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Christina [userpic]

New Beginnings

April 20th, 2010 (04:12 pm)

I'm feeling: : awake

It's been over two years since I've written anything here.  Let's see... in the last two years I moved from long beach, got a new job at a lighting company, was rear ended by an 18 wheeler, lost a dear friend, lost my father, visited Indiana and met an internet friend IRL that I had been talking to off and on for 5+ years, fell in love w/ said friend, got laid off from lighting company job, decided to move to Indiana.

That brings us up to about last fall.  Late August I packed up the truck and Rob and I drove straight through from California to Indiana.  I moved in with a woman a few years older than me that breeds labradors and it's been pretty nice.  I love love love Indiana.  I love the weather, the seasons, the people, the corn, the trees, the rivers and hills... it's amazing.  I keep saying how much I love Indiana and how much I just want to give Indiana a great big hug.  Being with Rob has been everything I dreamed it would be and more.  I have never been so in love and cared about a person so completely before.  I never knew I <i>could</i> care about someone this way before.  It truly has been and continues to be a life changing experience

Moving to Indiana has allowed me to enjoy life a little bit more.  Things are a little more laid back but still interesting and I have had the opportunity to become more involved in speaking and figure out what I want to do rather than what I have to do to make ends meet.  Right now I get to work with LGBT youth and that is just so rewarding.

Living life without having my dad there to call and ask his opinion on things has been so challenging and probably the hardest thing to get used to especially since I've had so many life changing events happen. 

From the day I met Rob in person, all the feelings I had prior were validated.  Things just fit so well and I was so comfortable with him, and yet every time I see him I get butterflies in my stomach.  Though I have ambivalent thoughts on the whole institution of "marriage", I know that I want to spend the rest of my life with this person and am so tickled that he feels the same way. 

I thought I knew what love was and what being "in" love meant.  I can't believe I had no idea.

more to follow... shortly :)

<3 Christina

Christina [userpic]

Don't let me get me... part 1

January 26th, 2008 (03:32 pm)

I'm feeling: : uncomfortable

I am so infuriated today. A lot has to do with my job and my inability to stand up for myself, I know I need to change but can't.

Next Tuesday I along with a colleague begin a three series workshop on Disclosure. This morning was supposed to be our final planning meeting and then this afternoon/eve I was going to hang out with a dear friend that I hang out with far too less.

< monkey wrench in cogs >

Last week I was supposed to start and complete a project. Then it got postponed to starting yesterday, then yesterday it got postponed to starting today.

Then I was told I *had* to be there to start the project. This resulted in my planning meeting cut short, my plans w/ my friend ruined and tomorrow's plans being cut short because I now have to finish the meeting tomorrow afternoon.

I hate myself for a few things:

1.) I have an irrational fear in telling my employer 'no' or 'you can't do that'.
2.) I let what he says/does bother me so much.
3.) I know where this comes from and I haven't taken action to stop it.

I'll tie this into why I'm posting in this journal now:

For most of my childhood I had a little religion here and there, but nothing was really forced upon me. My parents weren't super religious and any religion I had was from my mom's relatives. That being said, I was still raised with morals and basically by 'the golden rule': Treat yourself with respect, treat others with respect, and respect your environment/surroundings. Also, don't complain about how bad you have it because there are always tons of other people that have it worse than you (Africa) and would die to be in your shoes.

The latter instilled deep humility in me to the point that I always felt I needed to "give back" or just "give" to make up for how lucky I was. I even made a homeless man down the street some oatmeal one day (I was about 8) because he looked hungry. Of course a visit with the relatives and being spoiled rotten to make up for how bad I had it always left it's mark for a few weeks/months. At any rate I generally tried to do what I could but I didn't have this overwhelming sense of grief/guilt if I couldn't do more. I was generally happy and tried to make others happy too.

