Because it’s my year to review

I clicked on the Facebook year in review. It wasn’t all bad. As a matter of fact, it featured postings and photos relating to my samba school, my beautiful, loving tribe that truly deserves a piece of writing dedicated to them(2015 seems a good time to do so). While I smile when I remember all the dancing, laughing, and celebrating we did, I realize that the story of my year is much more complex. Facebook may have some matrix that detects the number of likes and comments; I know better.
In terms of my personal growth and the strength of my family, 2014 was a challenging and therefore inspirational year. We have weathered illness( and major surgery)and the death of loved ones among other troubles. I learned a long time ago that my attitude in trying moments is in my control. I can choose to love, smile, pray, breathe, be.

The following are seven photos from last year. I look forward to another year of love, unity, and peace.  

Great America Dance Day 2014 : By then, I was on my third round of antibiotics and within two weeks I would be hospitalized for emergency surgery. Pero ni modo, my baby comes first. I love to watch her dance so this day was no different. 
Photo by Elise Evans.  Look closely at my right shoulder. I am wearing Mr. Backpack. I had to make my final payment on my Carnaval costume even though I knew I most likely wouldn’t be able to wear it. So even though I was sad, angry, and exhausted, I was happy to see my dance family practice. 
Mr. Backpack: gone but never forgotten

Photo by Rambo. The Four Generations photo he had planned since we decided we were going to Peru. 
My family at the most beautiful place on Earth  
Photo by Soul Brasil Magazine.  San Diego Brazilian Day Parade.  I finally did get to dance with my samba community.
My inspiration

Fifteen reasons to pray

What I miss:
Bear hugs with my daughter
Feeling completely clean
Getting up from sitting without having to carry the vac
What I won’t miss:
Blistered, irritated skin
Knowing my daughter is suffering from stress
Being disappointed by others  
What I appreciate:
Being infection-free for five weeks
A renewed sense of humility
The love of my immediate family
The unflagging and unconditional support of my close friends and dance community

The opportunity to value the blessing of health

Measure of a year

“Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life?

How about love?” “Seasons of Love” by Jonathan Larson, Rent

I had big plans for 40. I was going to reach my weight-loss goal.  I was going to sign up and train for my first triathlon.  I was going to write more, perhaps weekly.  There was a time in my life when I might look back on this year, realize I didn’t meet some of these goals, and feel a sense of disillusionment or wistfulness.  But my true goal, the one that has been central to my daily life since my recovery, has been to live and love as much as possible. I met my goal.  

In this wonderful year, I revisited Rome,

 helped my daughter begin and grow to love school, 

ran three half-marathons, 

made a major career shift in returning to administration, 

and performed in Carnaval. 

I gained a niece, 

a godson, 

and a stepdaughter.  

I couldn’t help but grin while preparing to blow out the candles on the cake at my pre-birthday family dinner last night.  I smiled because I don’t really have any wishes.  I have everything and that has nothing to do with material objects or bucket lists or even goals. 
I have love.

  And that is my life. 

Baktun to the future

With indigenous peoples once again relegated back to relative invisibility in mainstream media/pop culture (when are folks going to realize wisdom is wisdom?) many are collectively heaving a sigh of relief and pretending like they weren’t scurred.  I will be the first to admit that I was a little nervous, not because I believed the specific date was on the Mayan glyphs, but because my own universe is undergoing major changes.  This is good yet still intimidating. 

For a greater part of my life, I feared change.  So I tried to control situations in unhealthy ways, through poor choices and actions fueled by fear, anger, or insecurity.  To live I needed to embrace change.  Rather than focus on the end of things/relationships/situations, I learned to be more mindful, to value the moments.  I learned that it was all right for worlds to end. 

As with the Harold Camping Rapture debacle last year(my thoughts on 2011 Rapture), there was an emphasis on destruction, cataclysm, and chaos in many of the conversations I heard.  Perhaps, as Rigoberta Menchu observed recently, in times of change, we need to consider “lo esencial, lo humano y lo spiritual” (the essential, the human, and the spiritual.) We don’t need cataclysm to do so.  We also don’t need a predicted end of world date to realize there’s so much about our current society/times that could be changed or destroyed. Every one of us can take time to evaluate on our contribution (or lack thereof) to our community, both immediate and extended, and work to create the kind of world we want to give our children as legacy. 

I, for one, am ready for certain aspects of my world to start anew. Pase lo que pase (come what may), I accept the challenge.  

