Bad Vibes, warts and curse words.

I’ve been hiding and feeling a little blocked lately. It’s not that I haven’t had anything that I want to write about. In fact I’ve felt exactly the opposite.  There are a million things that I want to write about, real blood and guts things that make me feel like I am sitting naked in the middle of the room and everyone can see me, warts and all.  The thing is, I’m kind of a private person and I haven’t quite worked out how I feel about posting about my personal life in a way that leaves the people around me feeling exposed.  I don’t want to let out anyone’s secrets, but rather let out my own secrets, which I think might make other people feel uncomfortable.  Some of the things that run through my mind are nasty and so I am immobile. Do I approach the monsters in  fiction, talk about them on this blog, or both. I didn’t have this struggle when I was young and single, but now what I talk about can affect others.

I’m increasingly aware of the carefully curated image that so many of us create as we post on our Facebook and Instagram accounts.  Cool, artistic, intelligent and cynical with quick acid wit that can cut to the bone…that is if we weren’t all “blessed” and “taking the high road”, drunk on forgiveness and awareness.  That stuff is all well and good, but in terms of art, it feels fake and a little put on.  This is my struggle.  Figure out a way to talk about the raw feelings that are left after you’ve been betrayed, back stabbed, fucked over and mistreated   Being scared. The feelings that happen when you can see the high road, but you feel much better hoping that nothing but bad things happen to people who have crossed you.  When forgiveness isn’t an option because you know that sending out an onslaught of bad vibes and ill intent to someone who has done something bad to you is how you find your way back to the light.  I want to talk about how we all know that forgiveness can be overrated and when we hear about something bad happening to someone we don’t like, we smile a little on the inside. Not our finest moments, but real ones nonetheless.  I need to be able to examine the ugly and appreciate the beautiful, because we all know you can’t have one without the other.  I also know that as a writer, I’m full of shit if I can’t pull back the filters and show the full picture of what really happens as we try to make it through this life.

So I’m still here…pondering.  Thinking about how and when I am going to talk about the boxes(s) that take up space in my head.  It’s my baggage and I don’t mind it.  I think that I’m going to get in embroidered with my initials.  It’s made me who I am today, but  I’ve gotta  figure out way to shuffle them around a bit so I can make some room for other ideas to take up residence here.

The Madonnas of Echo Park- A review (kind of)

Madonnas of Echo

A few days ago I finished reading The Madonnas of Echo Park.  Reading isn’t the right word to describe it..I devoured it, inhaled it. I loved it. I hadn’t really realized how similar a small Hispanic neighborhood in East LA would have with a small Hispanic community in the South Texas city that I grew up in.  I I had an idea that it would be similar but the book talked about experiences that resonated with me. It brought back memories of growing up in a neighborhood that existed in between two cultures. My neighbors, the school I went to, the faces that I saw everyday, they could have been the same people that Brando Skyhorse was talking about.

Things were different in our little neighborhood from what I saw on television growing up. Aunts and uncles from different families grew up with each other, family feuds carried on for generations and people knew which houses were working class and which houses you crossed the street to avoid passing by.  A whole separate social system was encapsulated within our neighborhood and anything outside of the ‘hood was  like a whole other city  There were three white kids in my entire high school and I remember their names to this day: Brandi, an athletic blonde, Chris, a transplant from Houston, and Nanette, the red headed girl who got side eyed by the cholas when she showed up one day in Dickies and a black over sized t shirt. After a couple of weeks she was sitting at their table and it wasn’t until she started “messing” with another girl’s boyfriend that people remembered that she didn’t quite fit in.

