Tag Archives: parenthood

Daughters of Mine

28 Jul

After a hectic day of work full of several meetings and deadlines, I rushed through rush hour traffic to pick up my girls by 6 PM from the Horizons Day Camp, where I had guiltily dropped them off for the first time that morning.

After spending a short weekend in LA being enveloped in sisterly love celebrating my mother’s birthday, I was back in Silicon Valley where I’ve been living for a year now.  We got home around midnight which made my early morning routine a little foggier and a little bit slower.  After fighting the urge to sleep in, we made our way to Starbucks to pick up coffee and chicken and hummus boxed lunches for the girls because I didn’t have a single thing in my fridge that could quickly materialize into an edible lunch meal for my girls.

I ordered ham and cheese breakfast sandwiches for them to eat while I sipped my coffee and slowly came back to life and thought how nice it was to be able to grab breakfast at a coffee shop on a weekday like we used to do in LA.  Lost in my thoughts as we made our way to the day camp center, my girls sang new songs they had made up, recited stories and asked me question after question which reminds me, I need to define equinox to them as this morning when they asked, the morning coffee had not peeled away the sleepiness that I have been fighting for the last week of 4 hour sleep nights.

They seemed excited to go to the day camp and meet new friends.  As we walked into the center we heard a child crying for his mom which made the girls reassess the desirability of the situation and they quickly clung to me asking me not to go.  “Take me with you mommy, I can stay at work with you.  Don’t leave me here.” “I can’t sweetheart, you will both have fun and remember, you have each other.”

As I walked away heavy with guilt, I couldn’t shake off the blanket of sadness that seemed to suffocate me and threatened to make me cry.  In the car, I wondered if I was doing the right thing – working and studying towards a better tomorrow at the cost of seeing them race to adulthood before my eyes without me being there MORE.

They’re not toddlers mind you, they are 8 and 9 and are pretty independent and strong young girls.  I have always marveled at their resiliency and capacity to adapt to new environs.  I was confident that they would be fine but I felt this urgency to be by their side gnawing at my nerves all day.  During lunch I spilled water on myself as I wondered if I should have gone to visit them instead of eating my meal with colleagues.

After a meeting that ended at 5:30, I rushed to my car and looked at my map app.  I jumped on the 101 S towards Palo Alto and exited a couple of miles after to avoid the parking lot of traffic ahead. My estimated arrival time slowly got away from me, 5:48, 5:52, 5:58.  It tortured me as I took surface streets and it recalculated urging me to take a U-turn and teetering between 5:58 and 5:59 pm.  As I missed the left turn and had to wait another eternal few minutes on the intersection of Page Mill and El Camino, I willed the lights to turn faster, the arrival time to freeze at 5:59 and my girls to be okay.

As I finally pulled into the office park, I quickly parked in a loading zone and jumped out of the car like a madwoman running in my heels across the plaza to pick up my girls before 6 pm and hoping that they weren’t the last kids in the center thinking I had abandoned them.  As I walked into view, they came over and greeted me with their gorgeous big smiles and started showing me the lanyards they had made, the art work, describing the three new friends they had made until I interrupted them to hurry up and get to the car which was illegally parked.  As we dashed back to the car I couldn’t help but feel silly for having been so worried.  Of course they would have a good time, of course they would make friends – they were my daughters after all.

In the car, they took turns spilling out the contents of the day as I recuperated from my bad mom guilt trip hangover.  At the red light I turned over my shoulder and excitedly reminded them that we would be going on vacation in two more days. “We’re going to have 8 days of nonstop time with each other girls, we can have breakfast, lunch, dinner, cuddle sessions, all of the time and attention that you want.”  Bella looked lost in thought.  “Are you okay Bella?”  “Uhm, yes.”  “Aren’t you excited?” “Yes.” (In a very non-excited voice).

I couldn’t help but sigh deeply inside.  Here I was carrying the world on my shoulders all day, feeling like the worse mother in the world because I HAD to work for a living, because I am ambitious enough to move out of my hometown LA to pursue a better future with a loving partner and father to my children, because I come home tired after long stressful days at work to cook and be a good mom and then stay up late to study for my evening classes as I work towards my degree, because I wish I could stay home with them during the summer and be there for all of the moments of childhood that seem to keep slipping through my fingers – and they were oblivious to all of it.  Just like I was when I was a child.

