Saturday, November 16, 2019

Mi Abuela

My only surviving grandparent is gravely ill…  When I was a child just moved to the United States, I would hear classmates talk about their grandparents taking them to the movies or other places of entertainment.  I would hear little girls rave about the new dress their grandma got them, some would even get taken out of school early to spend a day of spoiled merriment. In my little girl’s heart, I wondered why I had been so unlucky.  Why was I stuck with grandparents from the old country who didn’t understand a thing about spoiling their grandkids?  Though when my abuelos visited they would make themselves available to tell me stories of the past, I resented that they couldn’t be more hip- just more American.
Thankfully with age comes maturity. My grandma is a very wise woman who has lived quite a full life.  A life filled with her share of woes, but also with much happiness.  This year I visited her in Michoacán and every day I would spend hours sitting with her in her garden of flowers.  I got to hear stories of my past, stories that dated even before I was conceived and I got such a great sense of where I come from. She’s an extremely Catholic woman, who daily prays the rosary.  When I was in Mexico, I was able to pray it with her.  When she visited California, I would always make sure she got to Sunday Mass.  I remember, one Sunday I took her to Mass with me and right after I had to stay for my RCIA class, so I decided that I would leave mass quickly to drive grandma home and make it to my meeting on time.  As I was trying to rush, thinking I am going to be late, grandma stays put in the pew and says, “it’s never ok to leave Mass before the final blessing.” She has her priorities straight!

The more that I have gotten to know her, the more I realize that God gave me the best grandma.  Every week my dad calls Mexico and she always makes sure to say, “I am praying for Penny for _______.”  She might not give me material gifts, but she’s filled my life with constant prayer intentions presented to our Lord.  Though her body is failing, her mind has always been sharp.  I knew when I visited her earlier this year, that I was most likely seeing her for my last time, nevertheless I didn’t think her end would come so quickly.  My parents are with her now and though we hope that God will allow us more time with her, we are also conforming to His will.  She’s a strong woman who has truly added life to her years, a great example to follow and still the glue that keeps all of us together.  May it be done according to His will.           

Saturday, November 9, 2019

On Learning

Learning fascinates me.  When I was in college, I had a classmate that was in his nineties who was taking the history course simply for fun and I thought that’s going to be me when I grow up.  Lately, my life has been taken over by learning, by opening areas of my brain that sat undeveloped during the past few years.  I find myself studying works of literature, refreshing myself on literary analysis tools and my least favorite grammatical rules.  Yet, as unpleasant as relearning grammar- I am so inspired and excited to be back doing something that I am truly passionate about.  A student of mine, with an autistic obsession with Star Wars was telling me how he loves to learn all about the films.  He’s disappointed in how the newer films have not remained true to the original movies.  We were having this great discussion that went into how he has a trait that few people have and that is that he loves to learn beyond the surface details.  He belongs to an online community of Star Wars fans who blog about all the weaknesses in the newer films, so I suggested he do his argumentative essay on this particular subject.  Few people make the time to learn beyond the surface and when I find a kindred spirit, I thank God for placing such a motivational soul in my journey.
This past week, as I worked with students’ I also had to attend a meeting with all the English teachers in our charter in hopes of creating a learning community where we can collaborate and just help each other out.  I also began my Induction Program at Antioch University.  This is my least favorite since I have to drive from my work across the world to get to class.  When I left teaching due to my disability – I was unable to finish the induction process and my credential since expired; making it mandatory for me to do extraordinary steps for renewal.  So, once a month I will have to make the voyage to Culver City until I complete the two-year program to take my credential from preliminary to permanent.  I feel like it’s just a way for agencies to make money because I am really not learning anything that I haven’t picked up as an educator.  I’m finding that a lot of what education is becoming paperwork.  Just looking good on paper and this program is helping me get all the paperwork that the CTC requires for credential renewal.

These past few weeks have been difficult in the amount of activity that now occupies my life, but slowly I am establishing a routine.  I am still amazed at how I haven’t had a breakdown yet and how my brain is actually behaving.  Prayer has been an integral part of this new journey and while I do complain about the long drive to and from work, in a way it’s a blessing because my car is usually the place where I unwind.  My car is usually the place where I pray and where I play podcasts that help my mind focus on God and not on the list of things to do.  Though my mind is great at panicking by looking too far into the future, through daily prayer I am reminded to live one day at a time.  It’s also nice working so close to the San Juan Capistrano Basilica because if I am truly stressed, I just go in for a little face to face with Jesus.  Continue keeping me in your prayers as I do you in mine.    

