Your Heart Beats On

I was only 12 years old, in fact I had just turned 12 a week before. I was in my bedroom hanging up posters I had received as gifts. I was really into unicorns, and although I can’t remember who bought me that poster, it was the most epic unicorn poster. I was also annoyed with my sister, because we all know how annoying little sisters are, especially if you have to share a room with them!!

In fact, that morning when you were sitting in the porch, and we were arguing over a necklace, you nodded your head to us and said, “Don’t fight with each other hitas, one day you won’t have each other.” I wonder if you knew. If you knew that was the last interaction we would have. You planned an evening at the lake, to go fishing. We wanted to join you- how we loved fishing with you in that majestic lake. You told us no. So in our disappointment we went our separate ways and then a few precious hours later, Grandma came home in a panic. She said you were in an ambulance on your way to the hospital.

Adults don’t like to tell children the truth- or at least the WHOLE truth. Adults think children will somehow get hurt if they are told the truth. They mean well, but children are not as dumb as they treat them. I understand that we want to keep our children safe, and how we desperately want them to stay innocent and pure. When our family got into the car and headed to the hospital I prayed. I can see, no smell the fear around us all. The adults didn’t want to tell us what was going on, only that you were in the hospital.

We beat the ambulance to the hospital. Your heart stopped while you were fishing, and the lake was 30 miles away- a solid 45 minute drive. So our dad took the car to find it and follow it to the hospital. We sat in the waiting area and tried to stay busy. There was an empty receptionist desk, and so my sister and I played pretend until our dad finally appeared. His countenance was grave and his eyes were sunken in. Grandma was sitting with her rosary praying. Mom was watching T.V. No news, only that they were working on him.

When the doctor finally came out, it seemed as if time itself had stopped. Somehow all those little annoyances that were so annoying became no longer such a big deal. Somehow everything I thought was so important, became less important. The only thing that mattered at that time was you. You had to be okay. You had to survive. You would somehow come through, the same way you did when you fought in World War II.

Instead, the doctor told us that you did not make it. The translator for Grandma told her that they did everything they could, and they just couldn’t get your heart to beat again. She dropped her head, clutched her rosary to her heart and cried. All I could do was hold my breath.

When I saw you laying on the hospital bed, it didn’t look like you. I told myself it wasn’t you. I told myself the doctors made a mistake. This was not my Pita. The very life that was inside you, now gone.

It was in the waiting room when dad gave us your coins in your pocket. The coins you collected while over seas. I took it, ran to the bathroom and cried in secret. I didn’t realize I had lost them until that morning. I had spent that night on your bed with my sister. I awoke with the sound of my Uncles and Aunts who arrived from out of town. It felt like a dream, no a nightmare of some sort.

I kept expecting you to walk into the kitchen and make yourself a cup of coffee and listen to the Spanish Radio. I kept expecting to see you sitting in the porch carving out furniture for your grandkids. Instead strangers kept showing up with donuts… so many donuts! Giving us their condolences, and I kept thinking I was going to wake up any time now.

Your heart may have stopped beating this day, 29 years ago, but your heart beats in me, and my sisters and all of the children who called you Pita!

Thank you for teaching our family how to fish, how to love, and most importantly, “don’t fight with each other children, one day you won’t have each other.”

Love Always

A Late Start

Today I am 41 years old. I woke up, poured myself some coffee, sat in my favorite chair and read my morning devotionals. Now that it is summer break I don’t have to rush through it, instead I can sit quietly and just soak it all in.

One of the habits I am starting to form is to be grateful- to count my blessings. I sat in my chair and realized that I have been in this house for five years now. As that may sound like a little thing, it is a big deal for me. Since I was 20 I had moved every year or every other year until I married Dan. I shuffled around trying to find a better place, a cheaper place or to simply, get away.

I know some people move a lot because they have to, I moved around a lot because my life was such a mess. Now that I have been in this place for a few years, and plan to for a long time, I finally feel I at home.

It’s easy to start thinking stuff like, “If only I had this when I was younger.” Or, “If I had started doing this stuff in my twenties, imagine where I would be today!” It’s easy to put certain mile stones and attach them to our age. Then we start to fear that we are missing out, or not having a FULL abundant life, because we haven’t done this or that at a certain age. Such Hogwash!!

Back in January, I accomplished something huge- I ran 26.2 miles. I was 40. I had wanted to run a marathon for YEARS, but I just did not have the time to train.

