Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Getting There

As poor as we were growing up, my parents always tried to do something nice for me and my brother at Christmas time. They always (and by they I mean my mom, but dad gets kudos for financially backing the ventures) really thought about what we would like and got just the right thing. We weren't the kind of kids that would make requests or ask for particular indulgences, we just waited to see what would happen. It never failed that our faces on opening the present or presents (depending on the economic stability of the year) would always light up. As nice as it was getting stuff, cause as a kid, opening presents is never unwanted, I think the best part was how incredibly appropriate the gifts were. Like the year I turned 13 and got a phone for my room. Or the year I turned 7 and got my first Jem and the Holograms doll. They worked it out with what they had man, and I will never forget to appreciate that.

This year, the part that I loved the most was watching my parents open their own presents. We've had hits in the past in so far as presents go, but my brother and I are finally getting to a place where we can make holidays and special occasions truly special. Both from an emotional and economic perspective, we've hit a new plateau. All I gotta say is that my parents deserve it. I mean hella deserve it. They have sacrificed so much in the name of pushing us ahead, I thirst for the day both my brother and I can send them on an all expense paid vacation.

I know that my parents don't need or want extravagances. It is not the people they are. Nor would I give just an extravagance for extravagance sake. They would rather fix up their little house and go on a walk with the dogs. But their faces at Christmas, man, it was like their hearts filled knowing their kids loved them enough to think about them. I gotta tell you, we always think about them. They imbued us with a love and culture that I struggle to find English words to explain. I was one of the very lucky ones.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

She Said I Prefer a Broken Neck...

This has been my favorite slam poem for awhile, but it just came up on youtube. Enjoy it guys! Its gorgeous.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Cagefight: Fundamentals About Race and Immigration We May Not Be Paying Attention To

Alright, so I have spent weeks at this point in time being pissed at this political issue and I gotta say something. I mean I really gotta say something.

Off the bat, I gotta admit, my filters on this, totally not clean. I was waiting til they cleaned up to write about it, but to hell with that. I just came from Guatemala and there are just some things about immigration and the current debate around it that make me so mad. The hypocrisy of it, its just ridic.

So number one with a bullet. I've been listenin to the debate on how people need to wait in the back of the line to come here and do things with process. How other people do it, why do they break a fundamental law and ignore policy.

So ya'll, its hard to understand this because we don't know poverty in this country in the way other countries do. But people in Latin America who come here are so poor they struggle to eat and have clean water. And coming here is the choice between breaking a law and death. You can be a doctor or lawyer or architect in Guatemala and still really struggle to make a living wage. You can go to college for 20 bucks a semester there, no joke, so people go, and it makes no to very moderate difference in the economic situation. They still feel like living there is condemning there kids to a life with very little hope. The transition into having money is about who you know. Not what you know. And though the same could be said here, the honest to God truth is, my parents struggled my whole childhood with making sure they kept food on the table and us in school, but I make more than my father does now. And I'm 26. I would love to be rich and make more but the fact of the matter is, I'm not going hungry (knock on wood).

I mean think about it guys, say you had to go to Germany with absolutely no money tomorrow or you and many of your family members would die or be close to dying. You choose Germany. This place, that you don't get what the heck people are saying, you have to do back breaking menial work, and the people don't want you there. But at the end of the day, as menial and as badly paid it is, you get to eat and drink. You get to send money back to the US so other people you love can eat and drink. And its actually possible for your kids to do something for themselves. I'm sorry Guttenag. I'd be out.

These are people we are talking about. And I'm not saying I want lawlessness, duh, I don't want this country to come under terrorist attack again, nor do I desire the end of our comforts. However, our debts and our problems have so many rich and layered reasons, we can't just blame it on this one. And when I listen to people running for office, they act like its a fix all. Its not even an iceberg. For example, there is the "Immigrants are this drain on our healthcare system" argument. So I'm not rocket scientist, but there are 45 million uninsured Americans out there and they have health problems too. 45 million is more than the entire brown and black population here. They gotta be having a bigger affect than 10 million people who are too afraid to step into a hospital out of fear of deportation. So don't tell me that's why we got problems. But you know what, most of these people are poor white people, and they hear the reason that they are uninsured is that we got people drainin our healthcare system and its a wrap. Because they don't get their needs addressed either. Because we are too busy tryin to blame someone.

Then there is the whole "they don't even pay taxes" bs. Which is like, hello, most of these people make so little money that they would get all of it back in income taxes if they were to file. When you add the fact that they pay property tax if they own a house, or they give rent to someone who pays property tax, the fact that everyone pays sales tax, illegal immigrants are actually putting a lot into systems they will never use. In fact $420 BILLION dollars of Social Security, comes from illegal immigrants. So ya, lets stop all immigration next year and see how our elderly population fares the following year. Meanwhile in the I make $97,500 and up category, people who make a living wage and then some, there is a cap on how much of their income is taxed on a year to year. So you can make 12 million buck one year, and get taxed just as much as someone making $100,000. Don't talk to me about not paying your fair share.

5% of all people in the military, are illegal immigrants. Cause apparently, even if we don't want you here, we'll put your life on the line when its convenient to us.

And finally my favorite, "They just make our schools worse cause they don't pay into them, but their kids use them" HA. Please. So back to that whole taxes thing. In this country, we pay for our schools by paying for our property taxes. So I'm not sure, but something tells me a very very small percentage of the people in this country illegally are actually not paying taxes that keep their kids in school. They are doing everything they can to make ends meet so they can quietly survive in the background and this, inadvertently, pays into the system. Cause its the brilliance of how we, a nation of immigrants, were developed.

My cousin, Jorge Mario, in Guatemala is 19. I love him. He's brilliant and I would love to pay for him to come here and visit me. However, he must have a certain amount of money in his bank account to even apply for that "visiting visa". And then, at the end of the day, if he shows up, gets the lottery that has him visit, and the guy at the front desk doesn't like the t-shirt he's wearing, they'll still reject him. And you talk to me about fairness. About justice. About being fair to the people who apply.

For those of you who grew up in the hood or work with the hood, you know how tough it is for people to do right, when what they worry about is how they keep their family afloat. I'm not saying its right, I'm not saying I understand it completely. What I'm saying is we are getting snowed. And in the process, the ethnicities of this country are getting split up and divided because its easier that we vote or act resentfully based on propaganda, cause everyone wants someone to blame. When really, there is hope here, we just keep getting fed the shit that makes us sad, cause then we won't act on what we can't fix. Cause that, really inconveniences someone with even MORE convenience then we got.

Oh God, it felt so good to get that out of my system. To hell with it being clean. Cause if you don't know, now you know.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Our Responsibility

So you guys know I just came back from Guatemala, and it was an amazing experience. While I was there I really looked at how we (as a country) impact the world around us. Having seen Guatemala's poverty, their beauty, and the goodness of my family; has motivated me in a whole new and different way, to make this place the kind of country I really believe in. This next election guys, its just about the most important one we've ever had. I really believe that whomever we collectively choose, will have ramifications on our lives for decades to come.

I have done lots of research for the last few weeks about the political candidates, both Democrat and Republican, and I can say that I fully believe that Barack Obama should be the next president of the United States. I can tell you the many reasons why I believe this and would be more than happy to articulate them for you, but that's not what this email is about.

This email isn't to ask you to vote for him in the primary (though I would love that) but its a genuine call to arms (and by arms I mean knowledge) to start educating yourselves on what the presidential candidates support, sponsor, and value. I challenge you to know about their stand with as much ease as you can sum up your own. I'm scared for us guys, scared and excited. Which I know sounds all sorts of crazy, but its the truth. We can't sit back and let the world be determined for us.

I know each of us is active in our own ways, and highly involved in the world around us and making it a better place. Which is why I sent this to you. But its not going to be enough if we don't start making our voices heard on this level, the level that determines the man or woman thats going to be our leader. The primary is just as important as the actual election. Don't let these next couple of months or even weeks go by without reading a damn thing about the people that we are going to place our lives/livielyhood into for the next 4 to 8 years. We deserve more then that.

We cannot in good conscious advocate for change on a local level and not advocate for our people to pay attention to the national level as well. It's like making sand castles on a beach and paying no attention to the waves (and in some cases the tsunami's) that are right behind us. These waves could create beauty or destroy the work we, in many cases, sacrifice parts our lives to do.

From the bottom of my heart to you my friends, please, pay attention.

I love you all very much,


PS I realize some of you are permanent residence and not citizens eligible to vote, however, I challenge you guys to get involved too. Your demographic will receive some of the biggest changes, be influencers in your world even if you can't cast a ballot. You never know the person that you educate and the impact their vote will have.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

A word on mosquito bites, plantations, and family as a way to sum up the Mayan Empire.

It is my fourth day back in the states and I woke up hella early today. I figured it was my bodies way of telling me it was time to write. The non-pen and paper kind of writing, but I digress. I've been reaching for a summation of my trip, a way of wrapping myself in the love that it gave me and using it to shawl me from the world I am about to step back into. But rather than trying to combine several stories from the trip, I thought I would tell just one, and see where I go from there.

