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End of watch

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Every four years or so, I go through a change. This isn’t only career changes. (The 3.5 year itch) It also has to do with the creative communities in which I participate.  The longer I am with an activity or community, the more familiar I become with it. The stars fall out of my eyes.  Familiarity allows me to see the reality of the people around me and whether or not the activity or community is contributing to my growth.

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I used to be on a TV show.  The first year I was in star-in-my-eyes newbie. I thought it was the greatest thing I had done.  I was happy to meet new people, to have a new social network, and to have a new creative outlet.  It was fun, positive, even with the complicated and tedious logistics of being on TV. My second year went well as I expanded my social network. I had gotten my bearings as I knew what was going on.  But I began to experience interpersonal drama. As with any close-knit community that spends lots of time working together, conflicts arose. Within the social circle, hierarchies and cliques formed. People expressed their affinities towards one group over another. The group became divided into factions along various lines. So being on the show began to go sour. By the end of my time on the show, I had cut back on the time I gave. I no longer made an extra effort to appear on the show. I had severed ties with several people with whom I had socialized. I moved on at a point when being on the show was still fun. I knew its time had ended.

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Years before that experience, I was a club kid for years. I hung with the same group of fellow dancers and followed the same DJs for nearly a decade. Of course, my life went through many changes, both personal and professional. While there were moments of drama, we were able to move past those. I have been friends with some of those people for over twenty years. Whenever we reunite, we recreate the best of those times. Our bonds are still intact. The love that was fostered has transcended time.  As I compare both these experiences, it could be that my time on the TV show wasn’t about fostering love.

As I grow within a community, my thinking begins to shift after the second year and definitely during the third year.  I see this as positive as it allows me to reflect. I evaluate whether my participation is worthwhile. When I’m no longer being the best version of myself within that social circle or if I feel that my creativity is being stifled by my own lack of effort, by social circumstances, or due to the leadership, it is time for me to move on. I understand when I have completed my growth cycle through a community and outlet.

Creative communities are called to foster love. Where there is genuine respect and love, problems can be resolved. But it’s important for me to recognize when an activity or community has served its purpose. I have grown and accomplished some goals. I am ready to move on to the next project or experience.

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Me moving on to new opportunities 

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Boy, bye; How I stopped being so scared of evil

 

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Illustration in my Children’s Bible

The Gospel on the first Sunday of Lent describes Jesus’s temptation in the desert. Jesus is tempted by the devil.  The devil is an instigator. He is manipulative especially as he constantly seeks to gain power. Going after Jesus is evidence of the arrogance, narcissism, egoism that comes with being evil. Jesus is able to resist. He is all powerful. Jesus demonstrates the strength and authority needed to resist temptations that we all experience. We all want to attend to our immediate needs. I’m starving so let’s turn these rocks into bread. We want youth, physical strength, and immortality. I’m going to drink my liver into disease because it feels good. Because I’m young, I’ma be all right. We want wealth and power.  Life owes me these things.  Jesus rises above those desires. He sees the ultimate goal. The 40 days have been a test. They’ve been physically hard but he has stayed faithful and strong. He is preparing for what is going to be more difficult. He is finding the discipline before he begins his ministry. Jesus does not fear the devil and sends him away like the nuisance he is.

I grew up very fearful of the devil (What I learned watching The Exorcist). I was much too young(six!) to learn about possession, that the devil was a real entity that could take over a person. It made me much more fearful than my daughter is at that age.  On the other hand, I grew up as a spiritual child. I was drawn to the Bible. I was reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Gospel of Luke at age 7 because I wanted to do so. One reason I haven’t exposed to her more horror movies or pop culture interpretations of the devil is I find them scary. About 15 years ago, I made a survey and asked my friends when they first saw The Exorcist and what were its long-term effects. I continued to do other readings about exorcism. Those fears stuck with me.

r12mwvNow I’m older and I have had life experiences with different facets of evil. I’m not fearful because I know good prevails. I’ve done a lot of writing about my thoughts as I “exorcised “a “devil.” (My second career as an exorcist) I gained a lot of strength from those experiences. I may laugh when I say “the devil is a lie” and “not today, Satan” but those are true statements. I have been able to look at that evil, at that enemy, to look it in the face and say I’m not afraid of you. That’s powerful.

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Father Tomas is played by Rebelde cutie Alfonso Herrera

On a related note, while dealing with real-life drama, the TV show, The Exorcist, premiered on Fox. While it wasn’t a ratings hit, it was a critical hit and a hit in my household. We watched it every week and analyzed it. I connected it back to what I was living. I found parts of it hilarious. I would argue it is better than the original novel and original film.   Those were good but the TV show’s acting and writing took it to another level. Geena Davis was brilliant. The show explored what is happening in the church regarding the role of lay people, the role of women, and the behind the scenes politics which you may not know about if you haven’t been involved in ministry. I like that the show spoke to the power of family and faith.  As I wait along with other fans to learn if the show will get renewed, I would recommend binge-watching on Hulu or Fox. Don’t be too scared.  Y’all know who wins and who always will.

Watch Season 1 of  The Exorcist

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Jesus saying “Largate!”

 

Literally back on the mic

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Though I began writing fiction at 9, I started writing personal reflections in my monthly column in La Voz de Berkeley when I was at Cal. I then created a blog, Mujer Hollering, inspired by that column, and more recently, my blog, Mujer Evolving. While writing fiction is a long-term goal, my #40blogsfor40days challenge is a great opportunity to share my work and honor my voice.

