We are all one

We are all one
Jennifer Varenchik

Thursday, June 12, 2014


It wasn't that long ago I sat on a friend's couch and she told me how her friend was always going on dates because of "Tinder". That she was out there meeting people and having a ball. I interrupted her and was like,"What's Tinder?"  She then pulled out her phone and showed me.

If you don't know, it's a dating app.  It kind of operates like a deck of cards.  A picture shows up, if you like what you see, you swipe right.  If not, swipe left.  If you need more info, tap to show what Facebook things you have in common, even if you have any friends in common.  If the person has seen your picture, and they swiped right, too, then you get a special screen that says, "It's a Match!" and you are encouraged to connect through Tinder's IM.

I instantly downloaded Tinder and started swiping right and left.  It was fun!  Especially when someone liked me,too!  It became my new past time.  I even went on a few dates, I was having a ball!

And then it happened.

It was a Match!

It started with texting on Tinder, then texting on our phones.  Then pic exchanging, then a set time and date to meet.  After that first meeting, we agreed we wanted to spend more time together.  He actually wanted to take me out to dinner that night, but I already had plans.

Our first official date was magical.  We went to Pot on The Line Hotel so we could experience Roy Choi's creation.  It was good!  Then we went to go see Godzilla, which I was very happy with, since none of my friends wanted to go see it with me.  He didn't mind that I have a thing for end of the world, monster, civilization crumbling, summer blockbuster movies.  I was happy to be seeing Godzilla with someone who wanted to see it, not dragged to it.

After that, it has been a whirlwind of texts, flowers being sent, dinners, walks, talks and laughter. It's been about a month.  Let's see where this goes.  I'm cautious, but open.  I'm happy, but don't want to get captured in a bubble.  And I'm not about to change my Facebook status, at least not yet.  I did, however, deactivate my Tinder account.  

Thank you Tinder!  Thank you un-named friend who shared with me the latest in dating technology, and of course thank you Universe!

Summer 2014 looks good :)

Friday, December 06, 2013

Out of my dark cave to #PrayForHoop

I have faith that things happen for a reason, but sometimes it’s hard to believe.  Sometimes I want to say “F*&^ this S*%#!” and just allow myself to go down the rabbit hole of misery.  I’ve been there before you know.  It’s not a pleasant place; I don’t recommend it, unless you need to go there to create a comparison of how your normal life is versus the dark rabbit hole. 

In 1994 I went through a severe state of depression.  I had just moved to Los Angeles and was so alone.  I had no friends my age, and I was lost.  I had just graduated from college and wanted to conquer the world, if I could just get the energy to do it.  I spent days in bed and worried the heck out of my grandparents.  They wondered what was wrong with me, and I wondered what was wrong with me.  I eventually snapped out of it by listening to self help tapes.  Yeah, I did that.  Being that I had no friends, no one to really talk to (there was no Facebook back then) I relied upon my imaginary friends of Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy and Zig Ziglar.  Soon I got a job, enrolled in acting school and spent my days working odd jobs and auditioning for parts.  I was the stereotypical 20 something living the Hollywood Sunset Boulevard life.  It was good. 

Let’s fast forward to marriage, divorce, travel, speaking, deaths, friendships blooming, friendships dissolving, my dog, my dream car, my bike and let’s land in the 2nd quarter 2013.  It happened again.  Severe depression.  I could feel it creeping in, it was like an old acquaintance that I didn't want to see, but knew it was going to happen.  I really tried to avoid bumping into it, but eventually I surrendered.  I was out for 2 weeks, maybe a month, I really don’t know.  I tried to keep it to myself, I cut myself off from the world, including my friends and family.  I spent most of my time in bed, I became a nocturnal creature so I wouldn’t have to see or talk to anyone.  Happy normal people pissed me off.  I could hear them, I read about them on Facebook and all I knew was that I was not one of them.  Sure, I posted some random stuff on Facebook during that time, I liked people’s posts and commented, but inside I was in a dark hole.  Remember, I have acting training, I went to the Stella Adler Academy and The Groundlings, so I’m pretty good at improv, smiling and pretending. 