About four days into my trip, I went to a "Finca", now I have no idea what a finca is when my family tells me where we are going. I am wearing a purple tank top and comfortable cotton skirt, we are in Barrios at this point in time and it is hot as a mofo in Barrios (though I hear I got off easy). I see no reason to change. I ask what a Finca is and all anyone can tell me is that there are lots of fields. So I say, what the hell, and head on out with a few cousins. Before I know it, I am in the most beautiful terrain I have ever seen. A mix between jungle and forest, depending on the stretch you are driving through. At some point my cousin in-law stops the car in what can only be described as a Lychee Forest. Huge mama jamma lychee everywhere in tons of different colors, lots of yellows, reds, red with green spindles, oranges, etc.

Now I'm hard headed, so when I'm told that it probably wouldn't be good to climb around in all of it, that there are many insects and mosquitoes and I may pay consequences, my response is "It will be worth it" (which I still believe). And so hiking through I go, parrots flying past me, mammoth butterflys the size of your hand, and the faint buzz of insects. I pick fruit and taste, and laugh as a chicken follows my dad.

The rest of it is an interesting experience, where as beautiful as the finca is, I cannot get over how the indigenous people in the fields are being treated. Young Mayan's seem to be working the land in a way my American ass can only interpret as "plantation". Which as beautiful as it is, makes it hard for me to see it as anything but that. Which I know isn't very culturally open, but on another post I can describe this in further detail. It made me a little heartsick. I did my best to not let it read to my family, who was really trying to show me everything beautiful in Guatemala. By the time my father told me that he had worked on a Finca as a young boy and so had many of our family members, I was ready to leave.

I get home and realize that I have in fact been highly bitten by mosquitoes. Only, these bites are larger and more swollen than I have ever had mosquito bites ever. One of my aunts says that if I was bitten by mosquitoes then they were of the mafioso variety. haha. My aunt who is a nurse there looks at them to be certain I have gotten no other dangerous insect bite and deems me fine but in for a lot of itching.

Now I'm not trying to be obnoxious, but I've traveled a lot, so a few mosquito bites, even bad ones, is a blip on my travel radar. My father on the other hand looks obscenely worried. For the remainder of the day he continues to look at me in duress as if watching the mosquito bites on my legs is painful. Now to his credit, it does look bad, evidenced below.

But his reaction surprises me. The father that I have known has always been ornery and slightly apathetic (I say this in the most loving way possible). After a day of trying to find things to calm the itching, Mama Mirta (my dad's aunt/oldest living relative I have/pseudo-grandmother/all around gutsy lady) says we should put menthol on my bites. This sounds like a good idea to me, I figure the menthol will cool the bites and I had been putting ice cubes on them when no one was watching to get some relief until then.

I put on the menthol all the way across my legs and my dad watches, grunts mildly at me, but says nothing. It takes me 5 minutes max to slap it on and provides me minimal but definite calm.

Later that night, after everyone had gone to bed, I was up writing in my journal and about to slather on some more menthol. My dad comes in the room and says "Ay mija, look at what they did to you. Your mother would kill me." I laugh and agree, but tell him I'm fine. But he asks me if he can put the menthol on my legs for me. I am so ready in that moment to say "No dad, I can do it, I can take care of myself, its only mosquito bites, I'm not a princess." But instead, I look at the worry lines creasing his forehead and ease myself back on my uncles couch and make room for him to sit as I think "don't let him not be your dad right now". And for the next 30 minutes my dad sits on the couch and one by one rubs menthol on each of my mosquito bites. He shakes his head in what can only be described as sadness as he looks at each one a throughly rubs the menthol into each as if he were preforming an important surgery. And it dawns on me then, 1 am, sitting on the couch of an uncle I've only known for days, in a tiny tiny tropical and rural port town in the south east of Guatemala, just how much my dad really does love me. It hurts him to see me with mosquito bites. And where as I was fully willing to brush them off as inconvenience and take a minimal 5 minutes to take care of them, my dad thinks its worth 30 minutes of his time to try and make it better. Now for those of you who are familiar with my father, haha, you know he isn't the most expressive man. He has a gruff exterior and its tough for him to say I love you unless severely prompted and it takes him years to allow any new people in his life, his expression in the states is usually one that verges on scowl. So you can see, how a girl as emotional and expressive as I am, was a toughy for him to handle. But that night, and many other moments on the trip, I was struck by how in our baggage as father and daughter, I had not ever truly understood just how much my dad loves me, even if its hard for him to say it. I am loved.

Family in Guatemala is just different than in the states. There is a different way that family relates to each other. They talk and become friends and rely on each other. When one family member hurts the whole family does and when one family member has joy the whole family rejoices. Older people are treated differently. They are spoken to with a different regard and importance. Like you know your time with them is limited and you are blessed to learn whatever you can. It is not rare to see a group of people in conversation that spans at least 3 generations. In a household where there is no father, there is almost certainly an uncle that guides a boy into manhood. And at very least in my family, they go from being Tio to Papa. It is not rare that a family overwhelmed with children has one child raised in the grandparents home.

All of this is necessary to even get by in Guate. Because really, you can be a doctor, lawyer, nurse and still be absolutely poor. The pooling of resources both emotional and economic within the family becomes a way of surviving as much as a way of life. For sometime, they need each other, and in needing each other, they begin to want each other around too. And though my dad was pulled from all this love and support at a very young age and put in homes and orphanages until coming to the United States, this is where his base was created. Everything he learned about being a dad got packed into the first 8 to 9 years of his life. It is heartbreaking but important for me to remember that. Because the knowledge that that nine year old boy soaked in about family and all the bruises and trauma that followed created the man who sat at my legs and dedicated 30 minutes every night for 5 nights to provide his daughter with comfort.

There are so many stories I have been privy to in the last three weeks. So many. Rich and beautiful stories. Stories about my revolutionary great-grandmother "La Abuela", that hid propaganda in tortillas to help Pancho Villa, the Mexican revolutionary, spread the gospel of the need for change for the poor. Stories about her exile and escape from her mother country. Stories about the loss of her 13 children and her immediate jump to raise all her grandchildren in their absence. Stories about my 10 aunts and uncles and their upbringing in steep poverty but rich experiences. Stories that are full of immense pain and tremendous pride at what each of them had to do to guarantee survival for the rest. And how they always always minded the rest.

No doubt, I'm American. I have the optimism, idealism, and privilege that defines my ability to really embrace and take on the world. My sense of justice was created here because justice can prevail in our society, even if present governance tells us otherwise from time to time. It is nowhere near what we see in other countries.

I understand now, perhaps better than at any time in my life, that I am Guatemalan and Mexican. I am fundamentally tied to my culture. To a people whose ruins remain more amazing than any modern day building I have seen. Linked to traditions and values created out of struggle and hope. I am loved by them. I was loved by them before I ever was even born. And they fought for themselves, each other and my future. And now I get the distinct honor of being their historian. Making sure that my kids, my students, and my friends know where they come from.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Crazy Thoughts

I had a someone ask me how I felt about forgiveness. I immediately answered "good, uh, most of the time, uh, it depends." And now, weeks after the question, I sit here and fully get that that particular response means that I'm pretty crappy with it. The good news for all those concerned, very rarely do I think people do things so bad, that forgiveness is necessary. I leave room for people's humanity, the mistakes they make just because we make mistakes as people. I love the utterly flawed and aware. My ability for empathy is so big, I think a key to it, is really accepting other people for what they are.

I chose to take a few days before my vacation to sit and mentally prep myself for what it looks like to be with my extended family in Guatemala, what 2 weeks with my father looks like, thinking about what I want to gain from really 3 weeks without the constant pressure of work.

Here is the thing about sitting and thinking. You get all sorts of crazy thoughts. Left to my own devices, thats what happens, crazy thoughts. I somehow manage to blame myself for every mildly inconvenient to traumatic thing that has happened to myself, my friends, and my family.

This of course brings me back to thought number one, I'm crap at forgiveness. I wonder if the people who live life good, I mean real good, thats what they get a handle on. How to forgive themselves for their humanity. How you take the pieces and look at yourself as utterly flawed and incredibly beautiful is a mystery worth solving. I can do it for others, I'm just puzzled as to how. If I could crack that, how I do that, I might have a shot at turning the same kindness around for me. This way, on the first Monday morning off I can remember, prepping myself for my first vacation in years, I wouldn't be mulling my crazy thoughts and my crap forgiveness. haha.

May your crazy thoughts not inundate you today, peace and quiet is so hard to come by after all, you wouldn't want to kill it with your own brain. ;c)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Life of Incredible Succulence

I am absolutely in love with the word succulence. Thank you Nia Mclean for bringing it into my life as a requirement of personal description.

I have been up for 30 minutes on an early Sunday morning with songs in my heart. I find when those are there, I must write them down. The songs don't come every day, and I encourage you all to write down your songs as well. The world needs them.

I'm reading this book called Succulent Wild Women and the way this woman writes, half stream of consciousness and half purposeful reflection, inspires in me a way of being I often leave in a corner.

Ya'll I'm about to be as honest as I can be. I am going to write down all the worst and best things about myself I can identify as a way of releasing them into the world, not letting them be locked inside of me. This comes neither from narcissism nor horrible self-esteem. It comes from an acknowledgement that everything in me touches on beauty and it is okay. It is actually okay for you too, everything in you touches on beauty as well, love. Allow yourself to touch and be touched, and yes that sounds dirty, but I love that I don't care.

