How One Person is REALLY Making a Difference

People who work selflessly for the benefit of others are exceptionally admirable.  Ana Bernal, founder of the Q Youth Foundation, is one of them.  Started in July 2013, the Q Youth Foundation is a non-profit organization that conducts outreach to LGBTQ youth while creating safe spaces for them and allies to be who they are.  The issues of bullying, discrimination, and self-hate are unfortunately typical among LGBTQ youth.  In face of all that, providing FREE workshops and events as a resource for LGBTQ youth, their families, friends, and allies is bold act of courage.

In an exclusive interview with Ana Bernal, she gave us more insight of the Q Youth Foundation and a sneak peek of the upcoming Our Pride Benefit Show:

 
1.  What was your inspiration for founding the Q Youth Foundation?

I wanted to create a safe place in East Los Angeles where Queer youth can get empowered and at the same time be able to explore important issues, like communication with families or stopping bullying in their lives. But also, I want the youth and their allies to be able to learn about the arts, like art, music, theater, writing and have a forum where they can be safe and be able to voice their opinions without judgments. And also build community in East L.A. for LGBTQ identified individuals. I want to let kids know that they are worthy and that they are a big part of their community and that they too can become leaders and professionals in the future. Had I had that type of encouragement in my life as a youth - who knows what pursuits I could have accomplished. That is not to say I cannot accomplish them now of course.  

2. What is your vision for the Q Youth Foundation? (regarding the people it will help and future accomplishments)

My vision for the Q Youth Foundation is to bring people together, create understanding in underserved communities like in East L.A.. Growing up in East L.A. was a tough place to identifying as gay or lesbian - but things are changing slowly and acceptance is growing. What  really concerning at this point in time is that 40% of youth in Los Angeles are homeless and on the streets because families cannot accept a part of them they cannot change. If I could simply begin the process of talks with families maybe in a few generations from now Q Youth Foundation can focus on building stronger leaders regardless of race or socio-economic standards. My vision also includes entrepreneurial achievements by creating a work-program, volunteerism, getting these kids into higher education by guiding them and showing them the route that can change their lives.
 
Listen, I grew up in the 80's - 90's, my mom had been a single mother for a very long-time - I have a total of 5 siblings - at one point we lived in a two bedroom house and classified as poor. Even though we had everything going against us as children - I had never felt we were "poor" - my mother believed in education but she herself did not have the means to provide all the extras - she did provide a library and we became readers.

That was the key to changing thought processes - as an adult - I am thankful my mother did at least that for us. And I hope I can create something like that for the LGBTQ youth in Los Angeles - change thought processes and the more I talk about it with others - the more understanding and support begins to grow and that is a beautiful thing.

3.  Tell me more about the upcoming Benefit Show and Q Youth Camp.

The upcoming show is a benefit show to raise funds for the Q Youth Camp for 2014 - we are also introducing ourselves to East L.A. in a way. We are having an event Saturday, November 2, 2013 at The Vex Arts Center 5240 Alhambra Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90032 the show starts @ 7pm-12am We will have interactive art exhibits - a Community Altar - A Rainbow Giving Tree - Donated Musical and Theatrical performances by artist Dorian Wood, SpaceCream, I.E., Chelsea M'onet, Corey Saucier, Khaotic Dance Krew, Dj Kasanova and more. We also will have informational booths and vendors. The cost is a donation of $10 at the door or a pre-sale of $5 online at http://qyouthfoundation.brownpapertickets.com and you can find updates on Facebook @ http:///www.facebook.com/QYouthFoundation

For more information, check out www.qyouthfoundation.org

How Can Shirts Help End Human Trafficking?


When people act selflessly for a cause greater than themselves, it’s deeply inspiring. Jordan and Jake, the founders of DRVN (pronounced “driven”), created a way to combat the global issue of human trafficking. DRVN is more than just a clothing company, it’s a part of a movement. Started in Summer 2013, DRVN both raises awareness of the massive injustice of human trafficking while simultaneously raising funds for its partnering organizations who directly deal with the cause.
The idea for DRVN started with Jordan’s motivation to do something about human trafficking. A few years ago, his friends went to South Africa, to personally contribute their efforts, but Jordan had to stay back. Even though he couldn’t be with his friends, he decided to do something about it here in the United States.
Along with his friend Jake, Jordan decided to just go for it. They started DRVN to both spread awareness and raise funds for organizations that fight against human trafficking. They designed and produced shirts. They launched the DRVN website. They did whatever they needed to do to get DRVN out and into the marketplace. 15% of all the profits would be given to organizations that fight human trafficking. And almost most significantly, every marketing campaign, every shirt sold/worn, every time someone connects to DRVN online spreads awareness.
Besides wearing DRVN apparel, there are plenty of ways anyone can get involved. Jordan’s top recommendation is getting educated. Another recommendation is watching the documentary Nefarious: Merchant of Souls. The more people know, the more can be done.
Since there are a growing amount of organizations that are working towards ending human trafficking, another great way to get involved is to find an organization near you and look for volunteer opportunities. (Finding one is actually as easy as doing a Google search.)
DRVN is Jordan’s personal and passionate way of participating in the movement .
For more information on DRVN, check out their online store or like them on Facebook.

