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Year of milagros

“They don’t always happen when you ask

And it’s easy to give in to your fears…

A small but still resilient voice

Says hope is very near…” From “When You Believe”

Nearly five years ago, I organized a musical variety show with dance performances by family and friends for my 40th birthday party.(Turning 40) Originally I had planned to do a lip sync duet of one of my favorite diva power ballads, “When You Believe” but the number was eventually shelved. mariah-carey-whitney-performed-when-you-believe-duringThis particular Oscar-winning song is a favorite not only because it features two great singers, Whitney and Mariah, in all their diva glory; it’s also an uplifting anthem from one of Rambo’s favorite Bible-inspired films, The Prince of Egypt. The movie follows a young Moses as he realizes his call to deliver his people. The lyrics adequately capture the struggle to remain faithful to your mission and purpose in the face of challenges. It isn’t a theme song for a 40th birthday; it’s a theme song for any year and any occasion.

I have been pondering those song lyrics in the last day or so. Because despite moments straight out of the Twilight Zone 15727206_236100280160973_5711380463324119652_nand the very real tears I shed for Prince and Juan Ga, 14191976_10154684379132784_285972347186439489_n

this was a year of miracles.  It is a miracle I didn’t undergo major surgery this year. It is a miracle I didn’t put these hands on certain individuals. It is a miracle I fought and ultimately vanquished an enemy.15676564_10155117829802784_4985360818320789856_o This is not hyperbole. It is real. It happened. Prayers were answered. I experienced miracles. 191-jesus-casting-out-demons

No fue fácil. I can’t deny this has been a year of new challenges, ones I continue to confront daily. There are days when I weep, curse, and waver. As I have shared in previous posts, I pray. I pray at my desk at work. I pray in doorways. I pray in my car as I pull into parking spots. I pray before phone calls or face to face conversations.  Prayer will continue to be a source of strength. As the title of this blog indicates, I push myself.  I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone personally, professionally, emotionally, even physically this year. When I’m struggling to lift a weight or run that length, I think of my challenges, of those people and situations that are testing me. I push like hell. I may not be as strong as I want to be but I am not weak.  I refuse to be.

I can’t get on the forget 2016 bandwagon. Every phase of our lives brings us pain, sorrow, success, and joy. It is my choice to receive and make miracles.

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Right on schedule

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“He’s a God you can’t hurry,

You don’t have to worry;

He may not come when you want Him

But he’s right on time, right on time. “Traditional Gospel hymn

I have refused to give up on this Advent. (Last year’s Advent of struggle ) As expected, I have been put to the test during this season. On one hand, I have a wounded dragon heaving its last toxic breaths.

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Vandervals’ “Wounded Dragon”

On the other, there is the prospect of yet another round of hoping for a leopard to willingly change his spots.

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The guy on the right is the inspiration for The Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”

(Truth be told, I’m not waiting at all but I’m loyal to a fault and I will do as directed, even if I get a little Ben Linus on occasion.)ci-59798115230130361

I had a moment yesterday when I wavered, when all my anger, frustration, and indignation threatened to cloud my mind and fill my eyes with tears.  But I remembered to breathe, pray, and hold tight to my commitment to this Advent.  I moved forward in more ways than one.  Yesterday, I made a choice.

I’ve already owned my penchant for pettiness. Shoot, I even have the casual Fridays t-shirts to prove it. My pettiness is amusing at times, other times worthy of criticism. But it hasn’t held me back in the way my lack of self-confidence does. Oh sure I’ll dance on stage or on the streets with little practice. I’ll take the mic and put together a speech on the fly. But my career has been stifled by my inability to see myself as a leader.  I have worked for twice as long as several peers who are at the helm their own ships.  Yesterday, through the darkness of my emotions, I found the strength to own that my time has arrived. It is my time to lead, guide, and shepherd. I have vision, purpose, and integrity; now I am emboldened by the courage to stand alone.

At the end of a stressful workday or any day for that matter, I have to answer to myself, my family, and my God.  How have I been the best version of myself today?  How am I going to be the best version of myself tomorrow?  Soon, I will live out the answers to these questions in the spotlight.  My mistakes will be my own.  My decisions will be my own.  I will struggle and fail but I will learn.  That in turn will help me grow in the woman I was born to be.

While I may be tempted to take Hot Sauce out my bag and mess up a window or two, I can’t let others’ tomfoolery make me resort to my worst self.  I am finally going to fix myself some long overdue lemonade.beyonce-car

These hands will have to stick to prayer and to getting my paperwork together for my next job.  God will continue to give me the strength and patience.

Mothering a warrior

“…But in this country

there is war.”  Lorna Dee Cervantes, from Poem For The Young White Man Who Asked Me How I, An Intelligent, Well-Read Person Could Believe In The War Between The Races 

Within the hour, I will have to wake her.  Last night, her closing prayers were “Bless this mess. Fix it Jesus. Amen.”  My daughter asked, “Who won?” at 1 in the morning, and promptly rolled to her other side so that I could not answer her. Today, like so many other madres, I will have to answer to her and for her.

Mija, like so many little girls in this generation and those that came before her, her own mom included, idolizes Wonder Woman.  We are excited for the movie which premieres in June 2017.ew-ww-39

My daughter has Wonder Woman t-shirts, hats, headband, dolls, and books.  She identifies closely with this character, a woman who is brave, independent, and strong.

