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New school solution

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I’ve decided that I’m going to be experimenting with something new in my writing. I’ve been trying to figure out various ways to blog and I have found some challenges namely time management. Between taking care of family, household chores, work, fitness, and sleep, it is very difficult to carve out time to write. I have been using voice memo on my cell phone as a means of capturing my thoughts. This was helpful during my commutes because I could make an audio file and later transcribe it.  I’ve amassed multiple audio files yet have no time to transcribe them. I’m going to try to use voice type.

I tend to speak quite quickly. I When I was a student teacher and later a new teacher, I was often criticized for speaking too fast. Now that I’m an administrator, I purposely slow down when I speak. however as a blogger, because I was writing by voice into my phone, I was using my regular talking speed.  Because I have been my own transcriber, I realize I speak very quickly at times, especially if I’m passionate about my topic. This will be a challenge to me as I try this new mode of communication.

I spent some time with a good friend from grad school, a fellow writer, yesterday.  We both shared that we haven’t made time for writing fiction. We wrote works of fiction for our master’s degrees in Writing. We both use writing in our careers. He uses his skills and experience as a writer in a much more creative way. School administrators do a lot of writing but it’s often academic or managerial;  it’s not too glamorous. I have continued to blog over the years but I haven’t carved out time for my fiction. I have ideas for my fiction. I don’t think it’s a writer’s block per se; it’s a fiction writers pause. In the meantime, I’m enjoying blogging and I hope that this new technology will enable me to continue to share my work. I’m encouraged by the possibilities.  

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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

 

Mananitas for my mentor

“A las muchachas bonitas se las cantamos asi…”

Feliz dia, mujer,
Tu, mas que nadie, have been my mentor
though we’ve spoken only three times in the past twenty-five years,
through your wisdom, your poetry, your stories, tu voz.
The first time I read your work,
I thought I was reading my own.
Tu eres maestra
and I am always your student.
Though my life has led me across dance floors
and into my own little casita,
though my obra maestra sleeps with dolls and teddy bears,
I know that deep within me, my own books wait,
my own voice draws strength.
You sowed those seeds and
someday they will bloom
like girasoles.

JAC
December 20, 2014

Happy birthday, Ms. Cisneros!

Bad news

A former student of mine died today. It has moved me in ways I couldn’t have predicted, in ways I have yet to understand. He wasn’t a student I knew well or even one I liked very much. And yet I feel odd. As if the room is lopsided.

I had printed out a recipe for natural egg dyes. My daughter’s first Easter egg coloring. Why not be mindful of harmful dyes? Then I received the news, via email. So the recipe disappeared. I don’t know where it has gone.. I’ve searched my desk, my recycling bin, my book bag. Maybe someday I will find the printout and I will smile. Not today.

A few weeks ago, I was at my annual trip to a Catholic conference. I finally wrote down my list of 100 personal dreams. One of them was to blog again. I have so much to say. I am a mother, partner, daughter, friend, half-marathoner, teacher, former assistant principal. I was so ready to return to the written word, my old friend.

Not today.

Sainthood, evolution, and other ponderings

I used to live to write and write to live. Now I simply live, marvel in the greatest gift we have day by day, often hour by hour. In the last six months I have been away from writing, I have learned to live in a way I only imagined. As a fellow contemplative once wrote(I’m paraphrasing like no one’s business), I have rediscovered the Liturgy of the Hours in the household, the faith life in the family, how being a mother and partner is God’s work. This is not to downplay my passion for writing; that calling is rooted deep within me. But, for now, my life is smaller, simpler, filled with peace and happiness. Every meal made, every little piece of clothing buttoned, every little tear wiped away, every hug and laugh is an amen.

Heavy stuff for a quiet Sunday this All Saints’ Day.
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This morning, I worked on my altarcito. Tomorrow is Dia de Los Muertos, though most Latino celebrations began in October and are culminating in Latino neighborhood celebrations today. I don’t have sugar calaveras or marigolds or a handmade rebozo. But I have a rock to represent steadfastness(also reminds me of my days as a Puente teacher, the rock being an allusion to Schindler’s List), a small bottle of rum to remember the party days I shared with my boys B and Donnell, a matchbox from Manhattan’s Cafe Lalo where I discussed Renaissance texts with my dear friend Charlene, candles, santos, the rosary I wore wrapped around my wrist when I was in labor with my daughter, and photos of my friends and family members. Later tonight, I will show the baby how the altar looks different. I will tell her about my abuelito, my nino, my friends. I will teach her how to honor those who have gone before us.
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Blues and I celebrate our two-year anniversary tomorrow. He jokes that it makes sense it is Day of the Dead. Thank goodness for new life, new beginnings, and yes, for death in all its forms and facets.
Who remembers what I was like right before I met Blues? True, I was quite fabulous but emotionally and mentally, unbeknowst to most but very clear to me, I was a volcanically hot mess.
Cheers to us!

As if there was ever any question…

that I’d return. True, my heart is now with my child, my hours that aren’t tied up at the office busy with nursing and nurturing. But the words are always bubbling, bubbling, bubbling like so much sea foam. Now’s the time to give voice.

My daughter is a talker. She hums, babbles, shrieks, and hollers. She hollers.