Monday, February 24, 2020

Bring Me Back in Focus


You can’t blame the actions of a person in mourning. Death makes the strongest vulnerable and only time can bring the tide of normalcy once again.  This past week has been challenging, things that normally don’t push me off balance have made transitioning to life after grandma difficult.  I dropped my cell phone in Francis’ water bowl and didn’t realize this until two hours after, damaging my phone.  After days of letting it air dry, I was forced to order a new one.  Due to the damage, my phone navigation had some issues and I got lost making me thirty minutes late to a training that I had to attend.  I am one of those people that always shows up early so that I can choose my seat and just get acclimated with my surroundings before all the people show up this helps my anxiety.  Then I had an allergic reaction and my upper lip puffed up making me look like I had a bad Botox job.  My first day back to work, I got a mew student with severe anxiety and possibly trauma that was crying and refused to sit at her assign seat.  I had to have someone cover while I went outside with her and the school psychologist to calm her panic. 
Normally these bumps in the road don’t affect me as much, I am able to center myself in prayer and get through the day.  However, with the emotional instability of losing a loved one I am more sensitive and these small challenges seemed a whole lot bigger and I couldn’t stop and have a moment to breathe because my schedule was so impacted.  My coworker asked me if I was going to see a doctor about my puffy lip and I told her that I didn’t have time.  That’s how all of last week felt like I was rushing and just trying to survive each day with the added stress of little things going wrong.  Even looking towards the weekend was not alleviating, since I had been scheduled to work Saturday school.  Somehow, working Saturday school was a blessing because I got a lot done and now, I am caught up at work.

Having only one day for myself made a difference and I was able to order a new phone yesterday.  My lips are back to their normal size and my outlook on life much more positive.  Sometimes, I needed to withdraw and just be by myself in order to find peace.  I went to my sanctuary (the dog park) and watched as my pup played with many dogs and the happiness, he felt was contagious.  I find myself with a stupid smile when I am there admiring God’s beauty all around me and His beauty gives me the will to go on.  Even if things are challenging my peace, I can run to Him to help place me back in focus and there among a group of pups I find my antidote.
     

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

I Suffer with You


Compassion translates to, “I suffer with you,” said Father during my grandma’s funeral mass and that’s just the feeling that I had from the moment of my arrival in Mexico.  On Thursday morning my grandma left this world, I was about to head to work and found myself booking plane tickets instead of getting myself on the Freeway.  That same night I was at her vigil getting ready for the funeral services.  In the little town where I am from there’s not yet a mortuary so funerals are quickly done.  We had a two-day vigil for grandma allowing for all family to arrive and the following day the Mass followed by burial.  My grandma had left specific details about how she wanted to be celebrated the day she left to meet her maker- even choosing which outfit to wear.  She said she wanted Mariachi music and flowers…
I had never been to a pueblo funeral before, but the three days that I was there I felt deep connection to family and people that I had never met before.  All of us connected in some small or big way through the little, old lady laying peacefully in her home.  Her coffin on top of a cross of corn seeds, the same seeds she was laid upon after her last breath to thank Mother Earth for giving us grandma… And people who through word of mouth heard of my grandmother’s passing stopping by with pan dulce and coffee to share our hurt.  This pain of losing a woman who kept us glued even in the miles of distance, if it could be shared was shared.  I remember marveling at the bursting with people adobe house and thinking how my grandma had lived such a full life that even her house wasn’t spacious enough to contain it, it poured out into the street flooding the outside.  The street had to be shut down during the two-day vigil to contain the mourners.

Then as we followed the hearse on foot to the church and then to the cemetery looking like a crowd starting a march, I understood that people (many who I didn’t know) were there to share our suffering.  We almost filled the church and Father said, “she must have been a special lady, a lady of faith to have drawn this many people to church for her Mass.”  Indeed, she was a woman who united the plot she was given and made it bloom just like the garden in her home.  Last time, I saw her alive she told me how that little adobe house came into existence being bought piece by piece. She told me how each piece of land was bought slowly until the house stood as I know it…  They say that we come into this world as babes crying and when we leave (if we have led a full life) we leave others crying.  I like that exchange and though when people part we don’t have those warm arms of parents to soothe our welcoming ache- if we are lucky we have a town who through the rite of death nurture our ache.  Father is right compassion is when suffering is shared.     