When my mother would wake up at 3:00 AM to cook dinner before she got ready for her shift at work which started at 4:30 AM I always wondered why she bothered working so hard, I was critical of her dedication to us.  When I would come home after school and I saw her sleeping on the sofa, exhausted and still in her work uniform as a cook, I felt a mixture of sympathy and love with an edge of annoyance that I never got to talk to her, that she never greeted me, that she wasn’t like the other moms that were home all day waiting for their children to get home to ask them about their day.  Now as a mother, I am grateful for the wonderful mother that I had.  She has her imperfections like we all do but her qualities far outweigh the human qualities about her.  Her desire and hard work towards a better tomorrow, her strength through bad financial, emotional and marital times, her love for her grandchildren, her hugs filled with aromatic coffee, her gentle smile, her love and acceptance, her belief in all of her children, her tenacity to overcome a horrible childhood, her generosity in love – all of these things and so many more keep her in the pedestal in which I have her.  My own guardian angel watching over me, reminding me that someday my own daughters will see the sacrifice that mothers make for their children.  Reminding me that these daughters of mine will be just fine because I’m raising them to be like my mother raised me to be: resilient, hardworking, confident, ambitious, and kind.

 

Swipe the card

28 May

Sparkly sandals, boxes piling up at my side
Platforms
Stiletto black patent leather
kitten heels
Swipe the card

Men’s wear
Dad’s birthday
Lovely polos
Swipe the card

Walking back
Shiny red sign of SALE
Toss it aside
Keep
Swipe the card

Red gel manicure
pedicure to match
smooth legs
Humming of the massage chair
Swipe the card

Whole Foods
Bright and fun
Kale
Wild Caught Salmon
Swipe the card

Sports gear for the girls
sneakers
for basketball
sandals
for summer

A dress maybe?
Or two
And shorts
or a jumper
All three
Swipe the card

Theatre camp
piano lessons
dance
lunch money
Dinner out
a movie
Rent

in LA
on the freeway
pulling in to fill the tank
Swipe the card

Gotta keep moving
and working
to swipe the card

The SuperFlyingMonkeys at the San Francisco Golden Gate Slides

22 Mar

LA Morning Commute with the SuperFlyingMonkeys

19 Mar

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

You’re incredibly beautiful, but you know that

28 Feb

You’re incredibly beautiful, but you know that.

Beauty
Skin Deep
Every day older
Wiser
life and hardship

Outward
Face up
Bold, strong, and fierce
Strides to success

But so
Tired
Swinging to and fro
Only gradually
moving forward
emotion
self satisfaction

You’re incredibly beautiful, but you know that.

A hurricane
of movement
Tearing inside
pushing out
wailing
breaking
Agonizingly slow

Torrent
of shame
self-doubt

Precariously close to
Tipping over
Roaring winds all about
Pushing
Edging
Closer and Closer

Scream

You’re incredibly beautiful, but you know that.

So strong
So Beautiful
Pulled Together

And inside
it crumbles

You’re incredibly beautiful, but you know that.

Uniforms, Poverty, and Inspiration

29 Jan

In the 8th grade, I was about 13 or 14, I was elected student body president. My teacher, Ms. Kane, was very passionate and talented at instilling patriotic ideals and an appreciation for the little we possessed as well as reminded us of the world that lay at our doorstep.

Her mother was a Holocaust survivor; a slowly fading tattoo of her serial number that was her only identity during the war, still marked her for what she had lived through. When they came to America, they were dirt poor, completely displaced from their home, their bearings still rattled by one of the most grotesque series of events in human history.

Someone was being immature in class and teasing another student about what they were wearing. Ms. Kane became another person. Always on task, she became impassioned and emotional as she described how she only had one black skirt and a white long sleeved collar shirt that she wore to school every day. This was her uniform. But problem was she was the only one wearing it at school. It was her only outfit. As she described how she would be so very careful not to soil her outfit for the next day and how she would fanatically wash it every third day, I fought to check my tears. A few students looked to me to see whether they should laugh and teaser her too and I scowled at them, trying my best to look hard (as hard as I could now look as a student body council prez) and communicate it was best to just stay mum.

Ms. Kane’s story hit a chord with me then, it made this Jewish woman much more relatable to me, a Mexican-American teenager whose only exposure to white people were through a handful of teachers. It also reminded me how important it was that we had uniforms.