Some of the things that I think are the worst: I can't help but loving to talk everything out, sometimes, you leave well enough alone, and I can't. I have very little self-restraint. That last cookie, I eat it; that phone call to the him you shouldn't make, I make it; the snooze button, I push it. That being said, I am self-indulgent (which maybe does make this narcissistic). I allow being a survivor to hurt for at least 10 hours in each day and I don't know how to stop. I am at once too emotional and not emotional enough. I do not allow myself to carry the full cycle of emotion, I stop it just in time to feel sorry for myself. When I pass gas, its a horrendous unladylike smell and I don't always own that it comes from me. I am utterly human with no ability for perfection, though I am a perfectionist, just so I can criticize myself. I am a slob and really have to put an effort into making sure that I don't just drop every article of clothing right where I undress. I want a bigger world than my family has known, and I want it at least 10 hours out of every day. I wallow with judgment, so as were most people could wallow and then get over it, I wallow and judge myself the entire time. The division of the two lets me victimize myself a little too much. I'm a huge fan of baths I never take. I will go entire days having eaten once because I am too self-important to make room for food. As much as I've been through I still take unnecessary risks to prove that I am independent. I own books I do not finish. I think I know it all. I don't let myself get angry. I love dancing and exercising but I get too lazy to go and do it everyday.

Now I challenge myself to make the next list just as long.

Here are some of the best:
I think the world is sooo beautiful sometimes, I will celebrate it in my room alone. The celebration is a better dance party than you find in most clubs and I need no one but myself to have it. I am a true friend. When other people find good fortune I genuinely do not feel it makes me less than, I get so proud, so as not to seem silly, I'll go to the bathroom and shed tears of joy. They are my tears, I shed them privately and they are full of beauty. My eyes are magically trained to give empathy. I can look at a child or an adult and have a pretty good instinct of where the hurt comes from. I know people. On very good days I radiate light. I bring community into the world and allow people to remember the root of family. I truly accept and encourage imperfection in others. I wear perfume on my wrist so that I can sniff it at any time in the day and love that I smell good. I wear perfume on the nape of my neck as much for myself as for anyone who may hug me. I love to comfort. I am a great hugger, I give embraces full of life, warmth and tenderness. I love to learn. I read as much as I can. I love to sleep. Good sleep is my favorite thing in the entire world. When I kiss, I nibble, as if tasting my partners lips is the most delicious thing I can think of doing in that very moment... because it is. I'm feisty. I am as much of a girls girl as a guys girl. I do not feel intimidated by good women, I revel in them and encourage their brilliance and succulence. I respect the male heart, its genuineness, its difference from the female heart. I truly love in men how well intentioned they can be in their want for adventure, to protect, to rescue, and even to conquer. I sing at the top of my lungs no matter who is in the car. When I sing, I put my heart into my voice, not because I try but because my heart is so big, it has to find other ways of jumping into the world. I dress up for myself, because I love watching the end product for me. I love to cook, and I cook wonderfully. I bring flavor into the world.

Main Entry: 1 suc·cu·lent
Pronunciation: -l&nt
Function: adjective
1 a : full of juice : JUICY b : moist and tasty : TOOTHSOME a succulent meal; of a plant : having fleshy tissues that conserve moisture
2 : rich in interest

Give yourself love today. (I say this as much for myself as I say it for you)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Oh Dad...

I was in my parents home for about 36 hours this last weekend. A home that is as familiar to me and as foreign to me as any place can possibly be. My parent’s home has gone through refurbishment ya’ll and its beautiful to see. I look at how proud my mom is showing me all the new pieces; the wood floors, the new mats on each wooden step, the virtually new kitchen. I believe she has repeated to me the decision for each piece, the rationale behind the purchase and the path to the purchase at least 3 or 4 times per piece. I can absolutely count on certain other stories from my mom too. I know that in stepping into the house I will hear of how loyal our dog Tyson is and he follows her everywhere, how my father has acquired a new cat (the newest one is called Leonel for anyone keeping track), I’ll hear about how hard of a worker my brother is and most definitely I will hear about how my grandmother nags her all the time.

And as the stories have become staples, the conversations with my father have become more and more sparse. We acknowledge each others presence. I give him a hug, ask him how he is, he grunts some response and goes back to watching television.

Its been particularly cold as of late because since my assault in April, he has yet to ask me how I am doing. Not a one time has he inquired into how I am doing. I wait for phone calls that never come and am naively hopeful every time that I speak to my mother that he will at least ask a question through her – but he doesn’t.

I try not to put my mom in the middle of our beef, its not fair, but she is naturally concerned that her life partner and their progeny do not communicate. In this last trip, my mom let me know that he was mad at me, because I hadn’t called him since April. She says this and my mouth drops “What? Are you kidding me mom?” I feel the wave of sadness wash over me. “Mija, he says that you don’t call him and ask him how he’s doing.” I breathe, not letting the tears prickling my eyes go any further, these tears are unfair to my mother. How do I say this “Mama, I was sexually assaulted and he hasn’t once asked if I’m okay. Not once since. And he’s mad at me because I don’t call him to see how he’s doing?” “I know mija. I’m so sorry. I try to tell him. He just shuts down.” And I watch as tears fill her eyes, because she can’t give me the one thing I want, comfort from my father. “Don’t mama, its not your responsibility, this is me and Dad’s love to figure out.” I smile and tell her that I love her and that I love him. I know he isn’t a bad person, it just hurts.

Knowing this new nugget of information, I swallow my pride and go to him. I say hello daddy, how are you daddy, can I get you anything daddy. And there he sits, unmoving, years of hurt stapling him to a couch with his eyes trained on a television. He makes minimal conversation back and turns coldly back to his one true friend, a screen that doesn’t talk back. It is pain so mutually deep, over years of distance that I can feel it pierce me. I go to the bathroom and grip the sink, shedding the tears that are also familiar to this home. “Let it go,” I tell myself, “He just doesn’t know how to be the adult.”

When dinner comes, he elects to watch TV by himself in his room while the rest of the family sits around the dinner table. And I force myself to not be hurt. But its deep ya’ll. With my dad, it’s not even the stuff he says that hurts as much as what he doesn’t say but puts in a room.

My dad’s always been the kid in our relationship. His responses when approached in conversation are always the kind of responses that you would expect to get from a sullen teenager. I don’t say this disrespectfully, just factually. It’s always about how he was hurt, why he doesn’t care, why the other person is in the wrong. There is no self reflection, no ownership over his role. And for awhile, this was just hard. I wanted to be the teenager. I wanted to be the kid and it was a role that I never had. Not as a kid, definitely not as an adult.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not ungrateful for the father I have. He came home every day, he put food on the table, he never lifted a hand to my mother and he hugged us. This is more than many can say and I do not take that in vein. It’s just for a long time I needed my dad in ways he couldn’t give to me. I craved a father that would emotionally comfort me and tell me I was his little girl. But I think I’m past that age. It’s not really about needing him anymore. It’s about wanting him. I actively want him to be a part of my life. I think about it constantly throughout the day. I want to know him and exchange friendship with him the way my brother does.

I decided recently to go to Guatemala with my father. My father’s homeland and the place that contains the history that created my father into his current incarnation.

Going to Guatemala is another attempt and to some extents my last to get to know my father at another level.

I’m surprised that it doesn’t hurt more to write this. I would think that it would be painful knowing the last respites of my energy in this particular subject have a timeline. There is finality to it that I really hope I stick to. It helps me breathe through it a little more. I have spent the better part of my adult life dealing with daddy issues. You know, there comes a time when you have to say “fuck it”. I refuse to spend my life crawling to a father figure that has no desire to know me. I can’t keep waiting for him to want to open a space for me. He loves me, that is enough. Liking me is not an obligation that I have to lay out like a grand golden hoop. It’s unfair in a way. But Lord do I ever pray for joy on that trip. If not joy, peace. And if not peace, more reasons to hope.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Homage to Bobby

Tonight, as I struggle to get a few hours of sleep before a big flight, I'm restless because I can't stop thinking about Bobby.

You see, in high school, I had this amazing group of friends. Our history teacher dubbed us the brat pack, and a brat pack we were. We were this bizarre collection of random ass people. It was me and Michelle (the former yet still attached to the ghetto, latina girls), Eric (our fearless, yet at the time closeted ring leader), Ricky (our resident videographer), Miley (our actress and eccentric), Valerie (our athletic wonder girl), and Arron (our dumb blonde and resident white girl, and I say this only because she would beat me to the punch).

Now each of us came from INCREDIBLY different life circumstances, I mean we should have essentially never been friends. Except we all reveled in our differences, hated high school dramatics, and ultimately loved each other dearly. Our families loved each other too. They invited us all over, spoke to each other at big events and from time to time broke bread together.

We were a community. And because of each other we survived. As adults, though we don't maintain as close contact, we all just need to be in the same room together to really laugh and let go.

Today, I found out that one of our mothers, Arron's mom, Bobby passed away.

I think I spent hours in shock today. I cannot imagine how Arron is feeling. I want to be able to grab her and hug her and let her know that she has family everywhere.

