Mile 7

141090-185-008hI am more than halfway through Lent. It has been a very different Lent than the last few years.  I embarked on less challenges.One of the dangers of seeing Lent as a time of challenge is that I begin to see it as if it were a fitness challenge or half marathon training. That misses the purpose of Lent. Lent is meant to be a season for growth.  I’ve been trying too hard to make it a goal to attain.

I have focused too much on being successful at Lent. Lent is my time to be thankful, prayerful, and mindful.  Lent has been fruitful. I may not be writing or exercising everyday but I am praying every day. I’m even praying for those that I’ve written about. That is growth.

I am done competing with others. I have pulled away from activities in which I felt that others wanted to compare themselves with me or in which I felt a spirit of competition and tension arose. I know that I am competing with my old self. I will resume that and soon. But I’m done competing with the rest of the world. I will keep living my life the way I want and in keeping with my values.

My social media break always reminds me of what really matters. I remain close to those who are truly loving, sincere, and supportive. I continue to enjoy doing what I love. While I miss the social connections, I don’t miss the drama or the annoyance I sometimes feel at what people may say or do. I feel like social media sometimes brings out the worst in me. I prefer being the best version of myself. I have spent the last 25 years or more trying to be the best version of myself. I’m old enough to know what that takes.

There are 2 weeks left in Lent. I am going to enjoy this time. I will make the 40 blog challenge. But I don’t owe anyone any updates about bags of clothes that were filled or books that were read or even rosaries that were prayed. Now is my time to catch up with God.


New school solution


I’ve decided that I’m going to be experimenting with something new in my writing. I’ve been trying to figure out various ways to blog and I have found some challenges namely time management. Between taking care of family, household chores, work, fitness, and sleep, it is very difficult to carve out time to write. I have been using voice memo on my cell phone as a means of capturing my thoughts. This was helpful during my commutes because I could make an audio file and later transcribe it.  I’ve amassed multiple audio files yet have no time to transcribe them. I’m going to try to use voice type.

I tend to speak quite quickly. I When I was a student teacher and later a new teacher, I was often criticized for speaking too fast. Now that I’m an administrator, I purposely slow down when I speak. however as a blogger, because I was writing by voice into my phone, I was using my regular talking speed.  Because I have been my own transcriber, I realize I speak very quickly at times, especially if I’m passionate about my topic. This will be a challenge to me as I try this new mode of communication.

I spent some time with a good friend from grad school, a fellow writer, yesterday.  We both shared that we haven’t made time for writing fiction. We wrote works of fiction for our master’s degrees in Writing. We both use writing in our careers. He uses his skills and experience as a writer in a much more creative way. School administrators do a lot of writing but it’s often academic or managerial;  it’s not too glamorous. I have continued to blog over the years but I haven’t carved out time for my fiction. I have ideas for my fiction. I don’t think it’s a writer’s block per se; it’s a fiction writers pause. In the meantime, I’m enjoying blogging and I hope that this new technology will enable me to continue to share my work. I’m encouraged by the possibilities.  

Epic tale


Stand in the place where you live

Now face north

Think about direction

Wonder why you haven’t before, “Stand” by R.E.M.

I have been intrigued by the apocalypse for quite some time.  In recent times, doomsday has been expected in 1999, 2000, 2012(And I feel fine!) the alleged Mayan apocalypse(Baktun to the future), and the various predictions about when the world is going to end (Embracing the end times).  As an avid reader and later as a teacher, I became a dystopian novels enthusiast. Despite being a longtime Stephen King fan, I had not read his post-apocalyptic epic,novel,  The Stand.  I chose it as an audiobook to follow the Game of Thrones Series. Because it is quite long, I knew I would be reading it as Lent began. I did find The Stand to be enjoyable as a counterpoint to Game of Thrones, as a post- apocalyptic novel, and even as a Lenten read.  

The Stand was a good follow-up to Game of Thrones. Like GoT, The Stand has an intriguing cast of characters.The Stand’s antagonist, Randall Flagg, is despicable yet I found myself engaged by his personality quirks.  Some GoT fans might say the same about Cersei Lannister. I also thought that there was a level of camp that I noticed in the Game of Throne books. Call me a weirdo but sometimes the scenes are hilarious.  I would cackle at the shade being thrown between characters. On a more serious note, The Stand included themes of betrayal, conspiracy,infighting and people preying on others’  insecurities. The behind-the-scenes political power plays that plague humanity are still in full effect post humanity. According to King, even when there very few people left on earth, they are still going to engage in the game of thrones.

