Magic Bullet discovered!

For years, I have sought the solution to that extra ten (occasionally, twenty) pounds I’ve been carrying around since I left college. Like Oprah, I have slimmed down and blown up, from guapa to gordita and back again. I have exercised, kept a food diary, juice cleansed, and cooked farm to table meals but pero nunca gone on an actual diet (because it has the word “die” in it). Depending on the consistency and intensity of my workouts and the kind of meals I am making, I am closer to a healthy weight than I have been in years.  But I have found the magic bullet!  Hallelujah! I now know how to lose excess weight in a week without any sit-ups or crunches, without grocery lists or expensive trips to the farmer’s market, without pills or powders or any other chemicals.  Cholecystectomy!  Say it with me. Call a sis tech to me! You too can be slim and trim with a simple gall bladder removal.
As planned, I had my gall bladder removed last week. After choosing to wait a few months, it was time to check into the hospital at 6 in the morning. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long before I met with my anesthesiologist(a handsome brother with a wry sense of humor; ladies I meant to ask if he wanted to come out to my samba school and meet some of my girls but I ran out of time) and my surgeon. After botching the first attempt at setting me up with an IV, the nurse got an IV going on my left arm and wired me up like the Bionic Woman. Then I was taken into the OR and I was strapped down like they expected to perform an exorcism on me.  The doc struck up a convo about the grammatical skills of high school students and before I could bring up Samba Funk, I was out. As predicted, I woke up in recovery to the nurse saying all had gone well.
My love joined me and he told me the surgeon said they wouldn’t be sending anything to pathology. There were no polyps or cysts; I had gallstones. No waiting for results!  But before I could respond, the fun, as in not, began. I haven’t been that sick since I was pregnant with M. I couldn’t even keep down water. I spent the day in a heap on the bed. 
Each day has brought improvements.  Last year’s extensive recovery had prepared me for the frustration of the physical and emotional challenges and the small victories. Taking a shower, eating a meal, walking around the block are all small miracles I know to not take for granted. Being able to take deep cleansing breaths and laughing, without pain, showed my progress.  I still wake up nauseous. The incision sites still ache. But I am definitely recovering.

While it’s true that I have lost some pounds, I don’t recommend this method of weight loss. What I do recommend is prevention. The research is divided on what causes gallstones; however, being overweight is a contributing factor. Most people choose to continue living/eating status quo after a month of recovery. I have decided to modify my eating habits for life. I am giving up alcohol and processed foods and I will be committing to being mostly vegetarian.  As my Team in Training coach used to always say, health is wealth. I would like to be wealthy for many more years to come. 

More than a parade

Last year, on the Sunday before Memorial Day, I rose before sunrise and began to get dressed for Carnaval.  I had asked to be able to sit on the float in full costume, my Wound-Vac covered in our theme colors.  I began the long process of applying my makeup.  As I applied the beautiful shades of color to my face, I began to feel sad. I had wanted so badly to be off the Wound-Vac.  True, I had never finished learning all the choreography. But the best part of performing in Carnaval is feeling a part of a body, a body of alegria and axe, a body which exudes grace, strength, and pure joy.  With the little machine literally attached to my body, I knew I exuded pain and weakness. I burst into tears and called my mom. “No puedo hacerlo. (I can’t do it.)”  She understood and plan B, which was to sit in the grandstand with M and my mom, went into effect. I took off my beautiful gown and donned my samba school tee.   I stopped crying, grabbed my camera, and headed to the parade.
The morning of SF Carnaval 2014

I cheered loudly for SambaFunk; they were magnificent.  I also cried. I consider it one of the more painful moments during my recovery from surgery. That was nearly a year ago.

