January 1, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I probably should, but I don’t make “resolutions” for a new year, because truth be told, I forget I’ve made them by February 1. This year, I do intend to get off the couch after my “wintery/holiday” break of serious comfort food eating and whining that it’s too cold to leave the house to exercise. I also intend to persistently craft healthy yet budget-friendly meals for my husband and me. I often take the lazy way out, and ask myself just what really is more budget-friendly than a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese? With a beer. (Don’t judge me.)
In addition to these food/health-related intentions, I have a few more I’d like to share. Every year, I feel like I grow more into myself. I become closer to who I want to be, and for that I am grateful. I feel like this year, I was given a bit of an advantage. Somehow, getting married and starting a life with someone has made me feel all the more my own person. I feel braver, more confident, and more ready to take on the world. Not just because I have my husband beside me, but because I know me better. No one can love my husband the way I do, and together we make our life that no one else can live but ourselves. Together, we live, we love, we make choices, and we make moves. I’ve felt an overwhelming desire to grow myself, forgive myself, and live as myself.
Here are a few quotes that I hope better illustrate my thoughts and hopes for 2013. Happy New Year!
What are your intentions for 2013?
September 12, 2012 § 1 Comment
This post seriously deviates from the norm, but lately an old passion has been revitalized, and I thought what better place to share it than here.
I want to talk about dance.
I’ve danced on and off throughout life. I took a few ballet classes in elementary school, but for some reason I never loved it nor did I have the patience to keep going. But I always found myself dancing. In middle school I recorded music videos on a VHS (Britney Spears’ “Oops I Did It Again” and NSYNC’s “It’s Gonna Be Me” to name a couple) just to play and rewind again and again to learn the combinations. Finally, in high school, I discovered dance. And I loved it.
I lacked the technique some of the top dancers at school had—one of my best friends Katie, for instance, had been dancing all her life, and it showed in every move she made. But I could do the choreography. Over four years, I worked my way up from the junior dance troupe to the senior.
Then I went to college, eager to see if I could take dance a step further. When I registered for classes, I had two options: a beginner’s class (we’re talking Ballet 101, which I figured was too basic for me) or an intermediate/advanced class. I opted for the latter. I showed up, and all girls were on pointe, a level I never got to. The choreography was being taught at about twice the speed I was used to, and I couldn’t do a lot of the advanced ballet moves required. I felt so deflated.
I met with a few dance instructors to see what my options were, but of course they weren’t going to hold my hand if I wasn’t where I needed to be. So sadly, I gave up, and pursued another passion: writing, where I had success. And believe me, I am so thrilled to be where I am now.
But I never took any more dance classes aside from workouts like Zumba. Then I graduated, didn’t have free gym access anymore and desperately needed to get my body moving. I found that the only workouts I really enjoyed were those that involved dance of some kind. The Mountain Brook YMCA offered a hip-hop dance class that was pretty easy and great exercise, and then (with my bestie Christina) I discovered one of my true loves—Crunk Fitness, offered for FREE at Railroad Park on Mondays. I was obsessed with the idea of learning hip-hop. The was somewhat challenging, but I could handle it. (And how fab did I feel dancing outside in the middle of downtown Birmingham?) But then I got married (yay!), moved, and Railroad Park was no longer convenient.
I was aching for more dance, and I needed to stay in shape. I researched what gym memberships were in the area, and I found that the UA Rec Center offered a reasonable rate for alumni. And they had a hip hop class.
So I went, and holy smokes—it was hard. The instructor teaches dance at the university, and she was spitting out choreography much more rapidly than I had experienced in a long time. I was a bit downtrodden at first, thinking—again—that I didn’t belong in this class. But after a few days to lick my wounds, I decided to endure the humbling experience and embrace a challenge. I can only get better when the people around me are dance majors, right?
Last night, she taught a jazz class to this song. (I found she teaches lyrical and jazz the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month.)
I have been doing the combination in my head all morning. Last night I could keep up with the choreography (holla!), but some of it demanded flexibility and advanced moves I just didn’t have down.
It seems silly that I didn’t at least keep dancing throughout college. I had missed it so much. I think this class has taught me that it is ok to rediscover passions, to start back from the beginning, and to not quit because I’m not the best at it. I keep feeling like, what’s the point? Why get better? I’m probably about five years older than most of these girls, who are already amazing. I’m not going to do anything with dance, am I?
But then I’ve decided: who cares? It’s wonderful for a workout to do more than keep my body fit. It’s engaging my brain and my soul. My body is sore and it feels amazing. I am so beyond grateful for this discovery.
So yeah, check out some of the ballin’ moves I’ve been learning.
And I’m sorry, I know this post was SUPER cheesy. The end.
