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Our child, her father’s daughter

4a79ea48c20f9d5210e1cb5225b451ddAs usual, Rambo and I are five to ten years behind the cultural zeitgeist so we are halfway through Season 2 of Game of Thrones.  We are both impressed with Arya Stark because she reminds us of M.  We would never allow M to watch the show with us. But I definitely see the similarities between the two girls.

Arya is strong-willed, physically strong, and fearless. Her older sister is the traditional “princess,” wrapped up in beauty, popularity, and romance. Arya is not interested in typical activities nor do her parents restrict her to these goals.  In Season 1, Arya aspires to wield a sword. As we watched an episode, Rambo said, “That is our child. She is our child.”

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M is a strong girl and has been from the get-go. When I was pregnant and before I knew my child’s gender, I was convinced she was a boy. She was active. Though I identify as a feminist, I had accepted the notion that activity, motion, and physical strength must mean a child is a boy. When I had my ultrasound, we could not see her gender. We could see the child kicking and punching. I was amused. (At that time, fitness and strength weren’t priorities: I was more focused on being mentally and emotionally strong to parent.  The commitment to physical fitness came much later. ) I immediately decided I was expecting a son. Via blood test results, I found out she was a girl. It was a thrilling moment because I had a sense she would be the kind of woman I like.

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As a woman, I understand we have interesting dynamics. I find strong women inspirational. I am uncomfortable around more traditional stereotypes of women. I had an opportunity to raise a girl in a different way than I was raised. My mother wasn’t huge on making me a girly girl (thank goodness.) If anything, my mom was the “bad cop” disciplinarian. She was my role model of a strong woman.

My daughter has always been physically active, physically strong, and fearless. As she gets older, she exhibits some anxiety but a lot of that is social or emotional. She is not afraid to fight and is intrigued by martial arts. She’s physically unafraid. She’s not intimidated by boys. She is comfortable in the company of all kinds of people of different ages, ethnicities, and genders.

Rambo and I often play fight about whose child M is. I argue that she’s more like me; she is attracted to the arts. She loves dance, music, reading, and art museums. She admires photographers and painters. Rambo believes she is more his child because she is strong, fast, and good at math. We go back and forth on who M resembles more. She is the wonderful amalgamation of her two parents. She is the daughter of a writer and a soldier, a peacemaker and a professional warrior.  Basically she is Wonder Woman. Rambo says, “She is all mine.” I reply, “Did she spring from your head like Athena from Zeus?”  Rambo likes that image since Athena is both intellect and war.

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Zeus “birthing” Athena

To further strengthen their bond, my family attended their first father-daughter dance. It took some doing. When it was initially brought up, we were declined. I told M to accept her father’s decision. We were both so excited when he became open to the idea. I was told they would not dance but was pleasantly surprised to hear they did grace the dance floor. They bond over building projects, technology and math. Now they have made a new memory together.

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My family

 

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In celebration of mujeres

adelita we can do it

M and I didn’t take part in the January 21st Women’s March. She was nursing a cold that rainy morning and had cheer sometime that day. I had mixed feelings about it. I was a student activist at Cal. I fought for tenure of professors of color, the expansion of Ethnic Studies, protested anti-POC investments and connections the University had made, and rallied against Prop 187 and then-Governor Pete Wilson. I took part in walkouts, marches and expressed my views via my writing and through discussions, and also participated in positive events like Raza Day. I believe in taking it to the streets but the pink pussy hats didn’t speak for me. I grapple with the idea of a monolithic unity. We are divided along lines of ethnicity, class, and life experience. Though I don’t often speak on it, I feel like a distinct sense of difference and otherness, particularly in my professional life more so than in my personal life. Those circles do not co-exist; they are very separate. While I do cultivate positive relationships with the women in my immediate work circle, there is room for growth.

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Tee says it all

 

As I strive to foster strong connections with other women, I am modeling that commitment for my daughter. As I wrote in my blog,”Mothering a warrior,” I want to empower my daughter to be a chingona, una mujer poderosa y fuerte in the face of challenges. She’s growing up in a different time. She’s not held back by the cultural ideas that held me back.  I’m a lot more introverted and am less confident than my daughter. Many Latinas grapple with confidence issues which are rooted in cultural experiences. I was blessed I didn’t have a machista dad. I am blessed to have a badass for a mother. My daughter has the advantage of having a mujerista for her mom. Despite his quirks, Rambo loves that M is a powerful girl. Rambo and I have recently started watching Game of Thrones and we both have been impressed with the character Arya Stark. I’ve pointed out, “That’s your daughter” and he agrees. M is the daughter of a feminist and soldier. M is Wonder Woman. She is powerful. I love that she is growing up in a time when powerful women are celebrated. I am, however, conscious of the many ways sexism continues to pervade popular culture. I want my daughter to be aware of sexism and misogyny along with racism and white privilege. I want her to be active and not allow these realities to oppress her.

On International Women’s Day, I reflect on the importance and power of women. I honor my mother and my wonderful friends. I am surrounded by strength, beauty, grace, and integrity. I am a greater person because of the women I am related to and those I have chosen as my extended family. My daughter and I are blessed to have so many beautiful mujeres in our lives.

 

The 365 day a year challenge

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Tank says it all: Better sore than sorry

As I move forward with my 4 challenges in 40 days, there is a goal I didn’t set for the 40 days. An ongoing goal is my fitness challenge.

