Tag Archives: growing up

Time Split within Languages

31 Dec

“You were invited, you RSVP’d and then didn’t show up.” “No, I wouldn’t do that! I wasn’t invited, I would have loved to go to that wedding, but I wasn’t invited.” “Yes you were, we sat at the table where you were supposed to sit and there were two empty seats, because you didn’t show.” “Si, y ni dijistes nada.”

I racked my brain trying to go back 10 years and piece back that memory but I couldn’t. I felt awful for having done something so rude and not being able to remember how/why.

10 years ago at 19, my life was in Spanish. I went to work and spoke English for a few minutes a day to my supervisor but most of my work friends were Mexican, making it easy to lapse into Spanish during our morning breaks, during whispered conversations on the way to the bathroom and during our daily lunches filled with boisterous laughter that bounced off the cheap carpet at City Hall East. I even laughed in Spanish, “Ja! ja! ja! Ja!”

At home, I spoke nothing but Spanish. I spoke so much Spanish or Spanglish that I feared that I was losing my grasp on English. Whenever I had to switch over to English abruptly, the words came out thick, my tongue slow as if stuck on peanut butter full of consonants.

Then it stopped.

23, with a new job and single parenthood. Not a single Mexican or Spanish-speaking co-worker in sight.

I curved inwards, trying to find and make sense of who I was. Not being able to express my feelings as freely as they flowed in Spanish; I grew quiet. The English words I released felt so proper and guarded as I took great care to avoid butchering this language that I had placed on pause for so long.

Another job, another life flowed by and the Spanish hardly surfaced. Even my girls, who shared Spanish as a first language, lapsed into all English with a mix of Japanese learned from their Buddhist preschool.

English. Painstakingly listening to the pronunciation of words on Dictionary.com, over and over, whispering the words as I walked to work until I felt comfortable enough to say them out loud to someone.

Now at 29, I miss the reassuring shield that Spanish used to provide. Like a tattered baby blanket, it fell apart in my hands and I find myself working hard to mend it back into the vibrant pattern it once had.

I ran away from Spanish to obliterate the memories that were formed in that beautiful language. It was easier to stop the unpleasant flashbacks if I moved my mental lever to Spanish:Off.

Such a black and white solution might seem callous, cowardly and cold but it worked.

But as my thirties beckon; I find myself gingerly stepping in and out of my Spanish voice and then stomping back in and out as my thoughts swirl into a frenzy and come tumbling out in a new musicality.

A duet that twirls into a self that isn’t quite Spanish and isn’t quite English.

I finally figured out why I didn’t go to the wedding; a once bitter recollection that had been buried in mortification. But that was a lifetime ago, it seems.

As I look forward, shortly immersing myself into a new decade, I hope that I don’t lead such a segmented life. I want to waltz easily to the tune of yesterday while retaining the smile of today.

Not quite English, not quite Spanish but both, hand in hand dancing along.

A Belated Mother’s Day Post

14 May

A Belated Mother’s Day Post

The rise and fall of my emotion is punctuated with bouts of extreme joy and maddening sadness on this day.

Your excitement, hardly contained, explodes into a dazzling smile that reaches your eyes – like shining angels that guide my way.

“Cookies! We made you cookies and a cake! It’s a surprise but it’s a cake.”

It’s a reminder of everything good in my life. Seeing the two of you grow up is piercingly beautiful, hauntingly sweet. I see your smiling faces start to grow sharp with the angles of pre-pubescent youth and I gasp.

Where has the time gone?

I held you to my chest and your body would rise with each breath.

Rise and Fall

Now I hold you close as you cuddle up to me but I can’t breathe with the weight of your growing bodies on my chest.

Where has the time gone?

Am I doing right by you? The happiness of holding you close makes me break down inside and weep openly within the confines of my conscious as it weighs heavily on me that I only give you myself. Will you be fine?

Rise and Fall

We get home and you take my hand, running up the stairs to show me your beautifully hand crafted decorations on the sugar cookies you have baked with your tia. Colors of happiness – light hues of green, pink and baby blue.

“A cake, we made you a cake!”

A strong palette of dark chocolate with accents of light pink mini hearts: a reflection of your own spirits. And I know that you are not just fine, you are wonderfully enveloped in my blanket of love.

Rise and Fall

Day by day. Smile by smile.

Rise we will.