Only one person actually approached me and didn’t even ask what was wrong, they knew something was up.  We went out to see a movie.  We sat in front of the theater and talked for a bit before they said, “I think something is wrong with Jen”.  I said yeah, there is, I’m depressed.  I’m not really sure what came out of my mouth after that, but I let it all out and it felt good.  I did the ugly cry.  I couldn’t breathe, I just ranted, I laughed, I yelled and I have no idea how long I went on.  No one was telling me what to do, how to correct it or how they went through the same thing and this or that worked for them.  No, just good old fashioned listening.  And real listening.  Not checking the phone, looking around to see if something more interesting is going on, just focused listening.  I verbally and emotionally threw up and they were there to hold back my hair.  Thank you Universe for sending me such a good friend!

Slowly I crawled out of my dark cave.  Things started to move forward and I was participating in life again.  I was getting my groove back, literally and figuratively.  Then I had a bike accident that grounded me.  I wasn’t able to walk, run or ride for almost a month.  Damn it! I just went through all this shit and now you are going to take away from me one of my most prized activities?  What the heck!  I leaned into meditation; I believed it was going to be ok.  Then I got sick.  Ok, I get it Universe, I really need to just be still, to be around my house, to regroup and re-energize.  So I did.  All was good.  I saw a light at the end of the tunnel and headed towards the light. 

Then, December 2013.  I just suffered another incident that threatened to have me turn tail and head right back into my cave.  My 19 year old nephew, Thomas “T”, was recently a victim of racial slurs and violence.  He was attending a party with his basketball teammates in Oregon, when a fight broke out.  Someone then hit him over the head with a bottle and then AGAIN with a crowbar.  WTF?!!  The incident made the local news, was all over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (most of his friends are well versed in social media).  He was in coma, needed machines to help him breathe and eventually was able to move his right arm, both his legs, but not his left arm.  He’s not out of the woods yet, it’s too soon to tell.  He had brain surgery which led to swelling.  We won’t know for awhile, the human brain is tricky.  He has his youth and strength on his side, he also has an army of people praying for him and his mom (my sister). 

This is one of the times where it’s hard for me to keep the faith, to believe that everything has a purpose and that things will be ok in the end.  But as I look back on my life so far, I have evidence that yes, it’s going to be ok.  Instead of throwing my hands up and going back into my cave, I courageously head towards the light.  I can feel it, something has changed in me.  I don’t know if that means that I’ll never feel severe depression again, but I do know that it’s not going to win this time. 

To the woman that wielded the near fatal blow, I know that the amount of anger and fear that was in her when she struck T, is equivalent to the amount of suffering that’s going on inside of her.  I went through a brief period of anger that I directed at April Brown, but now have quietly resolved to pray for her.  As she realizes the magnitude of her actions, I pray she is able to forgive herself and come to terms with it.  I pray that T pulls through and is a testimony of faith in action.  I pray that somehow this incident strengthens my sister and her family, and I pray that as the human race continues, that we one day will know a time without violence against each other. 

Thank you internet, for allowing me to purge my thoughts to a faceless audience.  Getting it out is healing.  Man, I need to do this more often.  

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Traditional Tuesdays

If you know me, you know I love Oprah.  She has inspired me in ways that I can not even begin to describe.  For me, she is a life teacher.  So, when OWN started talking about "Meatless Mondays", I was kinda bummed.  I wanted to be a part of a movement that was OWNed based, but I was already meatless.

But then, as time went on, I got to thinking.  People are challenging themselves with going meatless, that can be a big deal for some.  What about me, what would be my equivalent?  Hmmmm....

Going traditional.  That would be freakin' hard for me.  That would mean no cheese, no sugar, no bread, no butter. Did I mention cheese?  Oh, and coffee.  No coffee!  No way.  Can't do it.  Or could I?

Let's review.  Not coloring my hair anymore, done.  Going car free, done.  Giving up meat, done.  Ok, well if I can let go of those things, then I think I can go back to a traditional diet.  Yes, I can do this.  But I need help.  And I can't do it full time.  I think I can ease into this.  Like one day a week.  Hey, kinda like "Meatless Mondays"!