I have struggled with my weight and my relationship with food for my entire life. As experienced by many people, food has been an emotional outlet. This continues to be an area with which I struggle but over the years, I’ve gotten control of it. I eat healthy and cook regularly despite my busy schedule. It’s easy to cook two or three meals on the weekend. Often I haven’t had time to go to the grocery store or farmer’s market. Sometimes I forget to get that one ingredient that’s going to make a meal hearty or tasty. In the past few years, my weight has yo-yoed.  Since joining my new gym, I have maintained my weight loss and made gains in muscle tone and strength.  I didn’t always have those specific fitness goals. I always wanted to lose weight and be fit. This is the first time I care about being stronger and being toned, not simply because of Carnaval or other performances but because it’s good for my body.

I have struggled with health issues. Last year was the first year in three that I didn’t have major surgery. The summer before that, I was diagnosed with gallstones and had my gall bladder removed. Before that I had a rare inflammatory condition that affected my breast tissue and required  invasive surgery. I medicate for IGM daily. It was frightening. I continue to be very scared. I’ve lost a lot of family members to cancer and heart disease. Health fears are constantly in the back of my mind. My daughter is the reason I wouldn’t want anything to compromise my health. Being a mom inspired me to become more healthy in my 40s than I was when I was younger.

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Walking lunges with Bulgarian bag.  Photo by M.

In December, I joined a new gym. My samba sisters, specifically those who’ve attended this gym, inspired me. I had often flirted with the idea of taking on a fitness challenge there but I was intimidated. I am not a weight lifter. During my first two years in college, you could find me at the gym lifting weights. When I first started teaching during my 20s, I did weight training with a personal trainer. So it had been decades. It’s not been something I’ve been drawn to do. I like to run. I like to dance. I like cardio. My new workouts have required me to change my way of thinking and to push myself hard. It’s not easy. I struggle. I am smaller and slower and weaker than a lot of people. I gauge myself against myself so that if I can do something I was never able to do before then that is meeting my goal. This week at samba, we did abs and pushups and other muscle work. In the past, I would cringe and groan, “I can’t do this.” It came much more easily. My teacher passed me and said, “Well you train all the time.” One of my samba sisters who inspired me in my fitness journey told me I looked great. She is committed to fitness so her compliment meant so much to me.  It felt good to receive reassurance and validation from those I respect and love.

Fitness is not a 40 day challenge. It is a fun mental and emotional outlet which will extend my life. While I like that my clothes fit more loosely, I love that I am modeling health and wellness for my daughter.  She comes to the gym with me at least once a week and watches me sweat it out. Getting a thumbs-up from her is great motivation. Fitness will continue to be an everyday challenge and a lifelong goal.

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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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A pajama party with purpose

“My sister my sister, tell me what the trouble is

I’ll try to listen good and give the best advice that I can give…”

Monie Love

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Photo by Natasha Vinakor

In a time of grief, I am blessed to enjoy moral support and a sense of community. From my newest dance community to the beautiful women of my samba community, I am surrounded by positive energy. That strengthens me in the face of ignorance and negativity. Though our weekends are busy, I’m grateful I made the time to attend a women’s salon with my dance sisters.

The salon, “Let’s Talk It Out,” allowed for structured conversation about many topics.

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Photo by Natasha Vinakor

While #election2016 weighs heavily on our minds, it did not come up in the conversation, other than one mention at the beginning of the event.  Yes, our lives go on, despite all the emotions dredged up by the state of the nation. But we get to do so on our terms, not because of a shared op-ed article or meme on Facebook(Holding the door open). I digress, though, from the gratitude I feel for last night’s gathering.   While I kept relatively silent during the active discussion last night, I heard each and every voice.  I stood with my sisters in their worries, questions, and fears. Of course, there were light-hearted moments. We shared food, drink, and laughter. It was an experience I hope we continue.

One question I had prior to the event was whether or not to include M.  She’s an impressionable eight-year-old; would a women’s salon that would likely address controversial issues be appropriate?  I decided she would join us. She was so excited to choose a onesie to wear (recommended dress code for the evening.) Already an active member of our dance community, M felt right at home. She played with our hostess’ toddler daughter. She cuddled with a few of my dance sisters.  She sat on my lap and kissed my cheek every so often.  Given all the girl drama she already experiences as an elementary school student, I thought it was important for her to witness genuine, respectful camaraderie between women. These are women she admires and loves.  These are women who love her mother.  It was a win-win.

Nearly five years ago, I committed to mastering a dance style but also to opening my heart to new people and new relationships. As I’ve shared before, my dance community has enriched my life deeply(More than a parade).  As I make an effort to reach out and be included, I will continue to benefit from the blessing of sisterhood.

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Onesie crew

We interrupt this program…

Lately, I’ve been so nice you have to wonder who programmed me in Stepford. Maybe it’s because the Bride is a Mrs., Angelic is in love, and I’m back at work. Maybe it’s because the only real complaint I have lately is that cute shoes sometimes hurt your feet. But can I please be bitchy for a moment?
Why is it that men, perfectly intelligent and well-intentioned men, sometimes like Barbie dolls? Sure they may be triathlon running Barbie dolls who donate money to charity but they’re still Barbie dolls. I know who Keith Haring is, for Pete’s sake. And that’s counter-balanced by the fact that I know what it means to go to the mattresses and who says “I’ll be your Huckleberry.” I suck at volleyball but I can name most tunes from the 1950s to mid 1990s.  I probably know more about the X-Men than most men. I can pray the rosary in two languages. I know at least 50 ways to bake a chicken. I know all the lyrics to most disco songs.
But you know what Greg Behrendt says, “Don’t waste the pretty!”

Triathlons. You try dealing with a manic supply clerk with twelve feet of carpeting and an Exacto knife. Now that’s kick ass.

I feel better already.

We return to the show in progress.