I came to SambaFunk through a lovely woman I met on Dance Party. A brilliant dancer, she had asked me to check out her samba community sometime. I expressed mild interest; I had taken two samba classes prior to my difficult pregnancy and had always wished I continued.  A few months passed before I finally took initiative and asked when I could join her in class. On a cold January evening, I walked into the second floor studio of the Malonga and within two hours, I had found a second home. King Theo’s wisdom, love, and positive energy inspired me to take on this new creative and physical challenge.
After my first SambaFunk class in January 2013. Photo by Elise Evans
At exactly this time, I was preparing for a job interview. I would be competing for a vice principal position in a different district. I am convinced the energy I received through my dance class helped boost my confidence. I got the job. I was learning how to be a carnavalesco at the same time I was learning to succeed in a new work environment.  SambaFunk has been more than a dance class. The energia it provides has been a blessing.
Taking part in Carnaval has tapped into so many aspects of my personality.  I rediscovered the superhero in me as a Funky Gogo Love Bomber. I also learned half-marathons are nothing compared to parading nearly two miles in 6-inch platform boots.
GoGo Bombers doing their thing, SF Carnaval 2013. Photo by Yvel Sagaille.
As I struggled with illness, I reexamined the grace and power that is inherent in being a woman, beautifully heralded in my incarnation as a regal Star Mother.  While I didn’t get to parade in Carnaval last year, I was able to take part in the San Diego Brazilian Day parade.
SambaFunk, Brazilian Day San Diego 2014. Photo by Soul Brasil.
My mother and M traveled with me and stood proudly on the sidelines cheering for us.  With each Carnaval, I learn more about costuming and parading.  I also realize it is more than a parade.

Obrigado SambaFunk for welcoming my little family into your embrace.

Rambo and M, Pan-African Film Fest 2014
w M on the red carpet at the Pan-African Film Fest 2014
Thank you for the prayers and love you gave me when I feared the worst about my health and for your loyalty and support during my recovery. Thank you for helping me become the best version of myself.
Preparing for SF Carnaval 2015, M’s first Carnaval


“…The exquisite realization of health;
O I say these are not the parts and poems of the Body only, but of the Soul…” Walt Whitman
“No tears, no time to cry
Just makin’ the most of life” As sung by Mariah Carey
“I sing because I’m happy
I sing because I’m free…” Civilla Martin and Charles Gabriel 
Lately, I have received good news about my health with little fanfare. No jumping and down. No shouting. No fist-pumping or high-fiving or end zone-dancing.  I think about it.  Instead, I take it in and breathe.   All that training in mindfulness is put into practice for several moments of serenity.  It has made these milestones sweeter somehow. 
In the last two weeks, I took on a new role.   While resuming my professional duties, I also became my own nurse. My morning routine once again shifted to include a wound care session.  Every day, I gathered my supplies: mirror, scissors, gauze pads, wound cleanser spray, and a Muppets bag M got at Subway containing skin protectant film, swabs, large Band-Aids, and Aquacel dressing.  I would remove the previous day’s bandage and shower (oh the joy of a real, warm shower without the incessant beeping alarm or the soggy plastic bags). Then I’d pack my own wound and tell my body to heal, heal so I can be cleared to travel and cleared to exercise. Once a week, I would take measurements as my home health nurses used to do and I began to see rapid progress.  Even before yesterday’s appointment, I knew I would hear good news.  Still, it was nice to hear my nurse say, “You’re free.” 
Of course, this journey is far from over. I will continue to dress my wound with topical ointment. My wound will close in a week or two. The scar from my surgery won’t heal for several months. I will have to be aware of any changes in my body, to see if the IGM is responding to my daily medication. In the immediate future, I will resume exercise to regain muscle and cardiovascular fitness.
I know I could have tied on my new running sneakers last night and gone out for my first run since February’s Superbowl Sunday 5k.  I know I could have worked out this morning.  But as with the removal of the Wound-Vac, the removal of the wound packing felt odd.  As before, I felt vulnerable and exhausted.  I slept better than I have in a few weeks.
 This morning, Rambo and I watched a movie about the end of the world and how one family faced it with serenity and with love.  Because along with wound care technology and the quality medical professionals I am fortunate to work with, I know I have made it through this experience  because of my will, the love of my family and friends, and the serenity that comes with accepting God’s grace. 

All is blessing.  

Being put to the test

Seven days ago, I was a whirling dervish of activity. I began to live this way years ago in an effort to survive.  Too much time on my hands meant too much time in my head.  So I found ways to fill my time and my mind. These days I rush about from home to work to my daughter’s activities to my dance classes and dance community to family gatherings to me time to volunteering to church. It’s not always the least stressful life but it’s a good life. 
It is a good life. I am awake. I can walk. I can talk. I don’t have a life-threatening disease. I have a job, a home, a family, and the greatest friends a person could desire. But this week has tested me greatly.  In addition to the physical challenges of my recovery, there are mental and emotional challenges. I must relearn to sit quietly, do nothing, and wait.  I wait for myself to become comfortable again with the gift of time and space, the blessing of a calendar and schedule wiped clean.  I wait to trust my thoughts, to stand firm in the knowledge that never again will I allow negativity to cloud my life. I know I have learned so much through life experience, that my will to live and to change continues to be strong. I wait for healing.