And so, "Traditional Tuesdays" was born.  A personal challenge that was grown out of a conversation with my friend Melvin while at CicLAvia in April 2013.

Next was the planning part.  What would I eat?  I called my friend Amy back on my rez (Tohono O'odham reservation), and she started to give me some ideas.  Ug.  Basically that means only veggies and fruit, if I wanna go hardcore.  Well, if our ancestors survived off of this food since time began, why can't I?

Then, on May 1st, I was running and praying.  I've been going through some stuff, so I was really doing some chanting in my mind.  Suddenly I thought, why not ask others to do Traditional Tuesdays with me?  I just heard on the Native Voice Network conference call that Native Americans are the 2nd largest group to use Facebook, thanks to my friend Chrissie for sharing.  So why not create a Facebook event?  So as soon as I got home, I jumped on my computer, still panting and sweating (ewww) and created the event.
Facebook event

As I blog, I still haven't eaten breakfast or showered (double ewww).  But in the first 20 minutes of the event being created, we got people from Cali, Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia, Arizona and New York, all wanting to get on board.

As a closing note, I'd like to invite all people, not just Native Americans, to participate.  Food can be sacred.   Learn what your ancestors used to eat, pass it on to your kids, spread the word and love your body.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Enjoy the silence and the THX

Do you have rules when to watching a movie? This has been quite the topic of conversation for me as of late.  

As my new friend said, while we were seated around the fire pit making s'mores, "It's about having respect for the art."

Yes, I totally agree! What else needs to be said? 

Well, it's not that easy, because sometimes I'll watch movies with people that may not be aware of my perspective, and then I quickly get jarred into another reality. So now I'm interested to see if others have a similar perspective. Or, am I, my brother and my new s'mores friend alone in our respect for the motion picture? 
Here are my rules:
No talking. Please, just hold all questions, comments or whatever, until the end. Unless it's discussed earlier, or I'm able to pause/rewind, please just enjoy the film. I'll be busy, I'm watching a movie, I'm lost in another world (if the movie is doing a good job of entertaining me). Attempts at conversation would be like trying to pull me out of a beautiful slumber, the kind where you're lost in an awesome dream. So unless it's an emergency, just watch the movie. Of course, I may break my own rule every now and then, but in general, I just want people to be quiet. 
No cell phones. This pretty much mirrors my first rule. Why do you need your cell phone right now? If you are the President or something, then yes, please answer your phone. Otherwise, if you are not able to disconnect for 90 minutes, maybe going to the movies is not the right type of activity for you. Why do you think there is always an announcement before the movie to turn off or silence your cell phone? Because people are trying to watch a movie!. They don't need to see your glowing light from your phone, let alone hear you talk. Call or text that person later. They should understand, it's perfectly acceptable to NOT answer your phone during a movie. 
Be present and enjoy.  When watching at home with other people, please sit down and watch the movie. For me, this is not the time to check Facebook, make a meal, have side conversations (even if they are about the movie) or do research on the computer. And if you are doing another activity, please don't come back and expect me to tell you what you missed. 

HBO pretty much hits it on the head for me with a character called "Jennifer" in this commercial. I'll never ask anyone to leave, but in my head I'll either just be like "Ok, I'll have to watch this again Han Solo" and silently tell myself that everyone is different and that's ok.
My viewpoint explained by HBO.

In a group situation, if going in I know that I'm not really going to be able to watch the movie because it's a boisterous crowd, I'll concentrate on enjoying the environment, not so much the story. I'll also know that I'll probably have to watch the movie again by myself.  But if I think I'm going to be able to sit back and really soak it up, and then it's no so, it'll take a minute for me to adjust. It's just how I am, I'm glad I'm aware of it.

At my house, if we gotta go to the restroom while watching a movie, it's known to yell out "pause?" to the person leaving the room. If the movie is one that I've already seen or pretty predictable, that'll be a "no" from me.  We have a policy to respect the potty break. See, there are always exceptions to the rule.

