Feathery thing


“Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul…” Emily Dickinson

I am blessed that I consistently receive reminders of  why I work in schools. Motivating young people is what I love the most about my work. I love school(I always have.) I love literature(I always have.)  The best part of my job is giving young people hope.

During Lent, I realized one of my students is an aspiring author. I thought it was important to let the student  know that the principal is an author too. The student was in need of motivation. To see a face light up? Que bonito! It was wonderful. When I saw the student again later in the day, I encouraged continued self-expression and to consider creating a blog. I talked about my favorite bloggers turned bestsellers, Luvvie Ajayi and Ta-Nehisi Coates. The student didn’t know who they were and was impressed by their successes. It was important for me to stop being the stuffy principal and share something about myself. I also offered to be available to discuss writing.

I’m working closely with a group of students who are disengaged and disconnected from school. Their attendance is poor. They are not in good standing but they all want to work part-time. I know that the rules about good standing. I’m a rule follower and a rule enforcer. I’m a principal. Rules are important. A few of my staff members are much more black and white about this issue;a few have even voiced criticism of my willingness to be flexible.  But I want to get these kids back in school. Internal motivation is the ideal. I will promote extrinsic rewards if it’s going to motivate kids to come back to school. I cannot withhold encouragement and hope. I could have easily said,“ you guys cut too much school“ and sent them away. My non-negotiables are fighting, defiance, and drug abuse. If a student promises to return to school if I help him or her find a job, how can I say no? What kind of teacher and leader shuts the door on students?  

Part of what I do is give hope. That is at the core of the work that I do. I give these young people opportunities following the example of my own stellar teachers and administrators. I wasn’t born a principal or a teacher.  Shoot I wasn’t even born an English speaker. It’s my turn now to be not only an adult or authority figure but a human being who wants young people to be successful . In the words of the inspiring Harvey Milk, “you have to give them hope.”  

Revealing relapse

“There is trouble in the air, destruction is everywhere
And men are being trampled beneath the soil
And nations, great and small, have now begun to fall
Oh come let us go back to God, go back to God”  written by Thomas Dorsey, as sung by Donnie McClurkin

When I talk about backsliding, I often mean it negatively.  When I backslide, I’m going to back old, often negative, habits and ways of thinking. Like every normal person, I have times when I’m disciplined, motivated, and therefore feeling and being successful.  If I “relapse” into past behavior, it is usually because I’m exhausted, demoralized, and struggling physically, mentally, and/or emotionally.  Life goes in cycles.  It’s never a journey of point A to point B.  So why do I hold myself to that unrealistic black and white thinking?  What if “going back” has its benefits?

Para los que me conocen, y’all know I’m often goal-driven. I take on reading challenges, savings challenges, and prayer challenges. I train for half-marathons and for street performances of various choreographies.  I do weeklong class hops, novenas of daily masses, 40 day fasts, and multi-week fitness programs. But I don’t always complete these goals to the best of my ability.  Sometimes I don’t complete them at all.  Then I spend some time beating myself up about those failures.  Fortunately, time and life experience has taught me to seek humility.  Life has taught me that failure is a good time to turn back to God.

I said it.  As important as my faith life is to me, God doesn’t always come first. “Well, I guess we won’t go to Mass Carnaval weekend because I’m not about to sit in church in my costume.”  God doesn’t always fit on a busy schedule.  While I thank God when I’m succeeding, I spend less time with Him while I’m busy working towards that success.  I’m going, going, going.  Literally and figuratively running.  A quick grace over a rushed meal. Half a rosary done on the commute from one family activity to another.  I don’t build in time for devotion.

It is in times of struggle and failure that I truly give myself over to God.  When I’ve been diagnosed with illnesses, I have stood with God.  When I’ve struggled with work situations, I have had long, emotional conversations with God.  When I have lost loved ones, I have found comfort from God.  Where human motivation and individual goals waver, God is constant.