When I was younger, I used to ponder becoming a contemplative, if only as an oblate to a certain Order or monastery. I used to ponder going on a desert retreat or a silent week-long retreat. Perhaps this time is meant to be that opportunity. May I trust it and seek peace.   

Revolution of the Catholic Planet

In the last installment of the series, Ms. Grito had done battle to return to her beloved Catholic Planet, only to be seriously injured by a traitor.  In self-imposed exile, Ms. Grito recuperated  and also began a new life as a mother.  Yet her ties to her homeland remained strong. As her child grew physically and mentally, Ms. Grito realized the value of her faith. With her own mother as an ally, the trio revisited the Catholic Planet, prepared for new adventures. 
Faith endures. 

Mind trip, homecoming of the soul

I was going to volunteer to resign from my job today. Ever the noble martyr(it was deeper than that, folks, but my self-effacing sarcasm keeps me afloat), I would gracefully and tearfully turn away from my new home, from the possibility of new leadership opportunities, from my wonderful students who have embraced me. Imagine my shock and grief when I learned that a colleague had taken a position elsewhere, that , as I did exactly a year ago, she would move on to pursue personal and professional growth. Along with the rest of the group, I broke into tears. Tears of understanding, of loss, of empathy, of relief.

So what do I do when my mind is pushed off balance? I regress. I’m listening to soulful house music, courtesy of my longtime friend, The DJ. And I read the online writings of an old acquaintance, a voice from the wild past, a voice of dangerous instability(all his platitudes about being a “fixer” of broken people aside.)

My mind is spinning. Too bad I’m not at the Endup, with the disco balls and strobe lights, the shots of tequila, the cute boys hugging me and telling me, “girl, don’t trip off that bullshit. You got the cutest baby in the world and your life is good.”

My life is good. My mind, occasionally fragile. But all mine. Just like my job. And my soul.

Rehab officially begins

Not the Amy Winehouse kind but getting my injured leg back in shape. According to my good friend K at work and my longtime doctor, I tore muscle fibers in my left calf. I’m midway through week 3 of recovery and am ready to officially work out(I have to admit I have danced at least once a week since this injury despite prohibitions.) After all, I have plans for new half-marathon medals in 08 but really hope to perform in Carnaval.

I use a warm compress every morning and ice after exercise and before bedtime. I have weaned myself off daily doses of Tylenol and bandaging my leg(unless I take part in the forbidden activity of dancing). I still sleep with my leg elevated. I’ve only worn heels once, when I lectored Christmas morning, and it felt awful. But I know I have to exercise or I’ll lose muscle. I can’t try running until 4 full weeks have passed. I can rely on low impact exercise like my other fave, Pilates, or go back to swimming(but why are temps in the very low 40s?!?) in any case, it’s time to move.

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.

Holiday Hangover

I don’t need menudo nor would I eat the nasty sh**(even though HWSNBNLIR made me have a big bowl of it once since his grandpa made it and fat lot of good it did me since it was some mousy, dumpy gringa he chose but I digress). The last few days have been busy with family gatherings, rich food, and even the occasional glass of booze(since Blues doesn’t partake, I haven’t taken in those extra calories). My bum leg and tummy are paying the price. But it’s nothing ice and sleep can’t cure. As my uncle Pedro said last night, tomorrow we could die. Living isn’t always easy but it is worthwhile.

Declaration of Independence

“Neither can live while the other survives…” J.K. Rowling

Borderline personalities have a hard time managing their black/white thinking. The splitting(separating people, thoughts, emotions, situations into either all positive or all negative) starts at a young age. Trauma such as childhood abuse can sometimes exacerbate the splitting.

For most of my life, I have been terrified of the Devil with a capital D, the devil in the adults who hurt me, the devil in the friends and lovers who have harmed me, and my own personal demons. My fear has become pathological at times. I cling. I obsess. But now I’m ready to start letting go.

So no great enemies. No more battle for my soul. No more good vs. evil with others or myself. The time has come to be true to myself, to focus on love and hope. It is time to walk out into the desert and burn away to a new beginning.

“Now and forever, I am Phoenix…”