Fingerpainting, Joy, and Playful Creativity

"Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."
- Pablo Picasso

There is something almost magical about the playful creativity of children. Whenever I look at my two year old son's paintings (pictured below), I see his joyful innocence.  He doesn't know what colors complement each other or any other traditional art techniques.  He is simply having fun playing with colors.

Gazing upon his artwork gives me an insight to the wondrous world of his imagination.  It's this playful creativity that I'd like him to hold onto, develop, and apply to not just his future career, but every meaningful thing he will do.

(Click to enlarge photos.)













What Happens in the Blink of an Eye

With my eyes, I see the world right in front of me.  In fact, that's the only way I've actually SEEN the world.  With my own two eyes I've explored the realm around me, met strangers that turned into friends, and pieced together the puzzles that have come before.

I remember being at my 5th birthday party. After what seemed like a blink, it was my 6th birthday party. Time flew by quickly as a kid, but it seems to soar so much faster now.

Blink. I'm in elementary school. Blink.  I'm in junior high.  Blink.  I'm in high school learning how to drive and thinking about college.

Blink.

I'm in college trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.  I'm faced with an uncertain future.  This is a weird life stage to be in and it seems as if the uncertainty will last forever.

Blink.

My friends from Life Stage A I see far less.  I want to see them more, but things seem to keep getting in the way.  Life Stage B friends are great company.  We have similar interests, values, and goals. Blink.

Life Stage C has fewer friends, a smaller mix of stages A and B, and it's perfectly fine. Blink.

I'm in the career I always wanted.  It happened faster than I thought.  I guess hard work does pay off. 

Blink.

I'm a family man: a spouse, kids, and a home of my own.  Who knew? Blink.  More and more of my friends are getting married, having kids, and leading fantastic lives.  When did all that happen?

Life happens way too quickly.  Everything happens faster than the blink of an eye.  Sometimes I wish I could hold on a little bit longer.  Maybe I could freeze a moment, you know, the significant ones.  But it doesn't work that way.  I guess I'm just going to have to keep my eyes open and focus on everything that truly matters.

To My Toddler: "Enjoy Being a Kid"

To My Two Year Old Toddler:

I know you can't read this yet, but this really needs to be said: enjoy being a kid.  Enjoy the toys, nap times, being pushed around in a stroller, and not having to worry about paying bills.  Enjoy throwing balls everywhere, coloring outside the lines (or even not on paper), and playing make believe. Go ahead, dare to count the stars.  Delight in the innocence of youth.

Don't be in a hurry to grow up.  Dating can wait. So can prom. You don't need your driver's license just yet.  You have the rest of your life to be grown up, but you're only two once.  Enjoy it, even if you probably won't remember it.

Play all you can.  Right now, playing is everything.  Play in the dirt, get messy. Life is full of messy experiences anyway. People learn by doing.  They learn from trying.  If they make mistakes, they learn from that too.

Learn all you can about life; the earlier the better.  The more you know the better.  The more you've seen, the more you've tried, and the more you have experienced, the better.  Try what you can. Let your curiosity fly free. Let your imagination run wild because the younger you are, the more pure it is.

You have my permission to be silly; unapologetically silly.  It's the best time of your life to be so.  Don't worry about what other people think.  That's an important lesson many people take a long time to really learn, and it's usually the hard way.

There will be many more adventures ahead, guaranteed.  Your life will be an epic roller coaster ride.  But for now, revel in who you are.

Love,
Dad


Instagram

Boldly Be UnBored

Boredom plays a sick game with the mind.  It makes everything numb, cloudy, and dull.  The human brain wasn't built for this; it was meant for so much more.