You remember how you used to detest wearing school uniforms? Those awful, often scratchy, completely unflattering plaid or horrid solid jumpers and skirts (that I am sure manufacturers dye just to embarrass legions of youth every year), you remember right? Or as my fellow Latinos and/or George Lopez fans would say, “You member right? You member!”

I remember them too. The deep evergreen jumper that I owned when I was in elementary school where some genius decided to send home flyers advising parents that they would be implementing a uniform policy and the colors parents should purchase for their children. All the while in small print it mentioned that this would be a voluntary measure and no one would be forced to purchase or wear these uniforms.

The first day of school I arrived in my jumper, one of two that I owned, and found myself the only one in said jumper in my class. It was quickly pointed out to me by other students in the school yard that I was the only kid that they could see that was wearing the uniform. Well apparently they had not caught sight of my sister.

Every day I walked to school knowing I would be ridiculed, that I would be bullied by the older kids, taunted for being poor and only having the one outfit. I became highly skilled at using words to make those bullies feel stupid but I still walked away feeling wounded, feeling small, feeling inadequate.

I am a PTA member at my daughters’ school, I became the Fundraiser Chair this year, and one of my highest priorities was enacting a school uniform policy. There were complains about the lack of self-expression, about forcing parents to purchase these uniforms, as well as supporting arguments that it would be good for the sixth grade students to have their wardrobe choices checked with the new guidelines. The usual supporting arguments of it lowering the gang and/or explicit music affiliation were mentioned and it became a back and forth stalemate.

I got up and said, “I’m a single parent. I would have no problem making the initial investment of purchasing uniforms for my children since the benefits of not worrying about them being up to the latest fashions, reducing the time of getting ready in the morning, and quite frankly it is much more affordable than buying them several different outfits throughout the year.” Another parent piped up and brilliantly mentioned that we could fundraise for those unable to purchase the uniforms and we could hold an exchange of uniforms amongst parents as children outgrew their uniforms. We pushed and went through the motions and months later my kids are happily wearing uniforms.

It’s not just about leveling the field in the shallow self-expression through clothing amongst children, it’s about leveling the field of the haves and have not’s and instilling a sense of inclusion at a young age for our next generations.

I went to Washington D.C. with Ms. Kane that year and we wore our uniforms all week. We groaned, hollered, and dragged our feet but when we got there we frequently received compliments from elderly white women (again pardon my then limited interaction outside my East LA school neighborhood) about how polished and classy we looked compared to the scantily dressed youth of nowadays. We spend many lunches having a conversation with strangers about where we were from, where they were from, it was almost as if we forgot if we were white or not, we were just human.

So remember, even as awful as these uniforms may seem, they make everyone seem human and approachable, at least a little bit more so, at least as approachable as LA people can be…

-Susana Benavidez
Native Angeleno (so don’t rag on me for talking smack about LA ;) )

Moving Forward

20 Jan

How do you balance your own dreams and ambitions with those of the collective good? The collective good being: your family, your people, and for those so inclined, society as a whole. How do you balance any dreams with the reality of a failed attempt? How do you move forward when life seems stalled or worse yet muted?

When I was a kid I thought anything was possible. I was living in low standards (in quality of life, expectations, and interaction) that I drew up my own world of existence. When I try to recall memories, many of them are of me just sitting, lying, standing – alone, lost in thought. A loud buzzing is in my ears as I lose track of time and wake from my fantasy to find that hours and sometimes only seconds have passed.

The hours spent dreaming were my escape from my life. My time spent reading and writing were a respite from admitting where/when I was living.

And in these dreams with limitless skies I saw myself as an attorney, as a businesswoman, as an inventor – with an empire that would spread its wings in Boyle Heights and provide a higher quality of life to its residents: to teenage moms, to boys on the cusp of being lost to drugs/gangs/apathy, to immigrant parents providing for a better life. I dreamt of a world where I wrote my way to the top, sharing my stories, and then my profits to this community. Buying a beautiful house for my parents and siblings; making enough money so my parents could stop their backbreaking work; financing the education of my siblings so they could escape the soul crunching cycle of poverty; realizing these goals would make me happy I thought.

Yet along the way my heart wasn’t strong enough, my mind became weaker, and I dreamt longer and longer. My escape became a necessity and I would lose track of time, lose track of my goals and ambitions, until I just lived. I breathed, I ate, I woke and I slept. I loved with an immature sense of what this meant or what it would bring.