Bobby was without a doubt one of the coolest mom's I have ever met. She was one of those mom's that you could be totally and completely unfiltered with and she would still look at you like she was proud. She gave us all love. I mean huge quantities of it. She carted us around in her car, let us hang out in her living room being obnoxious teenagers. And on random nights of teenage sleepovers, she knew how to balance being a member of the group and being a parent that would let her kids have space. She had the greatest sense of humor and not in that cliche "she was so funny" kinda way. In the, when you were around her you couldn't help but give a full throaty, clutch my belly cause it hurts laugh.

As an adult, I realize now more than ever, how difficult some times in our childhood were for Bobby. So many countless moments that I can reflect on her baring down and trudging through. Yet as kids, we never knew, she never told us. She always had a smile on her face and let us be kids. Which is more than many adults in our lives afforded us.

I have this memory that I've been thinking about all day. I had spent the night at Air's house, Air was in the shower. I was sitting on Arron's bed listening to some awful pop music and Bobby comes in the room. We start chatting and randomly she says to me "Ya'll are such beautiful girls." I laughed it off, really not able to accept compliments that heartfelt at that stage in my life. And she stopped me, she pointed to the bathroom door and said "My girl, she's amazing, I mean crazy and a loon, but she's amazing. And ya'll love so much. I can't wait for ya'll to see. You are both such beautiful girls." It was the first time anyone besides my mom called me beautiful. And I felt it. I felt how much she meant it. I felt it from the top of my awkward teen head to the tip of my toes. I remember blushing and her saying "Oh don't be such a goober, you'll get it some day."

So that's the Bobby I remember, brash, ballsy and fantastic. The first parent I knew who got how important it was to be a kid, a raving lunatic, a girly girl, and a ballsy mo fo from time to time.

Thank you for loving us Bobby. For showing us that it was okay to mess up and start over again. For encouraging us to collect as many mistakes as successes. For unconditionally loving Air enough for two parents. Even from years away, I see the impact that you made on lives. I hope that where ever you are, you are having much peace and a good laugh.

All my love,

The one formerly in pig tails

Friday, August 17, 2007


I am the kind of mofo that really cannot be happy unless she is pushin herself to another level. Sometimes, in early morning, when I am trying to wrap my brain around who I became, I wonder... why can't I just be happy with what I am and give myself a break every once in awhile. It's crazy, that quest, to be better. Because better you see, is intangible. You never achieve better. You wrap your arms around and hug it. You can't taste better. You most definitely can't see better.

Maybe that is where the problem lies. How do you rework your person to be satisfied with what you are currently, instead of seeking better? Is that how it works? Is that the key to it all? Figuring out how you lay off and just let yourself be who you are?

Yesterday, I grew to be excited about my job again. I can't really go into specifics yet. But more and more I realize how my role can make change on a really large scale. Its really about motivating people and making them as passionate for better for our kids as possible. And I do say our because I think we are a community and we are all responsible. I had this familiar ache in my stomach after the conversation I am referring to. I couldn't figure out what it was for a bit, but as I laid in bed last night, it came to me. It was mild "can I do this?" anxiety, mingled with excitement that I had another way of challenging myself to be... thats right... better.

I guess the perks to this is that recently, I added the personal bucket to the better paradigm. It's allowed me to take leaps I have never taken before. I was inspired by a friend, who seems so at ease with himself most times, that I have to just pause and be in awe every once in awhile. I mean don't get me wrong, I've seen him riddled with insecurity and doubt too. But its different for him, it all comes when it comes and you don't have control over that in his philosophy and that is just a totally different way of being for me.

Tomorrow, I take my first cross country flight by myself in over 6 months. For those of you who know me well, or at least read this blog, you know what a big deal that is for me. I'd be lying if I didn't say that this flight doesn't mean reclaiming my independence for me.I know I shouldn't make it into such a big deal but I can't help it. It's the build-up to being "better" again.

So as I struggle with the deamons of "not enough" I pray for the understanding to relax into myself and accept the beauty that I help create. May the Gods of logic and rationality win out and help me believe in the present as much as I do the future.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Men Of My Life

I have a wonderful beautiful group of friends. I'll be the first to tell you, I'm not the kind of girl who says the phrase "I just like hanging out with guys. Me and girls totally don't get along". I know that female, and usually it comes from a deep fear of strong women. Not always, there are exceptions, but I have found that that is pretty much what you get. My female friends sustain me, give me permissions for my heart, fortify and mother me in ways I find hard to do myself.

That being said, my male friends are a different breed. They are seriously the most amazing men. Just the most wondeful amazing men. I'm a lucky girl. Today, I spoke to a record breaking 6 of them in one day. And I gotta tell you, it was great to have them.

There is something about the male heart that just floors me. Not that its so much different from the female one, but it at once one of the most vulnerable, playful, and heartbreakingly beautiful things I ever see. Oh these brothers of mine, with the ties that bind them to preconceived beliefs of what the word "man" means. How they fight to find their true selves among the depictions of dominance and infallibility around them.

One of them today, just broke my heart. I see his fight and I so honor it. Its the struggle that everyone goes through to find happy. As his voice broke, ironically enough, I felt relief. It was only then that I felt he was allowing of himself to be true to the amazingly beautiful soul he was blessed with. In his struggle, I found hope that he was finally starting to see what the world around him saw. A tender spirit with love to give and receive.

Another one, he just made me smile. I think he sensed the heavyness I have been carrying and just brought to me joy. This man knows how to make me laugh. We sang to eachother silly theme songs of cartoons long forgotten. And with him, I find myself able to be the kid I never get to be. The one that is truest to my most authentic self. And for that and so much more, I feel blessed by him more with every passing day. He is a highlight.

So ya man, these men, these beautiful men. With hearts full of laughter and pain the world barely gives them the shot to express. I'm so lucky to be able to see them, hear them, feel them and love them. They remind me that all the spirits of boogie men past do not carry as much weight as strengths as the battalion of my guards and confidants in the present. They show me with their mere prescence, that kindness is not a female exclusive trait. That redemption, is something everyone is seeking. That life, is something everyone is struggling with.

And I trust them, oh do I trust them. There is gold in them. Warmth that is just unbelievable. Strength that is just unmeasurable. And for this and so much more. I cherish them. These men in my life. These beautiful men.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Like a Brandy song... Brokenhearted

Friends, I am nursing a broken heart. No man in particular is responsible for it (that revolving door hasn't slowed enough to cause that kind of hurt as of late). As silly as it may sound. I am fully and completely in love with the world around me. And lately, its done some jacked up stuff to and around me. So tonight, for one night, I am grieving the broken heart I feel as a result of my partner, the world.

At once, you have given me everything, every worthwhile connection, salve and fragment of hope. Yet in gasping breaths you have also caused me the most physical, mental and emotional hurt I could ever imagine. I have watched first hand and experienced things that have shaken me to my core, left me in despair and thrown me for a loop. I lay here at 1 am recovering from the savage way you have ripped a part pieces of me. So ruthlessly in the last 3 years you have taken safety, love and peace. I wish world. I wish I could hate you. I want to so bad, just cast you aside. Remove myself from your sphere. Close down my boundaries and put up my walls and never let you penetrate at the level of intensity that I do.

Yes here I lay, knowing that I cannot do that to either of us. You hold too much beauty for me to walk away. I have too much yet to learn. When my heart finishes mourning and grieving. I hope to be in a space of forgiveness. Not only with you but with myself. How I have attacked and punished myself for ever having let you get this deep, this entrenched in my soul. How I have critiqued myself for caring this much and being so intricately involved with parts of your healing that I neglected to vigilantly guard my own.

Tomorrow, when I wake, may I be healed. At least in the smallest fraction. Let me feel more whole, show me that I am not lost. Help me move forward, help me move on. May the scars serve only to remind me the path of the warrior. That I may not forget the courage it takes to face you. The power it takes to not conquer but commune with you. Provide in me the light needed to feel grace. May I find a song so sad, that I connect so deeply as a result of you, that I can sing my pain away.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Tatoo... not the midget

So I think I found her... ain't she cute! I have wanted a tatoo for years. But said I would never do it without a reason, never with an embarassing symbol. Something I was guaranteed to always appreciate. This is the Mayan symbol for a Quetzal. It has a sun-disk shield on the front of its body. The Quetzal symbolized the movement of Creation and the will of the Creator come to earth. Which I think is beautiful. I like that it has a sun shield, like all the bright pieces of the world protect her, regardless of the hurt. To quote Jonathan Larson, "The opposite of war isn't peace, its creation." And friends, I believe in creators, healers and change makers. I'm gonna soak it in for about a month. I will get it on the anniversary of my survivors celebration. June 29th.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Choosing A Movement

Once, someone told me that my scope and capacity could only be so big. If I tried to work on healing the world, I had o choose my mission and run full strength on that mission. The person, said that there, maybe, I could make impact.

This bugs me.

Mainly because I see the world so fractured in so many ways that I feel a human responsibility to act.

For the first four years of my work in service, I chose to work with young children, helping them have a childhood. You see, for me, a group of friends (one young man in particular) gave me that gift. And though it may seem inconsequential, knowing what life could be like burden-lite was a motivator for me. And in tough moments a safe haven I rolled around in. So logically, mission number one, was doing the same.