Life for me was awkward in high school, but in retrospect I don’t think that anyone escaped their teen years unscathed. While most of my school mates wondered how to be down, I was interested by art, feminism, and the riot grrl movement- in a time when gang culture was really taking hold in our little community.  Lots of girls got pregnant and lots of boys dropped out of school to get jobs.  In my mind boys were toxic. I liked boys, I just didn’t want to get stuck as a teen mom living at home when there was a wide world to explore. I rolled my eyes at the skater boys turned gangsters.  Suffice to say that people  thought I was weird and at one point got labeled a lesbian because I was one of the only girls who wore combat boots and flannels (it was the 90’s!). On of my worst memories was when, for my senior picture, one of my classmates took pity on me and did my hair and make up, complete with crispy waterfall bangs and bright red lipstick.  She was trying to be nice and wanted me to fit in, when in all reality I was just biding my time until I could get the hell out. My husband laughs heartily at that picture whenever he sees it and I still have to restrain myself from putting my hands over it when my mom flashes it at family gatherings.

Skyhorse talks about all of those feelings.  The feeling of not quite fitting in where you should feel most comfortable and feeling like you have to groom yourself to fit into where you feel you belong. I wasn’t ashamed of my culture, but I couldn’t find the beauty in a world that I desperately wanted to get away from.  I wanted more than life in our neighborhood, where most of my extended family lived.  It wasn’t unusual for generations of families to live within blocks of each other, never straying from their little world.  The obligation and tradition seemed stiffing and claustrophobic. I got lots of side eye when I would tell my classmates about my dreams of New York, Los Angeles and my plans to see the world.

Duchess, the best friend of the protagonist, struck a chord in me.  She reminded me so much of my friend Cindy that it brought tears to my eyes.  Cindy (or Cydni as she preferred) became my friend in fourth grade and was my opposite. Where I was pale, lanky and awkward with straight hair, she was bubbly, confident and took pride in the fact that she could pass for Selena’s younger sister. We were thick as thieves in grade school. Together we debated the better qualities of Madonna and Cindy Lauper, learned how to Walk Like an Egyptian and giggled over the Beastie Boys.

As the story often goes, we drifted apart in junior high. Flat chested with braces and glasses, I was the Mexican Jan Brady.  Cindy had the nerve to grow boobs and with her friendly, confident personality quickly  became one of the cool girls.  Still we’d hang out on the weekends and talk on the phone.  She was the person who I confessed my first kiss to, the  person I smoked my first joint with and the person I got into my first fist fight with. To be fair, we were egged on by a mob of bloodthirsty preteens “ooohing” when an argument over a boy (insert eye roll) got blown out of proportion and who scattered when the assistant principal appeared.

In spite of all of the ups and downs, we remained friends, even when my parents sent me to Catholic school and different social circles pulled us in opposite directions. When I went back to my small public high school my sophomore year, she was the one who helped me bridge the gap between being the girl who “talked like a white kid” and being down enough to skip class with her and her friends.  Cindy was cool enough to date G’s (gangsters) and hang out with the two surfer kids in school who would take us on car rides jamming Men at Work’s ” A Land Down Under”. I remember how angry I was when one of her boyfriends blackened her eye for going to the mall without “permission”, and how disgusted I was when she forgave him and drove off with him in his old VW Rabbit. Our last semester of senior year she was trying to get in shape to pass the physical fitness test for the army and was being courted by a recruiter.  I felt her disappointment when she found out that she was pregnant and her dreams of seeing the world as a GI Jane ( the picture which hung in her locker) were put on indefinite hold.

Cindy dropped out and moved to Houston to stay with her aunt and I finished my senior year eager to leave.  I saw her one more time a few years later.  I’d bounced back to my parents house  and was trying to hatch another plan to get out of town.  By this time the laser focus that I’d had in high school had faltered and I’d discovered drugs and rock and roll and my idea of what counterculture was.  It was a cold sunny morning when she knocked at our door and she had the brightest smile when I answered.  The disappointment in her face stung as she looked me over saw that I’d changed.  We visited for maybe half an hour and she told me how she was going to school to become a teacher, how she loved being a mom and how life in Houston suited her. I remember how surprised I was by how grown up and full of hope she seemed. I remember feeling self conscious and stupid for some of the choices that I’d made and I told her about my missteps in those treacherous years between being a teenager and being an adult  The visit was cut short when she got a page from her aunt and told me she had to leave. Right before she got in her car she told me,

“You know Melissa, my mom was a junkie. That’s why I lived with my grandmother, that’s why my aunt raised me. My mom couldn’t get it together enough to be a parent, so she gave me up. You’re too smart for this stuff. I hope you get your shit together girl.”