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Halloween: Guardian Angels

I do love Halloween because as Shakespeare so rightly stated, “All the world’s a stage and all men and women are merely players.”  October thirty-first is the one day a year where we can use our imaginations without judgement.  This year, I intended to play tribute to guardian angels.  I bought my dog his wings a few months ago without realizing how much he would grow and I found my self trying to stuff his little body like a sausage into his costume.  Then I had the complication of dealing with a puppy who challenged the costume and taking a picture was like pulling teeth!  I also didn’t have my costume complete, I only had the wings, so I owe you pictures for this year’s costume tribute to guardian angels.
Growing up, I had an image above my bed of a guardian angel walking behind two small children that always made me feel safe.  Every night before going to sleep I would jump into the action of the painting so much so that I had such a concrete image of the bridge and natural surroundings.  In my mind, the bridge made a mousy squeak and all around me was an Eden with the most magnificent greens and music of nature.  The beautiful Guardian Angel with her flowy gown and locks of sunshine made everything safe, though she stood tall behind me, she was really leading the way into the unknown. Even though I have always been apprehensive about new territory in the painting with such a holy angel I sought adventure.
When I returned to the Catholic church, I learned that I had a designated guardian angel, one given only to me by God.  Though, I have the Holy Spirit that accompanies me until the end of time- having a guardian angel is such a consolation.  When I am struggling- usually experiencing inner conflict I call to my angel and ask her to be with me and like in the image that I grew up admiring to walk tall behind me leading the way.  It’s such a comfort and strength knowing that I am never alone, that God in his generosity gave me a celestial being to accompany me every step of my journey to heaven.  In the direst of situations, I pray one of the first prayers I learned as a child (which luckily never left me) and instantly I get the sense that I am not alone in my struggle.  I pray it in Spanish, which is the language I learned it in, and maybe the fact that it’s in the language of my mother I immediately feel it’s comforting effects.

God truly is a magnificent lover, who lavishes us (the object of his affection) with so many gifts that will make clear our path towards heaven. Even sending each of us our own very special guardian angel!

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Week Two: Working on the Unexpected

This past week was quite trying, so excuse the tardiness of the post.  After so many years of not using my teaching credential, it expired.  Usually, the hiring district has an induction clear credential program; however, since I work for a charter school, things run quite differently.  Thus, I found myself looking for a private induction program and asking the Commission on Teaching Credentialing for an extension so that I wouldn’t lose my job.  Not many universities have induction programs since districts usually take care of the process, but after some digging around, I found Antioch in Los Angeles.  Now I am waiting for the CTC to approve my request so that I will be in the clear.  It was quite challenging working full-time and on my off time trying to get all the credentialing stuff done.  On Wednesday, I was in the road for four hours in the morning commuting to Los Angeles to enroll in the program and then driving straight to work from there.  Fortunately, I am now enrolled in a two-year induction program where I will have to go to class once a month and meet with other teachers in the same situation for support. 
In spite of all this, it was nice coming home to my pup and getting to see him graduate puppy school after the most insane day of my week.  We arrived to the graduation a few minutes late, when they had awarded Francis the most improved award for changing so dramatically from a frightened dog to a social butterfly.  The teacher administered the test of all that we have been working on and I was afraid that Francis would not pass because he still has great difficulty with waiting.  However, Saint Francis must have been keeping a lookout because my pup passed with flying colors!  He passed all the basic course material and graduated with a big grin on his face.  Now getting him still for a nice picture was not as successful (smile).
It’s been a whirlwind here lately, but as the weeks go by am sure that I will establish a routine and life will gain a sense of normalcy.  This week, I didn’t make it to my Monday night bible study group and I totally felt it.  Though, I am quite busy trying to sort all the new right now, eventually I want to make sure that I do make the time for the spiritual activities that keep me hopeful and sane. I only ask that you continue keeping me in your prayers.    

