Saturday, November 28, 2020

The Graduate

Sometimes dreams get put on hold for a little bit- thirteen years to be exact… 

After, my Bipolar diagnoses I left teaching.  It took me some time (years) to learn to function normally with my disability and during this time I thought that I would never again work in education so all activities that surrounded my teaching dream were left in limbo.  I was one class away from my Master’s when I had my mental breakdown and I never finished because I thought that I would never be able to perform that job.  This year Corona Virus and all, I completed my Master’s degree in Education!

Every time in the past thirteen years when I thought of completing my degree just for the sake of finishing what I had started the pain of opening the wound of a failed dream froze me.  I couldn’t think of education without puncturing the scab enough for the mixture of pain and waste- wasted years pursuing a dream that never materialized to come like a towering wave. The thought of being surrounded by students with tangible illusions of leading kids in a classroom, students who would get to live out their fantasies made me sick with defeat.  I lacked the humility to see others succeed in the field while my health limitations kept me from reaching a goal I had made as child playing teacher in my garage.          

I don’t know if I would have ever gone back to finish my degree had it not been for this year of redemption.  After waiting a week, too scared to call back a school to confirm an interview appointment at a job that I don’t remember applying for – I was hired as a teacher.  Before I was hired, I made a plan on how I was going to deal with stress- what my techniques would be for when things became too hectic, I was even considering weekly therapy.  I created a plan so that this time I would deal with things that brought my demise in the past and succeed as teacher.  However, throughout this whole transition God’s hand was at work returning everything that I had lost due to my disability.  I found myself dealing with stress in positive ways and not shutting down when things got overbearing.  Prepping myself (mostly my mind) so much in advance made things manageable, so much so that I gained confidence enough to return to school and finish that last class. 

I didn’t plan it to be during a national pandemic, but it happened that I graduated during a virtual ceremony.  That might add some interest in the future when I tell my story about how I returned to education during the worst time to be a teacher and managed to succeed because with God all things are truly possible.       

Saturday, September 19, 2020

The Benefits of Hummingbird Watching

Everyday I spend two hours in my backyard after work with Francis.  We play fetch, but mostly enjoy laying on the grass and looking up at the sky thankful to be off of screens.  In being still, I have noticed a life happening around me that due to the hustle and bustle I had missed.  My dad bought a few Hardy Fuchsias and they have been ever so popular at attracting hummingbirds.  Every afternoon when Francis and I are at play the same hummingbirds stop to get their meals.  There’s one in particular who always shows up at the same time and after taunting Francis, feasts on our plants.

It’s funny because at my age I had never seen a hummingbird at rest.  Yet, our continuous visitor likes to sit on our clothing lines and look down upon us.  From below, I get to admire its tiny body as it cleans its wings and yesterday I even saw it catch a fly!  I am no ornithologist so I was surprise to learn that hummingbirds have a diet of plants and insects. It’s beautiful how a tiny creature is so complex and so simple at the same time.  It’s also surprising how much one appreciates from being still.

I always pictured moments of inactivity as passive. In our society rest comes with a negative connotation, but now I see that when we are still we enter into a whole new world.  One of my favorite verses is: “Be still and know that I am God.”  I love that verse because when I fall into a low bipolar period all I want is someone who will be with me in the low valley. Someone who will accept me at my low and who will lay with me and watch hummingbirds at play.  Someone who won’t push me into activity, but who will relax entering into the peace and wonder of God.

During this quarantine, I spend two hours every day outside in my yard with Francis playing fetch, but mostly just laying down on the grass cloud watching.  For a long time, I felt shame that instead of taking on a new hobby I rather be lounging outside.  I too am slowing going through a conversion by looking at these periods of stillness - ones so utterly filled with God as good. Through this private glimpse into His creation I realize how wonderous and magnificent our Lord truly is! And I am learning that being still, truly brings us closer to God.    

