I’m so excited to share my new LinkTree. It has links to my podcast as well as my guest appearances on other podcasts.
Tag Archive | #mujerevolving
The blessing of butterflies
My experience with San Francisco Carnaval began as a spectator. My best friend paraded with an award-winning comparsa. In years to follow, we would go to Carnaval to watch the parade. I first learned of Fogo Na Roupa the year they were monarch butterflies. I was stunned into silence as I watched monarch butterflies in flight. I asked who they were. I declared that someday I would dance with them.
In the years that passed, I danced with other teachers. Due to my challenging pregnancy, I quit samba and didn’t resume that style of dance until my daughter was in preschool. I joined the group that had taken over the Malonga Casquelord space on Sunday afternoons, SambaFunk. I was with them for five years before I made the decision to move on. I wanted to be part of a comparsa that would embrace my child and where we would feel validated and seen. Fogo embraced us as a family. I was embraced as a woman and a mother. My daughter was embraced as a child.
Nearly five years have passed and we are still with Fogo. I danced with them during the pandemic, first on Zoom and then outdoors. I never did that with my previous group; I was only involved during Carnaval prep from January to May. I stayed with Fogo because they honor us. They have seen me through my multiple physical incarnations. In other groups, there is pressure to be a certain size/weight; sometimes people face body shaming and harassment. It’s refreshing to be accepted and celebrated as beautiful no matter where I am on my fitness journey. Like any teenager, my daughter has struggled with insecurity. Her dance journey has included struggles with confidence and technique. It’s powerful to have her be in a place where she feels she can soar.
I was drawn in by Fogo’s beauty and pageantry. What I really wanted was a family with whom to winter, rest and finally to soar. We found that home. Muito obrigada Fogo for all the gifts you have given us. I saw joy from across the street decades ago. Hopefully I can continue bringing that joy to someone else. I know I will continue to take flight.
All my crosses
Approximately five months ago, during Lent, I had a negative reaction to a photo a friend had taken of me during that time. I had been dreading seeing it. Once I did, it struck me in a terrible way, a mixture of anger, disappointment, and indignation. I often say physical appearance shouldn’t matter but it does. How we look reveals a lot about lifestyle and health. Seeing myself made me feel I had really let others and myself down. It is a struggle to take better care of myself. It always is and when times are stressful, it is one of the first priorities to shift downwards.
That night after seeing that photo, I took a mile walk with my dog. I haven’t always felt my age but I do feel older. It can be disheartening to experience these feelings. That night, I prayed on it. The walk helped me feel better. It was an opportunity to focus on breathing and moving.
That struggle with my fitness was in keeping with my Lenten journey and in keeping with my personal life journey. Lent isn’t the only time I assess and reflect on where I am in my life. Reflection isn’t always positive. I don’t always feel that I am growing and evolving. I also ponder why I’m not evolving the way I did two, five or ten years ago. I am my own worst critic and the person with whom I am constantly competing. My main point of comparison is the person that I once was. I achieved a certain goal in my fitness and I was so proud. Then that level of fitness fell away as I failed to maintain that achievement. I allowed work to wear me down. I was derailed by feelings of inadequacy, fear and failure. But I had enough of the excuses. I knew how to help myself. I had to push through that doubt and fear. The morning after my night time walk, I went to boot camp for the first time in several weeks. I felt supported by my coaches. It was good to be back in community and encouraging other people who were struggling. It was a powerful return to routines that nurture me.
I always have the capacity to change. I don’t always have the will. It becomes a vicious cycle because then I want to hide and not push myself; this wasn’t the first time I’ve fallen away from being healthy. For example, my prayer life continues to be an area of growth. I used to waste mornings on social media though I knew it kept me from daily prayer. This choice to bypass discipline frustrates me. I have to consciously work on my willingness to be transformed.
Discipline is the answer. Since that time, I have consistently worked out 5 to 6 days a week by lifting weights in our home gym, taking samba, hip hop, and kickboxing classes, and working out at my training gym. I have been praying the Liturgy of the Hours and the rosary daily. There are days when I’m not feeling motivated or forgiving or close to God or even close to myself. But I keep pushing. I am taking up my cross. It is not easy nor will it ever be. At times, it can be painful and inspire tears or anger. But I committed to taking up all my crosses during Lent. All these months later, I’m still moving forward through and past those struggles. When I look at myself in photos, I’m trying to be more compassionate and loving to that ever evolving mujer.
How do I explain to my daughter how and why perpetrators of sexual assault and harassment are put forward as leaders? How do I explain the continued objectification and abuse of women? I don’t have simple answers. But I can write and reflect. I began this piece over a year ago. Given what’s happening in our country right now, it’s fitting to revisit.
