life.

And Mothers: never give up on praying for your children. Have faith, stand firm in the gap for them. Be kind to yourself. Carve out time to do something you love. Read a book, go out with girlfriends, spend time alone reading your bible and loving God. This will help you be a good mom as it will recharge and refuel you. It’s okay to admit that you’re not okay and you don't have to be perfect. You don’t need to have it all together. Allow yourselves to be vulnerable.

And remember, your kids don’t define you, your spouse doesn’t define you, your job doesn’t define you. 

Jesus does.

Thank you.