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Seven Things I Miss

Every month I film a video to put on our school Flipgrid to get students and staff “socially” at a distant involved.  This month’s prompt was what I miss most due to Covid-19.  So, I thought I would do a list of the seven things I miss most…

  1. I miss Bible study.  My social life revolved around different groups that I belong to.  The Monday night Bible study group, Giana’s Club, Rise Women’s group, and my Franciscan Fraternity.  Or taking classes at the diocese- I was a couple classes away from getting my Master Catechist Certificate.  After working all day, it was such an encouragement to meet people in person and grow in my faith…  The Rise Women’s group is the only one that has managed to remain active through Zoom and I truly appreciate our monthly check-ins.
  2. I miss being able to go into any Catholic parish to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  One of my ways of dealing with stress or the downs of my disability was to run into the bosom of the church.  I find it so wonderfully healing and uplifting to be able to pray inside our beautiful parishes.  Sometimes just silently sitting the pew inside holy places is all my soul needs.  While I am glad that Mass has returned to my diocese – I miss being inside the actual building.
  3. I miss visits to the salon!  My hair and nails have been in a state of disarray.  While I am not a girl who visits them frequently, I do enjoy having a gel manicure, a French-tip pedicure and my bangs trimmed.  Sometimes going to salon motivates me to invest in my look- right now I live in comfortable clothes and a braid.
  4. I miss hanging out with friends.  A couple friends have had babies during quarantine and I have yet to meet their little, bundles of joy.  Of course, I miss just being in the same room with them catching up and nurturing our friendship.
  5. I miss traveling.  Oh, how I miss the planning and preparing for my next world adventure.  Usually, I travel with a church group and right now we are not even seeing each other locally so traveling together is out of the question.
  6. I miss going in to work.  I have a little bit of a drive due to traffic to and from work- and I thought I would never miss the commute, but I miss not being able to be at my school with my colleagues and students.  I hate distant learning and look forward to day that I can return to work completely.
  7. I miss having a choice.  While I am quite happy at home, I miss having a choice to leave my house.  I haven’t been able to do social things with nephew and it blows!

I think what I miss being in the company of others doing those freedoms I took for granted.  My county is starting to slowly reopen and I am super excited as we move towards back to normal.  What do you miss?   

Saturday, August 29, 2020

iHeart Yoga at Lantern Park

I have never been a fan of Yoga… To be honest I get bored.  Yet, last week my boss treated us to iHeart Yoga in the park and the allure of being out in nature made me accept the invitation.  According to their website – it’s the longest and most popular class in Dana Point.  You can drop in or book ahead of time for an eight-dollar donation. The class runs for an hour and people at all levels participate and equally enjoy the session because the instructor gives various options of stretches to accommodate everyone.

Selfie with our Yoga Instructor

The setting, at Lantern Park, makes for an ideal backdrop. You lay your mat on the field under the shade of pine trees overlooking the harbor.  The amazing ocean views and cool breeze make for an ideal setting to relax the mind and get in the spirit of body and soul… It was a great way to conclude a stressful week; thus, I totally recommend iHeart Yoga for anyone that is looking for a way to work out during Covid.

While, being outdoors appreciating nature at its best, I still don’t think Yoga is for me.  After half an hour I was like a preschool kid looking for something else to do. My mind just couldn’t namaste any longer.  I think the yoga instructor noticed my inattentiveness towards the end and she was ok with it.  She was like, “do what feels good to your body” and what felt good was just to lay on my back and look at the sky.  After the class she came over to me because I had mention that I was a yoga novice.  I told her that I think I needed to start with half hour sessions because the hour was too much for a beginner.  She gave me a high five for trying and provided information on intro to yoga options offered at her studio.  Her optimism and kindness were so refreshing and for that I would return again.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Sunflowers & Brooches

I went for a walk with Francis and I was captivated by my neighbor’s sunflower garden.  Every time I see sunflowers I feel like my brother is smiling down from heaven.  When he was alive, he planted a batch of sunflowers and only one bloomed and it got so big that it started tilting.  He loved and tended that flower with so much care. At the time the large size and drooping position made me think it was most hideous.  After he passed, all I could think of was how much he loved that ugly-duckling of a plant and suddenly the whole species of sunflowers sail me back to him.  Whenever I see one I am reminded of my brother happily tending his garden- trying to convince me that oversize, drooping flowers are beautiful.  While, the ones in my neighbor’s garden are multiples and smaller- the yellow gleeful color always takes me back in time.

