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.


Greener grass


I started my new job approximately a month ago. I am energized, excited, happy, and hopeful. These are positive feelings which bode well for my new start.   This is my 22nd year in secondary education.   It is my first year as principal.    During the summer, my friend, fitness and leadership guru @dymeetworld (find her on Instagram!) posted that “the grass is greener under me.” I really liked that post and idea. So often, when we change jobs, end relationships or move locations, we do so out of the feeling that the grass will be greener in a different situation. The grass can be green, yellow, or non-existent, no matter where you go.

My mindset is what I bring to every experience I have. I go into a new situation with an open mind and hopeful heart. To be happy is an action, not a feeling. It’s not about feeling bitterness and resentment about the past; it’s about challenging me to take new opportunities. I consistently aim to be my best self.  The grass is always going to be greener because I’m always looking for the best in even the darkest situation. I feel lighter. I feel free. I feel younger.  My last experience prepared me well for the job I now hold. No hay mal que por bien no venga. All experiences are for my growth and progress. Change moves me forward.  The grass is green underneath me.

*Thanks, dear friend, for sharing your positivity and wisdom with us. You will continue to inspire me in this new phase of my career.


Killing the Girl

Game of Thrones is now informing my take on leadership. In the past, The Exorcist was a touchstone to which I always returned.  Game of Thrones provides food for thought in every episode. All kinds of leaders are in action, some evil, some righteous. Different decisions are made and some thoughtful, some poor, some made with the help of advisors while others are made by the leader on her or his own.  While it is a fictional fantasy and therefore full of extreme examples, the show does provide lessons to be learned.


In Season 5, Episode 5, “Kill the Boy,” bae Jon Snow has become the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Jon consults the Maester because Jon trusts him as one of the few people of integrity to whom he can turn. The Maester is over 100 years old, blind, and frail. He is not vying for power and has been loyal to Jon.  Jon appreciates his wisdom. The Maester knows a lot about the world. He’s an actual Targaryen but he renounced being part of the noble family to join the Night’s Watch.  So Jon seeks his counsel on a decision he has to make. As a new leader, Jon has already been questioned about his strength in leadership. Even when he was still a steward, Jon was mistreated for several reasons. As a bastard, he is on the lower end of the social ladder. However, because he grew up in a noble family, he is perceived as a spoiled rich kid. Though the Maester points out that Jon did not need to consult him, he offers this observation, “You will find little joy in your command, but with luck, you’ll find the strength to do what needs to be done. Kill the boy…and let the man be born.”  I liked these words so much I scribbled them on a notepad and I now carry with me to work.


Another part of the conversation between Jon and the Maester involves the response to a decision. Jon feels half the men will disagree.  The Maester reminds him that half the men already do. In leadership and in life, there are always people who are difficult or divisive, those who breed drama or foster negativity. People will doubt me or want to get in the way of change; they woke up that way (and not looking like Beyoncé either!) I will have to deal with those situations in a way that will sit right with my values and with who I am.

Recently, I was reflecting with a friend who is new to educational leadership. I had previously shared with him my ideal of leadership with integrity. I know the reality is going to be difficult. I know I will struggle to be assertive and confrontational. I want to strive for my ideal. I want to lead in a way that when I get home to my family, I will feel good about a decision I made. Feeling good doesn’t mean jumping for joy. It doesn’t mean I won’t hurt feelings or compromise my “popularity.” I’m not leading to be liked. I’m not leading because it’s easy. I’m leading for a greater purpose and that is to serve young people.  Whatever decision I make has to be one my students deserve.

Like Jon Snow, I’m entering a new phase in my life. I’m excited about being the Lord Commander and feel ready to kill the girl.

Can-do attitude

When I was a little girl, my father worked in a food canning factory.  Canning plants could be found all over the Bay Area back in the day: the Shasta soda plant we saw on the drive across the San Mateo Bridge 812f141d-5bac-40e1-b164-8e391df5afb8_d

or the smells associated with various foods being processed in Hayward or San Leandro.  In my own home, an elderly neighbor taught my mother how to can jams and jellies.  This personal history with canning has been lost on me.  canning-button-026I have lost my ability to can.