From there I chose to do work on the ground with high school students to get them into college. This was/is one of the greatest blessings of my life. The more work I did the more I realized that it was at least in part my calling. There will never be a year in my life, where in some way, shape or form, I do not do this. College access to me, is the grand equalizer. Where you can go from being a young woman born and bred in a low-income community and be given the gift of choice. The world, looming before me after my college graduation was at once the scariest and most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I could do, at that point, whatever I wanted. And so many people had invested in me, it made sense to invest in the communities that shaped me.

Very recently, my role in this has changed. I now seek, identify and motivate other change makers and get them involved for the same causes that grew, challenged and reinvented me. It is my great honor to be a red kool-aid peddler. And I'm good at it btw, solely because my product helps create more whole individuals both on the student and volunteer end. My true and unwavering belief that this is the case, makes me want to yank people off of streets and get them active.

This all brings me to this week. Where I sat in a room with 1,000 other people listening to a call to arms around the cause of Darfur. It took one statement. One, to literally get me to lose sleep the last few days. "Women are in charge of cooking. To cook they need firewood. To get firewood they must go into the brush with the Janjaweed militias. At this point they are in danger of being raped repeatedly. To feed their families, these women must risk rape every single time they walk out of their door." And that one phrase, hurt my heart so deep, I sat the rest of the night hearing the phrase echo in my head. Fighting tears, even when engaging in other conversations. I now must figure out what action looks like.

I am a 6 time survivor of sexual assault. And in my worst moments, it feels more than any human (not woman, human, I have known quite a few male survivors at this point and I honor their path as well) should ever have to bear. The long term repercussions of this violence have left scars I have to wrap my brain around every day. It is my struggle not only in selecting, opening up to and trusting men. But my struggle in everything. My own personal safety, my self-identity. I constantly ask myself to stay aware of filters this abuse could be affecting. I refuse to live a half life running from the skeletons or closing my doors to them and that makes life just a little harder. So to hear that a woman, half way across the world, has to live with that fear more intensely, and bear its repercussions more literally every single day and every single time she fulfills her maternal instinct to feed her home, it absolutely floors me. It makes me want to scream at the top of my lungs to make good people stop and fight on their behalf.

I write this to say, I can't choose one movement, I am a heart divided. There has to be more that one human being can do well. I am in a period of new education of a new issue that I am sure to take on as my own. How? I'm not sure yet. But I can't sit here and pretend that this injustice isn't happening now that I have been made aware. Now I just have to figure out what I do.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Precipice

I met this musician a couple of weeks ago, I've seen him preform three times. His gift is so gorgeous and has such depth. When I first approached him to tell him how much I appreciated it, I knew instantly that he couldn't yet fathom how powerful and gifted he was. But it's great to see people on the precipice you know? There is something about that ledge before you just swim in who you were born to be that just amazes and delights me. WIthout even knowing him I know the coming months are going to be one of ledge balancing for him. But I didn't wanna come off like a weirdo, so I didn't say anything. haha.

Last night he said in conversation "I don't know you know. I just don't know where I'm going." and as he said it, I don't think he even believed it. When you have gifts like that, you know. You try to deny it for a long time because of what those gifts mean. But they are such a piece of your fabric.

I met this anthropologist that is in the same place. His gifts are so there for everyone to see. But I could tell he has this "Why was I given these pieces, now what do I do with them?" There is such crippling doubt there. And I can tell he's in the middle of a soul search, I wish I could say "yo, its gonna be okay. You have been chosen. Scary but doable." But really, people don't need that, cause at base. You know. I mean if someone else can see you and know, you know.

People are so beautiful.

My Tia gave me a sarape once. It has beautiful colors in it. When you take your time and really look at it, I mean really look, those colors are amazing in there vibrance. They have almost a glitter to them. When put together, they are a comfort for me and a couple of generations of women before me. I think it's this thing you could probably skip over, but it's art is art.

I think people are just like that. Just brilliant and vibrant but if you aren't really watching. You could miss it. That moment when the folds of their colors open up and put the light in them that they were meant to bless the world with.

The tough part is accepting that about yourself right? I mean who am I? And that humility is a blessing and curse at the same time. Almost like that "Who let me sneak in and do this? Obviously I came under the radar." And when you are at the precipice, its scary, because you just start to understand your purpose, and purpose is great and hella freaky.

But damn, that ledge is like staring into art before it gets created. To all the people that I see at that ledge, I just honor your journey. Light the world up mofo's cause it needs it. It needs you.

Acting Like I'm 21 on Easter Weekend

So I just got home from my Friday evening. My body is totally wiped. I have to rally though, I got stuff to do and you can't ignore a sunny day in San Francisco, its a sin and being Easter Sunday. Can't be sinnin.

Every once in awhile, I think you need a weekend where you just kinda while out and have fun. I can't say I'm a major partier, I love things that are fun and low-key (very SF). Well, thats not totally true, I go through phases. But I got my dance on fierce this weekend, =c) And it was really good times. My liver will be in recovery for a second, but what can you do.

I gotta tell you, I love being a girl. Everything about it is so appealing to me. I love dressin up, I love dancin around, and as independent as my ass is, if I'm honest with myself, I love all the stereotypical girly things. At the same time, I really enjoy being the kind of girl that will take one outfit and rework it three ways, not make a fuss about it and keep charging through and having fun. I know I have a strong uber-feminine presence and I love the hell out of it.

As any one of my overthought ramblings I did tons of thinking with Andra this weekend. Thank God for growing man. I love the place I'm in. My heart aches sometimes for the girl I used to be. But not aches in a feel sorry for her way, more like a "it's okay boo boo, it gets better" kinda way. It's crazy to comprehend how blind you are to yourself sometimes. All the great pieces just seem to be laid to the weigh side. It took me 25 years to acknowledge myself as a pretty girl. That's 25 years of wanting to rework my face and body into someone else's version of beautiful. It is obscene how tiring that is. That doesn't mean I don't wanna keep working on myself physically, I think out of respect to myself, I want to do that. But to even just marginally let go of some of that baggage is like breathing in a different way.

Thank God that I get to dip back to having fun the way I did in less "preoccupied" times, but can still have the heart and knowledge that I grew into.

Good Easy Days

So my night was great and so was my day. They deserve homage sometimes, those really good days.

Woke up on Andra's couch
Saw the Devil Wears Prada and quoted lines with Andra
Got up and went to Cafe Lo Cubano
Talked about every topic under the sun over a havana chicken sandwich
Drove back to Andra's apartment to get my iPod
Blasted Dez Hope music while Andra drove us to the movies
Went to the mall and tried on perfumes
Watched 300 on IMAX (Thouroughly enjoyed abdominal muscles that were 15 feet high)
Played at the MAC counter with new gay boyfriend Jason who does great makeup
Decided we needed to go out dancing
Drove back, still talking about everything under the sun
Went to Walgreen's so we could buy hygenie supplies (esp toothbrush for me)
Carefuly took a shower making sure not to get my newly makeup'ed face wet
Put on dirty yesterday clothes on newly good smelling body
Had another glass of Bailey's and Milk (as God intended milk to taste)
Danced around Andra's apartment
Now will head to Medjool to enjoy tunes with newly good smelling body in yesterday smelly clothes. haha

I love good days, every once in awhile, they should be recorded for posterity. Hope you had a good one too. =c)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Strong Women

As a woman you create so much of your identity based on the women you have in your life. Everything that you do, everything you are, you get permission for by the women that surround you. Now, don't get me wrong, this doesn't mean that you are sitting there waiting for approval (at least if you're lucky and grounded you aren't). But you are a girl and you have these thoughts that society never gives you permission for. Everything about you and who you are in your assertiveness, your sexuality, and your emotions is created in tandem with the women around you as you all help create each other. I would say that we aren't raised with a sense of easy disclosure. I'm not even sure if this makes sense but its like, there is this sisterhood to womanhood and you realize you aren't a freak when you are around women that show you, "hey, you are totally normal."

I have been blessed with strong women. At all ages I have just had these partners and sisters in my gal pals. I trust the women in my life implicitly. I know they keep my secrets, bring my game up, push my boundaries, call me out, esteem my gifts, and encourage the "fun" me. I have so much inner monologue, the "fun me" part is actually pretty important.

So I write this particular blog entry as an homage to those women. Thank you for showing me that its okay to be me. For having enough security in yourselves and who you are to encourage my growth and not be intimidated by it. For being just as good on your own as you are with men. But mostly, for honoring this sisterhood with your hearts and honesty. Thank you for teaching me and my scars that its okay to be sexy, ballsy, bawdy, independent, dependent, soft, emotional, fierce, scared, scarred, ghetto, classy, smart, silly and at peace. I owe you my life for giving me permission to be myself. And the beautiful thing about you all is that you are always so adamant about showing me that we owe each other nothing but that this is the way it should be. I concur.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Obviously Pretty Girls Part Two

I am not an obviously pretty girl. I may have explained this distinction before but in the event I haven't, an obviously pretty girl is the kind of girl that the world readily, speedily, and many times overtly acknowledges as beautiful. Not in the, wow, she's a full package kinda way. Not in the, she cleans up good, kinda way. Not in the, when you look at her when she talks she's beautiful kinda way. Obviously pretty girls have the body (thin/big boobs/tall or petite), the features, but mostly, they are the women that from a very early age were told over and over how pretty they were. So the muscle they developed there was the one that let them lean on their looks to get what they want. In short its the attitude. They know how to use it to their advantage.