There were over 10,000 runners for the Houston Marathon, and so the organizers placed us in corrals according to pace. I was placed in corral B. By the time I got there, after using the bathroom, checking in my gear, it was shut down. I had to walk to corral C. By the miracle of the Running Gods, I found my bestie Alma- we separated as she was placed in corral C.

We were surrounded by a crowd. I mean completely surrounded. We were standing on the sidewalk waiting to enter the corral. The race started at 7:00 A.M. and sure enough it started right on time. Slowly we marched like the penguins in “March of the Penguins” trying to reach our destination.

Then we hear, “Corral C is closed!” Suddenly I can feel the people around me wanting to rush to corral D I thought this was how I was going to die! Trampled by runners before I could run my debut marathon.

By the time we were able to reach corral D it was 7:30ish. The crowd still surrounding us as we slowly and inch by inch get closer to the start.

When I finally see the start line, I take a deep breath and begin to psych myself up. By the time I was able to pass the start line, it was 7:50ish. It took almost an entire hour for us to start the race.

Luckily with our technology, my time does not start recording until I cross that start line, so even though it took an hour for me to get there, my time was not effected. I still ran 26.2 miles even though I had a late start.

You probably see where I am going with this. We’ve heard it many times before, “It’s never too late to start, to plan, to accomplish.” Life throws stuff at us, and sometimes we do stuff that results in us having to put stuff on hold, or to wait a little longer for whatever it is we want. I don’t know why society puts pressure on us, or if we put it on ourselves, that we have to marry at a certain age, buy a house, and have kids- in that order too- or we are missing out or life isn’t as meaningful.

The truth is that life isn’t rigid like that. Life isn’t a straight line from start to finish. It’s thinking and believing that life is SUPPOSE to be a certain way that makes us feel bad, not how our lives truly are.

So where ever you find yourself today, be thankful. Let go of the messages that say your life isn’t meaningful because you haven’t done this or that yet. It is NEVER too late to start. Run your own race!

Love Always!

Happy Birthday to Me!!

A Mother’s Day Story

The parking lot was empty. Just an old building, falling apart but sturdy on the foundation. She just couldn’t hold it in anymore. The tears started to cumulate and the choking feeling in her throat had to be released. She laid her head on the steering wheel and cried. The baby was sound asleep in the back seat and the one forming in her womb stirred. “God, I need food to feed my babies and the church pantry is closed. What do I do?”

It was just two years ago, drunk and no worries in the world. All that mattered was satisfying her desire to fill the void. To feel beautiful and wanted.

The pregnancy test showed positive and all she could do was stare at it and murmur “No, No, No…” She wanted a baby, eventually, but not now, not like this. After all, she did just go through a divorce, at the ripe age of 19. The baby daddy was someone she only knew for a few months.

When she sat on the examining table, the doctor confirmed that she was indeed expecting. He asked what she wanted to do. She was paralyzed with fear but she knew in her heart and soul that she was going to have this baby and to do whatever it took to raise her. It didn’t occur to her to terminate.

The odds were against her. Oh! they were very much against her!

Unmarried. No permanent place of her own. No job. Just a 20 year old college girl trying to find her place in this world.

Leaving that doctor’s office she made a promise to her baby and to herself. She placed her shaky palm on her womb and whispered, “No matter what happens, little one, I promise you that I will give you everything I never had, I promise you that I will protect you and love you.”

That day she and the baby daddy found a place to live and started on journey that would not be comfortable, a journey that would encompass growing pains, hardships, heartaches, and redemption.

Two years later and she was expecting her second child. There wasn’t enough money for the month, and not enough government subsidies to assist with the necessities of life. She knew that a church offered food to families in need. It was closed and she just couldn’t hold it in anymore. Hopeless. Empty. Angry. Angry for letting her life be exactly what she didn’t want it to be. She stared in the reflection of the rear view mirror, eyes swollen and tear stains on her cheeks. She had to admit that she was falling into the same footsteps as her own mother. She stared into those eyes and murmured, “No, No, No… I will not let this happen.”

She left that parking lot, feeling a lot like that old building- falling apart, empty but had a sturdy foundation. That foundation was love, grit, determination, and faith.

A few years later, with a lot of therapy, support groups, faith and facing some Giants along the way, she made a life for herself and her children.

If you ask her today about her “why,” about what makes her so strong and why she works so hard. She’ll tell you their names are Stacy and Kevin. Fourteen years later, God said, “Well, since you love them so much, let’s bring Avery along to spread even more joy, to remind you that children are not an inconvenience, they are the symbol of love, hope and wonder. They are a blessing as you are to me.” There are days I disagree with God when these kids drive me to my breaking point sometimes… but they truly did save my life.