Then life got thrown off kilter when I was fourteen. I made a desperate plea to my aunt and uncle to live with them. This was a life saving move on my part in more ways than one. It was to the point where I either had to go live with them or I wanted to live in foster care. I won't get into the reasons now, but thankfully my aunt and uncle let me move in with them and helped pay to move/ship my things to them in Massachusetts.

At the lovely age of 14 in addition to a lot of other issues I was dealing with, I was also dealing with teenage angst, writing disturbing "poetry" and generally declaring myself an atheist (what has "g*d" done for me lately). I told my aunt this (who was an extremely irish catholic matriarch) and she had a fit. Naturally. I won't discredit what they did for me and their generosity in letting me stay with them and providing for me, but there was all a lot of dysfunctionality going on. It still affects me to this day (though I have gotten somewhat better you can ask my friends) where I constantly feel the need to please everyone and never say no to anyone that has done anything for me. I can never repay people back enough. Of course you can't please everyone all the time. When this happens I admittedly prioritize by job (9-5 then Hope's Voice), friends, other common associates, myself. Anyone in mental health be it social worker, psychologist or counselor has told me that my priorities are skewed and that I can't take care of anyone/make anyone else happy if I can't make myself happy. I counter by pointing out that making other people happy, makes me happy by proxy.

Lately the ratio of making people happy/disappointing others to make the first group happy has been very disproportionate. I've become the biggest flake I know and while making people happy makes me happy, disappointing my friends crushes me. This isn't a new thing, just something that has gotten drastically worse in the past 8 months-ish.

That's it for part one... this is public, but part two I plan on making my very first friend's only entry in this journal ever and will probably write either later tonight or tomorrow sometime.

Christina [userpic]

I think I can... I think I can...

December 30th, 2007 (04:19 pm)

I'm feeling: : optimistic

This is big. This is huge. I've never done something like this before, but if I pull this off it will be amazing.

If I can follow this through, I can definitely make it through a 10 year education.

OMG. I'm so excited/scared/optimistic.

Let me be the catalyst and start the reaction.

Christina [userpic]

HIV Activism/ Speaking is a small community...

December 15th, 2007 (09:24 am)

I'm feeling: : confused

It's sad that even though HIV activists are a small community, we all can't play nicely with each other. Anyone that's met me knows I'm genuine, sincere and go out of my way to be kind and accepting of people around me. However, every now and again I meet someone that is so indescribably heinous it makes me lose site of why we're here. My only enemies are those that choose to make enemies with me first. If I do my best to get along with someone and help them and then after the fact they go behind my back and talk to a mutual friend saying the worst things about me... what am I supposed to do? I don't understand it.

Why would you attack someone that is trying to fight the same epidemic, the same virus you are? It feels as though 'friendly fire' is flying freely around here.

I'm not innocent in this either. Provoked by a person that I've met that is so ignorant and so incredibly cruel, I have taken my own shots.

I wish I was above it all, but if you go dragging mud in my house, I will get out the mop and clean it up.

On top of all this, how can someone so poisonous get so far? How can someone that writes so poorly be placed in a representative role of a magazine?


Christina [userpic]

Choosing Allegiances

December 6th, 2007 (01:56 pm)

current location: St. Louis, MO
I'm feeling: : steadfast

The past week and a half have been a complete whirlwind. Last week after I got back from Illinois Wesleyan University my boss called me in and sat me down and expressed his frustrations over my Hope's Voice speaking schedule and my subsequent unavailability to go on appointments with him to job sites. I can understand his frustrations since Illinois came up very suddenly and I barely had a weeks notice and he and I have had conflicting out of town schedules where when he was out of town I'd be in the office and as soon as he got back I'd be out of the office. It's not that I hadn't kept in complete contact with him, or that I wasn't getting work done (even as I type this on the plane I'm running lighting scenarios in the background for a job so I can email him as soon as I land). It was merely we kept missing each other. I had a feeling he was going to be irritated after IWU but was shocked by how extremely upset he was.