Thursday, October 17, 2019

My First Days: Relying on God

My almost first week back working at a school has been extremely wonderful.  I think I shared that the school that I was hired at works with adolescents who are failing out of high school and works with them at their pace and with individualized instruction to get them back on track to graduating.  Thus, each teacher has different hours than your traditional instruction educators do.  I have been assigned to cover the ten to six shift Monday through Thursday and nine to five on Fridays- this accommodates many of the student’s schedules who are working to help support their families.  While I come from working east coast hours and leaving my office no later that three, this is going to take some getting used to.  Starting today, I begin my regular hours.  Though the drive is also a little long, I have found that I am able to have a lot of down time inside my car, I pray the nerves away in the morning and in the afternoon, I relax reflecting on my day and just being in God’s presence. 
I have handed myself over to Jesus, the teacher and have this great icon that I make the sign of the cross to before I leave and ask for his help throughout the day and of course I light a candle to Saint Michael the Archangel to defend me in battle.  These prayers and devotions have allowed me to keep my sanity, I know that there’s a lot that I have to learn and a lot that I will be in charge of and instead of allowing my mind to go bonkers- I pray that God allows me to live one day at a time and not to worry about the future work that must be done.  Having this daily approach into what I need to get done and centering myself in the hands of God have made the difference and am really excited that maybe even being bipolar I can succeed as a teacher.  I tell you, reading Brother Lawrence’s book right before I accepted this job was providential.  So many of his simple, yet transforming thoughts from his text occupy my mind and I just hope to work in my little lot as if I am working for the Lord.
I still ask you to keep my in your prayers and I hope to report once a week (the day might vary according to my availability).  These past three days have been training, I’ve gotten a good introduction into the school, their many locations, how it works and how I can better serve its students and am hoping that once I begin working with my lot of students – possibly next week that all will begin to fall into place and that I will have a new routine established until then bear with me.

Friday, October 11, 2019

A Little Nostalgia: Holiday Sweaters

When I was a little girl, there was this teacher that always wore the happiest cardigans so in tune with each of the holidays throughout the year. I used to marvel at each of the clever designs she would wear and I vowed that when I grew up, I would dress just like her.  There was something utterly calming and equally trust worthy in her seasonally organized outfits.  I remember that I constantly found a reason to be near her.  Recently, in my happy thrifting expeditions, I came across the most fabulous vintage Halloween cardigan and immediately I was transported back into that elementary classroom and full of longing for simpler times I purchased it- a nostalgic buy for sure.  The cardigan is loud and probably tons tacky, but I love it and I can’t wait to wear it and begin making that childhood dream come true.  The day I found it, I came home and excitedly tried it on hoping that my enthusiasm would transfer to my mother, but she said it just wasn’t her cup of tea.  Even so her reaction didn’t make me love my cardigan any less nor kill the excitement of the little child within.
The funny thing is that when I try remembering more about the teacher, I can’t get an image passed her cardigan and me tugging at her slacks.  It’s almost like those cartoons that cut at the neck the adults and no matter how much I try I can’t retrieve my elementary teacher’s face.  I just remember her kindness and finding comfort being near her as I took my first steps in a new country.  She allowed me to silently orbit around her throughout the day and would pat my head sometimes when I loving hugged her leg.  I was just beginning to learn the new language so I didn’t talk a whole lot and she didn’t mind the silent companion.  Around her I didn’t have to worry about my accent or be scared of kids picking on me- she was my hero who instead of capes wore the best holiday ensemble. 

It’s funny how an item can transport one to a very specific time.  Am not sure if the teacher knew how much she touched my life, how her thoughtful outfits made her so utterly beautiful and I attracted to her charm survived a time of great change.  I didn’t understand a whole lot of English then, but I sure got her approachable message with her decorative-eighties-bling sweaters.  She tried in every way to engage her students and though the credential program doesn’t have a course on how to dress to motivate students- those Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day… sweaters were quite powerful teaching strategies (smile).  I know I have been a bit disorganized- I have had a lot of appointments trying to prepare for my new job.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Presence of God

These past few months have been spent trying to tame my black wolf.  If I wasn’t working on my eBay business or looking for work the rest of my time belonged to training Francis.  Am not sure how you enter into the presence of God, but for me a quite easy way is though nature - most specifically though animals.  Recently, when I started taking Francis to the dog park, I would notice how much I gave him courage.  He would venture to say hello to a dog and then run back to hide between my feet.  As his confidence grew, he would go a little farther away, always returning to me if he felt he was in trouble. His trust that I will bail him out or come to his rescue made me think of my relationship with God.  Francis has grown from being terrified of other dogs to wanting more and more to socialize with members of his species.  It just required a little patience, persistence and for him to know that in me he has a pack leader that will keep him safe no matter the circumstance.
In matters of faith I am like Francis, but sometimes not as trustful that my heavenly Father will come to my rescue.  Yet, watching my little guy explore while always keeping an eye on me or returning to me when he felt too overwhelmed made me realize that I need to have that type of relationship with God.  Wherever life takes me, whatever my experiences my gaze must never leave my Creator.  “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” I shouldn’t lose hope or quit because I have a Father who will come to my rescue.  And if for whatever reason I venture out too far, I can always run back into His protective arms or even yelp and He will come running to hold me up.  Sometimes pride makes me want to do things on my own, but seeing Francis run back to me trusting that I would make everything better made me realize how much God delights when I am small and dependent on Him.