I know I have lots of work to do in the next few months. I will make my faith life part of that work.  Going back to God is wonderful.  Staying with Him must be a goal. 2eec7f06e6a3add42dfda620cb60b94d

Prayer for hope

“A glooming peace this morning with it brings.
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head.
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things.
Some shall be pardoned, and some punished…” William Shakespeare, Act 5 of Romeo and Juliet
“America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.” Allen Ginsberg
The morning after a tragedy is quiet on many levels.  There is the usual quiet of mornings.  Also there is the lull of reflection.  Of course, there is the silence associated with various emotions: the numbness that accompanies grief, the tense muteness preceding or following rage, the stillness of shock. So often we are at a loss after a tragedy, however close we may have been to those involved.  I didn’t know Trayvon Martin and yet I, along with millions of others this morning, feel the weight of his loss and the failure of the court system in freeing the man responsible for his death. 
When I first wrote about this case over a year ago (Media misrepresentation in Trayvon Martin case), I pondered how my distance from the events led to my misunderstanding and confusion about the events as news. I also pointed out how the many layers of my life experiences impacted my thoughts.  At that time, I knew Trayvon Martin would impact us as a nation.  This morning, I realize Trayvon Martin has impacted me as a person. 

As a mother, as a woman of color, as an educator of at-risk youth, and as a proud American, the verdict delivered  in the trial of George Zimmerman exacerbates the fear, worry, and heartache I have about race relations in my country.  I live in a country where children can be attacked simply because how they look. 
Talented Sebastien De La Cruz, aka El Charro de Oro, came under fire for paying homage to his Mexican culture as he performed his National Anthem. 

Brand-name cereal Cheerios shut down online comments on their YouTube video feed after their charming commercial featuring a biracial family inspired racist reactions. 

I live in a country in which a TV show featuring several Latinas as sexy maids reaps high ratings and positive buzz despite the stereotypes perpetuated. 

So while we battle these issues in the media and the social networking worlds, I trust that our legal system will not be affected by racist images and misconceptions.  I am crushed when I am disappointed. 

Somehow, I carry and hold up hope.   As an artist, I choose to embrace all people as we come together creatively to build community. 

 As a mother and girlfriend, I choose to stay in my community because it offers an opportunity for my daughter to grow up in a different America, one where all people can live together. 
I choose hope. 

This morning, I offer a prayer for hope, the hope that Trayvon Martin’s death was not in vain, that as a nation we recover from this tragedy in the spirit of reconciliation, and that the families most affected by this loss find peace.  

Another door

“Remember wherever you go,
there you are”
“Girl from Ipanema Goes to Greenland,” B-52s

As I grapple with the complications of social networking miscommunication and weighing whether or not to invest in fledgling friendships, I was surprised by the unexpected reappearance of an old friend. After a separation of nearly twenty-four years(two of those brought about by drama, not distance), my former best friend, Warrior, has reconnected with me. It is a happy coincidence as I have been questioning the very nature of friendships and our particular friendship had a powerful impact. Only great things can happen once we bring our two families together.
 Let the 2012 indigenous people’s alliance building and world takeover begin!

Family snapshot

We fall asleep with his hand on my belly, daddy reaching out to his unborn child. We are curled up together, breathe in the same rhythm as I hum contentedly and the winds blow through the slightly open window. We are heartbeat and warmth and peace.

Ready for the new year

A year ago, I was enjoying the open bar at the Washington Hotel in the Town, dancing to 80s with my brother, sister in law, and our friends. I declared 07 my year. And it was. The year that changed my life in ways I could not imagine. I am grateful to have lived it and grateful to let it go. So Happy New Year Soldier, BPD, I Love New York 1 and 2, and especially my dearest Play Brother.

In the words of Lisa’s auntie, 08 is going to be great.


A little after 1 in the morning last night, I found out something amazing.

Today I feel mystified, just as much as the first time I felt overwhelmed by the smell of roses.

God answers prayers.

