Sunday, June 28, 2015

Keep Talking

In the week that my mother passed away, my inbox was flooded with emails of support and friendship. My community texted me, some even called, to tell me they were there for me and that I could count on them for anything I needed. It meant more than I can say to feel the support of people around me who stood by me, even if they had no experience with the pain of my loss.

After that initial week, an occasional question would flit in, asking how I was doing, maybe, but for the most part, life went on for everyone else, as it always does.

And I understand it. We all like easy, status quo, we like to return to things where we left them before we had to look up from our own lives for a moment.

It feels like that time now again, about Charleston.
The first time reaction posts of the horror of Charleston have slowed to an ebb. We're now celebrating Marriage Equality in America, which is rightly so a mind-blowing historical and just event. But today is the start of a new week, and we return back to the lives we have.

It's human nature to tire of work. Emotional work feels equal in effort to physical. Writing about Charleston is an emotional landmine—as anything that is about race. Tempers flare, friendships are lost, and the confrontational nature of opposing sides makes some of us feel like running to our homes and locking the doors behind us.

But we can't let the talk of race die down because the impact of racism in America continues. Even if in your heart, you tire of explaining to people—sometimes even in your family—the dialogue needs to remain. Racism hurts us all, every one of every color. How many times in the past have we pretended with other things in our lives, that something isn't there? It doesn't work. Problems don't disappear.
We all need to keep talking about race, and not leave the work from here on out now to people of color. Whistling about how we don't see color, and we're not the ones with the problem, or how we're not racist and have taught our children to not see color, does not make racism in America fall away. It is there. To see it, read the news on any single day. It's not enough to write our one golden post or deliver our one in-person request to not engage in hateful bigoted dialogue. Without a doubt, anyone being vocal is appreciated, you could even say it's our duty. But we can't dust off our hands now with “my work is done here.”

We need to keep on writing and speaking on the injustice and existence of racism in America. Especially when others have stopped. The hostility from some we know may continue, and we will probably be told by others that we don't see the whole picture—That's when our words take on even more importance.

America has finally started talking about race. Voices dying down can bring that same death to this topic.
You can keep the talk of racism in America alive, but your voice has to be the breath within it.

Please keep talking:

Series of Nighttime Fires Bring Arson to Six Black Churches
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Friday, June 26, 2015

Celebrating Today

"I'm not doing it for you. I'm doing it as a message for everyone. I'm wearing this everywhere today."

And so we did. I, with him, dressed in our rainbow best, celebrating.

All over this town.
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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Truth About Appearances

I was asked on twitter today about balance--and I knew they weren't talking about my Wii Fit score. They wanted to know what advice I had on getting it all done. It being, all of 'it'. I sat at the other end of the screen, surprised, because Wow Do I look like someone who has it all together?

How did that concept ever appear? I wanted to apologize if I made it seem that way because I am no master of my universe. Instead I said "There is no balance. Only daily work and reminding myself to be my personal cheerleader."

Later this afternoon, I googled "Balance+Life+Women" and found out a few things that made me laugh out loud in an ouch that hurts to know way. For instance, did you know you're supposed to do certain things daily?

True, one site suggested that for balance in life, you need to outline time needed for your daily non- negotiables.

And then they gave The Big 7:


They offered the tip that if you must, let some things slide, like TV. As if I didn't feel bad enough already about not meeting The Big 7 up there as it was... I find out that I should have had time to watch TV in there? I was even failing at watching TV??

Here's how I handle my Big 7:

-My exercise is speed walking for 50 minutes like I'm in England. Then I do 10 minutes of arm exercises. I also ignore all articles that begin with "Get that bikini body ready now!"
-My sleep is wherever I land in the house between the hours of 1 a.m. and 7.
-Homecare? (hire out, says the article) Yeah, no, tried it. By the time I picked up the house I decided I might as well clean it. Or not.
-Work hours for me are easy. I have one of the best jobs that suits me more and more each year. I get paid to play with preschoolers.
-Bills? I don't like to talk about money. That's not good, I know.
-Childcare. Schedule it? I am on deck, on call, that's how I like to do it all--with the kids in the background.
-Cooking? Now you hit on a non-negotiable. Food allergies, five hungry people. I'm the one who does feeding time because I'm the smartest, fastest, and best at it.

We are all scrambling for time. If we compare what others accomplish to what we've done, this won't ever work. We don't know if someone has a friend who comes over to help, or a mother that lives just six minutes away. Someone might have kids who play well by themselves, and still others may just have the knack for organizing their time.

Each one of us sees what someone else is doing and it's kneejerk simple to go to a chastising inner dialogue. Why aren't we writing more, exercising more, laughing more, funning more? We want to get things done and be productive, but what is THE TRICK?

I've thought long and hard about a better answer to give to that tweet from this morning. Almost 12 hours later, I'm pretty sure I know what it is.

The Big 7 up above don't count if you don't start with the mother of them all: if you don't have this one thing, the one you must do, nothing will work. Everything we do takes energy and without This One Thing, you'll be sapped of it. So-

Take care with how you talk to yourself.

That is all of it right there. Nothing will have your shoulders landing on your knees faster than the spiral of self-talk of how you're not as good as anyone else, how you can't keep up with everyone else, and how all that you do is half assed and slapped together.

Want to feel overwhelmed? Tell yourself you'll never find the time to do anything.
Want to feel muddled and confused? Just think of all you have to do over and over.
Going for anxious? Remind yourself of how far behind you are from your goals.

We need to feel good about ourselves to find the energy and drive to pursue and commit to the things we want. If you want to fire yourself up for all that you want in life, remember where good feelings come from. From hearing something good. That means no more of how much better and more together others are than we are. I'm no psychologist but I'd bet my cheetah spotted shoe collection on how depleting critical self talk can be. We have got to reframe our relationship with ourselves.