When did this happen?  When this 45th Republican regime came into power?  When the third white boy from Peyton Place Bay Area cussed me out at work?  There was some kind of perfect storm this fall. sean-beanWinter isn’t coming, y’all.  It came. Ya llegó.

I have fought back in the usual way. I have been focusing on getting fit.  I have continued to dance. I have taken refuge in TV shows and books.  But my signature patience has worn thin.

Given the current state of the state, lacking patience may be a good thing.  It’s time to stop suffering like a santita and get into warrior mode.


My favorite saints carry swords. Saint Barbara

My fear is that I’m taking it out on the wrong people.  I have become much less patient with my partner and my child.  Y eso no está bien.

Rambo was and is a soldier. He can take my stank attitude for the most part. He also has no problem checking me when I get to be too much.  M, on the other hand, is sensitive.  Don’t let the sass and side-eye fool you. My daughter is sensitive and I am the person who has the capacity to hurt her feelings the most.  She has told me so.  I am committed to being the great mother she deserves.

So while I’m freezing, it’s time to power through this change of seasons. winter-is-coming-1050x600While I may not be able to can with the trifling behavior of spoiled teens or the shenanigans occurring on a national scale, I know damn well there’s nothing to stop me from being my best self.  I can and I will.


Right on schedule


“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.


Vandervals’ “Wounded Dragon”

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


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.

My second career as an exorcist


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:


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.


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.


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!

Two leaders

I have been doing a lot of thinking about power and leadership lately.  Given what I do for a living, it is often encouraged by upper management and professional mentors; given the kinds of people in my personal life, my wonderful ensemble of artists, teachers, life coaches, and parents, it is often inspired by positive influences.  Life is complicated so choosing how to be empowered is equally complex and multi-faceted.  I have previously reflected on the difficulty of being one of the good guys(Not so prodigal) and on my tendency to stay positive in the face of challenges(Kermit mode).  But I have owned the urge to be ruthless (Ivan Drago mode).  It’s been a helluva week/month/year.

Soy rencorosa.  Well I can be. I pray for my enemies, often sincerely.  But a friend who betrays me?  Jesus, be a fence!  An electric fence with barbed wire on top because it’s all bad. Chain-link_and_barbed_wire.jpg

It’s an #icant situation of epic proportions.  In my personal life, it makes great writing material.  In the professional realm, eso si que no. So I got checked.  I know I can pull it together. Recently my horror at Ben Linus’s cold, calculating despicableness has turned into admiration. guest16

Ben knows how to be cool, polished, polite, and articulate while he plots your destruction.  Ben takes a Hannibal the Cannibal approach to leadership.

Pero no te preocupes, I won’t be joining the Dark Side any time soon.487096_v1

I came across another role model several months ago when I read Grace Jones’  I’ll Never Write My Memoirs.  As a child, I saw Ms. Jones (that’s what I call her because I RESPECT her) as otherworldly, manly, even scary. grace-jones-crazy-diva-photos-4_2015-09-24_20-17-31-571x430

But I always admired her. She was powerful in ways my meek little child self longed to be.  In reading Ms. Jones’ story, my admiration for a cultural icon became deep respect for a strong woman.  What better birthday gift to myself than to see her in concert. With my dance sister and confidante at my side, we made our way to the front row of the Greek.


Ms. Jones did not disappoint. She was a force of nature. She was funny, quirky, sassy, and badass.

And though my little arms weren’t long enough to touch her hand, I definitely got close.  Weeks later,  her songs remind me of the power of love of life and self.

So how I lead will depend on the circumstances. I can be Ms. Jones or I can be Ben or I can be both. I will continue reflecting on how to be my best self when others simply cannot.  I will continue making others laugh, dancing with others, and being good to myself.  I will definitely be asking Jesus to run interference for me.