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Declining the invite

invite.pngA week ago, I received an invite to the Red Wedding. I’m still feeling some kind of way about it.  I am a recent convert to Game of Thrones. We are nearly done with Season 4.  I watched the infamous Red Wedding episode over two weeks ago and I’m still recovering from the trauma of the experience. I cried so much, more than I remember doing in a long time.  Anyway, I was sent a message that on the surface seems like a goodwill gesture. If I didn’t know any better, I might think it’s a peace offering. I know good and well it’s not an olive branch unless it’s one with a pointy end for stabbing me.

RooseBoltonChainmail_zps363b2108The Red Wedding represents the ultimate betrayal of trust. If you are invited to the Red Wedding, you’re being bamboozled into a trap.

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I’m not going to accept this invitation. I’ve looked at it. I’ve read it. I thought to myself this is some Game of Thrones ish. This message was strategic. The sender has a history of saying one thing and doing another. This individual has given me good reason to not trust their words, whether spoken or written.  I may be cynical but I read the message as an attempt to get me to trust again.  Nope not today.  I don’t want to hear “The Rains of Castamere.” If you hear this song playing, you best get out and quickly.

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I will admit I felt somewhat vindicated by the message. There was some attempt at making peace. I have already reflected on my history with rattlesnake in pocket syndrome(The plague on all our houses), on channeling my inner mongoose (A fearless favorite,) and giving myself permission to go into Ivan Drago mode. I won’t be duped again. I’m a person of patience and compassion but my eyes are open. I will pray for those who have hurt me. Jesus is going to be the strongest fence that ever was. I will smile and be polite. I know who you are. No Red Wedding for me, no gracias.

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Ivan Drago mode

A not-so-funny thing happened on the first Friday of Lent.  I had not yet experienced my Lenten Miracle so an incident that occurred prompted a reaction more intense than You’re Ruining My Advent.  I went into Ivan Drago mode. 
Ivan Drago, for you non-Rocky franchise fans, is the foe in Rocky 4. 
He is the Russian fighting machine played by Ms. Grace Jones’ then-boyfriend , Rhodes Scholar-turned-model Dolph Lundgren.  Drago is methodical, ruthless, and cold as the Siberian tundra.
Drago’s statement of purpose
Not only was he physically superior to Philly’s finest, Rocky Balboa, but Drago was mentally Teflon.  
No heart of gold here.  In fact, you could argue Drago was heartless.  
Serving up sideeye
When questioned about the possibility that he could fatally injure Rocky in their international title bout, Drago utters his famous line, “If he dies, he dies.” 
What I could possibly gain or learn from such a character?  I know there’s value in protecting myself and handling business.  After all, I struggle with rattlesnake in pocket syndrome(Marsupium Crotalus); I’ve been betrayed by those I trusted, even as recently as this year. I also struggle with fear of intimidating personalities.  I am making it a priority to tap into my fighting spirit. (#innermongoose) At some point, I need to fully commit to the professional and personal work before me.   I need to focus on completing my goals. So yes, I will go Ivan Drago if the situation warrants it.  

The separation between church and state

“This world is your sanctuary and if that world comes in contact…
Yes! It blows up.”  From Seinfeld
Thomas Jefferson once wrote that church and state needed to stay separate so that the government could stay out of church business.  Before y’all think I’m about to break it down politically, I will, but not how you might expect. In my life, church is also a metaphor, specifically for the dance communities to which I have belonged.  For over a decade, I was a club kid and my church was soulful San Francisco house music.  Church is when the music is perfection and you feel the Holy Ghost.  It can involve gospel-style vocals and the dancers engaging in call and response but basically it’s what we hope to achieve anytime we’re on the dance floor.  When our favorite DJs were spinning, we were in church many days/nights of the week.


For the last three years, I have been taken part in #sambachurch.  When the bateria gets going and we are all feeling the music, we are elevated to a new level of movement and joy.  This can happen in the dance studio, at a community event,  or during a parade.  As with my original musical church, it is the experience of heightened positive energy.

State is how bills get paid. State is structure. It keeps the day and my way of life moving forward most of the time.  It includes my job, my obligations as a citizen, consumer, etc.  So church is needed. Church is sacred and holy.  Why would I muddy up my solace, my inspiration, my freedom, my alegria by involving my clients?  Y aunque no estes de acuerdo, I will henceforth(don’t you love that word) refer to my students as my clients. My clients, while I may like, respect and even care for them, are people I’m ENTRUSTED and PAID to serve.  I’m using all caps because these are two important facts I literally can’t afford to forget.  The state has given me the duty and responsibility of overseeing these young people in their parents’ place during my work hours.  I am liable for any harm that may come their way.  The state pays me a decent wage to do this work. If I jeopardize my job, I will not be able to provide for myself and my family. Because it’s such an important job, I would and should not be able to continue working in this field if I were to jeopardize the physical, mental, and/or emotional health safety of my clients.
I will be the devil’s advocate.  What to make of my longtime friendships with two former clients?  These women are both in their 30s(!) now. They are grown women with careers and lives entirely of their own. When we first socialized as friends, they were adults in college, and we certainly did not meet up at the club.  Church and state do not mix. 
Recently, these two worlds almost collided, through no fault of my own. Hell no, I thought. I have worked too hard to become a person of good judgment and good health. I’m not about to jeopardize what has taken years to build. I value my privacy. 
I made mistakes as a young educator of putting too much of my private self into my public work.  Thankfully, my mentors slapped me upside the head and reminded me that my professional identity was worthy of protection.  As a matter of fact, I willingly shut down my original blog.  In time, I developed the ability to express myself in various settings.  More importantly, I realized, after lots of reflection and experience, that my primary task at work was to teach, not to parent and befriend. These days, my task has changed but my resolve to keep church and state separate has not waned. I owe it to everyone involved to keep those worlds apart.  