And how true! Because of my children, I learned what God’s love was all about. I may have lived my life backwards, but I would not want it any other way. I cannot imagine a world without my Stacy and Kevin and Avery. After that day at the parking lot, I no longer wondered where food was coming from. Don’t get me wrong, I still hunger. I hunger for more joy, love, peace and faith for the remainder of my life.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mamas out there. Doesn’t matter how your children came into your life, you love them and will do anything for them. I promise you that you are doing better than you think you are.

Also don’t forget to use condoms or don’t forget to take your birth control pills people. 😉 After all, are we not all a product of druken sex? 🙂 That was a joke…

Love Always

It’s Going to be Okay

For the last several years, I have had my students work on a final project to end the school year. I like to end the year with reading of The Giver. If you have not read this piece of treasure, please do yourself a favor and take a few hours and read it. The cliff notes of the story is about a young boy who lives in a Dystopian world-a world with no color, no pain, no past. As the protagonist becomes more enlightened about the world beyond- a world of color, music and love, he makes a heroic escape to “Elsewhere” to save another soul from injustice.

I ask my students to create a Utopia in response to the reading. I ask them to create a money system, a government, theology, family structures, level of technology, agriculture, rituals, traditions etc. I also have them create a flag and map.

It’s a great creative and critical thinking project, and it never fails to amaze me how some of their Utopias turn out.

It does make me think about the world we create in our own minds. Don’t we all carry in our hearts a Utopia of sorts. Don’t we strive to make this perfect world a reality?

In my little perfect world, everyone gets along. There is peace. Everyone forgives and respects each other and drinks beer and eats pizza everyday- without gaining any extra weight.

In my perfect little world, everyone would have a safe home to live in and enough food to eat.

In my perfect little world, everyone is included and there is no need to lie or steal or cheat.

As simple as that sounds, I believe we all tend to create a world in our minds that is much much better than the one we live in.

As middle age becomes me and I ponder more and more about my time here on this planet, I realize more and more that the perfect little world I create causes more problems than it does good.

For one, it makes me feel bad that my life isn’t at all as I imagined it “should be.” The image of my perfect world causes me to “control” situations and problems to fit my idea of what I believe to be best. And when I try to “control” anything in my life- frustration, anger, disappointment and discouragement are born.

You see, when we create this world of what “should be” it is easy to become discouraged by the gap between our ideal and the real. And when we long for the ideal we criticize the real. And then it is tempting to just throw in the towel and give up on the ideal and just settle for the real.

It seems to me that real maturity has to do with living in the in between. To love the reality, without apology or shame, in spite of its imperfections, and still strive for the ideal.

After all are we not called to love REAL people, not IDEAL people?

“The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community (even if their intentions are ever so earnest), but the person who loves those around them will create community.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

For me it is time to destroy my ideas of what “should be.” I don’t want to hold people to a standard that I myself cannot live up to. As a human race, we will fall short. We will hurt others. We will make wrong decisions. We will cheat. We will lie. And then we will also love. We give when there is a need. We encourage others. We laugh. And we have moments of exquisite happiness when a child is born, or get married, or reach a challenging goal of some kind. And then in a blink of an eye all that was good is taken away- divorce, death, rifts. Then slowly we once again experience the rich grace God has for us all.

Brene Brown teaches that we as humans have a strong need to belong. To be a part of a community. She states that the opposite of belonging is not aloneness, but fitting in. When we create a world that others or situations must “fit” in order for us to be happy, then we have experienced a taste of hell.

This post is to encourage you- because you might find yourself in a situation that doesn’t make any sense. Maybe your brother decides that his life is better without you. Maybe you find yourself in a place of unemployment and uncertainty. Maybe you find yourself divorced- twice or three times. Maybe you just found out about a diagnosis. Maybe you are in the middle of grief and mourning. Maybe you find yourself an outsider of some sort. Maybe your marriage is not anything as you planned. Maybe you have been betrayed, abandoned or abused.

I encourage you right now because life IS suppose to be hard, and crazy and messy and confusing. Life isn’t a neat tidy experience. It is in the chaos we find peace when realize that we are not alone in our ugliness and beauty. Embrace what is and strive to suck less with each day we are given. We CANNOT control the surroundings- but we can choose to love or life anyway, because life loves you! Life is a gift and the people in them is your treasure. Love them and your life, and you will be okay!

Love Always

Slavery to Smiling and Love

Toothaches suck. When I was sixteen I woke up one morning with a throbbing pain in my mouth. At first it wasn’t so bad, I could tolerate it. All I had to do was chew my food on the other side of my mouth. Then before I knew it, the pain was so bad I couldn’t focus on anything else.