The mind craves to be challenged.  It yearns to be fulfilled.  It wants to exercise and expand.  It craves to be stretched in directions it hasn't twisted in before.

If boredom is the state of mind that melts away sanity, then mental engagement brings enlightenment.  Maybe that's why people want to be engaged at school, work, and at home.  As human beings we move to be engaged with not just others, but also ourselves.

At times, boredom can induce creativity.  It's the brain trying to save itself from drowning. In retrospect, some of my best ideas came from being brutally bored out of my mind.

Life is too short to spend any time of it being bored.  Actively think. Wonder. Imagine.  Thinking freely adds sparkles and colors to life.

Today's Forecast

Today is packed with:
  • excitement
  • front facing and hidden opportunities
  • pure passion
  • love (from all directions)
  • people who need me in their lives
  • people who I need in my life, and
  • endless possibilities

Why the "Present" is a Present


Each day has its own unique set of flavors, fragrances, and colors.  There will never be and never has been anything else like this moment.

Now, right now, everyone is experiencing now uniquely.  Various perspectives from different points bring an interconnected mystery of how now really was.

There is a freshness that only now contains.  There is power in the present.  There is something indescribably special about being unapologetically present in the present.  Only here and only now a limited yet ever present boldness from being alive forever remains.

If Fear Could Be Held in the Palm of My Hands...

If fear was a thing, I could hold it with my bare hands. It would be something to hold and pass on. If It was a thing, I'd try to squish it small into the tiniest piece I could mold it into.

I'd try to hide it somewhere where I couldn't find it. It'd be somewhere I'd forget how to get to in a container that I forgot how to open. 

If fear was a thing, I'd put it in an envelope and send it away. It'd be mailed out far never to return to anyone. 

Luckily, fear isn't a thing. It can't be touched, held, or thrown. It exists only as a figment of my imagination. 

If My Next Child is a Girl...

In about four and a half months, in going to be the father of another beautiful human being. I'm ecstatically excited and right now I'm mentally preparing myself for the new transition in my life.

I don't yet know what the sex is yet. There is a 50 percent chance it'll be a boy and a 1 out of 2 chance (obviously) that it'll be a girl. I'll be happy either way it turns out, I'm just hoping that s/he will be born healthy. 

If she does turn out to he a girl, I have a lot of high hopes for her. I want her to embody the best characteristics of strong women I know. I want her to exemplify what makes my wife and mom shine. They are amazing women and I want my daughter to follow in their footsteps. 

As a woman in this world, she would know exactly how much she is worth: immeasurably  priceless. Her worth isn't dependent on her beauty, her income, or how much her significant other makes. She doesn't have to be "manly" in order to be successful in the world, just true to her womanly self. 

She can be whoever she wants to be. If she wants to be a mechanic, doctor, or President of the United States, she can damn very well be. 

She can be as successful as she dares to be. She can have the life she chooses to lead. She can have all that and more, knowing her dad will be supporting her 100%.


How the Most Rhetorical Question I've Attempted to Answer Challenges Me to Put My Life into Focus

This is probably the hardest question that I've ever attempted to answer. It's a question where my answer always changes depending on the current content of my life. What stage of my life I'm currently in, my interests, and my priorities all affect how I answer this question: what will I do with my one wild and precious life? 

When I was younger, I dreamed like I had my whole life to figure that out. In elementary school, I dreamed of being some kind of superhero. I wanted to be someone who helped people every single day. In high school, I wanted to be a computer programmer and make tons of money. In college, I aspired to be a teacher, lawyer, or a police officer. They were the three professions I was most interested in. Now I'm a proud high school English teacher, but my new main focus is with being a great husband and father for my family.

The best answer I have is, "I don't know." I have a hard time concretely deciding what I want to do with the limited time I've been given in this wonderful world. It's a question to ask myself over and over. Sometimes an answer may come, and sometimes I'm just left wondering. If I do have an answer, I know it'll change. If it changes or I'm dumbfounded, it's perfectly fine. I don't think there is a perfect way to answer this question. Being "lost" is fine because it gives me a chance to explore and reexamine my priorities. 

I honestly don't think having a perfect answer is important, the act of examining and challenging one's life is what is really significant. 

Why Playing is Hard Work

For the last few weeks, all my two year old son wants to do is play.  When he wakes up in the morning, the first word that comes out of his mouth is, "Play." Then he asks my wife or me to play with him.  After a nap, after a meal, or just about anytime we ask him what he wants to do, he almost always says the same thing, "Play!"

