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Vacation mode

For many years, I was afraid to not be busy. I associated little activity or staying at home with being depressed or letting anxiety overwhelm me. I still worry about falling prey to negative emotions, thoughts or behaviors. But they’re not the scary monsters they once were. Now I can have a low-key day or several without self-diagnosing a period of depression. This summer vacation has been a good balance of busy and calm. Certain routines have been put on hold like my 5 a.m. wake up time, daily praying of the Liturgy of the Hours, and making time to write on a regular basis. For a long time, my daily schedule and those regular routines felt like a protection from feelings of sadness and worthlessness. I’ve gotten away from that magical thinking. I know those are normal feelings that I will experience. I know I will be able to work through them.

Free time is a luxury I don’t often enjoy. My days strike a balance between being a mom, being a school principal, dance, writing, reading, exercise, socializing, and parish service. In the last few weeks, I have revisited my defunct vegetable garden and am working to revive the soil. (Que bonito, verdad?  Un simbolo de mi desarrollo) I have purged our house of numerous unwanted items. (Another analogy. I am rolling my AP English teacher eyes.) I’ve actually ironed clothing.(Can somebody tell me how they avoid ironing? I do not like wrinkles but I detest ironing.) Miracle of miracles, I have even slept in more than once. I have been up and gone back to bed and slept for two more hours. A few times, I have judged myself as being unproductive but I haven’t allowed this opinion to get me down for too long. Para que? I’ve been my own pinata too many times in my life to want to keep doing it.  Done. Nope, not today. Tomorrow’s not looking good either. I can enjoy my time however I want.

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I head back to work Monday. I look forward to making my schedule less hectic.  Maybe I’ll even figure out how to sleep in on work days.

Parenting pains

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Benita Lopez was no June Cleaver

I went from happy mom to guilty mom within 24 hours. My goal this Lent was to be more patient, to yell and nag less, to be more kind in my tone and facial expressions. My inadequate time management has left me feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. My patience wears thin.

On a typical Monday night, we get to the house at 8pm. M may have two to four pages of math homework to complete with her after completing her weekly 90 minute dance class. I usually have two loads of laundry to fold, ironing that’s been neglected for weeks and a sinkful of dishes to wash. If I was more organized, I’d take care of the household chores and prepack lunches while M and Rambo complete homework. Instead I’m likely catching up with work email and getting the bath ready. Instead, my less than adequate solution is to get up in the middle of night to do laundry and talk with Rambo and sometimes watch one of our Netflix shows. I sleep in. I let M sleep in. Then we’re scrambling. We’re packing lunch, making breakfast, continuing to load laundry, catching up on dish washing, and trying to get out on time.  I need to manage my time better.

It’s not that M is sitting back and doing nothing to help. She packs up her lunch and packs up the car by lugging all the things we carry: purse, backpack, dance bags, piano books. She will empty the dryer. She fills my water bottle. All things considered, she’s becoming resilient and independent.

I need to be mindful of those moments when she’s helpful. My child helps out because she wants to be a contributing member of our household. I hate when I use that voice. I have to get myself out of that mental space. Thank God we pray in the morning; otherwise I’d be a terror at all times.

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Lois might have relatable but life is no sitcom

It’s painful when I realize I’m not doing my best as a mom. I remember how I felt when I was disciplined harshly or when I felt I couldn’t confide in my mother. I give my mom all credit for being an example of tough womanhood that was rare in my family and culture. Still, I was a sensitive child and I often felt alone. I work to be a mom who is also a confidant. I need to work on I-statements and giving encouragement. I don’t want to hurt my child’s heart. The world will do enough of that. I continue to pray for patience so I can be a better mom.

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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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.