I am drawn to the character of Queen Hippolyta, Wonder Woman’s mother, and an amazing woman in her own right.

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In the first movie trailer which debuted this past summer, Hippolyta tells Diana, aka Wonder Woman, “You have been my greatest love.”  In the most recent trailer which debuted last week, Hippolyta calls out “Be careful, Diana” as her daughter embarks on a mission to go to war. Those two soundbites speak to what I’m feeling.  How will I keep the person I love most safe in this world?  How will I protect her?  How will I prepare her to do battle?

The events surrounding the election are no surprise to me.  I have seen the old ways of thinking and hating fester and spread; they never stop doing so.

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While I grieve the harsh truths the election reveals about many people in our nation, I accept reality.  One of the things I told my daughter last night was that now would be our time to fight for what is right. 14938157_1366372526736820_5038582823904846037_n

So our mission begins.

My second career as an exorcist

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St. Dymphna in full effect

I went into my career because of my first principles. I love to read. I love to write.  I love to share ideas through conversation.  I love to help others.  So, fresh out of college, I stayed at my beloved alma mater, despite acceptance letters from prestigious East Coast universities(mi mama was upset about that for years), to get my teaching credential.  I was 23 and I thought I was going to change the world and somehow also write the next great American novel.  I’m 44 now. I have changed many lives, most importantly, my own, and my writing is still my true passion.  I still love books and people.  So how is it that in the past few years, I have found myself in the role of exorcist.  Que?  Como?

When I was six years old(be patient, y’all who know this story), my soccer playing dad  would take us to the park every weekend so my mom could hang with her besties and all the kids would play in a huge multi-age pack.  The big kids decided we could head to one of the soccer players’ home nearby and watch a movie on the Betamax. I was introduced to the horror movie that would stay with me por vida.  I know a thing or two about fighting el chamuco and now I have real-life experiences.  (Lessons from the Exorcist)Because while the devil may be a lie, evil is real, relevant, and very much embraced by many.  Pick a city anywhere on the planet.  Point your finger at someone you know.  Evil is there, giving you the side eye of all side eyes.

Though I’m only a few years into fighting evil as part of my nine to five, I can tell you some must-dos.  In no particular order:

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Fear is normal.  My head aches. My stomach churns. My heart starts pounding like I’m six again and the nightlight just burnt out.  Accept your fear.  Feel it.  Then move forward.

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Have a battle buddy.  Find a mentor who is strong, tough, and stable.  Your mentor, like mine, can serve as your coach and partner.  This is not work you do by yourself.  You will need someone to have your back.  Work on the bond you share.  You may have disagreements but you must share the same vision, mission, and purpose.  Of course, the demon will attempt to divide and conquer.  That won’t work if your team is strong.

Take care of yourself.  Sleep (though it may be disturbed for a few days or weeks depending on the situation.) Eat clean. Hydrate.  Pray or spend time in silence.  Doing battle with evil is like preparing for a half-marathon or training for Carnaval without the glamour or fun.  A weak warrior will fall.

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Finally, believe in the good work that you do. Believe in the good person you are and understand that this other individual is a hot mess for reasons beyond your control.  If you’re a really good person, realize that somewhere underneath all that maldad, there is/was a good person who got lost along the way. Know that you are protecting others by taking on this challenge. Now let’s go get ‘em!

A fearless favorite

When I was about 5 years old, maybe younger or slightly older, I remember watching a cartoon about a mongoose, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. 
From the 1975 Chuck Jones TV special
He befriended a British family after they moved into a house next to the garden he visited.  He became close enough to them that he fought against his mortal enemies, Nag and Nagaina, a cobra couple.  I distinctly remember Rikki’s red eyes, fast moves, and gutsiness.  I remember how my heart pounded as I watched Rikki in battle.  I couldn’t help but admire an animal that didn’t fear poisonous snakes.
Fast forward almost four decades. I recently read Rudyard Kipling’s story to M. She’s into chapter books now so an illustrated version of the classic short story was a good bedtime option.  I told her how I had seen a cartoon of the story when I was around her age. She asked me if I was scared.  I told her I was but that I believed in Rikki. 
Given certain challenges I have faced recently, venomous snakes have been on my mind. (Blog about dealing with the snakes among us)It makes sense that my longtime admiration of the mongoose would resurface. 
Y que?!? 
In the last two weeks, I have downloaded and shared images, read National Geographic entries, and laughed at Snoop Dogg’s unbridled support of “mongooses.”  A mongoose is a bold and quick fighter. My research has revealed that the mongoose’s nerve receptors have mutated so that a mongoose is immune to snake venom.  
Yasss!!!!
It is undeterred by cobras, crocodiles, even lions. It embodies guts, cojones, ganas.  
As someone who tends to choose flight over fight, I admire an animal that fights with all its sleek little body has. I can admit I fear intimidating foes. I may be able to stare into cold eyes but my heart is pounding. I’m waiting on those awful fangs.  In confrontation, I choose to talk and usually(sometimes to my own chagrin)politely.  I do stand firm.  I may be cowering within but I won’t backpedal, waver, or cry, at least not in that moment of facing off against an opponent. I may not strike like a mongoose; maybe it’s not in my nature to fight like one.
Badassery in full effect
 I still believe in Rikki. I still believe we all have the capacity to fight and win against a cobra. 
#youtried