Seeing the Gray in Others – and Doing Something About it

26 Mar

When you go for a walk, while you shop at the grocery store, on a bench outside of work, on the sidewalk, in a class room, you see it…

The slouch of the posture
the roundness of the shoulders
eyes that seem to spill with sadness
behind a large swallow

Downcast eyes
searching for an answer
a tentative sigh
as if afraid to take the most natural step of life

Shakiness of a sentence
a heaviness of the body
sagging
towards earth

Life spent in a muted gray. Sadness, in its most cruel form: depression. What can you do? If you knew, would you actually do it?

A smile. A meeting of the eyes with kindness in your look, even if the moment is fleeting.

A connection.
A reminder that they are seen.
A feeling of validation that they hold a place in this world.
An assertion of existence.
Hope.

In our children, nieces/nephews, in kids of our friends, we learn how cruel words or actions by another can make a deep impact on their vulnerable and developing psyche and we have seen as a society a concerted effort to prevent bullying and the mistreatment of children at that impressionable age.

But what happens when those children who are under-cared, under-loved, under-appreciated, abused even, grow into adults? No longer seen as cute, vulnerable, or helpless – they are commonly tossed aside, dismissed – as if with age (and no help) they are magically cured of the fog that weighs them down.

A small gesture that might make you slightly uncomfortable, a smile to a stranger (I’m not asking you to walk around staring at strangers with wide toothy grins either), can make a difference, however small, on the recipient of your kindness.

My fellow Angelenos, whether native or transplants, I know what you’re thinking as you roll your eyes – eye contact AND a smile? But then I won’t be able to conserve my hip disinterested Hollywood cool look! Alas, no one is as cool as James Dean, and I bet that even he looked a little awkward walking around LA and would have benefited from a kind smile too.

If it’s someone who you know through work, ask them to join you for a cup of coffee or actually stop as you pass by their desk and say a warm hello. Nothing big. Feel the warmth and the kindness as you do it and they will feel it too.

Small acts of kindness, that’s not asking for much. On my first day to class at the local community college, I was frantically looking for where I had to pay the parking fee when a fellow student told me that the first week was free to allow for a smooth transition for students. That’s two acts of kindness there: that student didn’t have to tell me anything and could have walked off as I scurried around, and the school for giving a person a break! I asked the student where the B building was and they graciously showed me the way.

On my second week of class as I was pulling up to the meter to pay for the daily pass of parking, another fellow student gave me their daily pass as they were leaving and wished me an early Christmas (it was February) as they smilingly drove away.

On the fourth week of class, I saw someone else asking students for change (for the parking) looking increasingly frustrated as no one did. I didn’t either but when I walked back to my car to retrieve my belongings I noticed I did have the exact change and nothing more. My last $2 in cash. I walked over and gave them to him, and as he tried to hand a $5 I waved it off and said, “offer $2 to someone else who might need it as repayment”. He was very thankful and touched and I felt REALLY good, really ALIVE as I walked away.

Small acts of kindness, of human interaction, no matter how old we are or from what walk of life we are, make a difference. They pay in higher dividends than the bogus schemes of Wall Street bankers. ;)

Share your moment of kindness – given or received!

The SuperFlyingMonkeys at the San Francisco Golden Gate Slides

22 Mar

Helpless

15 Mar

The tide recedes
each time
a bit further
taking with it a little pain
and a little strength

When the sun is out
it warms my face
On my palms
it tingles
and I sigh
relief

I hear the birds sing again
the sky, a gorgeous hue of blue
beauty everywhere
fresh air
never tastes sweeter
sharp
full of promise

I want to run
but not away
towards something, someone, somewhere
Clearly defined

peace

I smile
wide and free
show my teeth even
and giggle endlessly

Self love
the color of my skin
the way it shimmers in the sun
the shape of my body
the softness of my lips
in harmony with my strength

I feel
and more importantly
I Want
to feel

A day, a week, or a month goes by
and I wake up
feeling strange
unsettled

Heaviness sets
my thoughts pained
a cold sweat
as the memories take hold

Alone
the quiet scares me
as it creeps in
the lack of sound

In a fog
everything hurts
my mind lays
Dormant
withdrawn

Those muted days
I don’t wish on anyone

Sadness fills me
at the thought of
Wasted youth
in a frenzy to feel nothing
to fade

Release the gray days
for the clear blue days
learn to feel again
Not so
helpless

Shining Eyes, Burning Bright

11 Mar

I look around the room
Seeing smiles

I feel warm laughter
bathing me in
glorious luxury

Moments of spontaneous humor
Bursting fits of disengaged silly laughter

Shining eyes
Burning bright
with intense joy
Found in unexpected love

Walking in a dance of contorting limbs
body moving back and forth
trying
to cap the exulted happiness that bubbles up from deep within
Head back – melodious music – flowing out to the sky