I didn’t have much to say to her and I stood on the curb watching as she drove off, back to her son, her life as a student teacher, and a future full of possibility.

This amazing book that I read brought all of these memories back to story was different, but the same.  I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Cindy for the better part of a week now.  I wonder if she graduated from college and if she is teaching young minds at a school somewhere, flashing her sunshine smile and dancing when she gets excited. (Remember the Roger Rabbit?) I wonder what her son, who must be in his 20’s,  is like.  Most of all I wish that I could thank her for caring enough to really take a look at me and tell me that she was disappointed.

Cindy, if you’re out there, I hope that your life is good and you are happy. I miss you girl.

For everyone else, read this book.  It captures the essence of growing up Mexican/Hispanic/ Latino without watering down the discomfort and tensions that I think get glossed over in today’s conversations about race.  If you don’t read it for that, read it for the beautiful story telling, because after all, who doesn’t like a good story.

Falling down the half empty hour glass

Some days I believe that age is just a number. I wake up with a spring in my step, quick to conquer a million  to do lists and enough energy to accomplish them. Other days feel like I’ve fallen into a half empty hour glass.  The body feels tired, or maybe the mind is tired and the body follows suit. Slog to the bathroom to wash my face and see an impostor staring back at me in the mirror.  Skin like crepe paper, still smooth but with the slightest puckers beneath the eyes and around the cheeks. Go to my vanity and paint on good health, sunshine and bright happy eyes..look good=feel good, right? Feel like a frump as I throw on clothes and I will  second guess every choice.  Do I look like mutton in sheep’s clothing?  Then the real question: why do I worry, why care about the opinions of strangers at all?

The day will eventually pass and I laugh at these thoughts. I remind myself that one day, I will be an old woman with grey hair, wrinkles and scars. Or delicately tinted Easter egg hair, wrinkles and scars, all worn proudly. I will tell the stories of my life, the truths that are too strange to be false, with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Most importantly, I will remember me as I am today and laugh a deep belly laugh about the woman in the prime of her life who spent precious time worrying about being too old.

YoungPhoto: Google images. Photog unknown

Spiraling through time towards the unknown

I feel the same as I did when I was 18. That was a big year for me. I’d graduated from high school and moved out on my o wn. I had a good idea of what I wanted to accomplish in life and I set out to try and make those dreams a reality. Almost two decades, and a slew of experience later, I feel like I am right back where I started.

Nine months ago I quit my job.  The career that I’d stumbled into in my late twenties was driving me crazy.  In truth it seemed crazy to walk away.  I had health insurance and a 401K. I had vacation time and sick days. I made a decent wage.  I essentially had all of the things that people tell you that you need in order to be happy. The reality, however, is the oldest story in the book. I felt harried. There weren’t enough hours in the day to spend time with my kids, husband and family. Older women, with adult children of their own, looked at the women neck deep in the trenches of parenthood with a hint of disdain. Any wiggle room allotted to allow for parent conferences, doctors appointments and the myriad things that are the norm for a parent was met with a sentiment of “Well, when my kid(s) were little we didn’t have…” or “when my kids were little, I didn’t get to …”.  Admitting that you’d drawn from your bank of vacation time to attend to personal matters silenced the grumbling, but only sometimes.  Sick time was hoarded for your kids and I spent flu season breathing in the medicine scent of Lysol and hand sanitizer.  You’d be amazed how quickly time evaporates when it’s split between three people, two of them under ten years of age.  After a while I began to feel a split in my realities and I had a very strong sense of having to choose what was more important.  One day, after getting a phone call from the school nurse because my son was suffering a migraine and crying in his office I felt a surge of exasperation and dread.  I hung up the phone and looked at the file that I was working on, something that needed to be finished by the end of the day at the clients request.  I called my husband. “Hey,I just got a call from the school nurse.  E*** is sick and needs to be picked up.  Can you go and get him?” There was a groan from my husband and then the response.