During my thrifting escapades I found two flower brooches.

This one is a 1980’s Yves Saint Laurent’s for Avon brooch, the designer took Vincent van Goh’s Sunflower paintings as inspiration. I love the whole design, the glossy gold setting and the jewel tone enamel flowers in a vase with a handle.  It makes me think of picking garden flowers and setting them on your kitchen table. I found this vintage piece for a couple bucks and it’s currently selling for well over sixty dollars. Not a bad day of picking.

This one is a collectable St John Bee on a Sunflower brooch.  It’s 22K gold electroplated, signed and sparkles with Swarovski crystals. This is one of my favorites, I bought it soon after he passed simply because it reminded me of him and I thought I could pin it close to my heart.  Again, I got it for a couple dollars and it currently sells for over one hundred- again another good day of American picking (smile).

When I was a child I dreamed of heirlooms and somehow finding these treasures make me feel like I am wearing history.  I also imagine the stylish woman who wore it before me and just like spotting sunflowers I am filled with the fuzzies.     

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Peacefully Waiting

I have never been to a priest ordination before and thanks to virtual times this morning I plan on joining as eight priests receive their Holy Orders in the LA Diocese.  They call them, the “Pandemic Class of 2020” because they had to postpone their celebration due to the COVID-19 restrictions.  After months of waiting they are finally set for ordination.  The extra period of waiting was met with optimism, as an extra time of preparation.

I have been thinking about all the people that due to the pandemic have had to postpone important events and whether they took the news with equal hope.  I for one can say, that after ten years away from teaching returning to education the year of a national crisis has been met with many emotions, but I am not sure if I have arrived at place of favorable feelings- of looking at it as providential.  I have complained, stressed, worn myself out… Handled the situation in a very earthly way.

Yesterday, I came home from work with a new squeaky ball for Francis.  He was so excited we played fetch for a good two hours because he loved the toy so much.  I was lost in his joy, so contagious it was that I forgot about just being told that this year I would be teaching eleventh and twelve grade English- which means all new lesson plans formatted for virtual learning.  I don’t think he’s ever enjoyed a toy as much as this squeaky ball and I got lost in the moment.  I was completely present because Francis’ happiness just captivated me.  I realized then that the secret to being content is to live in the present.

The “Pandemic Class of 2020” didn’t allow the not knowing when they would celebrate their ordination to affect them because it was something out of their control.  They trusted that God would eventually clear the blocks and their decision was to take the added wait as an extended time of preparation.  I think I have been the longest Secular Franciscan in waiting and let me tell you that I haven’t been as quick to surrender to my predicament.  Thus, I am excited to watch these eight men receive their Holy Orders because I have so much to learn from their testimony in waiting.       

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Six Things To Do During Pandemic

While I never imagined that this pandemic would last so long, the crisis has brought a slower pace and with it, opportunities to enjoy a simpler life.  Not all is bad during quarantine, while I am an introvert and perhaps for me being a homebody socially distancing is not as challenging as for extroverts- the length of the separation has also affected me.  Some days, I too feel like I am going a little nutty not being able to enjoy things that I normally take for granted.  Nevertheless, I have found that mourning over the old way of life is not as productive as just living in the moment.  Thus, when I get those anxious feelings that come from being cooped up to long, I distract myself.  Here’s my list of positive quarantine distractions:    

  1. Spending Time with Family- We took a trip to Big Bear to change scenery, but for the most part we spend a lot of time together outdoors.  Usually my dad tending to his garden while I read a book and my mom sews masks.  This period has allowed me to get to know my parents so much better and our relationship has grown so much!
  2. Training Francis! He’s a really smart pup, but he’s so darn cute that he gets away with murder! He still has issues with biting (a common problem with this breed), when he gets excited he bites without understanding the power of his teeth. Also, I can’t lose sight of him because he’s a little vacuum that picks up things within his reach and destroys them.  He also loves terrorizing our birds- so he still needs a lot of training.  
  3. DIY Projects- I still repair thrifted handbags and sell them on eBay- this whole process is so darn entertaining to me.  I love finding a gem at a thrift store and breathing new life to it then finding it a new home.  I also dabble in sewing, mostly sizing items to fit me or adding a missing button, sewing a hem or adding a little design to spruce a top.   
  4. Organization- I have been organizing my things.  I had accumulated quite a bit of things from my thrifting escapades and after watching Marie Kondo I realized that I wanted to be surrounded by only things that make me happy.  So, I have been implementing her process in small bits to simplify my closets.  I have a bit of a hoarder problem so it helps to find new homes for my things whether it’s sharing with my family, donating or selling it on eBay to people that will use it.  When I know my items won’t end up in a landfill it makes getting rid of them easier.  
  5. Reading- I have dented my stack of books that were in the need to read file this quarantine.  When I am outdoors enjoying my beautiful home, I like to pull a book and learn about things.  I have loved reading novels, doing spiritual reading and also learning about fashion.  I love to learn about the history of design and the masters of each era.
  6. Outdoor Prayer- Whether it’s going to outside Mass or praying the rosary or novenas in my backyard- I have loved that I get the opportunity to be outdoors with God. 

This quarantine has been challenging, but it has also been a time to slow down and to do things that normally I don’t have time for.  I think filling my days with fun things to do at home has helped me keep a positive attitude during what feels like a lockdown.  Hope you got some ideas to try in your isolation! 

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Being Catholic

I was thinking how much being Catholic means to me.  Recently, with everything that’s going on in the USA – with the leading political parties being at odds I am so thankful to have a Catholic vision.  Don’t get me wrong, I am so proud of my culture- being Mexican-American has always been such a huge part of my identity.  I love my roots and the possibilities that this country has given immigrants like myself.  However, in times of crisis, I am glad that my faith has given me a more integral vision.  A few weeks ago, when I used “All Lives Matter” to express my views I have been told that I lack empathy for the black community.  I reflected on that comment for some time and finally concluded that when you put a color in front of “lives matter” it states the side you are in the argument.  As a Catholic, I believe in the sacredness of each individual.  Simply put lives matter!
That’s why you won’t see me with a banner for black or blue lives- because God tells me that all lives matter.  It’s easy to get emotionally involved and pick a side - forgetting that as Catholics we are meant to love everyone.  This is no way negates the suffering of a group.  As a child my heroes were Martin Luther King Jr and Frederick Douglass- I have loved studying the Civil Rights Movement because as a person of color I understood their fight. I too, have felt different and at times suffered racism and discrimination.

When I was a child, I also wanted to become a police officer.  At the time my father was an alcoholic so I would joke, “I probably won’t be a police officer or else I will be jailing my dad daily.”  However, as I got closer to college I research what it took to be a police office and when I saw that starting salary was almost the same as a teacher even though they risked their lives I quickly put a lid on that dream.  Recently, I researched the cops responsible for the death of George Floyd and I discovered that most of them were rookie cops, they were new on the job.  While I don’t know their hearts and maybe they are racist – I got to thinking how many mistakes I have made when I just started a new job.  However, some mistakes can cause a person’s life.

In the end, I realized that I just couldn’t take sides, I stuck by my “all lives matter” comment because as a Catholic (which is how I most identify myself) my faith challenges me to not side, but to love all.  

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Quarantine: Be Still

It’s easy to lose heart during this time because we are a country used to living on the go.  Thus, for many (myself included) the changing pace of quarantine at times can be extremely challenging.  Restrictions on employment, education, religious life - even our social life have changed the way we live.  I think I have voiced my frustration with teaching virtually and how I miss church life.  Sometimes, I can get easily discouraged especially when I read the news about all the chaos happening within our country.  At times, I can get stuck thinking my experience of quarantine is universal, but when I check in with my students and discover that they are not working on their school work because they are trying to help parents who have been laid off due to Covid-19 earn a living or when I check in with my fraternity and discover that many of the elderly members who live alone are struggling with loneliness – I realize that some have it worse than me.  It’s easy to complain, to see the flaws and focus so much on struggle the that we miss those hurting worse than me.   
I love words and I have a verse written on the wall of my room, “Be still and know that I am God.”  Every morning it’s the first thing I see, but I think the familiarity made it almost invisible for some time.  Recently, I woke up and was feeling restless from being cooped at a home too much and I looked at the verse on my wall and this lightbulb went off in my head and I realize that I needed to live by those words during this quarantine.  In this country activity is glorified.  We are always on the go and something out of our control is telling us to slow down and be still.  Many Americans have trouble with slowing down, I mean I just have to cross the south border and already in Mexico I feel a difference in pace.  This time though, I am being asked to slow down in my own home and for someone usually on the go it hasn’t been without its moments of restlessness.

Yesterday, as I sat on my porch with my dad, mom and Francis waiting for everyone else to get home from work (our usual daily ritual) I realized that one of my dreams is to retire to live in a farm.  On this afternoon that slower pace of farm life that inspired this dream felt utterly boring.  I was thinking maybe, this is the way I will feel if I live away in seclusion (smile).  In seconds, I almost discarded my dream for the noise and the activity of city life!  That’s when it hit me - how condition I am to the hustle and bustle and how much I need to contemplate and really discover the beauty of what draws me to the verse, “be still and know that I am God.”  All this time, its meaning was that in order to be utterly present with God (in prayer) I needed to be still, but now I see that God is asking me not just to be quiet when I pray, but to live in stillness. To have peace and tranquility – to be still always, especially in moments when I have more time to sit and reflect.             

Saturday, July 11, 2020

RCIA Class of 2020

Yesterday, I attended an extraordinary service where my RCIA students received their sacraments.  This year was quite a challenging one- I was only able to help at the beginning of formation because my new job was so demanding.  Even, with only a couple months invested in the formation of this year’s sacrament graduating class- I still have such a deep love for the program.  Yesterday, as I arranged the newly initiated Catholics for a class photo- they were like, “I thought I recognized you.” To which I responded, “I wouldn’t have missed your special day for the world.” 
Our team leader did- like always such an impressive job!  I mean to inspire and keep a group going during quarantine was a huge struggle and she did it.  I remember her sending us a message on Easter Vigil and how much all of us lamented not being able to celebrate one of our favorite nights of the year.  While this year’s celebration took place within a daily Eucharistic celebration and though the students, godparents and families had to be outside in the hot sun separated by six feet – while wearing uncomfortable facemasks they joy of the new Catholics was equally shinning.  The service though simple was beautiful and I am sure equally memorable to all those present.
In terms of spiritual motivation- it’s moments like this that inspire me to continue serving.  After the budget cuts at my school, I was given the 8AM-4PM shift so I think that I will hopefully be able to serve next year as an RCIA catechist.  I have noticed that involvement in faith is crucial and these past few months unable to do so (first because of my job and then due to quarantine) have been a challenging time.  Yesterday, though my attendance was simply one of moral support (I didn’t have any duties) I realized how much I miss my team and my ministry. So, am looking forward to this new RCIA year!