trash can labeled landfill
Daily Life

You Know You’re a Renoite When…

Reno, Nevada, isn’t a place you move to; it’s a place you get stuck. At least that’s what I heard from a handful of locals while living in The Biggest Little City in the World. But as a seven-years-strong Renoite who recently relocated to The City of Angels (which is anything but), I can honestly say Reno is a place I’m proud to call a piece of home.

Now don’t get me wrong. There are some pretty strange things about Reno. But when you live there, you start to adopt these little habits that, well, you don’t realize aren’t akin to the rest of the West Coast.

A friend from Hillside in Reno once called the Northern Nevada city “The Poor Man’s Portland.” There may be some sense to that. All I can say is: The dream is alive.

A little list of how much of a Renoite I am, despite living in Los Angeles:

Salad in a jar

Yes, it’s a salad in a jar. (Top secret hint: Build your salad from wet to dry ingredients, and it’ll last for three days in the fridge.)

1. I brought my refillable water bottle to work on my first day … and my to-go tea cylinder. Well, it just so happens that So. Cal. break-rooms are ripe with buy-in-bulk bottles of H20. Noted!

2. I make layered lunch salads in mason jars. Wait, why do I do this? *reviews list of Renoite uses for the mason jar: daily coffee mug, candle holder, whiskey jar, flower pot, table centerpiece, spaghetti noodle storage….*

3. I like running … on dirt trails. What, we have to run on sidewalks? This cement will ruin my cankles.

4. I thought Reno’s 395 had rush hour traffic. *sniggers in corner* Oh, hi, I-5! Yes, I remember how fun it was to drive my moving van along your bumper-to-bumper lanes of traffic for two and a half hours. Then my car… and… yeah.

5. I lament L.A. freeway overpasses in need of a good power-washing from decades of smog grime, graffiti, and pigeon poop. To think, I was scoffing at Reno’s city beautification project just months ago. Though I do maintain that butterfly sculpture at the downtown ice rink looks vaguely reminiscent of female organs. Come on, Reno.

trash can labeled landfill

Thank you, chain store coffee shop.

6. I want to be casual friends with my barista. Now I just get confronted by a cold metal can with whether I’ll contribute to protecting the earth or promoting landfills.

7. Bicyclists in Reno wear head-to-toe spandex and aerodynamic helmets. In Los Angeles, they sport straw fedoras and carry enormous striped tote bags.

8. In Reno, I would drive home early to avoid death by iced-over roads at night. But living in Los Angeles, I was told to leave work early to dodge death by Dodgers fans in a traditional takeover of all downtown roads on Opening Day.

9. The great outdoors up north means wide-open space, scenic views, and plenty of solitude. In the big city, it’s a park with graffitied tree stumps. What, I ask, would one gain by tagging a stump?

Lake Tahoe in winter

You just can’t beat views like this. Thank you, Reno-Tahoe, for this moment.

10. I wave at people and ask, “How’s it going?” when we cross paths. I’m sure someone walking along will wave back someday. I mean, with L.A.’s constantly gorgeous weather and no sight of snow, who wouldn’t want to celebrate with me?

Anybody resonate with these? Leave me a comment with how you feel about Reno, L.A., or the differences between your hometown and your latest city. 

Photos and writing: Ally Siwajian © 2013

youth group in winter
Connectivity, Daily Life

This is my church

This is a church where jeans prevail over dress pants, and women won’t look down on you for failing to acknowledge Jesus with a dress’ knee-length hemline.

This is a church where you walk in and people know your name. And if you’ve taken the time to ask, you know their names too. Debi. Petey. Tim. Joni. Louie. Colby. Claire. Rod. Kate. Danae. Ronnie. Katy. Geneva. John. Chris. Tiffany. Andrew.

In this church, we take time to connect over free-of-charge coffee and tea and pastries that a certain coffee chain kindly donates to our Sunday morning services. Kids race each other, ducking in and out of rows of maroon, cushioned chairs purchased for our building by the lively Spanish congregation that meets in our sanctuary in the evenings. A pair of three-year-old girls eye the Communion crackers that haven’t been eaten, and no one smacks their hands for wanting to participate in this symbolic reflection of remembering to come into union with Jesus.

In this church, I’ve found a family. I’ve discovered more about who God has created me to be, and I’ve been given opportunities to live that out in real, tangible ways.youth group in winter

I’ve learned so much from my church family and from a compassionate pastor who wears baseball jerseys and Doc Martens when it snows. I’ve learned nature is a gift, to be explored and enjoyed. I’ve learned to care for my body as well as my mind and spirit. I’ve learned to lead we must serve, and I’ve learned we must go beyond the church doors with love, hope, and mercy if we wish to see true change in the world.

I’ve learned it’s okay to be who I am. It’s okay to love nerdy books, and it’s all right to talk about how I was inspired by The Hobbit or The Dark Knight Rises or The Return of the Jedi.

In this church, I realized it’s okay to be angry and it’s okay to experience emotions. Then instead of exploding like a shaken soda can, it’s good to ponder these feelings, give them to God as David does in Psalm 4, and invite a friend to help you in your journey.