Some back history, there were several main reasons why I took the job I have now: better pay, health benefits (medical and dental coverage), and the icing on the cake was that my boss is personally invested and supportive of the HIV/AIDS community and was more than willing to allow me time off for my speaking engagements as long as I was reachable via email/phone and didn't shirk my responsibilities. I had a list of speaking engagements/commitments when I started that he had okay'd and basically said anything wouldn't be a problem and that I didn't necessarily have to use my personal vacation time (though I was completely willing to).

Anyhow, last week he basically flipped his lid and asked if I had anything else coming up for Hope's Voice. I told him that as I had let him know before I had a speaking engagement Thursday, Dec. 6. He was infuriated and even though I said everything was already booked and contracts signed he insisted that either I call HV and tell them that not only can I not go to a speaking engagement booked last year, I also couldn't speak at all anymore during the weekdays but if I was lucky that he would let me take Friday afternoon off. My primary audience is college students. College students that go home on weekend and Friday afternoons so he basically put a nail in the coffin of my speaking career.

Devastated, I emailed Todd and Beth at HV and let them know that I had to back out of St. Louis and that I had to be placed on the unavailable list until further notice. That happened last Wednesday and for the rest of the week, I was pretty dead inside. Before I had attacked my job with a vigorous intensity showing up early, leaving late, working at home at night basically compensating for me taking time out for Hope's Voice. I decided if he was going to take away Hope's Voice, I no longer had anything to make up for and came in to the office at 9 and left at 5, didn't spend any extra time or didn't participate in any office funness (a lot of times we'll go get fro yo down the street at pink berry or my boss will treat the office to things). Friday night I talked with Dave and he expressed his frustration at the situation saying that being a speaker is part of who I am and he couldn't imagine me without my speaking. That conversation with Dave that evening was probably one of the more touching conversations I've had with anyone in quite a bit. I left that night to head up to my refuge in the high desert and the two hour drive gave me a bit of time to think. I did some crying, laughing, and primal screaming (which ended up inducing a minor sore throat/cold). By the time I arrived at my destination I knew that there was physically, mentally, and emotionally no way that I could go through life without speaking. It had taken me 19 years to get to a point in my life where I could speak and I'd be damned if I let anyone stop me now. I sent about a bazillion texts to different people but I knew I had to work on an exit strategy. If I couldn't find a compromise with my boss, I couldn't work for them anymore. I reached out and developed a two month planned strategy and then put in place some safeguards for even further down the road.

I had hope, and Hope's Voice had me come hell or high water.

I got my nails done Saturday which is really a cover for 1 1/2 hours of intense therapy time. In talking with my nail lady I always realize that I've already made my mind up I just didn't know it. Leaving Saturday with a solid resolve I had pretty much made up my mind about what I was willing to sacrifice and what I wasn't.

It's funny and the irony doesn't escape me that just last month I had been questioning my future with Hope's Voice debating pushing it all aside. Now when someone else was taking it away from me I wanted to hold on more than ever. The same actually went with taking my meds as a teenager. I didn't take my meds because they made me feel gross and I hated them, but the moment the doctors wanted to stop the meds, I fought to stay on them more than ever. Yay reverse psychology.

Anyhow this week I've been keeping a record of when I'm asked to show up early or stay after. Tuesday afternoon my bosses asked me as I was leaving if I could meet with him for five minutes. No apologies were made but he did explain that he's been more stressed than he's ever been before with trying to keep the company running and that I could go to St. Louis as long as I was available via email/cell phone and worked on some projects while I'm away. Not an issue at all. Now I haven't broached the issue of future engagements and I still stick to my guns on being allowed occasional days to speak for Hope's Voice, but we'll see how things shape up in the next few months. I talked to Todd that evening after I talked to my boss and he and I straightened a lot of things out.