And don't pretend like you haven't met that girl more than a handful of times. Fellas, you in particular seem to fall all over yourselves when you meet her. She can also be the "super cute" girl. So cute you just wanna squeeze her and put her in your pocket. Which is why she, like OP girl, can get away with ANYTHING... at least until you get sick of being dragged around on a leash. That is not to say that an OPG couldn't extend way past this. In fact, most...if not all of them do. But I watch consistently as my sisters in this camp struggle, cause guys have a hard time calling them out on their shit. Mostly because of the validation tied to having them on their arm.

Now before anyone tries to tell me, that this is a low self-esteemy/judgemental/self-effacing/mean thing to say... I'm not saying I'm not pretty. I'm just saying I've never been raised as an OPG. I'm the presence girl. The one that gets prettier as you get to know her because she's got so much in her. Not to say that I'm bad to look at, its just not the muscle I developed to lean on. We all have those muscles I believe. It just depends on where we create it. I think one of the first ones we build as women (and maybe even as men?) is the pretty muscle or the personality muscle.

I would venture to say that obviously pretty girls have many times a tougher time with the issues attached to that particular social sect than the rest of the population. At least I would rather have the issues that are attached with my side of the green grass. I can't imagine being constantly and consistently identified as a sexual object. Which of course, has its roots in many of the things I write about regularly, but I digress.

I feel as a "regular" girl you get the shot to work your way into different arenas. You get to develop your other muscles so much, you have to work harder... for everything. You get to flesh out who you are with the world around you, instead of with the people who can see more to you than the validation your presence provides.

I dissect this only because I've really been looking at the muscles I've developed lately. What they mean and how I could develop the others. Is it an innate attitude do you think or is it a learned behavior from validation in a certain area? I'm curious. Are you born to be that person or do you become her/him? Just a few things to ponder.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

To Write

I have a poets words but not a poets bravery
Miles of paper inked with my heart in drawers hidden from the eye,
I turn to these blank pages for peace and watch as they save me

In stacks of red leather, embroidered flowers, flip book, composition black and white
My gift stands untouched and unjudged by the world
There in their pages exists a reserve of warmth, power, spite, love and anger

Emotions so strong they are indescribable
At night I lay in prayer hoping that my children never feel this level of pain
Only to wake and believe this level of love is the genetic gift I am born to pass down

Verses so caged they fight against the societally trained walls of my being
Then my heart opens, purges and flys
Allowing my words to glide at such altitudes I swear they summon rain

I stand in the mist of their tribal call feeling purified
Moments of bliss surrounded by the freedom of letting go, drenched in my own song
Only to watch the world and the pieces it tries to take from me while I seek my redemption

I kneel to rebuild with logic and rationale a concerete prison of loneliness
Feeling the severing of my soul as I withdrawl from the world I usually jump to paint
And there with bruised knees and bruised heart I wait to heal myself again

Tears streaming down my exhausted face

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Youth Workers Verse

I ask you with my embrace to allow me to be a part of your family and only after years of consistency do you allow me to hold the space
Foreign – the practice of allowing the outside in
Frightening – the thought of breaking the character you have to wear as a survival system
Peaceful – the first moments after your first extension of faith

In your silence I hear you screaming for me to listen to your story
You sit still and unmoving
Any movement will break the massive efforts it has taken you to control emotion
You pull up your sweatshirt hoodie as if it were armor made of steel
Watching you, I see it is

You are coming to me from a life-time of training
A world that tells you being a man is never letting you break
16 years of learning from women, peers and TV how to be men
And here I am, yet another woman, hoping to be here for you, when what you need is a man

I ask you to let go of the anger, allow me to help you ease it from your tight grasp
Frustration – the confusion of not even knowing how to get there
Anger – the thoughts of verbal assault other people in your life do not hesitate to dish out
Hope – the thought that maybe, just maybe, you will find a way through this time

In your silence I hear you screaming for me to listen to your story
You sit still and unmoving
Any movement will break the massive efforts it has taken you to control emotion
You arch your eyebrows and pout your lips, hand on your hips, attitude, hardening, as if it were armor made of steel
Watching you, I see it is

You are coming to me from a life-time of training
A world that tells you being a woman means ingesting every insult hurled at you as if it were truth and then hurdling it back at light speed
16 years of learning from men, peers and TV how to be a woman
And here I am, yet another woman, hoping to be here for you, when what you need is a mother you can dialogue with

I ask you to believe me when I tell you how beautiful you are
Frustration – the confusion of not even knowing how to get there
Anger – the thoughts of verbal assault other people in your life do not hesitate to dish out
Hope – the thought that maybe, just maybe, you will find a way through this time

In your tears and your laughter I hear as you share with me your story
You stand and invite me in
Your movement breaks the massive efforts it has taken you to control emotion and a child reappears in the place of your pain
You start to believe in your strength the way I do, as if it were armor made of steel
Watching you, I see it is

You ask me with a tentative fear, will it always be this hard.

My heart fills with empathy, wishing I could make lifetime guarantees

I ask you with my embrace to allow me to be a part of your family and after years of consistency you allow me to hold the space

Tongues Curl and Give Birth To Words and Worlds

I cannot take credit for the title of my entry. It belongs to a young poet from Oakland, CA. When I heard it last night at the Youth Speaks Poetry Slam Semi-Finals, I decided it had to be repeated everywhere. I wish I would have brought a notebook and taken down the many phrases that touched my heart last night. The night was so blessed in so many ways. I really have to hand it to that organization. The work they do is so vital to the survival of young people. Giving them a mechanism to express themselves is key to any child/person so full of emotion, they have no idea what to do. Learning to do that, is like learning to breathe. So as I breathe out last nights emotions, know that I am one of the lucky ones. Knowing how to write, having this random piece of cyber space as my forum keeps me centered. Because letting go of these words is nothing short of reclaiming life.

I invited three of my old students to come with me to this Poetry Slam last night. I was well aware of how difficult the week had been for them. You see they were informed this week that three more people from the after-school program I used to direct were quitting. With these particular three, I knew what a devastating loss it would be and I wanted time with them. I'm not sure if I wanted that time to help them process it or if I wanted it to just be able to give them a piece of my heart and time so that the four of us could enjoy each other.

My idea was that we would have dinner together, like a family, go to this slam, Twin Peaks, and then I would take them home. They each brought a side dish with them and I provided main course and a couple of other odds and ends. When I picked the two boys up, there was this odd mix of happy and awkward. This was interesting, because in all the time I had known these two particular boys, even in the beginning, there was never any awkwardness. I let it ride out as we drove up to the city, chalking it up to hunger. Yet as the hour passed and we reached my apartment, their emotion became thicker, yet what they were telling me was more and more sickly sweet. Unable to allow my time with them to be false, I said to them "Listen, I know that this week sucked. If you want to tell me that it sucked, if you want to tell me that you are mad at us, if you want to sit here and be silent; all of that is okay with me. But please don't sit here and try to put up Disneyland for my benefit. I can feel the hurt in you right now and it's louder than what you are saying to me."

Then it came, the emotions, the ones that I became accostumed to receiving every day while I was there. One of the boys started explaining to me how frustrated he was with the verbal abuse he was experiencing at home. The more he spoke, the closer he came to his voice breaking, until tears streamed hot and fast down his face. The young woman nodding her head in agreement in emotions I could tell they hadn't expressed in some time. As I watched him release, I watched the other young man shut down. The fear of breaking radiated off of him palpably. Even his body turned slowly away from the dinner table. He put the hood up on his sweatshirt. Like a turtle, I could see him retreating into his shell. All of it spoke volumes. I told them how much I loved them, how much it hurt me to see them being this hurt. But I knew at that point, the way you know, that your words will do nothing to resonate in the situation. There was too much hurt for words to heal any single part of this. I got up. Put my hand on the shoulder of the first young man and then asked the second young man if I could hug him. This 16 year old boy got up from his chair and in that moment he wasn't a tough teenager anymore, he was a kid. A kid who desperately needed love. He hugged me with such warmth and need that it hurt my heart. I asked the other young man to stand up and join us and both of them stood there in my kitchen, holding me and each other, tears spilling down there cheeks but managing not to fully cry.

I think the first young man and the young woman were aware of how much more the second young man needed a conversation. Soon after they busied themselves cleaning the kitchen and the young woman eyed and the second young man, silently asking me to talk him through this.

In my living room we sat there and he finally spoke the words that made the pain so much more relevant to him and really all of them this particular week. "It's just, its the same way for me that it is for him. It's that way for all of us. But before it was like, my mom or whomever would yell and call me a piece of shit, but when I got to College Track, it was different. I didn't have a mom that told me she was proud of me or that told me she loved me and stuff. But I had ya'll. And now there is no one there. And I want the services and stuff, but the other stuff was more important. Even walking in there is sad and hard for me right now. I wanna support you guys and tell you to do what you gotta do to be happy, but when you guys leave, my family leaves. That stuff, leaves."

And there it was, everything I was trying to articulate about why staff retention is important and quality of service being quality of heart. Better then I could have ever said it, this young man hit the nail on the head.