I have read and done a lot of work as an English teacher with classic dystopian novels like Brave New World and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.  The young adult fiction market has generated several popular dystopian novel series in the last decade including The Hunger Games, the Divergent series, the Uglies series, Delirium, and The Girl with All the Gifts. These are only the ones I have read; there are many more. It would seem young adults are being marketed a fascination with the end of the world. The Stand, however, predates this trend in fiction.  The Stand debuted in the late 70s before it was remixed in 1990 with the uncut full length version. The Stand differs from  other post-apocalyptic novels in that it is grounded in realism. The characters are real people in contemporary America.  The novel is not sci-fi in terms of how who the characters are before, during, and after the apocalypse. A lot of similar books are set in a distant future that is in many ways very removed from our current reality. King places his story, if not in this world, in a world that’s similar and therefore relatable. Rather than focus on terrifying the audience, the book puts more focus on the relationships that build between characters, their Interactions, and personal dynamics between the opposing sides. King is making a statement about society and  its values by imagining a world where there’s an opportunity to get away from where society is today and its failings. It’s not about a failed future society; it ponders whether or not we would pick up where we left off in the event of of an apocalyptic event. If I were still teaching Advanced Placement literature and still teaching a unit on dystopian novels, I might recommend the book as a contrast with other books or in tandem with the Bible. While there’s certainly some allusions to the Bible, it’s not at all like the Left Behind series which is definitely a faith-based apocalyptic read. (don’t get me started on that topic. That is another blog for another day.)  I did enjoy the social commentary present in The Stand.  

I started The Stand before Lent and finished it during the first week of Lent.  I had mixed feelings about continuing to read this book as I was going into a time that is personally important to me. Lent is a time of reflection and reconnection with spiritual discipline. I work on putting myself in a serene and focused state of mind. I wondered if reading about the end of the world and a demonic character made sense.  As we progressed into Lent, the scripture readings did tell about Christ battling evil. The Stand is a story about battling evil, both the evil with a capital E and also the evil of our own ways of thinking, our ambitions, our failings and flaws as people. I finished this book as I transitioned into a different time in the year and in my thinking.

There were parts of The Stand that I could have done without; there was gratuitous gore and sexual violence.  I sometimes question King’s language, specifically his use of the n-word, other slurs and profanity.  Overall it was an entertaining read, especially as an audiobook.

My song of praise


St. Dymphna is not here for it.

Psalm 118: This is the Day

by Michael Joncas

(Refrain) This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad.
This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad.

Give thanks to the Lord,
for he is good,
His mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”


The Lord’s right hand
has struck with pow’r;
the Lord’s right hand is exalted.
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the Lord.


The stone which the builders
rejected has become the cornerstone.
By the Lord this has been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes!


It’s not every day I sing a psalm.  Over the years, I have heard, both at LA Congress and from different homilists, that to sing is to give praise to the Lord. Now my voice isn’t that of a singer. I can somewhat harmonize when I have other voices with which to combine.  But I don’t sing solos nor should I.  So I make a joyful noise.  Earlier this week, I sang one of my favorite psalms, Psalm 118, out loud in its entirety. True, it was during my morning commute, so I was in my car. I sang my heart out, con muchas ganas.  The commuters who saw me probably got a good laugh.  No matter. Yo estaba feliz.

It’s Lent, a time to reflect on the Lord’s Passion. Yet I was singing a song of joy and victory. This is a song for weddings or Easter. What happened that led me to Carpool Karaoke this particular psalm?  I learned that someone I encountered in the past was held accountable. Others recognized patterns of behavior I saw. That is cause for celebration. I know we shouldn’t take joy in others’ struggles. In my personal and professional life, I have worked to move those who are a negative force in others’ lives, particularly the lives of young people, away.  Anyone who hurts a young person’s opportunities to move forward to become the best version of herself or himself has got to go. I feel vindicated and validated. I always knew that what I and my colleagues experienced was not a figment of anyone’s imagination. Sadly, this behavior went on for years before me to many others. It is high time for this person to be held to high expectations. Por fin, se va.

“The Lord’s right hand is exalted.” I believe that things happen as they should.  Whether you credit the universe, the Lord’s right hand, karma, or however you view the world, what is right, good, and just eventually happens. Wrongs will be made right.

Every day is a day the Lord has made. But that day I felt, along with many people, that justice had been served.

I can’t sing but this young woman can. This is her version of my song

Maker of chains


In my previous leadership role, I did some writing and reflecting on being an exorcist and having to slay demons. I had to face my fears and insecurities. I relied on my teammate to help me face toxic individuals. I then began to see Game of Thrones as an analogy for my new leadership role.  Over the course of last summer, I had an opportunity to sit on the Iron Throne (an awesome replica, anyway); I found it exciting and empowering.  Since starting my new role, I had another experience to sit in the same throne. It made think about how things have changed now that I’m living my new role, as opposed to pondering my new title.

A new leader can quickly go from being well-loved to being criticized or vilified.  The transition to a new staff has mostly been seamless. Interestingly, the struggle has been with my students. In the past, while there have been challenging clients, I played a different role and felt mostly successful. In my current position, there is no buffer. I’m both good cop and bad cop. Instead of breaker of chains, I have been perceived by some students to be the maker of chains.