I could not be myself without being a speaker. I love my 9-5 job, but I get ultimate gratification by giving back to the community that has supported me my whole life. Especially in this day and age where young people under the age of 25 account for half of all new infections with the infection rate on the rise... I can not in good conscience sit back and let this massacre happen to my generation. Not as long as there is a breath in my body will I give up trying to educate my peers about safer sex, HIV and AIDS and give a face to what the virus looks like in the United States in the new millennium.

I'm not the new face of HIV, I have always been the face of HIV. You just were not listening and did not see me before.

Christina [userpic]

I found 'Normal' in Illinois!

November 27th, 2007 (10:19 pm)

current location: Normal, IL
I'm feeling: : ecstatic

Aloha from Normal, IL.  I'm here with Lance and Jeremiah from Hope's Voice.  We did a program this evening at Illinois Wesleyan University for their World AIDS week.

It was a special evening as it was Jeremiah's second time speaking as a public speaker and I was soooo proud of him. We all talked afterward and bounced around feedback that was well received.  Jeremiah just told me that when he thinks of himself as a 'public speaker' he thinks of a music speaker that is there for the public.  He's so cute!  

I think the program went spectacular.  It was held in their Student Center which used to be their old gym so the building is really neat from an architectural stand point.  For a program that was basically put together in a week, there was a fantastic turn out 60+ people.  Our hosts were so nice and welcoming and Andrea - who Lance outed as being a 'hard person... to get a hold of' was amazing in coordinating everything.

Of course my favorite part of doing programs is not just about educating peers but also seeing the speakers again.  I always am so inspired by my fellow speakers it just amazes me.  When I think about my inner struggles about whether to continue speaking or whether to continue with Hope's Voice, I look back on times like today and it's what makes me stick around.

We're still struggling with finding a definite format for HIV 101 but how we did it tonight seemed to turn out well.  We divided it into 3 parts and did our 101 bits before each of our stories with the first person explaining what HIV is, what AIDS is and the difference between the two.

The Q&A was surprisingly not as risque as they usually go.  I don't know if people were shy or just not that curious, but the only sexual question we got was about the risk of two HIV positive people having sex together.  There were also some pointed questions like 'how did you go through $900 worth of coke and ecstasy and not die?', or 'how did Lucy react when you told her your status?'  I love questions like these because you can tell people were listening enough to remember details.  Also there was a cutie asking some more scientific questions which I got to mostly field because we all know how much I love the smarties!

Shout outs to:  Andrea our hostess with the mostest, Carissa who is not only from IA but is also a great driver, Kelly, Paul and all the rest of the Student Senate.  Thanks so much for welcoming us to your town and to your gorgeous campus.  I can speak for the three of us when I say that we were really impressed with your campus not only in the aesthetic sense but also the caliber of students that we met this evening.

Thanks again for all your hard work and we look forward to working with you again in the future!

Christina [userpic]

Hello Again

October 6th, 2007 (04:59 pm)

I'm feeling: : chipper

Hi Guys!

So a new school year has started and with new school years come new press kits and more Hope's Voice activities. Right now I'm at a NACA (national association of campus activities) conference in Lancaster, PA and it has been going really well aside from a couple of technical difficulties.

I'm really excited for the upcoming school year as it looks to be pretty promising as far as personal growth, organizational growth and community growth.

This is such an important program that we're getting out there and the responses that we've gotten so far have for the most part been extremely responsive and open.

Can you believe that no one under 25 has lived in a world without HIV and yet in the United States they count for half of new infections every year? That's crazy! They have the tools, resources, and infomation available to them... just no one is talking about it anymore.

Hopefully we can start to change that.

If you were a student listening to a presentation on HIV and AIDS prevention, what would be some things that you would find helpful? What would make you change your view on the virus?

Common misconception of the weekend "HIV can go undetected in someone's body for 10 years" The reality is that HIV can be asymptomatic for ten years meaning that someone can be infected and still remain completely healthy for 10+ years but if someone is infected antibodies show up typically within the first 3 months.

Expect more on this front in the near future. If you care to read about my day to day life check out the other slightly more but not really updated journal.