The problem with Sea Monkeys


(All group and individual names have been changed)

When I was seven years old, the back cover of the Archie or Richie Rich comics often featured an ad for Sea Monkeys.  You opened a packet into a bowl of water and splash! Instant pets! I sent away for them once. The little shrimp looked like brown sprinkles of cinnamon or cumin, not like the ad’s images at all. They died within days.  The experience didn’t stop me from sending away for toys and trinkets advertised on comics or cereal boxes. But I learned that friends don’t appear by simply adding water.

Fast forward a decade and a few years to college. I was one of many cute Candy Store Girls, a cashier/clerk at the University’s Student Store in the candy and greeting card department. The CS girls were all cute and friendly, either Latina or Asian, some also members of the same sorority, all of us a tight-knit group that liked to drink, dance, and blast disco music while we stocked the Jelly Bellies and wrapped up truffles for our clientele of harried professors, starving students, and Berkeley’s most famous eccentrics and/or celebrities (Rick Starr, the Naked Guy, Jason Kidd).  Soon, the CS Girls became managers and only hired their friends.  But once in a while, the non-student management weighed in and that is how Cheryl got a coveted spot in our department. 

Cheryl was not your typical CS girl. She was a mousy little freshman with straight brown hair, small green eyes, and a sprinkling of freckles on her button nose. She hailed from a small town in the Central Valley and wore t-shirts in neutral colors and faded jeans over white canvas sneakers. We got to know each other over curling ribbon on the quarter pound bags of candy.  I could tell she was overwhelmed by our campus so I gave her advice on classes and the best places to study.  In gratitude, she bought me a Chinese fast food dinner. 

From that first work day together, Cheryl became my loyal new friend. She wanted to know everything about me. She wanted to meet me outside of work to hang out at a café or share a meal.  I was a first-year grad student so I was busy with my two jobs, coursework, and student-teaching but she would call me on the phone when I declined her invitations. I liked her and wanted to support her. Soon, her behavior went from charming to irritating. She wanted to know all about Peruvian culture and food and asked if she could meet my family some weekend.  She loved my clothes and shoes so she went out and bought her own.   When she started chatting up my ex-boyfriend Julius, a security guard at the campus store notorious for his womanizing ways, I really became disturbed. The other CS girls joked that I was just jealous but they had not experienced Cheryl’s neediness the way I had.

One afternoon, I stopped in to check the schedule.  Cheryl presented me with a tissue-wrapped object.  It was a simple sterling silver ring. She proclaimed me her best friend. Freaked out, I made an excuse and left.  I threw the ring away and stopped taking Cheryl’s calls.  Within days, there was an awkward conversation at work in which she focused on Julius as the problem between us.   In delayed response, I wrote her a note requesting that she leave me alone.   If we worked a shift together, we did so in relative silence.  Eventually, she took a position in a different department and I never saw her again. 

Sometimes I wonder if I wasn’t too harsh with Cheryl.  She was younger than me. She really needed a friend. She wasn’t a terrible person, just lonely.  I could not and did not want to live up to her expectations. I can only hope that she learned that friendship doesn’t happen in an instant. 

Choosing sides


“Well there’s a dark and troubled side to life
There’s a bright and a sunny side, too
Though we meet with the darkness and strife, 
The sunny side we also may view”  From “Keep on the Sunny Side” 
“That crazy needs to stay on the other side of the room from this kind of crazy.” Me, in conversation with Blues, circa 2012

Happiness is hard work.  Life doesn’t turn into the finale from Hair in which everyone sings and dances to “Let the Sunshine In” simply out of personal desire. I spent a significant part of my life unhappy, both because of my choices and because of my nature.  My journey towards my present state of happiness took effort, emotion, time, and, yes, lots of money.  So I fight to stay happy. 

Blues says I am a chameleon. I can blend into my surroundings.  I adapt to different situations. He says these qualities make me likable and appealing to all kinds of people.  He also says it renders me rather passive and complacent.  I argue that I may be non-confrontational but that, first and foremost, I will focus on survival.  Analogies aside, I will stop being congenial and approachable as needed for my own safety. 

I have lost a few friends in recent years. Once I would have loyally hung in there through someone’s failed attempts at recovery or someone’s refusal to take personal responsibility to seek healing. I would have rationalized or ignored my own feelings and fears.  Eventually I would be dragged down with my loved one, my own battles exacerbated, intensified, and deepened, theirs never fully resolved. Thankfully, and with great pain, I learned to value myself over others. I accepted that I could walk away from unhealthy behaviors and situations and still be a person of integrity. I took responsibility for my own illness and chose to be healed. 

The birth of my daughter cemented my commitment to happiness. My child is a constant reminder of all the beauty and joy in the universe. Through a hug from her little arms or the lullabies sung in her thin little voice, she is the embodiment of grateful mindfulness that I aspire to and also enjoy.  She teaches me that a life of happiness is truly living. 

Happiness can be ephemeral, fleeting, and tenuous.  Daily life has its complications. I cannot control anything but my own response to what happens. So I choose happiness.