Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Birthday Tribute.

Once upon a time in a deep dark sea, where unknown creatures roamed and played, lived a beautiful, Magical Mermaid with long flowing brunette hair and piercing brown eyes. Her thin, tanned body and face embellished with Puerto Rican features was hard to miss. She saw beauty all around her. Her friends were attracted to her because of her crazy personality and ability to be different despite the strict mermaid ways, but many of them were not as determined to change the way things were. She spent her days collecting pearls, seaweed and different nick nacks that she could wear to create a new style each day. The other mermaids would see her in a new style and not understand her desires to find beauty in all things. To her disappointment she was misunderstood by most of the mermaid community. As she attempted to live her life the way she knew she dreamed of in her heart others would become angry and tell her she was doing it wrong. If she woke up too late, she was scolded. If she looked different than the other mermaids, she was scolded. If she requested Strawberry Shortcake instead of just ordinary Vanilla, she was scolded. This decision, of course, did not mean she liked Strawberry Shortcake over vanilla, it always had a special place in her heart, but her heart longed for something more than the same everyday routine. She needed changed. She needed someone, anyone that would allow her to have the desires of her heart and not scold her for having these strange desires.

Reviving joy and hope for her soul a song would appear in her mind. These words and tunes came to her by some magical force. As she would respond by singing them others would be entranced, but not understand the power that this combination of poetic words and deep sounds held. Songs created an escape that allowed her to know of something more that others were not aware of. Her hidden desire that she shared with few was to swim all around the ocean, even to parts she had never seen and collect small fish. Not just one kind of fish, but all sorts of different colors and types. She wanted there to be so many eclectic fish that she could lose track of the number. Then after collecting many fish to help her she longed to teach them these magical songs, add some nice harmonies and continue traveling sharing these life-giving sounds as they went. She wanted the whole ocean to get to have what she got the opportunity to encounter in her own mind on a daily basis-- hope.

Sitting in the same routine would not make these dreams a reality.

The time had come. Coping with ordinary had gotten to her and she knew change was in her future. As she awake one day, after having a prophetic dream of such awaited life changing seas, she knew, she was meant for something more than ordinary.

Alone she swam to an unknown seas leaving behind those she loved, but knowing what would lie ahead would speak to her soul.

She swam, and swam and swam and swam. After she swam quite a lot she recognized a light ahead. The recognition that she felt almost made her feel that she had been to this light before. She was from the deep dark sea, but she knew she had seen many glimpses of this familiar light all throughout her life. Then it hit her the feeling she gets when she is given a magical song is the same feeling she was getting as she swam closer and closer to this light. Something inside her soul almost felt as if it was burning as she flipped her fin as fast as she possibly could to get closer to that light.

As she swam into the lights force field she was told that she had entered the deep, light sea. A place that many had hoped existed, but few actually took the time to find. Upon entering it she realized the light was surrounding her on every side. Within the light she met many characters that would also influence her life. She met clown fish, crabs, starfish, sea turtles, most importantly she met a very friendly, manic Octopus that would stick with her a good portion of her time in this specific light area.
This Octopus longed for adventure and The Magical Mermaid would experience many new sights with this dear friend. They didn't even know the future events awaiting their friendship when they met over a meal of sushi with many others that would change her life.

As she enjoyed her time in the deep, light sea she would realize each day that the more time in the light the more it creeped into her pushing everything that was dark out. She played with friends, sang songs and soon she realized these fish friends loved her songs. These fish friends loved her obscure need to have a different style every couple days. These friends had much light in them too and they loved the light that was coming out of her.

Time proceeded quickly as they all grew to understand and love the light more. Many who were here at this time were not only loving the light more, but also receiving super powers from the light that was making its home inside of them. The Magical Mermaid not only had this amazing gift to write and sing songs, but she discovered that she had many other gifts as well. She also had the ability to convert time into whatever she believed it should be. She would take thirty minutes and cram it into five minutes of normal time. She could pause time. She could stretch it or shorten it depending on what she needed. Others would watch her and not understand how time was always working out for her because they did not understand the gift that she could trust time to always be on her side.

One night as she was remembering her beloved mermaid friends at home, while she laid near a fountain in the center of deep, light sea she longed to connect with this light that she could now see everywhere and even feel within herself. The sea clouds then suddenly parted and a giant, white whale swam toward her side. Gasping in astonishment, because she knew there had always been a whale shaped hole in her heart, she jumped up and hugged the whale. As she hugged him she realized she knew him and had known him for a long time. The whale then explained that He is with her and he is the son of this giant light that is teaching all of us. If he is swimming visibly next to her or just felt in her heart he is with her. He explains that life is big and love is big so loving life in whale size will change the Ocean.

Her desire to change the Ocean became relentless after her encounter with this whale of large loving proportions.

The time came to make her dreams happen.

After spending much time in the deep, light sea she knew she was ready to leave and do something in this big ocean. After parting with all her amazing new fish friends, especially the octopus who had cut its legs to learn more about life and what the light had for her, she set out. As she left the deep, light sea she was nervous she wouldn't see the light as brightly within herself.