So. Don't do it anymore. Stop bad talking yourself. The Big 7 up above are whatever The Big 7 are to you. Take your non-negotiables from there.

Exercise - absolutely I do not miss a day. I want to live.
Sleep - without a doubt I am working on change. This year, I started changing into pajamas.
Homecare - clean toilets, floors, non-sticky counters and folded laundry. Enough.
Childcare - is what you need it to be in the season you're in. Parenting is dynamic. Children grow, life gets easier. It's easy to forget that. Your time to do will come.
Bills - a definite work in progress.
Work - I'm lucky, I like mine. I get to color! And play-dough in the morning!
Cooking - this is my fun. Dicing carrots, chopping garlic, feeding my people. This fills my tank.

This is how my Big 7 work for me.

And just typing that, made me smile already.

So go on, love on yourself and realize that we never know how others make it work, we can only know what makes it work for us.

Peace out.

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Years Don't Lessen: On a Father's Day Without a Father

The first time that I saw Pirates of the Caribbean, it was with my husband and our three children. There is a moment within seconds of the movie starting that Orlando Bloom crosses the screen, and it knocks the wind out of me. “Oh! That looks just like my dad!,” I gasp.

“Cool, mom,” say my kids.

“No,” I say, “I mean it. It really does.”

But they have already stopped listening and keep sucking on their Sour Patch Kids, while I sit, frozen. They can't understand. For the next 27 times that Orlando pops up on the screen I call out how he could be my dad. My kind children politely look at me, and nod.

I haven't seen my father since the beginning of first grade, and now I have him in front of me, larger than life, for 90 minutes.

“My dad. It’s my dad.” I whisper, but I know I'm saying it to myself.

* * *
My father had skin the color of shiny copper and eyes that were green with flecks of yellow. When he smiled, he made me grin so wide I thought my skin would crack.

Growing up, we had a radio in the kitchen, a beige plastic rectangle with gold colored dials. The station was set to AM radio and The Beatles were always playing one of their Top 10 singles. I would hear the music from whatever part of the house I was in and come running, ready to dance the Twist for my father.

He couldn’t hold back his laughter at seeing me shake my five-year-old body back and forth while I sang for him, "Ooooooh he was just seventeeeeen!” Laughing and clapping, his smile opened into double laugh lines on the left side of his cheek. They would get so deep that they looked like I drew them in with black magic marker.

My parents were from Colombia, South America, but coming to the United States didn’t stop them from having the parties they were used to having there. In our basement, their old records would be pulled out: Carlos Gardel was the favorite. My father, holding a brown bottle of beer in his hand and his always present cigarette perched on his lips, would slide his feet back and forth until he was in the middle of the basement floor. I would secretly watch, hidden around the corner of the steps. Seeing him dancing with his eyes closed, lost in the music, was more than I could bear. I would blow my cover and run to him. My summer nightgown streaming behind me and my bare feet slapping against the cold cement floor, I jumped into his arms. Finally, I would be there, his cheek scratching against mine and pressing into his neck to breathe in Old Spice. I wanted him more than anything else in the world.

My father didn’t talk very much, he mostly laughed. He would wink, I swear it was only to me, and I would cover my mouth with both hands to stop from exploding. My father knew how he was my everything, and it was not something he ever took lightly. Each gesture to me was a grand one and his magic was in making time stand still. He could freeze a moment by looking into my eyes and all around me became distant and fell away. All that was left was just my father, and me, and that was the world.

I was in love with my father. I would wait at the end of the day for him to come home from work, my forehead leaning with all my might against the front screen door so I could see as far out as possible while I watched for him. Then, there, in his grey work overalls, I would spot him. Like a horse bursting through a gate, I galloped down our front steps. Taking two steps at a time I would begin shouting, "Papi!" When he saw me, he would stop walking and crouch down, and wait. It was then that his dimples would appear.

One day, I popped out the mesh of our front screen door from the force of my body. My father had to replace it.

* * *
These memories of my father flood over me that afternoon as I watch Orlando Bloom on the screen. I force myself to concentrate on time with my family, but I can’t stop missing my father. My throat begins to ache and I only see him, with his eyes closed, a palm of one hand softly on his stomach, the other held up in the air, swaying his shoulders side to side as “Adios Muchachos” plays on our stereo.

I have to excuse myself from my children and leave for the bathroom. I don't have the time to explain to them that I didn’t have my father long enough. I was a little girl who adored her father and he was here for much too short a time.

My father died two months into the start of my first grade; a shocking suicide. His death so abrupt that no one could get me to stop looking out of our front screen door for him. They gave up trying to pull me away, and I made the mesh pop out again. No one was there to replace it, and it remained split, with a bulge in the middle until my mother moved us to a new house.

My life has been filled with Father’s Days since then, and all of them, without him. I have never not thought of my father on this day and of how much I loved him. This Father's Day will begin like all the other ones have since, with my first words being, Feliz Dia de los padres, Papi. Te amo.

Happy Father’s Day, Papi, I love you.
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Saturday, June 20, 2015


Since I began blogging over five years ago, BlogHer has been a part of my online life. They are committed to publishing all of our stories, not just the pretty in life--though those are needed, too--of what life is like for many who are different from you or me.

This month, BlogHer is covering intersectionality. If you've heard this term and aren't sure what it means, I am honored to have a post featured on BlogHer today about intersectionality and the role it has played not just in my life, but for others, too.

I would love for you to read it and share it. My hope is that it sparks discussion, and honest introspection.

Thank you.

*Thank you, BlogHer, for your commitment to community and to community for all of us.

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