Christina [userpic]

Not Giving Up...

June 22nd, 2007 (03:28 pm)

Okay, so after the last entry, just about everyone and their mother screamed for me not to stop speaking. I've really done some serious soul searching about why I speak out and I've thought long and hard about continuing speaking or stopping and the ramifications of either decision.

The bottom line is that I will continue with Hope's Voice and continue speaking. This isn't a forever thing, I'm not sure if I'll still be doing this in 10 years, but it's a for now thing and something I believe I have to do.

It's funny when you're wondering if what you're doing makes a difference or not, and something happens to prove to you that yes it is making a difference. Sometimes, it's not even directly related to me speaking so much as just being involved in life and being living proof that HIV isn't what most people perceive it to be.

Prime example happened the other day. My friend, we'll call her Jill, always tells any of her friends before they meet me that I'm HIV+. I've thought this to be a little odd, but whatever. It's almost like she tells them and challenges them to have an issue with it. If they have an issue with me then she schools them and as far as I know chooses not to associate with them. Anyhow, Jill told her friend Brendan that I was + before he met me. I don't know exactly what he expected HIV to look like, but clearly he didn't expect it to look like me.

She told me that a week after we all hung out that he had the opportunity to sleep over and have sex with someone that he liked but that he chose not to because he didn't have any condoms on him. I guess he said that normally he would have used the 'pullout' method but after meeting me thought twice about safer sex because I didn't look sick.

I don't know how many times I hear that, but it's almost every time that I disclose to someone about my status. It's not a huge secret. If you google my name it comes up complete with pictures so there's no way I could deny it. However, I don't wear a t-shirt that says that I'm HIV+, I don't carry around a sign, and I'm not overly enthusiastic with product red garb. I do have a button that says 'kiss me I'm HIV+' but I don't even wear that every day. It's not the all identifying thing about me.

I'm going to use that to segue into this other short point. I've been with my current (HIV negative) boyfriend off and on for about 8 months now. We live together and yes even sleep together. He's more educated than most, but even he doesn't know everything there is to know and if he really has a question about something, he always makes sure to ask. He's very supportive of me being a public speaker and being involved in the community, however HIV is still a secret with him. No one in his family knows and none of his co-workers know. They know I'm involved w/ HIV activism work and public speaking, but when he had the opportunity to tell them why I was away public speaking he missed it and said that I was involved in toastmasters or something to that effect. That's OKAY.

Opening up the status of a relationship with sero-different couples just adds more confusion to the mix. Maybe he will tell them in time, maybe not but I stand behind his decision either way because when it comes down to it, his decision affects him, and him alone. We don't work together and I don't see his friends/co-workers enough for it to be a big issue with me. I think they could learn something and maybe open up their minds by knowing, but it's also a risk. I've been through it before when other people around the relationship find out about sero-discordance (when one person is + and the other -) they take it on themselves to tell you what needs to be done. I know we're safe and he knows we're safe. Why should we have to bring in people on the outside who will worry about random meteor showers*? Meanwhile, I will continue to be google-able and if they're really *that* curious about who I am, then they'll figure it out. Otherwise, I'm just a girlfriend that couldn't possibly have HIV because I don't "look" sick.

Nina - who's birthday happens to be today... (HAPPY BIRTHDAY NINA!) would be outright outspoken about this and anyone in a 10 block radius would know she's poz and if the person she's dating can't deal with her being open and also being open with his friends and family then she'd probably tell them to hit the road. We see things differently sometimes and she's my little hot tamale. It's not that we're either right or wrong, just different opinions on the same side in the same battle.

*"random meteor showers" - This term refers to a saying between a good friend and myself about possible transmission of HIV. I'll write about it later tonight if I get the time.

Christina [userpic]

Does it really make a difference?

May 18th, 2007 (02:38 pm)

I'm feeling: : frustrated

I had a huge test of faith last two weeks. No, not the godly type of faith but rather self faith. Faith in the cause that I've given myself over for during the last two years.