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Learning to Trust God in Prayer


Yesterday morning I met with a group of girls for our monthly bible study.  I really enjoy the discussions that get initiated and the fellowship.  We always begin by checking in, just sharing how life has been since the last time we met.  I was sharing how these past months I have been trying something different I have been praying for myself.  An aside, I struggle with prayer mostly the petition type.  I have no trouble interceding for others, but when it’s about asking God for something for myself, I get doubts that He might not be listening. 
Anyway, these past months I have been praying daily about things that normally I would be too sensitive about presenting to the Lord.  A month after I started my new job, my boss sat with me to develop three goals for this academic year.  As I have been sharing the transition back to teaching has been challenging- but I have really noticed how prayer has facilitated the change.  I have been praying for my goals and I have been noticing how this practice has began bearing fruits.  For example, the school where I work at, we have the problem of just getting the kids to come to their regular instruction times.  Yet, I have noticed that we lack a social component, a place for kids to come and make friends.  So, I decided to take on the challenge of starting a club to meet the social and emotional component that our cite lacks. 

I was told that many other teachers have tried starting such a club without success because kids don’t want to come in extra for a club.  Well, I started praying about it and then I asked some of the support staff if they’d be interested in helping me out.  We were just in the process of brainstorming- when one of my kids asks me if she can begin a debate club.  So far, she has enrolled eleven other students!  I seriously hadn’t began to advertise it and already there’s a good amount of kids interested!  This past week when she came over to me with her list of students, all I could think about was how prayer does work! Even the prayer where we are asking God for personal help.  I have heard that God does these sorts of things to show us His power and to help us earn His trust. 

Once a week, I stop by the basilica to spend time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and I have been presenting these types of prayers to Him.  I go say hello, ask him for his assistance then I begin my day of work.  Many of the prayers that I have been talking to him about I have been noticing His hand at work and I am beginning to think that He really does listen and provides for us according to His will. 

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Change


Sorry if I have neglected you.  My life finally begins to settle – all the changes are finally beginning to feel like my new norm.  Last week I stopped by the mission basilica to pray before work (a new habit) and something clicked inside me and I knew that from that moment, I could relax and enjoy all the changes.  That statement might sound weird, but I have a tendency to deal with change by trying to control it or by focusing on it so much that everything else becomes secondary.  These past months my emphasis had been in trying to get used to all the changes and everything else was slightly neglected.  Yet, after working really hard on my new transition, I feel ready to start giving attention to everything and everyone else.  

I was speaking to my sister about this, because I haven’t taken my nephew out or paid much attention to him during these past months.  In a way I have been quite self-involved in trying to just survive all the changes.  Though, I have shared how challenging I find change, only my close friends and family understand my struggle.  They know that if I have too many things going on in my life I withdraw because I focus all of my energy on that one variable.  I am an introvert and during change all of my energy is spent trying to deal with that – so much so, that I have the tendency to forget everything and everyone else.  My parents notice when I am overwhelmed by change because even at home, I tend to keep to myself.

Eventually a day comes, when change is no longer new it just turns into your regular life.  It’s taken me a few months to reach this state, to begin to feel like I have succeeded in managing the transitions and I am looking forward to slowly making time for all those I have neglected.  My parents checked in on me earlier in the week and I told them that it’s ok for them to show more interest when I am distant.  When I am distracted or rather trying to adjust to the new, it’s nice having people knowing I am missed. (smile)  

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Teaching with Severe Anxiety