Falling back onto my bare shoulders
tickling me
with sprinkles of kindness

Shining eyes
Burning bright
with intense joy
Found in reciprocated love

Holding hands
walking in unison
down a pillow-y pathway
of carefree embrace

Daylight outside
slowly receding
to a muted evening
giving way to the inner guide
of jubilant light

Shining eyes
Burning bright
with intense joy
Found in honored love

Everyone else melts away
Except
their kind smiles
follow us everywhere

Giddily joining us
in our quest for frozen yogurt
Eagerly following us
with dancing eyes
as we sing out an inside joke

In step
we fall
souls to match
walking down LA streets

Night greets us
In a sweet sleep
I lay my head

Waking to see you still here
by my side
Caressing my hair

Shining eyes
Burning bright
with intense joy
Found in unmeasured love

Bronzed Beauties

5 Mar

Running
little legs
Giggles that chase
fear away

Stopping only
for a look
a nod
and they’re off
running
again

Warm light
bouncing off
sun streaked hair
Bright red
shiny cheeks
Riding high on laughter

Smiles
growing wide
Eyes full of wonder
twinkling on the water’s surface
Breaking it
as they jump in

Endless giggles
Bouncing off

Jumping higher
Reaching heights
of carefree happiness

Sunning
Bronzed limbs
in the glow
of California desert nights

Reflections

6 Jan

The four of us walked along
the cool night air gently biting our cheeks
Laughter and mirth filled the air and nothing else was there

Surreal to look around and see the crystal like sharpness of this new reality
A gift, really.

The smiling, silly, quirkiness of Iza as she contorts into a hundred personalities: she makes me believe in things beyond what is here and tangible, the unattainable becomes feasible with her, she IS magic surrealism.
She’s a dream all in her own.
She makes waves of laughter; raining bubbles of giggles wherever she waltzes through.
And that is her: etheral in her magical purity – untouched by the gray all around.

The balance of her comes bounding by – her sister – so logical and angular in her gist of existence.
She’s kindness measured by well-meaning. She pulls you up and makes you see it for what it is but never unkind. She is loving and profound, deep in her perceptions, observant and uncanny, real and steady. A beauty that runs deep.

And now I see the charge I have been given. No longer a child to begrieve what may have fallen; I am now a witness to beauty that unfolds for all to see.

Hope.

They endlessly give me the desire to go on to the next horizon. To reach for that line where the sky meets the distance of the land.

__________________

I tailed my dad wherever he’d go. I was his shadow whether he cared for it or not. The best times spent were when he found himself among his native land, his native tongue, his learned ways.

The small town where the sun comes down hard, making the top of your scalp prick up and take notice; where the arid wind blows red earth onto your skin, your clothing, and sticks to your tongue.

He would sit around the kitchen table with my abuelito in the morning, the horizon an hour away, drinking a cup of the oily black cafe de olla. Eventually he would make his way to the labadores where he would find his childhood friends drinking and retelling stories I grew to memorize verbatim. After a few more refreshments their thirst for adventure grew until they were finally moved into action. This day as I crouched behind a walnut tree I heard as they prepared to go on a hunt for rabitts to test their shot.

They hastily stamped out their fire and scurried over to their horses where they mounted the remainder of their drinks, food, and the long tantalizing metal of a gun.

The desert laid before me as I walked about 30 feet behind them, keeping a slow quiet stride so they wouldn’t notice Pepe’s girl trailing them.

When they stiffened, I knew this was the spot and my muscles were so frozen that I soon began to ache in every unused muscle of my body. My father turned and looked directly at me where I lay pressed to the ground and motioned with his finger to wait and remain still. One of his friends took aim, shot, and was rewarded by the dust cloud of the wild hare kicking up its last step and laying down to later bed fed to a family. A chorus of congratulations and hearty manly laughter broke out and when I looked up, my father was there, with his hand outstretched for me to join them properly.

We spent the evening walking and following a scent/trail and when they would relax, I would run to and from them as fast as I could with their cheers giving me fuel to pump my little legs even faster. I looked out onto the furthest point where land seemed to kiss the sky and I thought if I ran fast enough I would be able to jump onto the clouds from that point. I spent the day running at full speed trying to reach the blue sky but it kept slipping away from me.

As dusk came it brought colder temperatures and a change in the group’s mood with it; everyone said their goodbyes and parted their ways, my dad and me walking hand in hand back home with a conejo and his rifle hanging over his shoulder.

________________________________________

This memory comes to me as I walk with my girls and I see some of my qualities in them; how amazing it will be to see them grow up with love, patience, encouragement, and nurturing.