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I have suffered from writer’s block for many years partly due to time management. So am I going to complete this writing during Lent?  I decided to solve the problem this year by beginning my blogs as voice recordings. During my morning commute, I have been recording five minute voice memos to capture my thoughts. There’s plenty of writing material whether it’s personal experiences, music, TV, or themes I have pondered.  The commute has allowed me time to do some uncensored reflecting. When I’m at the computer, I get stifled by the desire to wordsmith or produce a clear and concise piece in a short amount of time.  Drafting differently gives me a chance to voice my ideas.

Then it is time to transcribe. I don’t type it word for word. I do some revision as I go. Sometimes I stop the playback as I tend to speak quickly.  I don’t want to lose any key ideas. Once it’s transcribed, I read it. I start the editing process. I take out repetitious phrases. I rearrange paragraphs. I add topic sentences, details, commentary, and transitions. I was an English teacher for thirteen years so I have those skills to help me produce a polished piece of writing. The verbal rough draft and more intense editing process has allowed me to produce work that is much more coherent. I’m excited that this may be an opportunity to fully commit to writing on a more regular basis.

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4 Challenges in 40 Days

“Long have I waited

For your coming home to me

And living deeply our new lives…” “Hosea” by John Michael Talbot.

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This Lent, I am taking on a 40 blogs for 40 days as part of the 4 Lenten challenges I will be completing.

One challenge is joining the now-viral  #40bagsin40days challenge to clear up clutter. This has been an ongoing challenge.  I have read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which had an impact on my wardrobe. I have also read numerous blogs and articles on thrift shopping and capsule closets which changed how I purchase and keep clothing and shoes. However it is a work in progress as clutter continues to consistently affect our home and my office at work. Purging daily, whether it is paper clutter or material items I don’t need, will clear space.  I don’t need much. What I need is love, family, discipline, and positive outlets. I have those blessings in place. It’s a matter of clearing space, energy, and time to truly enjoy them.

Rather than completely fasting from Facebook, I will be reducing my presence on social media. If I’m doing a 40 day writing challenge, social media is the best way to share my work. I will use social media purposefully.  I will post images and links related to my Lenten challenges and reflections. Another reason to revisit this traditional practice of reducing my time online is my actual enjoyment of this fast. Fasting from social media has gotten easier.  I don’t want my Lenten challenges to feel as if they are not sacrifices such as “Oh I’m giving up chocolate.” I moved away from that type of material sacrifice years ago because it doesn’t change me from within. Giving up Facebook and not posting status updates or sharing memes does not make me any less petty. Usually I get back online Easter Sunday and I’m posting a blog about how fulano de tal ruined my Lent. It’s not pure pettiness; there is some reflection involved.  Being off line is no easy fix.  I will move past venting through my writing over the course of these 40 days.

A challenge I began in therapy and within my immediate family is my commitment to stop being a mean mommy.(Can-do attitude)M  has always been articulate in expressing her opinions and feelings. While she is outwardly not thin-skinned, she’s much more sensitive than when she was 7. When I  hear her say, “you’re mad at me”, “you’re mean to me”  or use negative self-talk like “it’s my fault that…”, I cringe.  I am responsible for prompting my child to second-guess herself. In these 40 days, I will make a conscious effort to hold my tongue, monitor my body language and facial expressions, and modulate my tone of voice. I will be firm and tough but do it in a way that is nurturing, not demoralizing. Given our family’s histories, M is prone to anxiety. I will not be an additional stressor in her life. I want M to look at our relationship as one that strengthens her.

Finally, I will pray more in these 40 days. M and I will be praying the rosary during our commutes again. Instead of listening to New Edition during my morning drive to work(I’m not swearing off NE for 40 days! That blog is forthcoming), I will listen to gospel music.I will do some spiritual reading. I will participate in Best Lent Ever through Dynamic Catholic. This program has changed the way I experience Lent. Lent has become a beloved season  which I anticipate yearly.  I love what Lent offers my family, my prayer life, what it does for my relationship with myself and ultimately my relationship with God. God bless.

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To learn more about the #40bagsin40days, visit 40 bags in 40 days

To join Dynamic Catholic for the next 40 days, sign up at Best Lent Ever

 

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.

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.

After the battle

So we took on the dragon.  While I don’t know if it’s slain, I know it’s languishing in its respective corner.

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Dragon

Meanwhile, I’m over in ours laid out.  Tired.  Spent.

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Me

Because, like the days following a half-marathon or the ressaca do carnaval, the days following a confrontation with an enemy are long.  In that time, te pondras a pensar.  You will ponder many things. I ponder my integrity and my identity.

Confrontation isn’t in my nature.  I’ve gotten better over the last decade about standing up for myself.  But I struggle with not becoming what I am fighting. I don’t want to be cruel, judgmental, resentful, or vindictive. I don’t like wishing the worst for others. While doing so may feel satisfying in the moment, it drains me in the long run.  I would rather heal and help.

So how do I sustain myself? I go back to the familiar and the beloved.  My child.

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Family costume 2016: 50s Flashback

Books.

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With the fabulous and hilarious Luvvie Ajayi

Laughter.

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Photobombed at Grace Jones 

Time outdoors.

Dance.

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Flash Mob Tribute to Prince, September 2016 

Family traditions.  My faith.

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My running club: Mis antepasados y muertitos queridos 

I turn back to that which feeds my soul and that which reminds me of who I am. I am a mujer constantly evolving.

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17 year old sideeye 

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Fox in Socks at 44