May 22, 2012 § 2 Comments
Not too far from the house my parents rented wedding week is a field of trees and clover. And as dusk set in, lightning bugs made their appearance, and danced along the clover and flashed their lights at one another. It was beautiful. I love the South.
October 13, 2011 § 2 Comments
I didn’t know what I was missing.
Yes, I devour dill pickles. But the thought of dipping a few dozen of those crinkle cut chips into a thin batter and tossing them into the bubbling grease of a deep frier never occurred to me before I moved to Alabama. But what results is a sizzling hot delicacy of the South—one that manages to slip into my wandering mind at my office desk far too often.
In my mind, I grab a toothpick and skewer a few of those too-hot-to-handle golden nuggets. I dip the blazing bunch into the cool ranch sitting in a plastic container at my right, and pop those deep-fried dixieland delights into my mouth. I sweat a bit at the piquancy that the crunchy batter delivers. I savor that familiar pickled tang that is utterly blissful at a screaming temperature. I am grateful the ranch tames the explosion just a bit. And with each bite, I reveal a bit more of the greasy wax paper beneath the pile.
Related: What We Ordered: Big Bad Wolves
September 20, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Here’s an essay I wrote last year for my assistantship with the Center for Community-Based Partnerships. The assignment was to capture my culture. Just thought I’d share.
Blue-Eyed and Mexican
By Brett Bralley
As a stainless steel deep frying pan full of chiles rellenos sizzled over hot flames, I watched as my mouther poured salsa over the stuffed chiles. My sister Brynn guarded a pot of pinto beans beside her, mashing them gently as they softened while adding cheese and milk for a bit of flavor. We were having chile relleno burritos for dinner.
“I have to write a culture sketch for my assistantship,” I mentioned to my mom as she set the lid on top of the chiles.
“Oh,” she said excitedly. “Well, be sure to mention that your mother is a fifth-generation Los Angelina.”
The history of my mother’s family starts on Olvera Street—one of the first streets formed in Los Angeles. My great-great-great grandmother’s house, La Casa de Sepulveda, prominently stands in the middle of the Mexican marketplace that smells of spicy food and leather purses. This is just another claim to my Mexican heritage. A reminder to all that, despite my light brown hair, blue eyes and pale skin, Brett Bralley is Mexican.
Yet, for the better part of my college career at the University of Alabama, I avoided mentioning my Mexican roots to most people, not sure if one-fourth of an ethnicity was enough to claim. After my first day wandering the Capstone, I sat in the pristine office of the scholarships director learning the specifics of the National Hispanic Scholarship I had been offered. I pondered whether or not she was confused by my not-so-Hispanic appearance. I half expected her to ask for a family history along with my application.
“You’re Mexican?” many fellow students asked with surprise, as I apologetically explained that yes, my mother is half Mexican; yes, my scholarship is the Hispanic scholarship. Whether it was a lack of self-confidence or a lack of pride in my roots, I did what I could to avoid the topic.
I had not decided on a major when I started at UA, so when it came to deciding what classes to take, I stuck with what I knew. I was not raised speaking Spanish—my Grandpa decided not to teach his children the language—apart from a few phrases my mother taught us.
“Con su permiso, perdoname por favor,” my sisters and I used to ask our mother when we were little girls wanting to be excused from the table. Perhaps those phrases made me comfortable with Spanish. It was a subject I consistently made A’s in throughout high school.
But it wasn’t until I took a Spanish conversation class at UA that I realized I truly loved everything about the language. Chills fluttered through my body when I could finally understand lyrics to songs in Spanish, and I started to hear full phrases without having to chew on each individual word. I could learn this language for real, I thought. This romantic song that flows swiftly and poetically off of Spanish-speaking tongues was actually a small part of me. I was a part of a people who thought, lived and breathed this language.
So to get really good, I went to Chile for a semester.
I spent five months navigating my way through Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, learning to conquer the rapid Chilean Spanish and augmenting my vocabulary. When I came back, I practiced my Spanish twice a week by translating for two middle school students in Tuscaloosa.
The summer after my time in Chile, my Grandpa came over to our house for dinner. My mother eagerly asked me to speak Spanish for him. For a minute, I was nervous. It had been at least a month since I’d had a conversation in Spanish. But he started the dialogue by asking me if I could read and write well.
I said yes, that I was translating enough to keep practicing even though I wasn’t taking any more classes.
“Well,” he said in English, “I think you’re the only one.” He nodded in approval with a smile.
“The only one what?” I asked.
“The only one in the family who speaks it, other than me and my brothers and sisters,” he said.