As she swam slowly out she was amazed to see that the whale sized whole in her heart was full and overflowing and the light was getting brighter from within her as she swam. Not only was the light within her getting brighter as she passed other fish and smiled or said "Hello," they would catch some light and start to glow themselves.

She returned to her beloved family in the deep dark ocean, within days she saw light sparking up in them. Even at times she saw the giant whale paying each of them a visit.

She knew her dreams were real and that what she had always longed for would change the sea. She began to search for those fish that she would swim around the ocean singing and sparking light everywhere they went. This Magical Mermaid contains a light that will make the whole Ocean shine.

This Mermaid's name is Victoria Ruperto and the World can't handle the light she will bring.

Happy birthday Tory LOVE YOU!

Friday, July 19, 2013


I once believed that I knew how to enjoy life.

Then I worked at Leader Creek Fisheries in Naknek, Alaska for twenty-six days.

I don’t think one can really know how to enjoy life until they learn how to enjoy it in hell.

All right, hell may be a bit dramatic, but the reality is moments I experienced in Alaska were some of the toughest I will probably ever face. To fight with one’s self in thought is enough to drive one to complete insanity.  To be at your weakest point and find a good enough reason to be convinced to keep going is a stage few stand on and fewer choose to stand on.

As I entered Alaska for the first time with two of my best friends Zach Mcmahon and Sarah Klapp, we had no idea the experience awaiting us. All coming in as very positive people we were under extreme curiosity to watch one another break.

As we hoped for the best we couldn’t escape the breaking.

I managed to stay positive for a decent amount of time. As I was thankful each step of the way, Sarah and I got the same shift, working 8pm to noon every day. Zach, Sarah and I all worked in the same department, VacPac, which was the warmest, had the best supervisors and involved the most social interaction. Our basic task for sixteen hours a day was to move fillets from a conveyer belt to a machine that would vacuum pack the salmon and send them on their way.

Due to being the second flight to arrive we even had a day before working to make friends, explore “the town” and have a bonfire.  The town in all its brilliance consisted of three bars, two churches, one over priced grocery store, several signs for a non-existent museum, and D&Ds, the life saving restaurant. Other than the roaming town dogs and the stationary car with horns there wasn’t much to speak of. I also caught on that it was a common theme to run out of things in Alaska, this sort of thing would never fly in California, but in Alaska one becomes used to not having necessities until they are flown in again. I connected with this factor.

We began work quickly realizing fast that the salmon alone determined our fate. If the salmon were swimming we had jobs, if the salmon decided to take a different route then we were out of luck and money. The prospects of a good season seemed well on their way as we began working sixteen-hour shifts within days. We worked a little over two weeks of sixteen-hour shifts straight. Yes, that is as insane as it sounds. There was “mornings” that Sarah and I didn’t think we were going to make it out of bed. Then I would give us a pep talk roll out of bed and wobble, hunched over on my swollen, numb feet to turn on the light, desiring motivation. Routine became our existence. Wearing the same clothes everyday, layers to stay warm and the same brown flannel outer layer to keep all my other clothes from reeking of salmon just as badly.  If we went off routine we lost hours of needed sleep. Even the desperate need for showers become less of a priority in comparison to food and sleep. We quickly adapted to shoveling food into our mouths that thirty minute lunch breaks began to feel like an eternity. The basketball game metaphor became a common means of communication. While having four four-hour shifts with breaks in between we would motivate one another by shouting what quarter we were on. It always helped. The idea of being in the game together brought us together. Friendship is what kept us all alive.

What surprised me most were the people I got to spend the last twenty-six days with. Going into Alaska all I had heard was, “There are going to be a lot of foreigners and convicts,” so when everyone in sight was an average looking college student my amusement peaked. The whole thing just turned into some obscure social experiment. In the area that I worked there were twenty-two college students from all over. Varying in many different ways, but all similar because they had the common desire to make some money through experiencing a fishery in Alaska. Or as Alivia Norwood put it, “This is an experience to pay for more experiences.” Observing all interactions as a social experiment definitely kept me positive most days. To observe the happy Mormon girl talk to the stylish gay kid about their respective lives I realized this place was actually a very safe place to learn about people that are drastically different from you. It also sometimes felt like a series of first dates. It was a rare occasion to be on common ground with so many different human beings. We were all the same, we were all at our ugly, worst, and most sleep deprived state, but we had to keep talking to one another or we would go insane. It showed people they can be liked for who they are. They couldn’t cling to what they look like or the activities that they usually hid behind. All we had for sixteen hours a day was salmon and thoughts to discuss. It was a beautiful thing to see college students conversing without a beer in hand and beginning to really care about one another purely from personality and story. When we finally all had time off together we were shocked to see one another without hairnets. It was so strange to see people in their normal because our normal had become hairnets, blue raingear suits, yellow sleeves and safety goggles.

