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.


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.


Year of change


Nothing of him that doth fade, But doth suffer a sea-change, into something rich and strange…Shakespeare, The Tempest

Two weeks ago, one of my dance sisters asked us on Facebook to share highlights from the past year. I shared that I celebrated 10 years with my boyfriend and that I walked away from toxic personal and professional situations.  In a year of change, I struggled with the latter the most.  It’s never easy to walk away from people or relationships, even those that hurt us. We hang onto to what’s familiar. Pero es necesario para seguir adelante.

Quien soy yo para decir que algo es dañino?  Welp, that’s it. I decide what or who is toxic to me. If I can no longer grow within a relationship, whatever kind it may be, it’s harmful. This is not to say a toxic situation cannot have positive aspects. I loved my last job; there were only a few toxic individuals that I could no longer tolerate. It is my right to say enough already. More importantly, it was time to test my confidence and leadership. Best decision of 2017! In my personal life, I made the decision to distance myself from a group with which I had worked for many years. I created beautiful memories and felt great joy during most of my time with them. But the cons greatly outweighed the pros this past year. So I made the decision to walk away.

The second half of last year was tough due to adjusting to all the changes. I experienced grief over the loss of familiar faces and experiences. Yo tuve que hacerlo por mi. I have to live with myself. I have to get up every morning and feel good about who I am. I choose to do the things that are going to help me grow and make me feel good about myself.

Though I took a break from writing, I have been doing what feeds my soul. I have continued to dance. My samba teacher is nurturing and loving. She was exactly who I needed at this time. It is so important to be seen, heard, and encouraged.  I needed that one-on-one support, not only in dance technique and style, but as a woman.

I have exercised every day during the winter break. I admit I can be an emotional eater and also that I can lose motivation when anxious or sad; this time of transition tested me and won.  Pero se acabo.  I will get back on track with my physical fitness; I will do the work. But I don’t want it to happen because #carnavalsooncome. I want to stay fit because it will be best for my overall health.

I ended the year with the friends who have been in my life for decades who know, love, accept and embrace me. Al fin y al cabo, I alone choose who and what will help me grow. Sea changes help me see changes.

Marching with saints


We celebrate All Saints’ Day. All Saints’ Day is a Catholic holiday. In the past, it rivaled and even overshadowed Halloween with parades of children dressed as patron saints or their saintly namesakes. When I was a little girl, my parish celebrated the saints’ parade. I only remember taking part once. I was St. Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. My mom made my costume.  I felt a connection to St. Elizabeth for years so much that I chose her as my confirmation saint and alluded to her story in my fiction writing in later years.  When I became a mother, I reflected on this holiday and how I might celebrate it with my daughter.

Our neighborhood parish still celebrates a saints’ parade. The nuns at my parish organize the parade every year and often commission seamstresses to make various costumes.  You can, however, create your own costumes and that is what we have done. I had always wanted M to participate when she got older. We talked about it for a few years and did not follow through. Then we finally decided she would do it. The first year she participated, she paid tribute to our heritage. M was St Rose of Lima. She dressed as a Dominican nun wearing a crown of roses instead of the traditional (and gorier) crown of thorns.

12027202_10153862934977784_2746629336698459820_oLast year, she asked to be the Virgen of Guadalupe, again paying homage to our culture and her Mexican roots.

20161106_085010This year, we wanted to continue honoring our culture.  We chose St. Kateri.


In creating her saints’ costumes, I do have to make time to research and also set aside money for expenses. I have spent between $50 and $60 for a few years. The first year, I purchased the nun’s habit. She already had the floral headband. Last year, I ordered a royal blue cape and ironed on the stars. It was difficult to find a plain pink nightgown.  I also purchased some black ribbon for the maternity sash.  This year, I wanted to keep the costume simple. We chose a soft brown shift dress with black leggings, gold sandals, and a bead necklace, all from M’s closet. Grandma did her braids. I already have a beautiful tree branch crucifix that hangs in our living room. The one thing we purchased was the silk tiger lily. This year, I only spent $10 since she had everything else.

All Saints has become a special holiday in our home. It’s a beautiful tradition celebrating our faith. It allows us to take joy in who we are.