And those goals became silly notions meant for another. My self-questioning became louder, a feverish pitch of self-doubt that drowned out any positive thoughts and immobilized my inner sense of worth.

A failed marriage, an unaccomplished degree, and single motherhood at 23.

It seemed the only dream I had “accomplished” which I couldn’t even take credit for was growing into an attractive woman. As a child, I had wished daily to be beautiful, graceful, to possess the ease of human interaction – the ability to connect and feel with others, but this desire was misguided as I did not know the difference between healthy and unhealthy connections in relationships.

I was in a downward spiral that was quickly finding its way to the bottom. I had no sense of where I could go from there, of what life meant anymore if not my definition of a perfect loveable family.

But with pain, failure, and darkness comes revelation. You cannot hide from yourself when all that is left is you.

So I took the shreds of my motivation and began a painstakingly slow mending process. I recognized my faults, which were many, and realized that no matter how sympathetic a past I had, it did not constitute an excuse for where I had landed.

And 5 years later you find me here, full of life.

I didn’t give up on life. I placed one foot in front of the other and though I had many missteps, I keep walking forward. And I feel a sense of pride in my life; I have two young daughters that grow lovelier every day, I have a career that I enjoy and brings me a sense of fulfillment, and I am ready to go back to my restarting those childhood dreams – even if that only means coloring the life of my loved ones with my happiness.

We can spend days philosophizing about what true happiness means and what we need to possess it. We can spend an equal amount of time debating whether the singular task of making ourselves happy contributes to the improved happiness of the collective; I believe that it does. By being a happy mother, daughter, sister, friend, and partner I am bringing that positivity into the lives of those connected to me. By sharing my stories, I hope you feel the hope that has carried me through daily and how this hope has changed as I have gotten older. I once thought happiness would come when I married and had children, a family to love me and receive my love.

But I learned that you can’t smother the darkness, you can’t swallow the bitter memories, you can’t hide from the gray that is nestled inside you and lures you into endless sleep; you have to face it in order to bring a sense of peace and happiness into your own being.

Imagine that you are in your dark hole, surrounded by darkness that eats at your perceived happiness away, that chips at your will to live, that hammers you down when you try to move forward, that suffocates you when you try to take a breath of hopeful air. You are left slumped on the ground choking on the hurt, the pain is so strong it keeps you pinned to the floor and no matter how hard you try to ignore it; the ringing in your ears makes it impossible for you to function at a higher level than mere existence. It becomes a sub existence and time passes by, passing you by.

But there is a ladder amongst this darkness. Barely visible at first but you feel it with your hands as you wander around unrelenting in your desire to escape. Each rung on that ladder brings you a different memory – a painful shameful moment in your life; and in order to move past a rung you have to come to terms with it and the implications it has caused in your life.

If you were abused, you need to know that you did nothing to invite this undeserved attack onto yourself. There is nothing wrong with you. You do not have something in you that can elicit this behavior in others toward you. You may have been repeatedly abused, by many, but you need to realize that it is not your fault. You were a victim but over time and with a lot of work you can heal and stop living like one.

Whatever hard reality was or is your life you have two choices, same as anyone else; climb the ladder or cower in the false safety of your known darkness. Don’t beat yourself up for decisions and choices you made, even if you ended up hurting others. You have to learn to forgive yourself and push forward. If you don’t, your “reality” (your self-inflicted continuation of that twisted world) will always remain your captor.

I’m not credentialed to tell you how to get better, I can only share what I have gone through and have done to get to a better place. One thing I can tell you, when you climb high enough up that ladder, you will savor the ease with which you keep climbing and you will begin to shed your old tattered self and embrace the new stronger, happier, and more productive self.

I am not at the top of the ladder; I don’t know what I will find when I get there. But I do know that I am relishing the journey upward and that I am improving this world a little with my own sunshine brightening this beautiful new day.

Link

Please Support: Los Angeles Theatre Academy Presents: Pastorela “Camino a San Conrado”

21 Dec
Pastorela: Opening Night 7PM

Pastorela: Opening Night 7PM

This past week, I was honored to become a Board Member of this incredible non profit that promotes theatre, music, dance, and the happiness that results in these adorable children. Please support this important and dear to my heart endeavor! The girls will be borreguitos (sheep).