Reclaiming December

Last winter may as well have been a nuclear winter. But as a person of hope, I believe in renewal. I have been proactive in reclaiming this season and making memories.

Perhaps one of the most important new traditions is the Dance-Along Nutcracker. It takes place on the second weekend of December in SF and raises funds for the Lesbian and Gay Freedom Band. This year, as part of Lisa’s birthday celebration and own healing, we became sponsors. With Lisa’s immediate family as our personal cheering section, we donned tutus and battled the preschoolers for floor space(as I smiled through my agony, see previous post). We have vowed to make it an annual tradition.

At home, I made my first Peruvian main dish ever for Blues. Blues and I put up my blue and gold themed tree. I created my first Peruvian/Italian nativity scene, complete with glitter sticker starry sky. I attended the second annual Christmas Eve family reunion complete with costumed folk dancers. I have surrounded myself with joy and laughter. Winter feels different. It feels happy.

Platinum Morning

I just slept in an additional two hours after my first night in since mid-October. Last night, I wanted to check out live Brazilian music in Berkeley or have some drinks with the girls. Instead I was chillin with a glass of cab and vintage Degrassi. I haven’t run since the Vegas Half-Marathon but my limp went away. The Christmas gifts have been bought and await the tree. I have an orchestra seat to today’s matinee of Madama Butterfly.

Life is as it should be. I have my health, a job/career that I treasure, loyal friends, a wonderfully supportive boyfriend, strong family relationships, deep faith, a cute little house of my own, and lots of wintry blue sky.

I am happy. Wish fulfilled. I don’t want to be anyone else. I am exactly who and where I want to be.


How do you know when you are in a romantic relationship with someone? Is it when an odd quirk becomes appealing? When you fear you could lose them to someone else? Is it the first time they hurt you? The first or fifth time they make you cry? When you hope the pillow has retained the scent of their hair? When you buy them something just because? When you question whether or not you can handle another risk, another heartbreak? When you want to retreat into the shelter of old thoughts, that you are not worthy of joy, that all will fail and it will be your fault? Or is it simply when you first yearn to hold him before you go to sleep or when you awake?

When I was little, I craved affection. Instead, I got rage. Instability. Inapproriate and mislaid attention. I got the wrong messages about who I was. I internalized myths and half-truths. The craving for affection only deepened. It has made my life difficult at times, the longing for love twisting into something dark and dangerous.
Thankfully, in recent months, I have begun to reach out to my child self, to love myself fiercely. But this self-love is new and fragile, like a tender shoot. It is a new process, sometimes alien, often terrifying.

This is a story I have not told. Only the DJ’s husband knows it. Many years ago, when He-who-shall-not-be-named-lest-I-retch was still Nice Guy, we had embarked on a whirlwind romance. One morning early in our relationship, I was cleaning the room, picking up clothes from the carpeted floor. A crumpled piece of paper fluttered out of a windbreaker jacket. I grabbed it, placed it on the nightstand, and kept cleaning. A while later, I looked at it again. It was his handwriting. It read “Coco, black girl, Susie hot blonde” and had a 415 phone number. I read it several times. Then I picked up the phone. Heart pounding. Mind racing. A woman answered and stated the name of a massage service. Despite my nerves, I said my boyfriend asked me to call and I asked for the names on the paper. I was informed they were on outcalls and that others would be available to accomodate couples. I said I would call back. Gasping for breath, I shakily dialed the DJ’s home phone. Hubby answered. I broke down sobbing, stammering my story. He helped me calm down, drew the distinction between Nice Guy’s private life and his new relationship with me, scolded me for snooping. He reminded me to communicate openly with Nice Guy. When I confronted Nice Guy later, he denied my suspicions though he did confess to hiring a masseuse on occasion. During the three years of our relationship, he grew accustomed to searches of his pockets, drawers, and phone. But I got past that episode and for some time, we were happy.

Trusting someone with my body and heart is a risk. I have been hurt badly one time too many. Still, I continue to forgive and hope.