In this church, I have learned how true it is that it is not good to be alone. We need each other. We’re a community. It’s not an unhealthy dependency that demands we always function in stride. No, it’s a healthy unit, a working body, a family that knows when to give advice and when to simply share a story and when to provide a car when yours is broken down or make a meal to take home when you’re out of food or say a prayer that communicates I really do care and I will be thinking about you.

In this church, I have rediscovered my voice. I have discovered who I am. I have discovered what God wants of women—not for us to be quiet when we should speak—but for us to embrace who He created us to each be. Unique. Beautiful. Relational. Powerful. Unified with sisters and brothers.

In this church, I have overcome grief. I have survived the deaths of a friend and a family member, and I have seen healing power overwhelm my husband‘s sickness.

In this church, age doesn’t matter. I have been invited to the table of a couple who already have shared their fortieth wedding anniversary, and I have held hands with a child as she showed me plants in her family’s backyard. I have danced. I have sung. I have attended a rock show within these walls. I have seen people overcome thoughts of suicide. I have dreamed of days in the future, and I have been encouraged to continue.

In this church, I realized the power of God’s redemptive story. He loves me deeply, and He loves you. He wants relationship with us, and He wants to empower us to become people who pursue Him and care for those around us.

I’m still learning. My life does not reflect a complete picture of Jesus. But I hope when people see this church, they see a little piece of the puzzle we are working to complete.

In this church and beyond its walls, we all matter. We all contribute to the puzzle. And I’m looking to the box cover with its perfect example, to find where I fit in this design.

Photo credit: Debi Johnson (from my church)  © 2012

Author: Ally Siwajian

Runner in Color Me Rad
Daily Life, Stunted World Changers

Fear and Forward Motion: Reflections on the Past Year

Last year, I wanted to learn to live again. This year, I want to learn to love life again.

I want to appreciate the little things I take for granted and to remember to find something extraordinary in each ordinary day. To awake in the morning with the sun shining through my window and to say, ‘That’s incredible.’

Runner in Color Me Rad

One of my 2012 highlights: Finishing the Color Me Rad Reno 5K with good friends and family! I totally took a pop of color to the face!

In 2012, life raced by. I challenged myself to find the balance between apathy and overworked. I considered why we couldn’t just learn to live simply. I berated the fact I couldn’t write more, do more, be more. I wondered why accomplishment, that elusive sensation, never stayed for long. And I wondered why fear never seemed to set foot away from my doorstep.

I learned a lot in 2012. I achieved personal goals, like becoming a vegetarian to support Mom through her health issues and lifestyle changes. Training for my first 5K, even though I couldn’t run for a quarter of a mile when I started. Meeting celebrities, like blogger Perez Hilton and The Millionaire Matchmaker Patti Stanger, and discovering a “work event” meant attending a CeeLo Green concert on a warm September evening.

I also fought fear … and likewise often succumbed to it. I thought about money issues and financial struggles much more than I’d like to admit. I worried about friendships and relationships and the changes that happen as people grow. I cared a lot about image, and I didn’t share as much as I may have liked on this blog for fear of crowds.

This past year was ripe with frustration at my own immobility. A lot of that boils down to how much I take for granted. I saw myself as stuck, merely existing, just there. Toward the latter half of the year, I realized as much. Sometimes it’s not your circumstances that need to change. It’s your perspective that needs to shift.

This year I want that focus. I want to choose forward motion over stagnancy, positive thinking over “realism,” and faith over fear. Remind me of that, friends.

Photo credit: Anthony and Ally Siwajian © 2013

once upon a time
Daily Life, What I Like

What I Like Right Now: I’m Hooked edition

Too often it’s easy to focus on the negative elements in life. So I figured that while the whole “Month of Thankfulness” may have ended with November, I can keep reminding myself of what I’m happy about in life. Sometimes it’ll be deep. But today, let’s keep it simple. I just want to let you in on what I like right now in my daily life! It’s the “pans,” if you will. 😉  Once Upon a Time Henry

(1) Once Upon a Time on Trapped between two worlds, the fairy tale characters of childhood stories struggle to survive in a world without magic–ours. With Rumpelstiltskin, Prince Charming, and the Evil Queen in Storybrooke, Maine, with Mulan, Captain Hook, and *spoiler alert* the Red Queen of Hearts in the Enchanted Forest, and with Sleeping Beauty’s Philip in the netherworld, all kinds of crazy has been going down in these clever plot twists. What can I say? I’m hooked.

(2) I’ve been a fan since 2009. (Yes, I jumped on the bandwagon a little late. Didn’t want my CDs to feel jealous.) Apparently, Spotify is the next best thing. I’m going to have to try it soon. But today I still like the variety of Pandora, where I can hear my favorites in a mix with new material. My current favorite playlists are based on “Hans Zimmer” and “‘Destroy’ by Worth Dying For.”

(3) Mustard Yellow Cardigan: Two months ago, I picked up a mustard yellow cardigan as my autumn wardrobe update. This sweater is transforming my world… and the photographers I work with for magazine pieces are probably sick of seeing me wear it! It just goes so well with everything: slacks and blouse, polka dot dress, even jeans and a printed T-shirt. I love it!

How about you? What music/TV shows/clothes/food/favorites/etc. are you into right now?

Photo by ABC’s Once Upon a Time