As a woman of color, I have not often been the one making decisions. I have been affected by others imposing systems and structures on everyone else. Now I’m the one implementing change and meting out discipline. Young people see me as an authority figure first.  I’m not here to be a good time Carla or anybody’s little friend. I’ve been in the education game since I was the “cool teacher.” I look back on some of my actions back then and realize I showed a lack of maturity. I have grown in experience and judgment. As a leader, I have to be mindful of upholding my values, of ensuring safety and making decisions that will help my students move on in their lives. While they may call me a “prison warden” or “dictator,” (yes those are the terms used) I want to empower these young people. When I first started hearing that I had changed the school and made it feel so strict, I actually took pride in those comments.  Though it is sometimes painful, I am clear in who I am.  It is my students who can learn from my example.  So many of them don’t feel powerful. I want them to be proactive about their future plans and to not merely passively accept their life experiences.  It’s a challenge to reconnect with those who feel disenfranchised, disillusioned, demoralized, and disconnected. One of the ways I feel I can do that is to be firm and consistent. It involves being tough on the use of drugs and defiance against staff.  My students, many of whom are dealing with personal and family issues, are also recovering from the loss of my predecessor. They have to now work with someone who they feel is very different, someone they perceive as oppressive. That is bothersome.


Being is a leader isn’t all glory and power. Even as I experience resistance to my vision, I try to leave work behind at the end of the day.  During my commute, I listen to audiobooks. Then I’m home focused on family and fitness. I’m reading fiction and nonfiction. On weekends, I’m enjoying cultural events and dancing (even some paid gigs now). I’m doing what I need to feed my soul and heart. I need a strong foundation for my leadership. In the long run, my students will see that I’m coming from a good place of deep concern and love.  Hopefully, they will someday see that I came to empower.

Bearing weight


Ash Wednesday was a dark day.  I had hoped to attend morning mass but as with many weekday mornings, we ran late and I scolded my daughter.  I dropped her off at my parents’ house, her face troubled, and her eyes downcast.  My workday was a blur of marijuana smoke, distraught parents, frayed nerves and nagging self-doubt. As the day wound down, we learned that across the nation, a fellow high school experienced a terrible tragedy.  I went to church in hopes of getting out from what the day had been. When I walked stiffly and silently into evening mass, I felt weak.

My dance teacher recently noticed that I carry tension between my shoulders. She noted that my heart is open but that I’m carrying so much.   As an educator, as a mother, and as a friend, I have worked on carrying less, to work on carrying myself. The weight that can be overwhelming sometimes. I do it all. I take care of others and myself.  There are days like Ash Wednesday when I feel I have to take care of many people and those days wear on me. Those are the days I wish someone would take care of me. I stopped wishing for that when I didn’t find it; I’m glad I learned to rely on myself. It also deepened my faith.  I know that God takes care of me. He gives me the strength to get through rough days, to stand tall and strong.

I tell myself better a strong back than a weak spine. But that stiff back makes it hard to truly dance.

Sleepless in San Leandro, the sequel

One night this past fall, I was up for two hours between 2 and 4am. M had told me she had misplaced her Moana TsumTsum.  She did not yet tell me it had been gone for weeks. M, like both of her parents, is a notorious pack rat so she struggles with clutter. I stayed up looking through things, recycling paper, throwing trash out, and adding to our donation bag. I hoped to find it.

I know I could have used that time in a different way. I could have worked; there are always emails to answer, agendas to craft, a newsletter to compose and translate into Spanish.  I could have worked creatively by posting to my blog.  I could have practiced one of my dance routines as there are now occasional gigs with my dance group. While I may know a routine, I can always work on technique and precision. That comes from lots of practice. Given my time management struggles, this does not consistently happen.

While I could have used those two hours differently, I sat and knelt in the dark, going through different drawers and boxes to find the missing toy. In the morning, M said I shouldn’t have wasted my time. When I saw how crestfallen she looked at the thought of not seeing this toy again, I knew she would be happy if it was found. She then told me it had been missing for a long time.  She decided to ask Santa for a new one. During another round of cleaning a month or so later, we found a bag of toys we had stored during the summer.  Moana was there.  We had several good laughs about that late night of cleaning.


I do a lot for M because I would like her to feel good or better. When M was tiny, we spent hours up at night. We would play. I would chat with her. She didn’t sleep through the night until she was two years old. (Sleepless in San Leandro)I didn’t know what it was like to get several hours of sleep for a few years.  Despite the challenges, it was time well spent.   As a mom, I often question my commitment to dance, writing, and my career because of the time they take from M. Making a difference as an educator and as a writer are important to me. She is the person I want to make the most difference for in this life. M is my reason.