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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.

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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.

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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 

“You’re ruining my Advent” and other excuses

I began my Advent retreat faced with new challenges. Rambo had left for his own retreat out of the country. The situation at work went from bad to worse. Within one day of setting a goal of engaging deeply in spiritual reflection and gratitude, I was mentally cussing out this person and that person.  By day 2, I had coined “You’re ruining my Advent” as my rationale for the recurring anger and frustration. Even during prayer, I found myself praying for Jesus to take control not out of faith and acceptance but because my mind was going negative places. I had missed the point.
Saint John of the Cross wrote about the “dark night of the soul”, an experience of great suffering and confusion that tests one’s strength and faith. I have lived through many dark nights due to emotional struggles, physical illnesses, family crises, and work-related conflicts; I cannot say that my recent experiences are a “dark night” experience.  However, I gave in rapidamente to negative thinking, to resentment, judgment, self-righteousness, all those thought patterns and ways of talking about others that get in the way of my faith and my growth. I’m quick to throw ajos y cebollas all around. While I know that I cannot control others and that I can control my own reactions, I chose to lose control, if only behind people’s backs and in my mind.  Nobody was ruining my Advent without my permission and involvement.
Brett’s birthday fell on the second to last day before the winter break, during the 3rd week of Advent. I logged into Facebook to change my profile picture to commemorate this day. As often happens when I think of Brett, I was reassured. 
 My Advent has been filled with love, love from M, love from Rambo (via Skype), love from my samba family, love from my boss, and love from the speakers and writers at Dynamic Catholic.  Even that one person who gets on my last nerve on the regular showed me love;  this sometime nemesis turned out to be my secret Santa. I had sent a mean text about this individual minutes before when my colleague approached me.  When I heard the news, I laughed at the irony and the lesson. Despite our differences and occasional skirmishes, this person had spent two weeks giving me thoughtful gifts. As we shared a hug, I scolded myself for being close-minded and resentful, for not showing mercy. 
Advent is about waiting. It is the period of waiting in darkness for the light of dawn.  I struggle with my own darkness, whether it is the darkness of depression or the darkness of anger and anxiety.  I wrestle with that darkness; I may have to crawl towards the light.   I won’t be stopped.  
Morning at Machu Picchu, July 2014. Photo by me.

An Advent first

For some people, the idea of fasting is that of un castigo, that you only do so out of obligation or guilt. But others have held that fasting helps prepare the mind and body for more focus and stillness.  Coupled with meditation or any other form of contemplative practice, it can serve as a retreat or recharge.  With Lent months away, I have long pondered the possibility of an Advent fast.  As happened last year, the folks at Dynamic Catholic are launching a daily routine of spiritual exercises in honor of Advent.  So, in addition to taking part in that four-week series, I will be fasting from my smartphone/social media habit for Advent.

I have discussed my problematic phone use in the past (http://mujerevolving.blogspot.com/2012/01/smartphones-killed-personal-bond.html)What used to be entertainment is now a compulsion.  Like emotional eating, it kills time but ultimately provides no real positive results.  Both Rambo and M have expressed their frustration with this fourth family member.  If my phone is in hand, chances are I’m not engaged in what is happening around me.  

Now I can leave my phone on my charger at home. I can leave it locked up in the car. I can turn off the data and only use wi-fi. These are temporary fixes.  I enjoy learning more about my friends’ personal experiences and political views. I love reading interesting articles shared by like-minded people. I find communicating with many of my friends via Facebook and Instagram easier. But I need a break.
From Antoine Geiger’s “Sur-Fake” 
The next few weeks at work will bring challenges I have never confronted. I will need to be strong, patient, and thoughtful. More than ever, my family, my passions, and my faith will empower me during this experience. In the quiet of my retreat, I will contemplate all good things.  

More than a parade

Last year, on the Sunday before Memorial Day, I rose before sunrise and began to get dressed for Carnaval.  I had asked to be able to sit on the float in full costume, my Wound-Vac covered in our theme colors.  I began the long process of applying my makeup.  As I applied the beautiful shades of color to my face, I began to feel sad. I had wanted so badly to be off the Wound-Vac.  True, I had never finished learning all the choreography. But the best part of performing in Carnaval is feeling a part of a body, a body of alegria and axe, a body which exudes grace, strength, and pure joy.  With the little machine literally attached to my body, I knew I exuded pain and weakness. I burst into tears and called my mom. “No puedo hacerlo. (I can’t do it.)”  She understood and plan B, which was to sit in the grandstand with M and my mom, went into effect. I took off my beautiful gown and donned my samba school tee.   I stopped crying, grabbed my camera, and headed to the parade.
The morning of SF Carnaval 2014

I cheered loudly for SambaFunk; they were magnificent.  I also cried. I consider it one of the more painful moments during my recovery from surgery. That was nearly a year ago.