I am constantly amazed by how God works in our lives.  During the period that I was laid off, I watched a documentary, “Girls Incarcerated,” a series that follows teenage girls locked up in American correctional facilities.  One of the things that stood out from the series was that credentialed teachers worked with the teens to help them continue their education while in the facility.  Teachers only had four or five students in the classroom at a time and most of the instruction was small group classes and independent study.  As someone who was thinking of getting back into education, I started considering non-traditional ways of teaching as perhaps being best for me being bipolar.  Thus, I started applying at correctional facilities and continuation schools and one day I sent my resume to the charter that I am currently at and the rest is providential history.
The school where I work at, I see about eight students each hour and provide guidance, tutoring and instruction on a one-on-one basis.  I check in with each, help them with assignments and test them on units that they complete. Thus, I work with all grades and subject matter throughout the day.  Each semester the school offers traditional classes for students that struggle or will benefit from direct instruction.  This semester I am teaching three two-hour long eleventh grade traditional English classes.  Though I love teaching and being in front of the classroom sharing my passion with others- I struggle with big time anxiety every time that I have to be in front of a classroom.  I think it’s the reason that I left education ten years ago.  This week each day that I had to deliver the lesson I almost peed my pants, but as the week came to a close, I realized how much God has been acting in my life!

The whole structure of my job has made being a teacher for someone with severe anxiety to do something that I love even with my disability.  Only three times a week I get to deal with severe anxiety attacks and I am learning how to reduce the stress.  The fact that my classroom size is small when compared to a traditional school and that I have so much support staff to help me has helped in reducing the stress.  Also, prayer this semester I have dedicated my job to Our Lady of Prompt Succor, I constantly ask for her intercession.  In addition to praying for each of my students and the goals that I want to achieve.  I am still working on learning more strategies to reduce the anxiety before delivering a lesson in a traditional classroom setting, yet I thank God constantly for placing me in a school so fitted for someone with bipolar.   

Sunday, January 12, 2020

New Intercessor


I was feeling a bit overwhelmed earlier in the week, so I made the time to sit in with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and just spill my little heart.  After I shared with Him the struggles that I was currently facing I opened my Laudate App to the saint of the day and discovered a new title for Our Lady.  I was reading a short bio on Our Lady of Prompt Succor.  In 18th century, the Ursuline Sisters in Louisiana found themselves short of teachers due to political changes in leadership and strong anti-Catholic sentiments. After requesting the intervention of President Thomas Jefferson and seeking the help of Pope Pius VII, Mother St. Michel prayed in front of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary to obtain the help she had requested. Mother St. Michel received quick, favorable responses from both the president and the pope and she promised Our Lady that she would ask a workman to carve a statue of Mary in flowing robes holding the infant Jesus so that it would appear like Mary was moving quickly.  Shortly after, Mother Mitchel arrived in New Orleans with the statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor and many teachers to assist the Ursuline Academy… Many miracles have since been attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of Prompt Succor; thus, Pope Pius IX authorized public devotion under the new Marian title.
Having found a new helper to intercede for me, I presented my requests to Our Lady of Prompt Succor.  I left the chapel feeling lighter knowing that my struggles had been left at the feet of Jesus.  It wasn’t even the end of day when I started getting answers to my petitions. An issue I was having with a staff member resolved and then later in the week, after asking my credential to be expedited thinking it would occur at earliest in February I got notified that the Commission on Teaching Credentialing had approved my case!  I still will have to do the two-year induction program to clear it, but am so happy to have my credential back again as is my employer.  I still can’t believe how quickly my prayers were answered, but I guess one doesn’t mess with a prompt Virgin Mary… (smile)

Things are falling into place, and I am finally beginning to feel like I am establishing a new routine.  Having an established order is now allowing me to pick up some of the responsibilities outside of work.  Though my Monday night Bible Study will probably not workout I am hopeful that I can still keep going to the Rise Women’s Group and the Giana Club regularly because I do need to be around people that inspire my faith and motivate me to continue opening my life to God.  It is through these friendly encouragements that I discover new intercessor friends that make my path a whole lot more easy.      