I began writing personal essays while in college. My column, Mujer Hollering, became my way of expressing my views on various issues on campus and in my life through a personal lens. I wrote about issues of gender, ethnicity and culture. I was committed to being a woman with a voice and reflecting on how we are treated and perceived. It was challenging at first. When you are conditioned by family, culture and society to be a woman in a specific way, having a voice of challenge and opposition is controversial and misunderstood. But I didn’t let that stop me.
Last summer, Luvvie Ajayi shared the following story on Facebook. A dancer with a social media presence was approached online by one of her followers. He sent her pictures of himself and asked her about his physical attractiveness. When she didn’t respond because she was traveling, he became angry. He tried to video chat with her multiple times. When she still did not reply, he began to send her messages. Lots of messages. He took back his initial compliments of her beauty. He called her fat, ugly, and boring. He questioned her credibility as a dancer since she allegedly had a “bulging belly.” This was a one-sided conversation; the woman was not on her phone or her computer when this transpired. When the dancer finally saw the exchange, she posted it to social media. The man was horrified. He told her he was humiliated because he was being questioned by family and friends. He claimed strangers were harassing him. He told her he feared the story going viral. As one of the thousands who shared this post, we ensured it did. Like they sang in Chicago, he had it coming. Don’t start none, won’t be none.
I haven’t forgotten this story because the familiar narrative struck a nerve. I could relate to the dancer’s sense of bewilderment when she discovered this garbage on her social media page. This is the sort of nonsense we can be subjected to when we reject unwanted advances. God forbid we’re not compliant in the harassment. Harassment is not romance. There is nothing romantic about being commanded to tell someone how good-looking he is. If a woman is not meek, then she is a b****. I’ve known many women who have been physically threatened or even physically attacked because they said no. Women have the human right to safety, to our own space, and to enjoy ourselves without anyone imposing on us. Let us be! Yet the reaction is often anger. I don’t want my daughter subjected to this rage. I’m going to continue to teach her to be a strong woman who can confront these situations and people. Parents of sons, raise them to honor women.
Mujer Hollering is still here. I’m going to continue to raise my voice for my sisters and for our daughters. So speak out however you can, in intimate social circles, on social media, or at the polls. Women will not be silenced.
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.
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.
Mom dilemma #3721: Your child does not turn in a major project. What do you do? Do you email the teacher for an extension? Do you reprimand your child verbally? Do you take away their privileges? Do you blame yourself for your poor time management and cluttered environment? All of the above? Sometimes I feel like I have this parenting thing down. Other days I realize I don’t have any idea what I’m doing and I’m operating from intuition and hope.
I used to think that it was Mondays, specifically Monday mornings, where I had my major parent fails. Nope, puede ser any day. During the work week, I deal with parents who ask me for advice about their adolescents. I’ve worked in high schools or 22 years. I have been a mother for 10(I include pregnancy). I have more experience and more damn sense being a high school administrator and teacher than I do being a mom.
I wonder how much damage I have done. Will she fail academically? Will she end up depressed or anxious? Will she abuse drugs or sex? Will she hate me someday? Does she hate me now? I make the mistakes I advise parents to avoid. I say things which hurt my daughter’s feelings. These mom fails make us all feel terrible.
Parenting never gets any easier. But the love for my child gets deeper and more complicated. My little person is growing up into an individual with a mind of her own, a will I don’t want to break and a heart I don’t want to disappoint. I pray to be a better parent daily. I wish to be a good mom. I wish M could understand all the different things that go through my mind, all the fears and doubts. I wish it were simple but it never was and won’t be. I can only hope that the love I feel always guides me.
Scenes from a fender bender
A one woman show
Why are y’all texting me right now?
Did I not just say that I was in a car accident?
Now I love your thoughts and prayers and well wishes but I’m really not in the mood to answer questions
When these things occur, I want to call my mom. I want to call my boyfriend. I want to see my daughter. I don’t want to give explanations to my co-workers. Granted, that is the first place I called because that was where I was headed when all this happened.
But can we all just calm down with the texts and voicemails?
Y’all are okay. I like you. but you’re not my priority right now. I’m just saying.
So how is this going to work in terms of getting ready for Carnaval? because my costume is super cute. I know I’ve been slacking on my fitness and diet. However I’m ready to eat clean and really hit the gym. I’m going to have to miss samba tonight. I don’t know what my back is going to feel like tomorrow morning to lift weights. I really wanted to make my cycle class and boot camp this week. This is not working for getting fit for Carnaval. I can’t really do Pilates or much of anything with my back messed up. I’m hoping this is minor. I’ve been in a few car accidents like this in the past where I was just sitting there minding my own business when somebody plowed into me. I know this will be painful and stiff. As if I hadn’t already dealt with stiff joints recently. I won’t be able to turn my head. I had to be on the phone with the insurance and my medical provider before taking any kind of pain medication or icing my neck and back. This is not part of my fitness plan.