If I'm in the theater, I'll do my best to not leave. If I must go, I'll go as quickly as I can and NOT ask any questions until we are in the lobby after the movie. If the person I'm with wants to give me a quick update on what I missed, I would probably shoot them a smile, say thanks and stare straight ahead to give the clue that I'm thinking "Hello? I'm trying to watch a movie".

That's it. Those are my rules. Pretty simple, I think. Harsh? Maybe. But if you think so, we probably won't be watching movies together. I am totally aware that people are different, people have their own methods and ways for movie watching, that's why I'm writing this. I am interested to hear if other people have rules AND I wanted to clarify mine. 
Bottomline: I'm just asking people to watch the movie. I understand that not everyone has that ability. Maybe it's because we've become an ADD/ sound bite/ multi-tasking society. I don't know. But what I do know is that if you and I watch a movie together, I have some quiet expectations. I respect that I maybe alone in my desire for silence, that's why I go to the movies by myself sometimes. Of course, I love going with my friends. But most of the people I see movies with already know that I'm particular when it comes to movie watching. 
And until I find that person one that also enjoys the silence, I'm happy to ask for a ticket for one.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Does it Matter that Los Angeles County is the Nation's Capital for City Indians?

I guess not.  Not with the recent Paul Frank-gate incident. 

The latest data from the 2010 Census says that Los Angeles County has the largest urban Indian population in the country. 

Even with all of us here in L.A., we still got served up as characters to be imitated at the Paul Frank "Dream Catchin' Pow wow Celebrating Fashion's Night Out" on September 6th.  The event was complete with stereotypical mock tomahawks, war paint and head dresses.  And really crappy ones at that.  The electric pink, made in another country kind, ug. 

Many at first, including myself, were in shock that in 2012 a company could think it's ok to dress up in mock versions of whatever they think is "Indian".  Especially a company that is supposed to be "hip", and one that obviously didn't learn from the "Navajo" panty incident at Urban Outfitters.

Later we found out that the company apologized and wants to work with Native artists to create designs, and donate profits to Native causes.  That's pretty cool.  This could be someone's bigger break  to see their work on a national platform. 

Additionally, the Paul Frank president, along with 2 Native bloggers will also address the International Licensing Merchandisers Association (LIMA) conference about the use of Native imagery in fashion.  I truly hope that helps detour other companies to use their version of "Native" imagery in their merchandise. 

But really, this incident highlights one major issue for me: Native people are just not seen out there in the mainstream.  In the one location that has the highest Native population IN THE COUNTRY, not one voice in the Paul Frank company spoke up warning against the possible implications of mocking Native Americans.  In all the months and weeks it took to plan their event, no one ever thought, "Hey, do you think anyone will get upset that we're gonna have war paint, bows and arrows and tomahawks?"  And then, to add to that, all the party goers jumped on the bandwagon and happily posed for pictures, keeping the ignorance going. 

I'm inclined to say it's because they didn't know.  Too many people don't know anything when it comes to Native Americans, other than tee pees, tomahawks and dream catchers.  With over 565 tribes, it can be difficult for non-Natives to grasp that each tribe has it's own language, it's own creation stories and it's own system of government.  At least once a week, I am dropping some sort of factual tidbit to my non-Native friends.  I wear my Indian-ness on my sleeve and I'm always asked random questions about my culture, which I'm happy to explain.  I WANT people to know, to understand, to learn- all so they can they can then have a greater respect for my community. 

I don't have any answers or solutions.  I do have some ideas: can we finally teach how this country was really founded?  Can each state spend time on not only the Nation's history with Native Americans, but learn about the tribes in their state and in their local community?  Can we do away with making headbands and paperbag vests in November?

And the biggest one for me: can we encourage people to learn their own cultural heritage?  By learning where your people are from, how they got here (USA), and family histories, people then tend to then have a greater respect for other cultures. 

Why do you think we are so offended by the misuse of war paint and headdresses?  Because we Native Americans, we treasure our heritage.  Those posing in the pictures, I wonder how much they know about theirs.  It wasn't too long ago that we were thought of as a "problem" that needed to wiped out, and then later told to assimilate.  Not many know WHY Los Angeles and other cities have Native American populations in the first place, it was called relocation, but I'm not sure if that's standard information in history books today... 