Everyday, Francis and I spend an hour or more at the park.  Sometimes we just walk around greeting dogs in our path and even during these calm walks- I see how thankful he is to be out in nature. He smells a flower, a bush, chases ducks, stops to people watch, eats a dandelion…  Every action is full of excitement and glee and I think that in His way He is praying a gratitude prayer saying thank you God for this wonderful world and for allowing me to enjoy it.  I am almost jealous at how simple He is finding delight in things that I take for granted.  Yet, as I watch Francis' satisfaction in nature, I too thank God for all the things I take for granted and I ask Him to make me more like my little creature who appreciates so much His creation.  Francis helps me enter into the presence of God quite easily and his inquisitiveness along with his trust in me reveal deeper truths about my faith and shows me that God communicates with us in all sorts of ways- even through my relationship with an over-excited pup!  

Thursday, October 3, 2019

A Little Secret

I want to let you in on a little secret, I have been made an offer and accepted a teaching position at a charter school in my county.  You are now looking at the (in two weeks) intervention teacher for said school.  The public charter school works with students who the traditional high school setting is not working and works individually or in a small group setting to help kids achieve a high school diploma and prepare them to enter the real world.  I will be working with students and parents who are having difficulty passing high school and I am really excited to begin this new phase in my career.  Am not sure how it will impact my blog as I transition, but I will try to write even if it’s just once a week and maybe change dates, to during the weekend.
What I do know is this: prayer works!  I remembered that a priest once told me to pray in a very specific way when making a request to God.  So, I asked the Lord to please help me find employment by the end of September and though the teaching offer came on the second day of October, in September I had been made an offer that after prayerful consideration I declined.  When I was offered the job that I turned down, I took it to God and asked him to give me a sign of whether or not to take it and He did just that when I was told about the wages – which were extremely too low.  Though turning down a job (even if it’s not the right fit) feels like stepping into a pool of uncertainty – I trusted that God would provide.  I did my part by looking for work and submitting my resume and trusted that God would do the rest.

As I interviewed for the teaching position, again I asked God that if I was offered the job, that would be my sign from Him that I would be able to handle the responsibility even with my disability.  So, I ask you for your prayers which I will desperately need during this transition.  I always get extremely overwhelmed and my thoughts start racing wildly, but since I got the offer, I have had peace in my heart.  I think that feeding my life with wisdom from the saints and scripture has given my overactive mind healthy things to think about.  I also have this new mindset where my job is not about proving that I am a great teacher, but helping students succeed… Any who do not forget me in your prayers.

Monday, September 30, 2019

No Filters

When I think of purity, I, immediately think of sexuality- saving myself for marriage- but in terms of spirituality purity goes beyond physical abstinence.  I was in the confessional, and Father advised me to lead an honest life, days later my Bible study dealt with truth and then I heard a homily on integrity and I felt like God was asking me to focus on purity of heart and mind.  One of the characteristics I value most in others is honesty because I like to give the same in return.  I think the fewer the lies the healthier the relationship and in my associations that’s how I like to lead my life.  Yet, it’s easy to slip to think one white lie won’t hurt… 
Recently, I have had a few interviews and sometimes the stress can be so overwhelming that I jokingly told my parents that I was going to take Francis with me and say that he was my emotional support animal (smile).  When interviewing for a job I find it the most difficult to remain truthful, I want to win my interviewers over, but I want to do so being uniquely me without exaggerations.  Sometimes, though it feels that without hyperbole my simple self won’t do.  I think that’s why many of us lie because we feel like our ordinary self won’t do.  Like without the photo filter we are not good enough- I have even seen parents use filters on their already cute babies and that breaks my heart.