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Bringing 2020 with Faith


Happy New Year!  Sometimes we make plans and life takes a different route.  I had planned on getting Francis neutered during my two-week winter break, but I didn’t anticipate that I would be caring for an invalid for over a week.  Dollar healed rather quickly and didn’t require wearing a cone of shame because he didn’t lick his wounds. Francis from the moment I got him has shown me that he’s not going to be easy.  It’s been almost a week since his surgery and he still doesn’t want to walk more than take a few steps, he yelps every time he needs a potty break and he needs a barrier because he’s a licker.  Thus, this last week I have been making sure that he doesn’t lick open his sutures.  It’s been difficult because I was counting on Francis healing at the speed that Dollar did, but he’s required much more care; so, I’ve had to spend my time at home keeping a close eye on my pup.
Ending the year was a much calmer experience this year, my nephew is a teenager now.  He has entered the age where his little group of friends are his preference and our annual New Year countdown party was a no go this year.  It worked out, because with caring for Francis I had my hands full.  Thus, don’t take it personal if I don’t have my annual countdown pictures to go with this post.  Ending 2019, was a sweet-sorrow this year because with my grandma ill our spirits as a family were not as cheerful.  Yet, she made it through the holidays and though now we are praying for God to end her suffering and call her home we are joyful to bring another year with her here on earth.

This morning, I have my meeting with the Rise girls and I am excited to be getting back to nurturing my faith because with my new job I had to stop all faith activities while I establish a new routine.  Slowly this 2020 I am hopeful that with each day I will join community again, because I do need religious friends to remind me of Jesus and help me keep Him the center of my life especially among all the change.  Tomorrow I will have my Epiphany party with my Franciscan community – so while I didn’t get to do as much as I hoped during my two weeks off, I am glad that I was able to meet up with holy friends.      
   

Saturday, December 28, 2019

My Christmas Letter


There was a time when Christmas letters would fill the mailboxes, thus I decided that I would write my very own this year…

Dear Friends,

Time sure has a way to aid us in our struggles and bring with it healing and new adventures. As a kid growing up in a chaotic home, I would tell myself, “in one year this problem won’t be an issue anymore.”  It was my way of finding hope and encouragement to get through the hard days.  As an adult, this past year I relied on that coping mechanism to get through some difficult times.  At the beginning of the year I lost my job and weeks later I had to let my old dog pass on to Assisi Heaven.  While losing my job was difficult, it gave me the opportunity to try my hand at running a small online store.  I always had a dream of owning a vintage store and thanks to my luck in scoring great finds at thrift stores, I was able to make twenty-thousand from what I consider a hobby.  Thus, I made the best of a situation that was out of my control. 
Thanks to the money that I made I was able to take sometime off and not worry about how I would pay my bills.  I was able to spend a couple weeks with my grandma in Mexico and it was one of the best blessings of my year.  After returning from my trip, I began looking for work.  Though at first, I felt like my resume was hitting deaf ears soon I began getting calls for interviews and eventually landed a job.  I don’t remember applying at the school that I was hired at- the whole hiring process felt surreal and I knew that God was behind the entire process.  The fact that I landed a job at a continuation school that works with students who are failing out of high school really has been the greatest gift.  I get to work with small groups of students at a time, sometimes one-on-one and my classes are tiny compared to the traditional classroom size.  This more individualized approach to learning has made it successful for a person with bipolar to have a career in teaching.  I really marvel all the time as to how God found the perfect place for me to succeed in doing something that I love.

In early February I lost my fifteen-year-old companion who made many appearances here on the blog.  I remember waking up crying the days that followed his passing and finding no rest until I received his remains and was able to plant him in our garden.  Dollar was such a great dog who shared so much of my life and it was one of the hardest things to let him go.  After a few months of mourning his loss, I realized that I needed to rescue another dog.  I was in pain and this pain could be transferred into love for another little dog who needed a home.  After stalking animal shelter pages, a friend posted that she needed to get rid of a litter of puppies.  The rest is Francis history!  Though, Francis in no way has usurped Dollar’s place in my heart – loving him has been quite easy.  Everyday, my affection for him grows and though it’s been a challenge starting again with a puppy – I am optimistic about our future together.

Sometimes, at the end of the year people say things like: “this has been the worst year of my life!”  And though my twenty-nineteen has been full ends – through my faith and reading the lives of the saints – I am learning that no matter the hardships there’s always so much to be thankful for.  I am still adjusting to all the change, but looking forward to starting a new year full of expectation for things to come.  Thanks for reading, have a Happy New Year. 