I was a little floored by how much space and room this created at that point for them to all be open. They spoke to me about everything after that, as a group and as individuals expressing to me what was good and bad in life right now. One of them said to me "I'm just afraid that I'm sensitive. It's like everything hurts me or makes me mad and no one else is that way." God I would never be a teenager again. I think that is why I am so dedicated to them. It's just so hard. I told him, its not about being sensitive, its about having a full cup of emotions. When its already full and getting a barrage every day, one more thing ends up overfilling the cup, it matters... a lot. When you know how to empty the cup, the world is a different place. He looked at me like this concept was relevatory. And we made a commitment to each other to learn how to empty his cup better.

The rest of the night was laughing and joy. There was good conversation. Activist conversation. Proclamations of changing the world. Silly singing and jokes being cracked on each other. It was FABULOUS. God I miss the kids. It was so nice to enjoy them outside of it being my job. It was different and good in a way that words struggle to articulate. Ironic when the night was really about the power of words.

We need to find ways to help us all express. Its a matter of survival. There is too much else to do for us to let emotional constipation be a block in the progress of the world.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


So I made the hottest decision yesterday when I got my Jetblue miles statement. Turns out the benefit to always traveling is getting the kind of miles that allow you to travel and it's quite conceivable for me to have a free plane ticket to Aruba by the end of the summer. Holy geez! I've been running and running for the last few years with little to no vacation that did not involve helping out a friend or org. I am ready to sit my ass on a beach and ask a cabana boy to get me a Mai Tai. Wahoo. I will schedule it at the end of the workshop/volunteer season and use it as the FIRST leg of a longer vacation. I swear to you, it makes the heavy lift I'm about to run all the more conceivable and exciting for me. Wahoo!

Anyone is invited to join, though I can't promise you I will do more then sit on a beach, read a book, dance and hike.

Thank you for my vacation going friends that have inspired in me the want to chill the hell out. I swear to you, I am gonna do what you guys have been requesting that I do for myself for years. I love you for so many reasons and among them, caring for me so much. Must go purchase a beach boys song now to keep me inspired! haha.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Don't delay, rebel

As a side note before I write my entry for the night, a friend of mine told me I was like Carrie Bradshaw tonight but instead of naming my writing "Sex and the City", I should call it "Action and the Community". That gave me a little chuckle, thought it might do the same for some of you.

Tonight I got the priviledge of a family ticket to an awards banquet for an old student of mine. Its totally humbling you know, when a kid takes one of five tickets given for a ceremony and asks you to be their family for the night. My babies are soooo talented. I mean amazingly, infinitely talented. That is why tonight, I sat in a room honoring one of them for getting a community service scholarship. She was one of the higher end prizes, a $5,000 scholarship. And it meant a lot to me to watch as she beamed, knowing what she brought together.

I was standing there talking to an old co-worker (also invited by another student) and all of a sudden I feel arms swing around me. I see this young woman, whom I've had the priviledge of knowing since she was a child of 14. Tears in her eyes, and she's telling me how much she loves and misses me. Its funny what wells of emotion feel like.

Have you ever been to the gulf of mexico? I've only been once when I was a little kid. So my perspective is that of a really young child. It was a really surreal water experience. It's like your stepping into the ocean, but when you get in, its so warm. And it laps against your legs and makes you feel comfortable and excited at the same time. Everything I had been conditioned to with the ocean was always to brace yourself for the shock of cold. But in the Gulf, you get the exhiliration of the ocean, with the comfort of warmth.

Standing there with Wendy felt like swimming in the gulf. I know that sounds weird as far as metaphors go, but it is what it is. I had always been taught that outward displays of emotion equated weakness. This made home really tough, because I'm an emotional girl by birth. It never worked to suppress it, it just served to create in me a standard I could never meet. In working with the, its a little over 1,000 now, students I've worked with, I have learned the importance of swimming in the gulf. But I digress.

I sat in a room where 27 teenagers were getting awards for working to heal the community. My awe in them is still present as I type this. I love that young people care so much. And really, they all do. Even the ones that say they don't care, only say they don't care because caring as much as they do is frightening for them. You teach our young how to put up a fight, and a fight you'll get. You teach them how to learn and engage and you will get community leaders.

This teen tonight said something along the lines of seeing something that talked about how if you had all the kids in China jump at the same time. It would throw the world off it's axis. He said he hoped that they were all jumping so hard that the world would be rocked by them too. And I felt it, I felt the axis tip. I saw hope. No tatoo, black clothes, goth makeup, picket sign, piercing, bald head, alcoholic binge, sexual exploit, or screaming match is a bigger act of rebelion then what those kids put in one room tonight.

I left inspired and ready to work for change again.

We don't have time to waste guys, rebel.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Dear CT Babies...

To my dearest babies,

It's funny that I still call you all my babies. The truth of the matter is all of you are grown enough to know life more then most adults I have ever met. Your strength far surpasses anything anyone could ever conceive. I dream of days when people know your greatness. You are my picket line and my civil rights movement. Investing in you, is investing in miracles and change. Know that even today, as I do my work, you are my inspiration to fight hard for what your generation deserves.

I know that today was hard for all of you. I wish there was a way I could be there to hug you and let you know it was okay. Last night, I had a hard time sleeping thinking about the news you were going to hear today, anticipating your reaction and your hurt. Not being there to hold you while you heard the news that another one of us was to leave you. I racked my brain for ways to be there for you, this letter, was the best I could do.

I know this year has been blow after blow for you. I respect the steadfastness that you've had to approach your education with, as adults you had become accostumed to leaning on fade into memories. How it has hurt me to see you have to recover from the loss of each.

Then I woke up this morning and I looked out my window and I thought, "its like everything else. They are going to be okay, they have each other." Guys, as staff, we are the icing to the cake. That place, can have a ton of different people running the services because you are the absolute heart of College Track. You show anyone who walks through those doors just how deserving you are of everything. Hearing from the staff how you created the Brotherhood and Sisterhood groups after I left, I felt such pride in you. In the value that you chose to place in each other. I thank you for making it work. Thank you for keeping the heart of that place pumping and knowing how important that is.

I honor how hard this time period is, I know that it comes with its share of struggle. But struggle teaches you something. It gives you the fundamentals for getting back up and continuing the fight. In honoring this time, I must also honor you. I wouldn't be doing that if I didn't give you this feedback.

It does not matter who gives them or where you get the services guys, but get them. You deserve your college education. You deserve the doors it will open for you. You will have freedom in ways I can barely show you right now. If I could stand in front of you and have you feel what life looks like on this end, how beautiful it is to have this piece of me, no one can take away, I would never have to fight any of you to study hard for any test. This is a story in the book but it is not the entire book. You still have a ton of chapters to write.

This is YOUR civil rights movement. It isn't flashy, its fought with text books instead of picket signs, equations instead of sit-ins, but it is just as if not MORE important to the betterment of all of us.

We do not have time for you to not become a fighter on the front lines fully armed with the weapon of your academic arsenal. There is too much that needs to be changed to lose even one of you. You are capable. You were capable before us, you will be capable long after. I challenge you to look at what you need to make happen to make it through this transition. Do not let this turn into an excuse. You are among the chosen and you are the chosen for a reason. Your talents, your intelligence and your hearts are life saving. And as I know you all know, there are lives to save.

I love and miss you. Keep going my darlings. You are not from the mid, the g, the vill, the flooda, MP, Redwood, MA, Sequoia, Woodside or Carlmont. You are from your own ABSOLUTE greatness. There are no neighborhood or school divisions to that. You must fulfill the promise of that greatness and get the tools to be unstoppable. Going to college is a huge part of that. Do NOT give up the fight. We do not have the time for you to waste any of it.

We need you. Keep going.

All my love, admiration and esteem,


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Happy Re-Birthday Rey and Regsy Begsy

It's crazy the events that alter and shape your life. Five years ago two of my friends had a life altering experience that sent ripples into the lives of everyone. The night of the accident is one that will not soon be forgotten by any one of us. The aftermath was a testament to the friendship and love that existed and exists between all of us.

Rey and Regs,

You've been an absolute inspiration. Watching how you put your lives back together, became even stronger, took on even more challenge and worked to help others live life to the fullest continues to touch me. Your experience would have folded other people and it doubled you. It was and is an honor to be your friend. I thank God everyday that he spared you. Your contributions to the world are phenomenal. I honor every uphill battle you've climbed to reclaim your lives both emotionally and physically.

I love you,


The Pink Martini Glass

So today was a long day and that means it will be a long post. For those of you that choose to stick around, settle in.

I have a bar in my house. Yup, a bar. Fully stocked. Important asset of my kitchen. Makes the kitchen pop really. I won this bar on the Price is Right. Yup, the Price is Right. Bob Barker had me on contestants row. Rod Rodey, may he rest in peace, called my name. And there I went, bouncy, 21, and in pigtails. Totally happy, shocked and surprised until right there on national television some jack ass bid a dollar above me and I gave an on camera dirty look to my right. However, the door prize was a bar, and every 21 year old should be so lucky to get a bar on their 21st birthday. About 4 years ago when I first moved to the city and learned what hard work days were, I bought a martini-set for this bar. I replaced one glass in that martini set with a delicate pink martini glass. Because damnit, on a hard day, I was going to treat myself to a martini in a pink glass, that would be my reward to myself. Now, in terms of rating tough days, they run the gammut. They go from water to beer to martini(regular glass) to martini(pink, thought I like to call it blush, glass) for a number of reasons. I'm sitting here friends, with my blush martini glass. But it feels kinda silly. Like the day didn't really deserve one, but I just gave into feeling like it was a bad day.