I heavily contemplated my purpose and future as an educational/motivational speaker.

What had happened was that I found out a close friend had decided to have sex without a condom with someone they knew as a 'friend of a sister'. When they first told me, I was completely shocked and disappointed and said as much. I urged them to get tested and they promised they would. I left it at that until the subject came up a few days later. They said that they hadn't made an appointment yet and sounded as though they weren't really in a hurry and they would get it done when they could, but clearly it was not a priority.

When I expressed concern they said that they weren't too worried as it was a friend of the sister. I think this is what flew me over the edge. That statement hit me like a slap in the face. I'm open about my status and any person I may get involved with knows my status before anything can happen. However, there are so many people that are very closed and secretive about their status and quite a bit aren't even aware that they are positive. They can look just as healthy and cute as anyone and they too can be friends with a sister, you brother, your aunt, heck they can even be your friends.

I just hear so many times after I disclose that 'wow! you don't look sick.' or after someone tests positive 'they didn't look sick'. Hearing this from a good friend really got to me. They said that they were drunk and didn't really want to have sex and yadda yadda but still, that's not really a good excuse either. It's not just about the HIV, it's about herpes, HPV, chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea etc. A lot of STD's are incurable, asymptomatic, and a lot can do more harm to females than males.

I didn't have a choice. I got HIV from my mother. Others don't have the information to make an informed choice. Some people don't have a choice because it is taken from them such as in the case of non-consensual sex or rape or you're in a relationship w/ someone that refuses to wear a condom. Usually no one chooses to get HIV or any STD for that matter but it happens. When one of my close friends knows everything that I have gone through and continue to go through in my life and how hard I try to reach out and educate others makes, what I would consider, a poor decision like not using a condom I feel completely invalidated. I know they didn't make the decision as a personal affront to me or to make me feel as badly as they did. It's not always all about me, but it still really affected me even if it was unintentional.

Who am I to go around and speak at all these great universities, to students and my peers about safer sex when I can't even make a difference in my own friend's life? If I can't convince my friend to be a little more knowledgeable and cautious what makes me think I can influence the minds of people that don't even know me outside of the couple hours I speak at their school?

What has been the point of my experiences if not to help others?

Had I had access to a computer and the internet immediately after leaving my friend's house that night, I probably would have written my resignation letter to Hope's Voice. I was that upset. I'm still upset when I think about it, but I'll give it awhile and see what happens.

What would you do?

Christina [userpic]

Snippet from a convo about a week ago...

May 9th, 2007 (06:22 pm)

current location: ddd
I'm feeling: : calm

One of my bestest friends web_jerk and I were getting our caffeine fix on in Starbucks near his house in orange county.  Starbucks, like the mindful, trendy little organization they are had fliers about local going ons.  I picked up one of the fliers and noticed it was for "AIDS Walk Orange County".  This is the conversation that followed.

C (me): I didn't know the OC had an AIDS Walk.
D:  Neither did I!
C:  Psh!  Evidently you need to be more 'in the know'. 
D:  Well where is it?
C:  Oh... it's at the Angels Stadium, but it looks like a bs walk because they don't even tell you how long it is...(incidentally after this I did some searching on the internet and it's only 5k which is weak - L.A. is 10k)
D:  We should do it!
C:  It's in two weeks though.
D:  So?  What are doing in two weeks?  You'll still have AIDS.
C:  *dies choking on a raspberry vanilla latte*

That is why I <3 Dave and why we'll always be awesome friends.  He doesn't bubble wrap me or my feelings and is totally cool with being un-PC with me which I appreciate.  While HIV isn't something to be taken so lightly, sometimes you just gotta get over yourself and laugh about it.  I guess it is pretty morbid, and some people might be utterly shocked and appalled at what he said, but it was completely appropriate for our conversations. 

In order to get through something, sometimes you have to find a way to laugh about it.  After all, laughter is the best medicine right?

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