“Ugh, I can’t. I have a million things to do and a meeting to go to. Why can’t you go get him?”

Then, silence.  My husband misread this  as a show of annoyance, when in fact my mind was running through a list of who I could call to step in and take care of my sick child.  Was my mom off from work that day? Could I call one of my sisters?  I quickly checked off the names in my mind as the seconds ticked by. I also remember feeling the guilt that my first reaction to hearing that my son was sick wasn’t concern, but annoyance.  I was annoyed that he was sick and I was frustrated that there was no one else to take care of my child so I could work on the file of a man who’d forgotten that he’d spoken to me in a frenzy days before.  After years of having to make these choices I decided to walk away. A year and a half.  That’s all I wanted. My husband and I decided that if I could take a year and a half off we could catch our bearings. I considered it a gift. My daughter was four and a year off from kindergarten.  My son was about to enter the fifth grade and I wanted him to have at least one summer where he could wake up late and spend his days idly wondering what he was going to do with his time.

I will be the first to admit that guilt was a big motivator.  My kids were spending sometimes as many as 10 hours a day in daycare. It was the only reality they’d ever known since they’d both been in care since they were at least 5 weeks old.

So here I am, ten months later.  My kids love that I am here.  My four year old is my shadow and we spend time working on ABC’s, going to the grocery store, and tackling the household chores.  My ten year old is thriving.  For the first time in his life, he knows what it is like to come home right after school and play with is friends before it’s time to do homework. When it comes time to tackle math, I’m relieved that I have the time and patience to walk him through his assignments if he is having a hard time. The time that I have has been a gift, one that I am grateful for. I know that there are lots of women out there who do not have the luxury of time away from their jobs and I count my blessings that we’ve been able to make it work.

I also know that the time is running out and I will have to make a decision about what I am going to do with the rest of my life.  I’ve got some ideas in mind.  Bestselling novelist sounds like a good one, but that’s about as likely as aspiring to be a rockstar, so  I’ve got a few ideas brewing in the meantime.  I am considering hair school as something that would be fun and offers more promising job prospects than massage school, which is what I originally considered.. That’s the scary part. I’m not as young as I was. I am getting ready to start from scratch when the rest of my peers are hitting their stride in their work lives.  I joke that we’re only allowed one midlife crisis in this household, so I know that I will have choose wisely.  Now more than every I am aware of what a precious commodity time is and to put it plainly, I don’t want to fuck up this opportunity. My motto used to be IDGAF but with some maturity I’ve come to realize that “Don’t fuck this up” is a pretty good mantra.

Revelations and resolutions

Dancing on the edge

I am one of those people that garner lots of eye rolls when the new year rolls around. I can’t help  it, the idea of a fresh beginning leaves me inspired and rejuvenated.  Once you’ve gotten past the obligations and expectations of the holiday season, you can purge yourself mentally, and even physically, and start fresh. I take my motivations where I can find them, and I find it useful to put my intentions out there for everyone to see.  It makes me feel accountable.

This year I am going to do things a little differently.  I have all of the regular goals; eat better, drink more water, move more, but there are some that I am really going to stick to my guns about.  I’ve challenged myself to create more and waste less time.  I am going to turn 39 this summer (!!!) and the thought of not making the most of my time has become more of an unforgivable transgression in my eyes.  I was very lucky to be given the opportunity to stay home with my kids for a year, and although I took a really great 11 week writers workshop, I haven’t accomplished some of the things that I wanted to and I am feeling a little disappointed in myself. The idea of squandering time seems wasteful and  I’ve decided that it’s time to take a fresh look at my goals and regroup.  Writing every day is part of that.  Getting out of my comfort zone and actively shopping and submitting my work in order to get published.  Using technology as a tool and less of a time sucker.  Get out more and engaging with people in real life instead of creating virtual relationships that somehow leave me feeling more isolated.

Eleanor Roosevelt said it best ” Do one thing every day that scares you.” Challenge accepted.

Photo courtesy of the Yosemite Museum.

She’s a mean one, Mrs. Grinch.