I was taught that you learn who you are in the stories of your people.  When you know what your family had to go through to get here, the customs and traditional ways of your people and why they were practiced, a sense of respect grows.   And the more one respects their heritage and culture, it seems to naturally follow that one would then begin to respect other's heritage and culture.

Here's to hoping that's true.


Sunday, January 15, 2006

Hey blogspotters! I just wanted to let you all know that my regular blog is now on MySpace.

Ok, just FYI.
Oh, and I'm day 24 of NO SODA! Dang, no diet coke, no regular coke- nothin'!
So I'm off to my writers group. I got a few new scenes to share.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A Meeting of the Ndn Minds

Seattle rocked the house!

I had a moment to think about it, we had San Antonio, Portland, Oakland, Los Angeles (me, woo-hoo), Seattle, Phoenix, Albuquerque and Minneapolis- all representing urban Indian centers at the same table- how cool is that! Other centers wanted to make it, but they weren't able to this time. We officially were there to learn about the Earned Income Tax Credit, what it is and how to inform our communities about EITC. I already knew about it because I attended the conference in Chicago, I was there to hear about the other urban communities. I was so happy to hear that Minneapolis has a Native section in their city! That's one of my dreams for LA, to have a Native neighborhood- our own area in Los Angeles. Can you imagine it, going into the store and hearing pow wow music, or seeing pow wow flyers? I used to think that it was just a pipe dream (lol), but after hearing about it, I know it can happen.

The morning of the meeting, I got up early and ran about 6 miles. I have to say that Seattle is beautiful- it's so green. I saw the sun come up over the water, it was beautiful, even thinking about it brings a tear to my eye. I was never really into appreciating my surroundings, especially when I was younger. But now I do, I see how wonderful it is to be on this earth. But I digress.

So the meeting was good, met all the people representing the various ndn centers and then went back to the hotel. Afterwards I went out for sushi with the Phoenix and Seattle people. We talked and talked! It was so great! We all know a lot of the same people, ndn country is so small. We were all about the same age bracket, and we talked about how the face of our leadership is changing, both in the cities and back home. We talked about how a lot of the older crew still holds grudges against other leaders or organizations- so it's good that the younger ones are coming up (and that's true in LA- the old school leadership isn't too keen on building community). I wish I could just sit and talk to them longer, or more often. Being with other great Native people who really want things to change- I was so happy, I didn't want it to end. We then went to go play pool- which I'm not a real big fan of, but I was enjoying the company- so I tagged along. I was talked into playing teams- Phoenix/ LA vs. Seattle/LA (my partner in crime from LA). Seattle killed!

Soon we started to get tired, so Seattle drove us back to our hotel. I was feeling yucky, just tired and moody, drained- not very social. And wouldn't you know it, so was my friend. So we ordered Mr. and Mrs. Smith, neither one of us had seen it. We loved it! It was just what we needed- mindless entertainment. Once it was over it was time for bed.

Next thing I knew I was on a plane back to LA. I read a lot and worked on some things- that was good. Somewhere along the flight I fell alseep, and woke to gasps and semi-screams. We weren't bouncing around, so I was confused. I looked out my window, we were flying over lava! Well, we weren't really flying over lava, but it looked like it. I guess while I've been gone, all these fires have been spreading. We were flying right over this huge blaze. It was kinda scary. It was really smokey and you could smell it. We were landing in Burbank, which is where one of the fires was located- so when we landed all you could smell was smoke- it kinda burned my eyes. But regardless, I was happy to be back home.

I'm now home for the week, so that's good. I had an awesome weekend. Leia (my dog) and I ran about 7 miles today. Oh, and I caught that movie Serenity with one of my good friends, so that was cool. Oh, and I found out one of the people we were talking about, Kevin Grover, is going to be speaking in San Diego- so I want to go catch him.

Tomorrow I gotta prep for my upcoming entrepreneurship class.

Catch ya later!~J