How far they will go.

Hope for Happiness. But no longer just for them, for me too, for us. Hope for us all.

Hunger

13 Sep

This is hard to share because there’s a certain shame and stigma to going through this in a first world country, but it’s important to know that it happens, here in our country, and that it is more pervasive that we like to admit.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When I had you Bella, it was so hard to leave you. You were such a little thing, born a bit early; you weighed 5 lbs. and 8oz. When you would curl up your tiny limbs up to your chest, you could easily fit inside a shoe box. How could I leave you? I only had six weeks with you before it was time for me to go back to work and when I went back that first day I couldn’t help it; the tears kept streaming down my cheeks and it hurt so bad to be away from you. I had taken one of your undershirts with me to work so I could smell your scent while I was away but it only made my emotions come tumbling down and the sobs rise in me uncontrollably.

I didn’t have to be away from you for long.

That week I went to a doctor’s appointment and they told me, “Congratulations, you are pregnant.” The doctor didn’t see you on the floor in your car seat and when he saw my shocked face and his eyes fell upon you, he understood. He was very kind and recounted a personal story of not being able to have children with his wife and how I would see how very lucky I was to have you both down the line. What a wise man indeed. :)

I gave my notice at work the following day and decided to stay home with you because the health insurance would be more affordable if I didn’t work and we only had one income in the family.

But times were lean.

When Iza came smiling into the world, I couldn’t imagine a life without the two of you. My two little joys, my two angels. No love had ever felt truer, clearer, or everlasting. What startling beauty I found in your little faces.

But times were lean and nobody knows how difficult times were back then.

We lived in a tiny converted basement that was damp all of the time and made Iza chronically sick. We would make weekly visits to the emergency room during her first months of life because her asthma and symptoms were so severe. I couldn’t sleep; I was so paranoid that I would collapse in exhaustion and not hear the awful purring sound coming from her chest. I slept with you, Bella, next to me and Iza on my chest so I could help her breathing fall into my own rhythm.

It was hard. But we found beauty in everything we rested our gaze on. When I took the two of you for long walks around the city, I pointed to the flowers and taught you the name to each one, I showed you my favorite buildings downtown, and hours later when we made our way back home, you were in a peaceful sleep and I comforted myself with the fact that you knew no better.

But the walks back were torture for me. Before I climbed up the steep hill, pushing and pulling the double stroller you and Iza lay in, we would stop by at the corner grocer’s market. I would pull out my change which I had previously exactly accounted $4.25. And I would make it stretch; measuring out exactly the amount of chicken, potatoes, tortillas, and a carrot or two that I would be making the following few meals with.

The grocer would “forget” to charge me for an item or two and try to give me change back. I would object but he would plead me to accept it with his eyes, and it was easier to relent than to look into his face full of sadness for me.

Once we were at the top of the hill, I would carry you on my left hip, pick up Iza and hoist her on my right hip, lean far back to balance the two of you without waking you, and fold the stroller with my right arm and leg, and carefully walk down the steps to our home. When I would lay you on our bed, I would stand there and look at the two of you and take in your perfect features, your smooth foreheads free of worry and the aches in my bones and pain in my heart would dissipate.

When dinner was done, I would serve the two of you and make sure I rationed and set aside the following meals in the fridge. Bella, you were so independent at such a young age that you would feed yourself in your high chair at just shy of a year old. You were such a neat lovely little eater. Such a good little loving companion.

And soon our home would fill with stillness; he would sit and eat his dinner without a word. His sadness was deeper than mine; I could never touch it. I would hold his handsome face in my hand and turn it up towards me, caress the stubble on his strong jaw and run my thumb lightly on his lips. But his eyes were so full of pain and defeat that I could never reach him.

The days got leaner and soon enough our daily fried potato tacos with cheese would become boiled potatoes and tortillas, with the vegetables saved for the two of you. And that’s when we would start to go for long walks that always seemed to end at grandma’s house right around dinner time. To keep her from realizing what was going on, I would feign that I was full. While you two ate with my parents and siblings, I avoided looking at the food and chatted excitedly with everyone, trying hard to keep my mind focused elsewhere. We would say our goodbyes and most of the time they would insist we stop by the following day if we were free and a weight on my chest would be released as I secured your meals for another day.

I can’t shake that empty feeling in my stomach, that gnawing hunger that clawed at my insides. Or the shame that I wish I could unhinge from my chest and lay it to rest. The two of you never went hungry; I always made sure the two of you were never acquainted with hunger.

We are at such a better place now; the three of us, but I can’t shake it, a sense of failure permeates my thoughts when I remember what now feels like a past life.