It is in these moments that I realize how fragile we are as people. I screamed at the impact. I screamed from shock and fear. It was a primal screen, the scream of a startled animal. I felt so powerless in that moment. I didn’t know what else was going to happen. Would the impact hurt me? What happened to my car? What if that airbag had deployed? I could have suffered broken ribs or a broken nose. I cried later. I started to think about my daughter. What if it had been more serious? My life didn’t flash before my eyes. I barely had time to even understand what had happened. I would want my life to flash before my eyes. I would like to remember every moment that’s been meaningful to me. Every moment is meaningful, even those moments when I’m incredibly weak and not my best self, like when I’m reprimanding my daughter over something stupid or snapping at my spouse over something stupid. I take it all for granted. I had a Thornton Wilder Our Town moment of realizing how precious it all is: the spilled orange juice, the dirty dishes in the sink, the dirty dishes in the sink, the funny text messages with friends, work being so tedious, steamed spinach, cold water. I don’t want to leave my daughter. I wouldn’t want her to cry or need me or miss me for the rest of her life. I’m grateful that I’m all right because I can see M again, hold her, and tell her I love her. I can’t promise her anything because it’s not mine to promise.
On the plus side, I get some time off. God knows I’m done with the tomfoolery at work. I’m so ready for spring break. I’m going to read and watch Netflix. I aspire to be a woman of leisure. Hand me the ice pack and remote.
“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.”
I’m talking to the priest
The high priest
And everybody out there in the universe
If what I’m saying is wrong
Then tell me the right way to say it
Cause I wanna be made over from “Tina’s Wish,” as performed by Tina Turner
Physical transformations don’t always lead to mental makeovers. I recently discussed this fact with a friend. Both of us have taken part in fitness challenges. Both of us have experienced weight loss and made great gains in muscle tone. Both of us have lost some of those gains in recent months. Both of us have a different perception of our fitness level than others. For many of us who struggle to be fit and healthy, our mind continues to tell us that we are not.
The most difficult part of being fit is consistency. I am constantly struggling to strike a balance between family, work, chores, church, dance, and sleep. Fitness can get lost in the shuffle. How I eat is especially prone to changes. Sometimes, I skip meals or grab something unhealthy to go when I do not carve out time to cook or meal prep. I can be inconsistent about my choices. I know many fellow principals who don’t eat until 4 p.m.; often times they stop at a drive-thru and eat during afterschool meetings. I know what I need to do to eat healthy. The challenge is having the discipline to make it happen.
When I was at my most fit last year before Carnaval, I was happy with how strong I felt. I liked how clothes fit me. But my Carnaval experience ended on such a negative note that I lost sight of why I had worked so hard. I worked hard for myself and to be an example of health for my daughter, not for some costume. Fitness is a gift to myself, not as a challenge to accomplish. I can’t get back into shape for thirty days or six weeks or to look fabulous on Carnaval morning.
So how do I transform my mind? I used to do morning affirmations. Maybe it’s time to give the woman in the mirror more pep talks. Today, I told myself, “I am strong and I will get stronger.”
“I been movin’ calm, don’t start no trouble with me
Tryna keep it peaceful is a struggle for me” by Aubrey Drake Graham
To all the fake traitorous former friends in my life and those of my loved ones: You tried it!
Let go when a friendship falls apart
Can’t let it hurt your heart
Most friends who turn out to be false aren’t worth grieving
I gave you my time, my energy
I cared for you like I cared for my best friends or for my family
You played me
This is how you paid me
You betrayed me
How am I supposed to feel sympathy for your stupidity?
I have no pity left
I don’t care about the hours spent giving you advice through conversations, through phone calls, through text messages
I care about myself which is what I should have been doing instead of looking out for your fool self.
Go lose yourself in your addictions, your questionable relationships, your time wasting
You need help, not my health.
I will pray for you but I won’t speak to you.
I will be tempted to be vengeful but I know that is not me. That is my anger against you. I refuse to give in to it.
I have wasted enough of myself on you.
I will leave you in peace and I expect you to do the same.
Don’t speak on me
Don’t speak to me.
Do not come for me.
An enemy is an enemy
but a friend turned enemy is the worst kind of foe.
Please go or I will have to let you know.
That’s a side of me I don’t want to show.
I know better now
I know who you are
You’re not going to get far if this is how you do those that show you love
Now go on. Go do you.
Let the universe handle you