I came to SambaFunk through a lovely woman I met on Dance Party. A brilliant dancer, she had asked me to check out her samba community sometime. I expressed mild interest; I had taken two samba classes prior to my difficult pregnancy and had always wished I continued.  A few months passed before I finally took initiative and asked when I could join her in class. On a cold January evening, I walked into the second floor studio of the Malonga and within two hours, I had found a second home. King Theo’s wisdom, love, and positive energy inspired me to take on this new creative and physical challenge.
After my first SambaFunk class in January 2013. Photo by Elise Evans
At exactly this time, I was preparing for a job interview. I would be competing for a vice principal position in a different district. I am convinced the energy I received through my dance class helped boost my confidence. I got the job. I was learning how to be a carnavalesco at the same time I was learning to succeed in a new work environment.  SambaFunk has been more than a dance class. The energia it provides has been a blessing.
Taking part in Carnaval has tapped into so many aspects of my personality.  I rediscovered the superhero in me as a Funky Gogo Love Bomber. I also learned half-marathons are nothing compared to parading nearly two miles in 6-inch platform boots.
GoGo Bombers doing their thing, SF Carnaval 2013. Photo by Yvel Sagaille.
As I struggled with illness, I reexamined the grace and power that is inherent in being a woman, beautifully heralded in my incarnation as a regal Star Mother.  While I didn’t get to parade in Carnaval last year, I was able to take part in the San Diego Brazilian Day parade.
SambaFunk, Brazilian Day San Diego 2014. Photo by Soul Brasil.
My mother and M traveled with me and stood proudly on the sidelines cheering for us.  With each Carnaval, I learn more about costuming and parading.  I also realize it is more than a parade.

Obrigado SambaFunk for welcoming my little family into your embrace.

Rambo and M, Pan-African Film Fest 2014
w M on the red carpet at the Pan-African Film Fest 2014
Thank you for the prayers and love you gave me when I feared the worst about my health and for your loyalty and support during my recovery. Thank you for helping me become the best version of myself.
Preparing for SF Carnaval 2015, M’s first Carnaval

Revolution of the Catholic Planet

In the last installment of the series, Ms. Grito had done battle to return to her beloved Catholic Planet, only to be seriously injured by a traitor.  In self-imposed exile, Ms. Grito recuperated  and also began a new life as a mother.  Yet her ties to her homeland remained strong. As her child grew physically and mentally, Ms. Grito realized the value of her faith. With her own mother as an ally, the trio revisited the Catholic Planet, prepared for new adventures. 
Faith endures. 

My answer

“All I ever wanted
All I ever needed
Is here in my arms
Words are very unnecessary…” Enjoy the Silence, Depeche Mode
In my experience, New Year’s resolutions have nothing on Lent. Lent, at least in the last three years, has been about rediscovering my passion for silence. My busy life of motherhood, work, and self-care is often boisterous with the sounds of hectic greetings and good nights, shopping and to-do lists, emails, texts and phone calls, the television or car radio playing.  More frequently than I prefer, part of the soundtrack includes my complaints. I yearn for more time, more space, and yes, fellow parents I will admit it, more freedom.  This need to escape that which gives me meaning and purpose further lets me know that a return to basics is always good. 
I used to ponder becoming a contemplative. A bonafide, live in a cloistered monastery and pray nonstop, contemplative. Inspired by Thomas Merton but especially by Kathleen Norris, I wondered if I couldn’t somehow have the best of both worlds. Witty singleton teacher during the school year, desert mother in training during the summer. Working with young people and passing on my passion for literature and writing. Praying the Liturgy of the Hours as much as possible.  Praying the rosary daily instead of weekly. I planned to do a silent retreat at a desert monastery, to see if I was called to join the order.  While I made decisions to take my life in a completely different direction, I have always cherished my love for contemplation. I simply don’t make the time or space or freedom.  But Lent is that opportunity.
In the first few weeks of this Lenten season, I have done a lot with my increased free time. I have read three novels, only one of which was for teaching purposes.  I have lost seven pounds and recommitted myself to healthy eating and exercise. I hosted my tenth annual Oscar party and, as usually happens despite my worries, fed a houseful of old friends. I have rediscovered my patience with my beautiful M and we have embarked on new mother-daughter adventures. And I have prayed a lot more.