I will always make sure that the two of you never know hunger; whether it is for nourishment, affection, or love.  I pinky promise, and we never break those.  :)

White Huaraches

4 Sep
I always get so paranoid about the girls having everything they need, to the point that they probably have a bit too much.  They needed sneakers for our daily evening walks (part of our new routine) and I thought out loud with them as to where we should go to find them.
“Are we going to that store where the lady gave us mood rings?”  I must have looked confused because Bella added, “the one downtown where she always gives us stickers.”
Leave it to my girls to make a chain store feel like a neighborhood mom and pop store and to look forward to a shoe store that I dreaded as a kid, Payless.  These kids are so used to getting their shoes at locations as varied as: Nordstroms, the alleys in downtown L.A., Gilt (online), and of course Payless for the seasonal wares, that they don’t see the difference between them all.  They walked off to play with their dolls and I was left lost in my thoughts about shoes.
When I was about nine years old I used to have constant nightmares of showing up to school barefoot.  It wasn’t that we were destitute, we always had the necessary items.  The real problem was that we were taught so well to never ask for anything that my mother never noticed when I needed new shoes.  In the fourth grade I had one pair of shoes and they were these white huaraches; I ran in them, played basketball in them, and dragged my feet in them as I walked home.  They were soon obliterated to the point that they were falling apart around my feet.  In the school yard, I looked for my sister and showed her my sandals with the ripped straps.  I kept dragging my foot on the floor so no one could tell that my sandal had become completely undone.  She left me with her friend, Bertha, and ran off to find a stapler.  Seconds before the morning bell rang she stapled my sandal back in place around my foot and smiled at me triumphantly.  I smiled back and gingerly walked off to line up for class.
As soon as I walked into Ms. Aurajo’s class the strap broke again and boys being boys, i.e. mean and stupid immature, loudly started to make fun of my huaraches, taunting me about being too poor to buy a proper pair of shoes.  Ms. Aurajo walked over and looked down at my feet and without a word sent me to the nurses office with a scribbled note I couldn’t read.  I dragged my foot across the hallway so the sandal wouldn’t fall off and with each step I could feel my cheeks grow hotter and redder.
When I got to the nurses office and handed her my note, she asked me to sit down.  I was about ready to cry but she prepared a cot for me to sleep in and tucked me in and asked me to take a nap and promised I would feel better when I woke up.  I lay there confused, unsure of what to do so I kept my eyes nearly closed knowing my long eyelashes would make it seems as if I was sleeping, something I had learned to do at home when I didn’t want anyone knowing I was awake.  I studied her face and noticed that she had her eye make up done the same way as my mother, with an electric blue across her eye fold and a bright pink across her brow.  She had shoulder length jet black hair with the bangs teased up, just like my mom.  But her eyes were a lovely almond shape, just like Ms. Aurajo would kindly point out my eyes were shaped like.  She had smooth olive skin and pretty lips.
I dozed off and when I woke up, Ms. Shiro was there holding my hand in hers.  I tensed up and pulled back but the kind look in her eyes made me relax and I longed for her to hold my hand again.  “Susana, do you have any other shoes at home?”  “No, yes.  I have a pair of tenis but my mom says they are for Christmas.”  “But we’re in September.  No matter, come back tomorrow morning, I will have a pair of shoes waiting for you.”  I looked horrified and ready to bawl, what would my mom think if I came home with a pair of shoes from this pretty nurse?  I walked home with my restapled shoe and couldn’t bring myself to say anything to my sister or my mom.  The next morning I went straight to class but the nurse came by my classroom and asked me to follow her.  I kept pinching my arm to distract myself from the horrifying embarrassment I was going to cause my mom when she saw me.  Ms. Shiro took my sandals and unceremoniously dropped them into her metal trash bin and handed me a pair of patent black shoes.  They were a shiny black with a rounded toe and mary jane style strap, they were lovely.  Which made me feel all the uglier in having to walk home in them.  My sister looked down at my feet and gave me a look that said, “Oh boy, I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes when you get home.”
I was hoping to get home and somehow avoid my mom but she walked outside as we were walking in and saw my shoes immediately and soon enough she got the story out of me.  And I close my eyes to not remember what came next as I was soon in my room with silent tears rolling down my cheeks, pinching myself to distract myself from the pain on my legs and the wounded look I caused in my tired mother’s face.
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Zack Hunter | Phenomenological Fiction

Zack Hunter is the pseudonym of a Californian poet, author, artist, musician, and researcher. He lives on a farm and spends his free time reading and writing about whatever it is he is passionate about at the time.

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