My brain went from thought to thought to thought and the stream of conciousness was exhausting. Today I felt like a little girl. Just young and naive that I allow for my heart to experience such sadness. You see I started out by thinking about the man I encountered in the morning. Waves of what I called sadness in the last blog entry, but really it was more of an overwhelming weight of how much work was left to do. Even to just get people to pay attention to people who are screaming top of lungs for help. I didn't even want to talk about it at work, I felt like it would undue the deed if I did. Like there was something sacred and personal that I shared with this man by buying him a meal and speaking to my co-workers about it would be more for affirmation of my person than helping him. And today, what I did was a personal choice.

Then I hopped into thinking about my uncle. About his path and the role that I have played in my family and asking myself what kind of role I should play. Having the gifts I have, quite honestly, it is very few and far in between times that I have stretched back to them. It is a cause of unease, but I also don't feel positioned to provide healing in the way I do in other places. But is that undercutting my ability to make excuses. What ownership do I carry for the lack of healing in my family. What role do I play in that cycle having gotten out and really gotten out. Argh, here I go again. Anyway. I sat at work churning through things, missing my students, feeling a little guilt. Trying to take the weight away. I gave up insulting myself for Lent and ultimately I don't believe in victimization, so why would I go there with myself.

Then I started to think about how I am with men. Because when I think about the men in my family, I think about the men I've had in my life. There is of course close correlations. A while back, Jeremiah taught me this paradigm of thought. Victim, Aggressor, Rescuer. It's just different ways of instinctual being. People rarely do just one, but they often veer more to one category. I was figuring out today that I'm phobic of the aggressor/victim (ie daddy), but at the same time, he's the man I have dated. The aggressor/victim is the guy that kinda bulldozes his way in with all his issues. Then I sit there and try to sort through them in an attempt to be loved for what I can do. I could beat around the bush, and sugar coat it, but thats been my pattern.

My male friends, they are more the rescuer/victim guys. They find the broken girls and try and fix them or at least try and have sex with them. Until they get so tired of the fixing or the sex (because though straight men will never admit it, they get tired of empty sex, its only novel for so long), they give up or they get tired of dealing with it... like they didn't seek it out. You see in the triangle of behavior, the way you respond to the world depends on what you've gotten result from. The men I know are amazingly good. Just the most fantastic beings, I'm so blessed. The level of comfort, protection, insight, intelligence and humility is just far beyond what most women get to know and see, and for that I'm grateful. But in the tradition of men are dumb and girls are crazy. You fill in the blank. They make me laugh though, and I love them for that.

I gotta tell you. I miss having straight guy friends around. I love my gay guy friends, don't get me wrong, so much of me has been uplifted and cared for by these men. But the one's that I have in my life, I've assisted through some of the tougher times in their levels of personal security. I'm the protector. In the same way I protect most people in my life. (Rescuer/Victim) Most of my straight male friends live on the east coast. When I'm out there, it is so nice to receive that perspective. To have conversations with the dudes. In both the depth and shallowness of it. I find that the men in my life do not censor themselves around me. I get to hear the undoctored for women truth about how they think, feel, act, its raw and lude sometimes, but its comforting to be around a lack of bullshit pretense in that way. It's hysterical too. I don't have guys out here like that. I miss it.

I rounded out my night with sets of tears. One adult, two teens. I just sat on the phone and listened and prodded. Most of it silence, a lot of hurt. I can't really talk about it yet, I will eventually, I can't right now. It was just hard to be far from some people that I love that I know need me right now. I wish I could provide the comfort of my embrace to them and its just not what is possible or even healthy right now. As I listened to them, I felt the trueness of how futile it is to try and protect people from life. It's life and it just bites sometimes. You can't change that, you just prepare people to handle tough.

So thats why, when I came home today and sat down with my pink martini glass, all I wanted was a hug. I wanted to know that someone understood that though I can't change everything in the world right now, eventually, I got it in me to make some major changes. Someone that could tell me, "yo, its gonna be alright Karla, don't trip for too long." That though I beat myself up for half the day, I was making strides in the right direction.

Maybe this is the point to this time period in my life. It should be about me giving that to me. Which is why the blush martini glass exists. I'm dating myself, ;c), giving myself all the things that I used to wait for someone else to give me. But it was never enough that way. I knew that then, I know it now. You learn little by little how to empty the cup. How to not be heavy. I've spent my life teaching other people how to do it, but I never learned to do it for myself. And its okay that on a week when your closest friends are out of the country and you have a hard day, you struggle with the emptying process. Doesn't make the need for a blush martini glass any less necessary or wrong. Repeating to myself "I'm not a bad person. I'm not a selfish person." isn't enough anymore either. It's other levels. It's time to accept who I am and breathe through that. Feel okay with the weight of the day, knowing tomorrow will be different.

Monday, March 05, 2007

His Cries Were So Deep...

He was crying too hard for me to ignore him.

I was coming into work, laptop in hand, mildly heated at the problems I am having with a small "fix-it-ticket" about my address. I had just become a woman my mom would be disappointed in by dropping off my laundry at a "Wash and Fold" type establishment. After trying to get to washing clothes all weekend, I gave up the ghost and dropped it off for someone else to do it for me. So I was in the middle of thoughts about how malfunctional our legal system is (who has to go to traffic court in Redwood City for an address change and then get turned away and told to come back) and how malfunctional I am for not being able to do my own dang laundry and the variety of things my mom would say about it, when I heard a man on the street sobbing.

It seemed so normal for everyone, walking to work, ignoring the bum on the corner. I have to tell you, I do it too. But his crying. It was earth shaking. Just deep and painful. He wasn't asking for money, but he was crying about how hungry he was. I felt a lump in my throat as I watched how accostumed we've all become to this. I wanted to shout for the world to pay attention, ask them if they see how much work has to be done. Instead I approached him and asked him to come with me to Subway.

He kept asking me if I wanted to share his sub with him. It broke my heart.

All I could think of was my uncle. The one whose death I so brazenly hardened against because of how his drug use affected our family. Last year when they told me they found him on the side of the road, the tears I shed were minimal and I pushed it all to the back of my mind. Now I reflect on all the pain that he was in and I wonder if he ever begged anyone for food and if they ignored him on the street. It doesn't take away from the hurt he caused because of his sickness but I really do sit here praying he never found himself that alone.

The man kept thanking me. I wanted to give him sustance but I didn't want to cry in front of him or act all bountiful. I mean really, its humiliating enough to ask people for food, you don't need their condecension. I gave him directions to GLIDE, a church I know has an excellent homeless program that helps people get back on their feet and I left him with his tuna sub, tuna melt, chips, soda and brownie. He kept making the sign of the cross when he thought I wasn't looking and he blushed scarlett the entire time he accepted the meal.

I'm not special or a great person. I have quite a few friends that have done something similar, if not bigger, in the last month. It's what we do when one persons eyes/story/heart/face reach you in a way you can't turn away from. But I need to do more. God let me find solutions. The world shouldn't be like this. Not with so many of us doing well. That is my prayer for the day, let me find sustainable, scalable, empowering solutions. That and let my uncle be at peace wherever he may be.

The End Up and Tim'm

So here goes reason number 798 for loving San Francisco. The End Up.

My friend Tim'm was in town tonight, a one night engagement out of DC. You see, he's the baddest mofo you'll ever know. Amazing writer, lyricist, spoken word poet, activist, artist, jock, facilitator, rapper, you name it, Tim'm does it. In fact, you can catch him on a PBS documentary circling around called "Independent Lens: Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes." He is such talent and light. In fact he was just at Humboldt state as a keynote speaker, panelist, guest lecturer and performer. (Check out his music at http://www.myspace.com/timmwest) And he did all of that in two days and managed to get my butt out of my house on Sunday night to go to The End Up.

So I've heard about this place on a number of occasions and never went. I was pleasantly surprised to find one of the most diverse clubs I have been in since I moved here. And by diverse I mean people from 21 to 55, White, POC, gay, straight and everything in between. Not to mention that it was dropping everything from gospel to latin to R&B with Drum n Bass backing. It was rockin.

I love dancing. I really do. I remember watching this Oprah interview with Michael Jackson when I was a kid . She asked him why he grabbed his crotch when he performed, he said to her "I don't do it, its what the music asks me to do." Now though I love Michael, I thought then, as I do now, that he was a freak. But I really can see his point in that particular matter. It's crazy what it feels like to just move to the rhythm and beat of an artists soul. It's connection. Sensual, peaceful, energizing, joy and connection. And tonight, with Tim'm and another good guy friend, we danced and let ourselves be free. I'm so glad the joy of dancing is returning for me. I missed it. Of all the things the assault robbed me of, that was a deep loss. It's great to feel that freedom to go forward more and more.

In ANYevent, check out the End Up and my pal Tim'm. Both are worth the price of admission and then some.