I know every thing so far seems pretty peachy keen, but I am warning you there were moments I was ready to throw in the towel. There was one specific moment, when I hit the point of what I thought was no return. It happened after spending eight hours on the Soul Sucking Machine.  Can’t you hear the horror flick music now?  On occasion there would not be enough work in VacPac and they would send our whole crew down to fish house or as we like to refer to it, The Underworld. After hearing the horrid words projected from Justin, the fish house supervisor that in my opinion has a tendency to take his job way too seriously, “VACPAC PUT ON FULL RAIN GEAR AND REPORT TO FISH HOUSE.” Just the memory makes me shutter. Every time I got placed on The Soul Sucker, naturally I named it that after I saw the third person lose it to tears. All you do for hours upon hours is use a small vacuum device and suck out the left over guts and blood from inside the salmon as they pass by on a conveyer belt of sorts. It is too loud to hear anyone so as you do this cruel inside sucking job you are left alone in your head. You then must proceed to proactively find positive things to think about that distract you from the terrible deed you are performing and the cold that is creeping its way into the very core of your being.

One day, I could handle it no longer. I knew I was going to lose it. They switched me out for the lunch break after eight hours of soul sucking and I swiftly ran to the cafeteria in desperate need of the comfort of a friend, but to my dismay as I entered there were no spots left at the table I usually sat at. I held myself together as I took a spot close by near some guys I had met, but didn’t know too well. One name Riley, who attends western, the one I kept expecting to be a bro, but he is actually one of the funniest humans I have encountered. There was Matt, who I knew mostly because his roommate spent most of his time in our room for Mango Time, which is the time right before sleep when we eat dried mangos and talk about how insane this whole place is. Then there was Lars a big wrestler guy from Utah, who looked thirty-seven, but was actually only twenty, he struggled often due to having too big of calves for the Xtratuffs many looked at him and prejudged him assuming he was rough and rowdy, when in reality he was a creative writer with a soft heart. As I took my place next to them I tried to only nod to their questions knowing tears were on the verge of my eyes. Then Sarah walked by and thanks to her best friend-like instinct knew there was something wrong immediately. She stopped and said, “Oh, no what’s wrong?” At that moment I was done. I lost it. I was embarrassed beyond belief I tried to hide my face, but being in the middle of the lunchroom it was nearly impossible. I guess I turned enough toward my table that the guys caught on to the breaking point scenario. In reaction Lars loudly announces that he knows what to do and gives me a fantastically awkward side hug and begins to tell a strange story about his dad and a bullfrog in some unfamiliar accent. After five minutes of this scenario the whole table was laughing and reassuring me that they felt as if they were in hell too.  Even though it took me two more hours of recovery from the cold and frustration in VACPAC when I remembered that moment I was assured that I could do this. I was capable of survival and I wasn’t scared of my own breaking point any longer. At my weakest point I was forced to find what joy really meant. What learning how to enjoy even the most terrible of situations felt like. It made me strong. It made us all strong.

The night we had off and went into town and had ice cream at D&D’s still replays over in my head as one of the best nights of my life. Even in its simplicity I have learned to enjoy everything to its deepest depth. I have learned how to appreciate. I have learned how to thank God for everything. I have seen him give me strength when all I can do is beg him for strength. I have seen him speed the recovery of sickness because without it we would not have survived. The irony of all of this was I felt closer to God while in Alaska more than any other time in my life.

Being taken away from technology, reality and anything but basic needs leaves you with little to hold on to. God is more real when he is the realest thing you have. When you are thankful for a good four-hour conversation you realize thanking something beyond your reality is a little more plausible then it was in the real world. To hear Mormons, atheists, and all others say why they believe what they believe in in a safe conversation over salmon was a beautiful thing. To have the opportunity share why I believe in Jesus at a very level state changed it for me. I am almost surprised that Christians spend so much money to go on mission’s trips when they could just go share their faith at a fishery with tons of people and make money at the same time.  I knew the whole idea of missions trips never settled well with me. I never wish to feel superior to anyone while I share my faith with them. I long to be on the same page, same level just sharing life, sharing stories. I think God shows up in the most basic conversations and prayers. It was a joy to see God love his kids. I am thankful even still for the joy only he could have provided when I was at my most hopeless point.

Not having technology and all our normal comforts we were taught to enjoy the least, to love simple. I believe we all got a lot closer because of it and were all strengthened to realize we can do anything. The word unstoppable has taken on a whole new meaning in my understanding. Each bite of food in reality still tastes better than ever. Every moment that I don’t have to stress about sleeping so I am prepared for my next sixteen-hour shift is real rest for my soul. As simplicity became my friend the rushing of normal became much less attractive. Not that I hate normal now, I just realize I don’t need as much as I used to think I needed. Life can be simple even when the world is rushing on.

I am thankful for the pain and difficulty this time brought because it was an experience I will never forget. It changed my perspective on enjoying life forever. To love each joy life hands to you. To love even in the midst of pain is to find joy in the trial.