Last year, at the Via Crucis on the beach one of my students took a picture of the sunset along the coast and then she added a filter and she showed me proudly how great the touched up photo looked and I remember telling her that I thought the natural picture was perfect and didn’t need filtering.  Does distorting an image count as a lie? I just know that too much filtering can absolutely have an affect on others.  I have heard of people who are on dating apps being disappointed when they meet one another in real life because they look nothing like the filtered images used online.  Yet, this is nothing new for years magazines have distorted images of women (they elongate the legs, take in the waist, erase the wrinkles…) and only in recent times have some begin to stand up against the unrealistic beauty standards they sell.  A few brave celebrities have also been adamant of not allowing their images to be photoshopped, but not enough to stop the distortion.
Though sometimes I do like to travel away from my ordinary life and jump into the plot of a great narrative- I do believe in living honestly.  Growing up, I always felt ordinary and for awhile I fought to be extraordinary- but as I mature in years, I have come to realize that God created me.  There’s only one of me, I am one-of-a-kind, even if the world doesn’t see me that way...  The writings of Brother Lawrence have only inspired me because they echo the sentiments of Saint Therese: small as we are, we can still be saints- sans filter. I am attracted to people with simple hearts who know their weaknesses and smallness and through that humility God is able to work marvels.  Brother Lawrence hoped that monastic life would make him smart and rid him of his faults and awkwardness only to learn that God was satisfied with Him just as he was.  This revelation, gave Brother Lawrence hope that his ordinary life (doing the most commonplace tasks) could glorify God and that’s just what he did.  When we know who created us, and how much He loves us there’s no need for filters. Ordinary reality is pretty special when there’s nothing to prove, no one to impress only to glorify God in our smallness.  There’s this song that I love that describes the lover trying to do all these things to impress the beloved only to learn that the beloved is the one making the biggest impression.  When there is love - authenticity and realness is what wins hearts.  That’s why to come to God we need to have pure hearts, hearts that delight in the honest truth.  

Thursday, September 26, 2019

How I Made Twenty-Thousand Selling on eBay

I have been building a small empire these past months on eBay (smile)… After getting laid off, I decided to try my luck in what a friend of mine likes to call my E-Commerce (laugh).  Though, this little venture has earned me more than twenty-thousand-dollars- it’s hard for me to take it serious because it just feels too silly to qualify as self-employment.  Employment sounds so serious and what I have done has simply turned a disability and hobby into a mad money-making machine (more laughter).  As I have often shared, I am bipolar and sometimes in the manic phases nothing sounds more divine than shopping.  If you’re a faithful reader you also know that I have dealt with this symptom by going to thrift stores and wearing my shopping self out while only blowing a couple tens at most. In my shopping sprees I started finding really high-end merchandise that was not my style and I thought it would be fun to reunite the item with a person who would appreciate it.  That’s really how this all began.
I have been an avid secondhand shopper for quite a few years now.  While to me buying used is a way of life and my small way of decreasing my carbon footprint, I have discovered that buying used is becoming more and more common among people.  Thus, I supply to a growing demand.  Yet, to me this business is enjoyable because:

First, I like to score good deals.  I am cheap, I will search and wait until I find what I want at a price that I want to pay.  To me there’s nothing like the high of finding a pair of Jimmy Choo’s in my size for one dollar or an eighties Louis Vuitton Speedy for thirteen dollars- yes, those stories are real.  I like things with history and things that can grow old and not disintegrate as quickly as fast fashion does.  Usually designer pieces are made to last and that’s why I find things that are still quite wearable and at a price that I can afford and not feel guilty at thrift stores. 

Second, I love to restore, fix or reinvent a purpose for things.  I think I started selling on eBay leather purses that I found and gave a facelift.  While at first, I just wanted to keep things from arriving at the dump too soon eventually the accumulation was too much for me so I also started to share with other deal shoppers like me online.  Soon, I started to see what a nice profit I was making and before I knew it my hobby was paying for my vacations and now, my living as I find suitable employment.    
Finally, I like to take pictures and write descriptions and list my items on eBay.  I do it all with my phone and the process though time consuming is quite user friendly.  My nerdiness helps, because I like to do research on items and learn the history and the creative process of each of the items I list.  This, knowledge has been extremely helpful in helping me list and price things fairly.  It’s also introduced me to other designer brands, taught me how to authenticate and just learn how to tell if it’s a quality item when I am out shopping.  In addition to giving me a greater appreciation for the craft of how things are made.   
Shop, restore, and product knowledge have been what have made my business successful.  Three things that I really enjoy doing; thus, for me to think of the money I have earned doing a lot of silliness seems weird to call it self-employment.  It’s a hobby and my way of saying, “I will not go gentle into the good night” – no bipolar symptom is going to keep me down (smile).  While it’s a lucrative hobby, I have learned that I do not want to do this as more than that.  Right now, I am devoting more time than usual, but once I find a job it will go back to my little hobby and I am ok with that.