What many people don't understand is that playing is hard work.  It's how my son is learning about the world around him.  Every time he plays, he is fascinated with whatever he is doing.  I've watched him dip a cup into water, slowly pour it, and repeat several countless times.  When he does that, he is curiously exploring properties of gravity, the viscosity of water, and developing his motor skills.  When he plays with his blocks or Legos, he is practicing his spatial skills and creativity.  Playing with other kids starts to build them a foundation of social skills that they will need throughout their whole lives.

Knowing that, I take play very seriously.  When my son wants to play, I try to give him as much quality play time as possible.  Not only should it be fun, but also engaging and meaningful.  Playing with him tires my wife out, and especially me, but we do it for the future of our little one.

Dear Friend: Congratulations on Your Engagement!

Dear Friend,

Guess what? You now officially have a fiancé, and your fiancé has one too. Congratulations! Enjoy the blissful high that comes with entering the next level in your relationship and a new stage in your life. 

This is the stage where you and your future spouse get to mentally, emotionally, and financially prepare for your life together. When you're married, your life won't be all about you anymore, it'll be about the both of you. Your engagement is the time to shift to that mentality. It's also time to discuss finances, where to live, where to spend holidays, and the type of bread you'll end up buying. You've both made the active choice to share every trial and triumph that are headed your way; good luck!

Being in love is a beautiful thing. You are fortunate enough to find it. Treasure it, nurture it, and remember that all great relationships require effort. 

It's not that hard to be in a great relationship, but it's not effortless.  I constantly make an effort to consistently show my spouse how much I love her. At times, I have to stretch myself to support her in any way she needs me. Sometimes it's hard (especially after I'm tired from a long day), but I gladly do it. It's all part of being in a successful marriage. 

I'm so happy and excited for you. You have all my love and support. May you live in the delight of love. 

Sincerely,

Me


Why I Really Need to Eat Healthier

For the last few years, I've been trying to eat healthier than I have before.  Up until lately, I haven't been a fan of vegetables or salads. Now I've put more effort into eating more whole grains reduced how much frozen and canned foods I consume, and eat as freshly as possible. I try to cook as many healthy meals as I can (I'll admit, it's hard with a busy schedule). By no means am I perfect; I still have a long way too go.

Part of my motivation is to live a healthy life.  I want to live long, grow old with my wife, and watch our kids grow throughout their lives. And in my old age, I'd like to feel great without being affected by preventable illnesses. 

As a dad, I want only the best for my kids, which means I want them to eat the healthiest food available so it can help them be the healthiest they can. Usually, whatever my wife and I eat our son and little bun in the oven eat also. In a way, it keeps us motivated to eat healthy. But once in a while, we enjoy snacking on chips, soda, and candy. 

I feel a little guilty eating this stuff because I know it's not that good for me, but also because my son sometimes wants to try it. When I refuse to give it to him I feel like a hypocrite. Sometimes I even try to hide the fact that I'm eating the snacks when he's around. 

I know I need to set a good example. It's what I need to do in order to be a good role model. For the well-being of my family and myself, I need to step up by choosing to eat better and have the discipline to consistently make it a life-long habit. 

How To Fight the Inner Zombie

Last night I felt like I was on an episode of The Walking Dead. After a long week, I felt like I was in an endless state of mental and physical fatigue. I'm a parent of a two year old toddler. I work hard at work. I commute a road trip length odyssey every weekday. I help out a lot at home by doing whatever I can whenever I can. I cook, clean (yes, even the dishes), help with all the chores relating to my little mini-me, and try to sneak in errands somewhere in between.

I was so tired that I felt like my life force was being sucked right out of me. I felt mentally cloudy. I didn't feel as focused as I usually do, so it took a lot more effort and time to get tasks done. I didn't feel like my 100% self. I was becoming a mindless "walker."

Luckily right now I feel wonderfully human again. Last night I let myself sleep early to rejuvenate myself. Right before that I allowed myself to feel whatever range of emotions I was feeling. I was tired, frustrated, and maybe a little irritated. Recognizing that instead of bottling it in grounded the human side of me. This morning I made a little time for myself and reflected. Doing that helped my schedule feel not so overwhelming. Also, I treated myself just because I felt like I deserved it. I made myself a cup of freshly French pressed coffee. It was delicious and it made the my morning just a little better. 

I know that in each and every one of us, especially myself, contain the potential of an angry soul-sucking zombie coming out. Hopefully I'll always be able to keep it from eating my brains out.