Opening Night TONIGHT at 7PM $15 Adults $7.50 kids 5 and Under FREE. Experience the cultural holiday tradition of a Pastorela in a beautiful setting surrounded by trees and the gorgeous LA sky. Listen to the angelic voices of DoReMi and just try to contain your fits of laughter induced by our comedic take on “El Camino a San Conrado” followed by Pinatas! Who doesn’t like pinatas?? :) Los-Angeles Theatre-Academy is the first theatre for kids, by kids, in Los Angeles. We are a non profit and gratefully accept donations via our paypal account. Please check out our website http://latheatreacademy.com/ It’s tax deductible.

Thank you, Gracias! De Todo Corazon!

Susana Benavidez, Board member, Los Angeles Theatre Academy

Letter to my Dear Eliza on her 7th Birthday

13 Nov

When I see your face, your uninterrupted innocence, and feel the silkiness of your cheek when you rub it against mine in affection I am mesmerized.  I am awestruck and grateful for the simplicity in your joy and outlook in life; by your dreams full of cotton candy clouds, rainbows bursting through the sky, pink princesses leading the world; and your mommy loved above it all. 

You hold my hand, tilt your head to the side, giving me one of your crooked half smiles that can’t contain itself and I am filled with a radiating warmth that makes the world around me livelier.

 I work hard instilling a joy for life, an appreciation for everything around us; whether it is observing the morning dew glittering on a blade of lime green grass or sitting quietly taking in the fiery and purple hues of our LA sunsets.  I pray, in my own way, that you take what happiness you can from each moment in life and that these moments become a permanent state of happiness for you.

Each time I threw a penny in a wishing pond, each time an eyelash fell and we pressed it against our fingers, every birthday cake wish since I’ve had you two, I have fervently wished that you grow to be Happy and Kind – wonderful women.

 Along the way of finding ways to improve your chances of a better tomorrow, I have found bits and pieces of happiness myself.  As I looked for a better education for the two of you, I found a way to use my skills to volunteer and received a higher sense of fulfillment.  As I pushed you into the arts, I became immersed in a colorful world of music, acting and dance. 

 We have grown happier together.  We have grown stronger together.

 Today you are seven years old. 

 I was 21 and a mother of two with a growing sense of dread and an urgent need to raise you on my own before you were marred with witnessing what I did as a child.

 No one knew what went on nor do they need to know.  I set out with the two of you and we carried on as three.  It is the hardest decision I have ever made.  Not because of what I needed but for fear that I was being weak by not putting up with a bad situation so you could have your father. 

 In many ways I have never been a child but more of a half adult.  I experienced life’s travails and physical exigencies while still trapped in a child’s body.  Like a Matryoshka doll, I forced forward the strength of an adult to appease the need of others when inside I was physically and deep down, emotionally, still a child. 

But since the first moment I laid eyes on you, I Loved you.  You were my renewed link to life in many ways, my dear.  With time, I have found my own place, independent of you two, I discovered self-love.  But what remains unchanged are the tears that threaten to spill from my eyes, the ache in my chest, in my soul, when I think of you and the love I have for you. 

 I say all this in tribute to you; to the strength that you have as a seven year old, to have lived through the many low’s that life dealt us in the past but retaining only the good.

 You take heart in the beauty of dying embers even when the fire burned.

 Your eyes, full of honest and raw adoration looked up at me and thanked me for a weekend that reminded you of how special you are.  I will never forget what you told me that night.  I share it in hope that it inspires the formerly unloved to focus on the care and love of their own children instead on love that was not received. 

 The night was bitingly cold but we happily lingered in the moment as we walked back from your birthday dinner.  I took your small fingers in my hand and caressed them with the magic that hung, suspended in the air.

 You stopped and looked up at me, your eyes shining with tenderness, and asked me,

 “Mommy, you know how you can happy cry?”

 “Yes?”

 “When you read me your card, you made me happy cry.”

 —The contents of said birthday card will remain private because I whispered those words, meant only for you, into your ear—

 “Iza, you’re making me happy cry now.”

 “Thank you Mommy.” And you hugged me tightly.

 That in a life continuously assaulted with the love for Things, with the need of bigger, better, brighter!, you chose to focus on and appreciate the love that I show you, made my wish come true.

 

 

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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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