My Christmas spirit has been lacking.  I’m not the most festive of people, but I do enjoy baking Christmas cookies with my kids and impromptu caroling in the living room.  This time of year is supposed to be the fun part about being a parent.  You get to immerse yourself in gingerbread and glitter and indulge your inner 10 year old.  I’m not above crafting glue snowflakes and cotton ball Santa beards with my little ones. I like to act corny and cheesy and I don’t care how silly it all seems.

This year has been different. I’ve been feeling really pensive and almost melancholy.  The news has been filled with violence and civil unrest. People have been voicing opinions that show how limited their ability for compassion is and perhaps we aren’t as evolved a country as we like to think we are…or maybe as I like to think we are.  To put it plainly, it’s bummed me out to see how beneath the smiles and funny memes, people have this innate ability to be coldhearted and cruel. It’s been a pretty chilling juxtaposition to the season of happiness and fellowship that is supposed to be filling the air right now.  The news isn’t much better.  If anything bad hasn’t happened in your area, not to worry, there is no shortage of horror stories from towns across the country for you to enjoy.  I usually think this about the media, but right now my reserves are low and the lack of humanity seems unusually harsh against the glow of my Christmas lights.

I’m taking matters into my own hands and I am putting an end to it.  I’m turning off the set and I am going to fake it until my saccharine turns to cinnamon and sugar.  I’m not talking about Christmas vests and  Santa earrings…although I might if the situation becomes urgent.  I think I’m going to start playing A Christmas Carol and The Santa Clause until I know all of the words.  I’ve started a caroling station on Pandora and we finally put up the tree.  I wrote out my Christmas cards and I’m taking the kids to look at lights.  I need this for the sake of my mental health and my kids need me to be goofy and cheery so they can laugh about what a dork Mom was when they are older.  I’m burnt out on shittiness and I don’t want to fight…at least not until after Christmas.

ETA: I’ve been thinking about this post all day. I’ve indulged in a bit on navel gazing. I certainly don’t want to minimize anyone’s pain or disregard the bad things that are happening in the world right now.  I think that we all have a lot of soul searching to do as we learn about the injustices and horrific acts that are occurring around the world. They need to be considered if we are ever to get past them. This entry was really an effort to share how disheartening it can be to hear about the sad state of affairs as they stand and it’s affect on my state of mind.   Maybe there is a little bit of low grade depression thrown in for good measure.  I wrote this post this morning as a reaction to watching the news with my 10 year old son and him catching a glimpse of a news report detailing how the Taliban attacked a school in Pakistan and executed 130 young children. I still struggle trying to explain school shootings and his questions about police brutality that have arisen.  I had to turn off the television set.  I want to shield and protect him for just a little while and let both of my kids believe that magic is real, even if it is all held together with glue, paper mache’ and little white lies. Innocence is fleeting and I just want to preserve that sweetness for them. If that means that I have to shut my eyes and ears for the next week or so, so be it.

Wattpad and Stories my grandmother told me.

A few months ago I discovered a new web platform called Wattpad, which is basically a place where writers can post short stories or novels and allow other members to read and comment on their work.  I decided to join and have decided that I will use my blog space as a spot to share poetry and thoughts and will post longer stories on my Wattpad page. I am trying to figure out a way to link the two so I think that linking stories to this page would be a good way to share my pages here.

I’ve written a story called El Senor, or The Gentleman, and it’s very loosely based on a story that my grandmother told me when I was a little girl.  One afternoon, when we were driving around the neighborhood, we passed by a run down looking house where a man sat crouched on his front porch.  I remember my grandmother telling me that this man had sold his soul to the devil and couldn’t sit in a chair and had to perch himself on the porch like an animal.  She told me in a very  matter of fact way, and was so sure of herself, it didn’t occur to me to question her.  That strange conversation stuck with me and I finally decided to write a story about the man. It’s kind of like a modern day Faust, although the gentleman, Alfredo, doesn’t gain any fame or riches, but instead, in a desperate attempt to run away from his problems, ends up being tricked by ‘Ol Scratch himself.

I’m not sure if I am going to expand it at all, but I wanted to get the story down. Here is the link to the story: