Monday, April 4, 2022

My Folks & I

One of the great things about getting older is that you are more confident in who you are as a person and the desire to prove yourself seems to diminish.  I just remember growing up I so (and I should capitalize that for emphasis) SO desired to be seen as normal.  My therapist would say that because I grew up in such a chaotic home (due to alcoholism and poverty) that my desire to be normal stemmed there.  I wanted so bad to change what was happening in my home that I sought to be perfect to fool outsiders. 


In growing up, I have finally accepted that normal doesn’t exist. 

As I have gotten older, especially once I started attending college some friends would make comments about when I was going to move out and leave my family.  It’s unhealthy for grown-ups to live at home.  Some days I felt shame and other days I felt like I really needed to leave the nest.  Again, this question of how abnormal was continued to be thrown my way.  Because I moved to this country, I needed to enculturate and do what all adult American’s do and that was to get my own place… 

I am glad that my parents put up such a fight when they didn’t let me leave my nest, because I don’t think that my life would be as rich as it has been.  In Mexico, kids don’t leave home unless they get married and no one blinks an eye, but here if you don’t live on your own by a certain age all these negative connotations smack you in the face. 

Growing up poor, my dream was to buy my parents a house.  If you live in California one is lucky if one can afford to purchase one home let alone two. So, I have been living in this dream home with the people I love most and I have finally realized that I don’t care if people look at me and think negatively because I love coming home to my family.  My parents give me SO MUCH joy! Recently, they took a trip to Mexico and I wanted to call them every day, but I stopped myself from being so clingy (LOL) and only called them twice a week. They were gone for three weeks and coming home to an empty nest felt sickening.  I was as depressed as my little Francis who didn’t eat for the first two days out of pure sadness. 

On Thursday, they returned and boy has the mood in my home changed.  It was when after a long day of work, as I was stuck on the 405 (impatient to get home) that I realized how much I am a family person.  I don’t care that living alone gives this admired gold star “yep, she has her stuff together,” because living with my folks doesn’t take away from the responsible person that I am.  I mean I have been working since I was fifteen years old! My parents will tell you that out of their children I am the one that they least worry about…  I will tell you that I am blessed to have these years to live so closely with the best people on the planet that I know.  No regrets about not leaving the nest- in fact only the best memories of a constantly full house to arrive to.    

Monday, March 28, 2022

Reengaging in my Spiritual Community

I started in-person weekly bible study again.  A couple of weeks ago, I finally went back and was met by the warmest welcome from my old friends.  Half of the old Monday night group is still attending the rest are new parishioners to the now Wednesday night meeting.  I wasn’t expecting my return to have such a positive effect on me; being there gave me so much hope!  The group is on week fifteen of “The Bible Timeline,” and even though I have taken this series before I am learning so many great things.  Beyond the academic learning, it’s just so nice being around people of faith!  They took me in without hesitation even though they are quite into the series and provided me with the materials to quickly make me feel part of the group again.


This pandemic has made me even more of a homebody.  I have always loved being home and with the social restrictions I feel like I became even more reclusive.  It’s difficult to find the motivation to leave my home- the other day I rented a movie instead of going to the movie theatre – which is so unlike me (I love movie theatre popcorn)!  Thus, even though things are back in business, I have little inspiration to leave my home.  My habits changed during the lockdown and now getting myself to make changes – to be more social is such a struggle!

It took me forever to go back to the bible study group, even though they have been meeting for a few months now.  I blamed my job and how tired I am afterward for not attending sooner, but the reality is that I need to create new habits.  I need to start attending all the events that used to inspire my faith regularly.  Though, I am finding it a struggle to reengage in my spiritual social life, I know that I am in desperate need of it.  I think once I have added this Wednesday Bible study to my routine then I can start looking into adding more things, like the classes to complete my Master Catechist certificate. Little by little…  

Monday, March 7, 2022

All I Lost Was a Hat, Not My Name

I have a new student from Tehran, who has a really thick accent.  In my interaction with him I have noticed that he gets really upset when any mention to his accent or race is mentioned.  I wanted to refer him to our English Specialist and he got really offended and said that even though he had a thick accent that he didn’t need any assistance- he went on this long angry discourse. When I finally got a word in, I told him that it had nothing to with his accent that in his file I just noticed that he hadn’t been reclassified because he had failed the ELPAC. As, I have gotten to him I sense this great need to shed cultural ties because he just wants to be a normal American kid.  He wants this so much that he is, rocking the Raybans, The Converse, Adidas Tees and shedding his birth name - legally changing it to Henry with a nice American last name… I wish I could tell him (in a way that he would believe) that he is perfect; even with his beautiful, unusually difficult name to pronounce.

After moving to America, it took me decades to put to rest the feeling of being different-in-a-bad-way to stop seeking Americanisms as my perceived view of perfection.  Even as a child, the students in my elementary school made me feel ugly different.  It wasn’t just that I didn’t speak the language- I also dressed differently and even with the language barrier I knew that my style of dress wasn’t approved.  You see, in Mexico parents dress their girls in dresses and tie their daughters’ hair in bows because presentation is important.  Looking presentable easily equates with you coming from a good hard-working family – and reputation is held to a high esteem.  When we moved here, my mother continued to dress me in frilly dresses and to beach loving kids this manner of dress was something one wore on special occasions.  So, I knew that I needed to tone it down.  So, slowly I chose jeans and a t-shirt over the dresses.

But…

Every year, on school picture day, my mom would spend weeks planning my photo outfit down to the last detail.  I was in fifth grade and the TV show “Blossom” was all the rage along with large hats with fake flowers.  Well, my mom (my sister might have helped) found a blush pink bucket hat and hot glued a large white Dahlia on the front.  She put me in my new handmade dress, curled my hair and plumped the hat on my head.  The look of satisfaction in her face made me keep the hat on until I was safe from her view.  Once, I knew I was a safe distance from home and far enough from school I took off the hat and shoved it my backpack.  I spent the hours until picture time tortured, concocting a plan on how to put the hat on right before the photographer snapped my picture.  Yet, when it was time for me to take my picture the hat remained in my backpack- I feared the teasing more than my mother’s wrath.  When I got home, mom wanted to know all the details.  I thought of waiting until the proofs came in before telling her that I hadn’t worn the hat, instead I told her that I wasn’t allowed to wear the hat.

 “No hats allowed in school,” I whispered.

She was so angry, I thought she might call the school and complain, “Why did they not allow you to wear it just for the picture!  After all, am I not the one paying for those pictures?!”

To this day she still believes that the school forbade me from wearing my hat on picture day.  This story had long been forgotten, until I came across a box full of vintage hats at a neighborhood yard sale.  I bought it, gave my neighbor ten bucks and I went home salivating over the ribbons, feathers, veils and flowers of my new hat lot.  As I sat at home, handling each one I thought how much I missed the good old days and then just like that I remembered my “Blossom” hat and the picture that never was because I was afraid to be colorful, Mexican me.  But, all I lost was a hat, not my name. 

Monday, February 28, 2022

Moving Back to In Person

Lent is starting this week and I am looking forward to a time of conversion in a way that I hadn’t needed before.  This year, I am looking forward to bringing community back into my life.  After a couple years of seeing people virtually or not at all, I am being more intentional about doing things the good old-fashioned way, face-to-face.  Though I have enjoyed and been blessed to have my monthly women’s group, fraternity and Franciscan formation continue to meet virtually these past hectic months – I crave for my weekly in person bible study to be back on my schedule and established as a routine again.  I also, hope my other groups will slowly begin to meet in person soon. 

For Mass I have rotated between virtual and in-person attendance based on the spikes of Covid mostly for my parent’s sake.  They are retired and watch the news and this has made them quite worrisome about our safety, so in order to help them keep peace of mind I have modified my actions.  Now, though I think that we are back to feeling more optimistic about the pandemic that I have returned to in person Eucharist.  While I missed going in person severely, joining online has been such a beautiful experience because I was able to attend live streaming all over the US.  I got to see many ways communities’ worship and I learned a lot more about the Eucharist and how to enhance community involvement.

My favorite virtual attendance where at parishes where more traditional people attend because I loved seeing the veils and listening to classic hymns.  I also enjoyed the parishes that did the spiritual communion prayer for those worshiping from home.   The best thing that I witnessed was a community in Kansas that has a chalice that travels each week to a different family to remind them to pray for priests and vocations.  They announced the name of the family that would be receiving the chalice, the family then came to front where the priest handed over a box (with chalice inside) and sent them to pray and return the chalice the following Sunday for a new family to take over.  I was so excited by this, even from my screen at home since I had never witnessed anything like it.

Yet, even with all the great intel that I have gathered from my virtual faith life, it doesn’t compare to the intimacy that occurs during in-person attendance.  Even though, two years plus into the pandemic I have gotten used to login from home to attend the few options available to keep my faith in communion with others- nothing compares to the beauty of physically being with other people.  I miss the sideline conversations, the small group discussions and breaking bread physically with others.  In all my faith groups we would have snacks or organize potlucks for certain feast days and I miss the joy of those simple celebrations. As California has once again dropped the mask mandate as a sign that there is improvement, I am also at a point where I need to be around others. Thus, this Lent I am looking forward to attending in person Lenten services, Fish Fry’s, and maybe even a weekend retreat!   

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Time Off

I am learning as a teacher that I need to be healthy too. Since, I am a year round teacher I don’t have that nice long summer off, but I do get vacation days to take whenever I deem wise. For the past two years I didn’t want to miss any days even though I was neglecting my own needs. I simply felt guilty thinking the students needed me. You see, I have been entrusted with students with disabilities and mental illness. So, usually when I take a day off I get at least one text asking me where I am at and if I will be out the next day too. It’s endearing to have teens that have developed such a connection with me and that my presence inspires calmness.  However, I recently shared with the students that have the hardest time when I am not there that I am bipolar and sometimes I also need a mental day to take care of me. It was sweet when my seventeen-year-old nodded acknowledging that he understood.

Just recently I decided to take my vacation days here and there to work on my own mental well-being. I will take one or two extra days when I have a long weekend, even if I don’t have any special plans. Today, I am at home taking an extra day and I had enough energy to cut my own bangs which had been neglected far too long (smile).  

I was also able to see a few friends over the weekend and I told them that I am tired of being cooped out at home and that I am going to be more intentional about seeing everyone. As I vocalized this to the friends that I did see, I got positive reactions that it’s time to see each other again and learn to live during this pandemic not just survive.  Getting together with my church friends made me realize that I need them to inspire my faith too. We had some great conversations about how God has been working in our lives and it made all of us desire Him more. We promised that we would come together this upcoming Lent for a home fish fry and rosary time.   

Life is meant to be shared and if I have learned anything this pandemic it’s just that. Don’t get me wrong I love being a homebody, but I also need a good chat with my friends. It does the soul good (smile).

Monday, February 14, 2022

I Am A Little Weird

I am a little weird…

I remember when I started therapy my goal was to be normal.  My life was in so much chaos that I craved a normal family and, in some way, a normal me.  At the time I didn’t know that a lot of my weird was because I was struggling with untreated bipolar disorder.  I was also traveling the least traveled path for a girl from a little town in Mexico going to college was unheard of.  The power to realize my dream to leave the ghetto was at the time my primary decision to hold off on dating in addition to trust issues brought on by my past with abuse.

I never made my love life a priority, I just thought that it would happen on its own.  I guess just like all the other avenues that I have traveled dating has also been a different experience for me.  First, it was out of my radar because I wanted to graduate college.  Then, I thought that it would just arrive on its own, but the places that I was going to were places that the type of guys I am into would never go to.  My friends met guys at bars and clubs, but those guys were not my type.  I like introverted, intelligent men. Smarter than me, even better.  I find brainy men utterly attractive and these men rarely step inside a club or a bar.  Then I encountered that sometimes, intelligence more often than not came with arrogance and that was a major turnoff. So, I realized that I wanted an utterly intelligent man with a humble heart.  Along the path I had a faith reversion, that meant that now I was also looking for someone who would inspire my faith journey – a man with a vision towards heaven… 

No one around me fit that bill, so I trusted that God would figure it out for me.  I had heard of online dating from acquaintances and eventually some friends; however, just like college the online platform is the less traveled road for girls from where I come from.  Thus, I have been apprehensive to get on there.  I still have this part of me that believes that God will bring the man for me when the time is right.  My parents are small town folk and when I speak to them about joining a dating site they are as apprehensive as I am.  They are used to the good old days when a girl would meet a man from the same town, a man who could be trusted by his family.  For now, I am still waiting and praying and asking Saint Valentine to bring me mine.   

Monday, January 31, 2022

My True Home

Some moments in the year feel heavier when they have been marked by loss. I know for me every November there’s this gray shadow that just sits in place.  It just shows up around the same time and just sits there, a reminder of something tragic, but also a testament to great love.  When I was younger, I couldn’t wait to grow up and leave my family because my teenage heart felt like I couldn’t handle the pain of being part of such a dysfunctional family.  One day, I was so upset that I shared this with my mentor, she in her wise age told me- you’re only thinking of the pain that you would avoid, but you would miss out on all of the joy.  That was the beginning of my education - only those that know great pain can also know great love, these two disciplines live side by side to illuminate the power of love. 

God calls us to be happy, and though I try my best to live contently every November the shadow comes and drops reminding me of the separation between siblings that began one Fall day.  I used to agonize over the sadness that comes during those weeks, but now I use the shadow to remind me of why I believe.  My faith is strongest when I think of death and when I know that even if it comes and it shatters my heart, that one day I will be reunited.  At first, I used to think that I would be reunited with my loved one and that gave me utter joy and satisfaction- until one priest said, “what about Jesus?”  Now when I think of my reunion with those that have gone before me, I also think about Jesus and Mary and all the saints that I have gotten to know and the longing for the life to come intensifies.

We are all just passing by, this house that we call our home is temporal and a crumb of sand compared to the home that waits for us in heaven.  That’s why I believe, that’s why I reverted and in November I think about it more deeply and the shadow that comes serves as a reminder of the world to come…   

Monday, January 24, 2022

Degrees of Prayer :o)

Last week two parents showed up at my school wanting to speak with me to inform me that their daughter (former student who recently graduated) had suffered a brain aneurysm.  They shed some tears and showed me a picture of her in her hospital bed.  They were like if God left her alive then that means she’s going to heal.  Since they brought God up into the conversation, I told them about Saint Peregrine’s Chapel at the mission, I told them that they should stop by and light a votive while seeking his intercession. 

When I was a little girl in Mexico, I remember my mom going to our parish daily and sometimes lighting votives.  I especially recall the fresh match smell and to this day I love the scent of matches it conjures such warm memories.  Today, in my house we have paschal candles that we light when we are going through difficult times, have important meetings, or as a sign of intercession for family or friends.  We also light it on significant occasions, especially when a loved one is dying or has died. 

Though, lighting a candle as a way to engage the mind in prayer is a good habit to have, to me lighting a votive has deeper meaning.  I either light one for deep felt intercessions or sometimes in thanksgiving for prayers answered.  Though some family members who are not Catholic have warned me that it’s superstitious thing to do and that God only requires a personal relationship – I do believe that sacramentals are important in deepening faith.  When I have challenges where I feel like things are so out of my control, it calms me to take that secondary action to light a candle as an expression of how deep I am relying on God.  Only special prayers are accompanied by the light. Only those prayers where I know my limitations and need to express to God in a way that words cannot do I light a votive.  The more serious the intention the more steps that I take to show God my need of Him.  When I feel desperate, then lighting one at home is not enough.  I must go to my parish and light one in the house of the Lord.

When I travel I am so thankful for the churches that still have the candles that require a match. In the area where I live most are electronic and light up at the push of a button.  To me there’s something quite spiritual in lighting that match, watching the smoke of the match dissolve into thin air in its place the flame illuminating my hopes.  I also really like the parishes that have candle stations in front of various saints because then I go crazy and ask the communion of saints to intercede like good friends to our God.  This weekend, I lit a candle for my student at the parish where I attended Mass and it gave me such a sense of relief, that though I cannot do much for my student I have a God who works miracles.      

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The Saint Francis Challenge

I needed motivation to get active and I heard of walking challenges so I decided to do a little research and see if there was an app that would connect me with some kind of physical activity to keep me accountable and most of all inspired.  That’s when I started looking into The Conqueror Application.  I downloaded it and was browsing through the trails that it provides, when I noticed that on the list were some spiritual treks.  There was of course the Camino de Santiago, but my heart skipped a beat when I saw that one of the called the Saint Francis Way.  My fingers were too quick to click on the description and as I read that the challenge would take me on a virtual 312 miles trek following the footsteps of my favorite Saint across the beautiful Italian countryside, I was quick to sign up for it.

I am now about a week into the challenge, and I am totally motivated to continue using the app until I reach my goal of arriving at the Vatican in Rome.  The app lets you decide on the pace you would like to go and I decided to set a goal of walking those miles in about three months because this is my first challenge and I want to make sure that I stick with it.  Every day, it takes the information from my Fitbit and calculates how far I have traveled.  On a map it shows my beginning point and how far away I have gone from it, it also shows points on the map where other travelers are at the virtual trek.  I can choose if I want to get involved in chatting with the rest of the people on the app, or whether I just want to walk on my own.  So far, I haven’t bee interreacting with the others and I prefer it that way, but it’s nice to see my progress as measured with the others for some reason it helps to keep me accountable and motivated.  There are virtual walkers who are going slow like me and others at a faster or even slower pace and that makes it a little competitive which sometimes I need.


The great thing about the app is that it also has, what it calls postcards and these cards come along every few miles and describe the place where you are and a little about Saint Francis (which I love the most)! I really enjoy that I am trying to get physically motivated, but also that I can add spirituality to the notion.  This just makes the trek, that much more special.  I feel like everyday I am on this journey with Saint Francis and we are in this together.  This is not just a challenge about getting physically active this is also about connecting with a spiritual giant and trying to learn more about him as I walk in his footsteps.  At the end of the challenge, the company will mail me a medal to commemorate my achievement. So far, I am really enjoying the process and I am thinking that it won’t be the only virtual pilgrimage that I go on, but for it being my first who better to go with me than Brother Francis!     

https://www.theconqueror.events/all-challenges/

Monday, January 10, 2022

Making the Time for Creativity

This year I want more to be more intentional about being creative.  For the past Covid years I have been living life trying to balance all the implications that an pandemic added to my life.  My job became so hectic that it eclipsed everything else.  This year, I have picked up this new motto that no work is coming home with me, that includes my thoughts, I will not fixate on all the things that I need to finish for school once I leave the site.  I have been using this technique, since I returned to work after Christmas Break and I am noticing that such a small change is really making quite a difference in my day to day.  I don’t feel this overwhelming shroud over me anymore because I am learning to compartmentalize things or maybe I am learning to set boundaries. 

All it took was something my boss said during our staff holiday lunch.  In her annual speech she said that she hoped we realized that there was more to work and to try to live our lives knowing that our family, loved ones and ourselves deserved our dedication too.  I had been so focused on my students and offering the best services possible and that became my entire focus and I was so miserable!  I felt like a robot only living to get my kids graduated during such uncertain times- this meant giving up on everything else because all of my energy was focused on doing a good job.  So, during break I began to do things that I hadn’t done since Covid hit and I realized that the more I balanced my life the more I felt like a balanced human being.

I finally restored a vintage, seventies Bottega Veneta bag that I found at The Salvation Army a couple years ago.  The bag had a big black ink stain to the faded tan leather and I knew that a dye job would restore it for another round of life.  I was able to dust my brushes and dye bottles during my time off and spend a whole day just working on the leather and bringing the bag back to its former glory.  It’s as if restoring this bag, helped reignite a fire that had burned out by the pandemic.  I began to get excited about equally frivolous things – like working on more leather projects and I felt joy.  Thus, I continued making small changes and I those small changes have reaffirmed that life needs to be about more than just work (smile).