Whether I’ve grown up, overcome insecurities or simply learned to love who I am, I proclaim my ethnicity with pride when I encounter doubters. My Grandpa, I say, was born in Douglas, Arizona, just beside the Mexican border. And we eat Mexican food at least twice a week in the Bralley household. In fact, the easy, stress-free meals I cook after a long day of classes or work are burritos, tostadas, quesadillas, Spanish rice and frijoles. I sometimes throw in to Los Angeles natives that the Sepulveda House on Olvera Street belongs to my family.
At Christmas, I tell them, nearly 100 relatives gather at my Grandpa’s house, and we feast on steaming pots of tamales and menudo (a spicy tripe and hominy soup) topped with a bit of cilantro, onions, and a squeeze of lemon.
I may not look like it, but I am Mexican. No doubt.
September 14, 2011 § 2 Comments
In the past, fall has been filled with class, stress, and deadlines. Last year, though student life was behind me, I had an internship, which as many know, doesn’t mean you can breathe easy. You’re constantly looking for a job and worrying about the future (at least I was).
But now, I am settled for a bit. Work is steady; worries are kept at bay. I will take in the beauty of the season without having a pile of deadlines in the back of my mind. I will simply enjoy a delightfully crisp autumn breeze, the flavors and fragrances of the season, cozy sweaters, warm scarves, and a stunning display of leaves in brilliant hues. And perhaps fall just may become one of my favorite times of the year.
The Bralley Family (pre-Brikki) at Lombardi Ranch in Santa Clarita, CA. My mother took some cool pictures. I hope I am that cool when I am documenting my future babies.
March 16, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Awhile back I had a dream that English speakers had decided to rid themselves of the semicolon, since no one could bother to remember how to use it correctly. The Crimson White sent me to the press conference, which was held nearby and in the middle of the night, and I had to write up the story.
The press conference was held in a backyard patio, lined with wooden picnic tables while icicle Christmas lights surrounded the area. As an announcer listed several reasons why we no longer needed this punctuation mark, several listeners sipped on cocktails. As the speaker went on about the semicolon was no longer going to exist, I realized with dismay I had forgotten my recorder. I then realized I had no writing utensil whatsoever and nothing to write on. I was missing all of these important quotes about the semicolon.
What silly, anxious dreams I have.
The California sun is beautiful, and the breeze is relaxing, and our sky is blue. Oranges and lemons hover over the emerald green grass in our backyard while my dog anxiously runs in circles around my feet, and I enjoy some Priscilla Ahn playing on Pandora. I’m currently reading Julie and Julia. A book about writing and food? Yes please!
Meanwhile, a job hunt is hanging over my head. I pray I’ll find something. Any tips for job searching? Share them!
January 20, 2010 § 3 Comments
I should be working on a personal culture sketch for my assistantship. Please bear with me as I am in a personal, reflective mood.
It’s funny how one song can bring back a flood of memories. While I was sipping my iced coffee in Strip Teas this morning, “The Calculation” by Regina Spektor started playing overhead. And the nostalgia hit me so hard I nearly cried. Instantly I longed for early summer mornings of waking up to drive my sister to work in Birmingham. Waking up to trees in my window, a ceiling fan whirring too fast for comfort, thick, heavy heat permeating through the windows, and the smell of coffee heating on the stove. My first summer of fire flies, first summer of Alabama beach with white sand. So many good friends.
And now, as I listen to a cold rain fall hard as I snuggle under a blanket in Tuscaloosa, I am listening to “Folding Chair.”
Come and open up your folding chair next to me. My feet are buried in the sand, and there’s a breeze. There’s a shadow, you can’t see my eyes, and the sea is just a wetter version of the skies.
And all I want is to be tan, to be sipping iced coffee, and to run to the grocery store by just stepping outside and cutting through an alley past a foul dumpster, and a small stream with a neglected boat at its side.
Well if my personal piece were about what I enjoyed about this summer, I would feel relieved. But right now I’m expressing a few hundred words the culture I embrace. I never thought this would be so hard to share to what extent I embrace my Mexican heritage. But every time I get to a point where the piece should wrap itself up, I am unhappy with the tone or what I’ve left the reader with. Ah, story of my life. It’ll get there by tomorrow.
Anyways, it has been a good while since I’ve written anything. Since I last wrote, swarms of Alabama fans took over Los Angeles (I still get excited when I see flashes of crimson, until I remind myself that I’m back in Tuscaloosa), and I helped cover the madness for The Tuscaloosa News:
Saturday I’m heading to UAB for the Birmingham Better Watchdog Workshop. Look for my post discussing “The Art of Interviewing” segment.
November 29, 2009 § 2 Comments
My story about Galilee Baptist Church was printed in The Tuscaloosa News! Check it out. In other news, I need to fix my Soundslides presentation and put together some sort of video for Media Production Tools before we show everything in Anniston Dec. 10.
Two weeks from now I’ll be in Altadena! I have so, so much to do before then. Gonna get my research on tonight. Chau!