XOXO

Saturday, December 14, 2019

On Christmas Decorating


I put up the outside lights last Sunday, just the icicles that go around the edge of the roof.  I did so thinking of dad and how happy he would be if he returns before Christmas.  This December I realized that dad has taken over the Christmas-decorating-partner-in-crime-spot that my brother left open with his heavenly parting.  Dad’s enthusiasm normally pumps me up to decorate, he’s quite the holiday motivational speaker.  It’s not just the fact that I get help with the big project of putting up decorations, but the bonding that goes with the job that musters the energy to deck the halls with boughs of holly. 
I spoke with dad yesterday and he was telling me that the doctor said that grandma can last days, months, even years in her weak state – so my parents have decided to return home for Christmas.  Two of my uncles will stay with grandma, now the siblings will alternate time with her. Many times, in life we are torn between being into places at once and since bilocation is impossible – we have to place our trust in God that He will take care of all of us. 

These past few months have been filled with a lot of change and unexpected events. Yet, there’s always so much to be thankful for- so much light that makes it through the tunnel.  Though, this year I still have to put up the tree, the nativity and all the decorations that normally warm my home- in my heart I am still trying to prepare for the birth of my Savior.  While the outside might not look as festive as it did years past, inside me the desire for Jesus is even greater.  I desire the peace and joy of Christmas and most of all the acceptance of Mary when the Angel told her of God’s plan for her, “May it be done to me according to your word.”

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Made in the Eighties

I found this blingy sequin top straight from the eighties, literally some fashionista wore in the over the top era and donated it for someone else to have a little fun!  Though, this year with all the changes that I have had as of late, I didn’t make the time to plan my annual, thematically, fun celebration – I decided that at least my birthday outfit would have a little meaning.  Thus, though the temperatures have dropped in California, to an utterly non-sunny feel I decided to wear my silk, beaded, gold, sequin, vintage blouse and take some pictures before the cardigan went on (smile).  Even when one is sick (just a note away from bronchitis) dressing up can really elevate the mood.  Not sure if the made in the eighties look or just the spoiled merriment that I received from friends and loved ones – or a combination of the two- but not even the flu stole the happy from my birthday this year. 
A couple months leading to my birthday I had the BFF’s asking when I was sending my invite to this year’s celebration and I kept surprising them saying that this year I didn’t think there would be a party.  Am not sure if it’s the bipolar or my introversion, but I have difficulty with transitions.  It takes me a few months to get into the grove of change until eventually finding my routine.  I was just getting used to having a puppy when I got hired working a shift that I have never worked before (quite a distance from home too).  At work I still don’t feel like I have found my rhythm, there’s so much learning taking place – I feel like a sponge that is just absorbing and not yet discovered my place.  I feel like the staff (though extremely supportive) are so different from me.  BUT- I love what I am doing!  I love working with kids guiding them in their path while sharing my passion for literature.  The work I do, makes the daily two hours stuck in traffic, the obstacles with the credentialing office, the school politics and just personal challenges worth it.  With change comes a lot of growth and I think that what I am feeling is just the signs of me growing.
Working a ten to six shift with an hour drive each way has perhaps been the biggest hurdle.  I am still trying to assimilate, which only became more difficult when my grandma got sick and my parents had to go to her, leaving me with a six-month puppy that can’t be left alone for ten hours.  While having a dog walker come in to give Francis a midday break has been successful, I find that once I come home, I can no longer go to my bible study nights because I feel so guilty leaving him crated for a few more hours.  Thus, my days are spent at work or trying to care for my pup.  I know that as I get into the grove of things, I will slowly figure out how to better arrange my day and add my much needed fellowship time; but for now I am just trying to get by.  My weekends also get lost in activity prepping for the upcoming week, thus I feel like I don’t have the time for anything else.  Yet, I know that I usually deal with change, by doing only what is necessary and once I get a handle on that then I begin to get creative again.  So, am ending this year without much thought to birthdays or holidays because I am still just trying to find my rhythm in all the good change happening in my life.  While some people are great with change for me transitions are difficult and I am slow in adapting.  Yet, once I adapt and establish my routine I will add color to my life again taking back those activities that nurture my soul and sharing it with you (smile). So be patient with me.