La leyenda de SuperMama -Or- the blessing of a busy schedule

Recently, I posted a Facebook status update about a typical hectic Saturday which included a multiple-mile training run, a Dance Party appearance, and packing up favor bags for mija’s birthday party.  A friend commented “So it was a slow day?”  I laughed and then probably went back to my multi-tasking. 
There was a time in my life, specifically a decade ago, when, because I was a committed girlfriend (aka pendeja) in a long-distance relationship (aka estupidez to the tenth degree), I did not do much.  My club kid days/phase had ended; there were no more early Wednesday morning (house music at 2am!) trips to San Francisco or any more Sunday afternoon tea-dances followed by Thai dinners.  If my girlfriends were busy, I often spent Friday nights and Saturdays at home, reading or doing housework. Once the relationship fizzled, I spent lots of time blogging. Within five years, my life went from boring to outright loca(there’s a reason I relate to Mariah, Britney, and Demi and it’s not because I’m a pop star diva)and I had to re-evaluate how I lived.  Being busy in a positive, productive way saved my sanity. 
Time is not my great enemy.  My schedule may seem overwhelming to folks.  For me, it is purposeful.  I make time for family, exercise, learning, and dance.  Those are the priorities.  They help me regulate my emotions, tolerate distress, and improve my relationships.  Then there is work and housework.  During all of my activities, I work on mindfulness, on appreciating every moment in all its complexity and simplicity.  I hope that my daughter learns that a strong woman can do and be many things.  I hope she sees that taking care of myself helps me take care of her, her father, and others in my life. 
Let’s get one thing clear.  I cannot do it all. I may do my leisure reading while my daughter enjoys ballet and tap lessons.  Learning a dance routine for a flash mob means the laundry may not be folded for a few days. The freezer may come to the rescue for a meal or two a week (you best believe I store leftovers and bring out family favorites when I’m too busy to cook.) My mom sometimes scolds me for making too much time for fun and not enough time for household chores.  I have been embarrassed when my suegra visits during a particularly busy time and sees a messy house. So I would rather make happy memories than make the bed. I can make a game of putting away laundry or doing the dishes.  The whole familia pitches in when the clutter gets too out of control.
Then there are those events which are not on the schedule.  Bedtime story time.  Family dinner at the kitchen table.  Best of all, we have what our daughter calls happy family, sweet little moments when the three of us share a group bear hug.  These are the times that truly matter. 

No longer the cruelest month

January hasn’t always been a good month for me. Many moons ago, when I was still at Cal, it meant basketball season, but for the most part, it has meant very cold temps and the beginning of the blues. This year, as I keep alluding to, is so different.

I am 10 days into 08. I am feeling happy, whole, nurtured, grateful, and strong. I embrace the fact that I am not alone. Every hour of deep sleep, every sip of water, every meal is a cherished moment.

January marks the beginning.

A Monday that needs more mindfulness

One of the core principles of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is mindfulness. It facilitates experiencing moments more fully and releases emotions from taking too much control of a person’s thoughts and actions. It is a skill I am practicing daily, even on days like today that feel negative.

What follows is an edited transcription of an audio recording I made on August 18, when mindfulness was relatively new to me:
I’m watching my dogs. They’ve treed an animal. Talula is sitting patiently, looking up into the tree. Lucky is lurking around the tree, in the shadows of the low-hanging branches. He stands up on his hind legs, moves his snout up, wags his tail. This is how they work together.
Lucky’s reddish blonde fur in the sunlight. His shadow on the grass. Curled tail. Tongue lolling out. Breathing in and out. Lavender, hot pink, purple blooms. Green grass. It’s beautiful in my garden. It reminds me of the monkey garden described in The House on Mango Street.
I love my dogs. Their life is so simple. I want to be that mindful where all of life is sunshine, work, and play instead of all this sadness.
It is so perfect I let myself cry. I’ve cried for the last few days. These tears are for the black and white dog with the pink collar staring up into the tree, never moving, never wavering, waiting.

Mindfulness works

August 10
On the drive home from church, I saw an old man in an A’s cap watering his front lawn. A robin was tossing a mud-covered worm around near one of my rosebushes. A chickadee leapt up from the birdbath with soaked feathers and flew up into the magnolia tree. Another robin stood on the edge of the birdbath and then hid in the hedge.
I urged him to jump into the water.