It’s true that I neglected my oral hygiene when I was young. I was never told to brush my teeth before bed or in the morning when I left for school. In fact, my own mom was wearing dentures when she was in her forties.

The only time I even attempted to brush my teeth was when my uncles would come for a visit. When I saw them drive up our driveway, I would run to the bathroom and brush my front teeth as fast as I could. Every time they would come for a visit, they would ask us (my sister and me) if we have been brushing our teeth. They grew up without habit of oral hygiene and ended up with some expensive crowns.

I would open my mouth real wide, and they would take a look inside, and then give my sister and I a pat on the back for what looked like clean shiny teeth.

Although the quick brush was able to fool my uncles into believing we brushed our teeth on a regular basis, the deceit was not fooling the natural consequences of what I would have to face!

The only time I ever visited the Dentist when I was young, was when the pain was so unbearable due to the abscess in my tooth that was infected. I sat in this uncomfortable chair, and when the Doc looked into my mouth, “WHOA! It’s the Grand Canyon!” No joke. The Dentist said I needed a root canal and a crown. Since we didn’t have the money to pay for such a procedure, he prescribed me some antibiotics and very strong painkillers in the mean time.

This was the summer of my Sophomore year and we were headed to Farmington, New Mexico for a Basketball Camp. I don’t remember anything from that trip. I was so high from the medicine and the abscess wasn’t going to relent, so the entire trip I was sleeping in the Hotel and trying my best to stay awake on the bench. Pretty sure I didn’t get a lot of playing time.

When I finally arrived home, I was able to see another Dentist in the rural town of Questa, a much smaller village and so the cost of seeing a Dentist was cheaper than one in the small village of Taos.

The Dentist told my dad that I needed a root canal and a crown. My dad refused. He told the Dentist to just pull it. The Dentist explained that doing that would cause my teeth to shift and I was too young to pull my permanent teeth.

My dad didn’t care, he didn’t have the money to pay for the procedure. The Dentist refused to pull it. So he had his secretary call around and found a Dentist in Santa Fe who would do it for practically no cost.

That also meant I had to deal with the pain and taking the painkillers until I was able to see the Savior, my Hero of saving my tooth.

When I was finally able to sit and have the procedure done, the Dentist was able to save my tooth with a root canal and placed a “temporary” crown on it. That will be important information later.

You would think after that ordeal I would have been better with my oral hygiene. Well, it just wasn’t a habit I formed.

Fast forward to my early twenties, and I kept getting sick. No matter how many times I took my antibiotics, the sickness kept coming back.

Since I was a young mother of two children, and did not have a good paying job, rather I had no job because I was still working on my undergraduate degree, we were able to receive Medicaid, which meant I could start seeing a Dentist. When the x-rays were developed, the Dentist showed me this black stuff hanging around my tooth that was saved a few years ago. The crown, that was supposed to be temporary, was leaking and bacteria was growing and making me sick.

So I had to undergo ANOTHER root canal and this time, I was fitted for a proper crown. I remember when I saw my Dentist for a follow up and the Hygienist was giving me a good cleaning. She was telling me that I needed to do a better job with my oral hygiene, so I humbly asked her, “Can you show me how to properly brush my teeth?”

She smiled, grabbed the model they use when teaching young children, and she showed me exactly “how” to keep my teeth clean with floss and a good toothbrush, and therefore free from any oral crisis.

To this day I am a slave to my toothbrush! Isn’t life just the same way?

If you really think about- there really isn’t any other way to live, even though we don’t like it.

In other words, if we want to be free from cavities, root canals, crowns and such we have to become a slave to the toothbrush. We can’t be free from the toothbrush and expect to have a clean, shiny smile free of pain and bad breath.

If we want to have financial peace and we continue to charge credit cards and take out loans, then you are a slave to the lenders, no peace there! In order to be free from those nasty collectors and bankruptcy, you must be a slave to saving your money and managing it with a budget.

If we want to be physically fit, we have to become a slave to physical exercise and eating right. Otherwise we are a slave to heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

If we want to have loving, healthy relationships, we have to become slaves to forgiveness, compromise, setting boundaries, and let go of the need to be right all the time. Otherwise we end up becoming a slave to assholeism–(don’t think that is a word) which is a case of resentment with a touch of bitterness and pride.

I think you get the picture, and maybe the word slave is too strong an adjective to describe it, however, the more I think about it, the more I realize that although the word slave does have a negative connotation, the consequences of being a slave to certain ideas, habits, and life styles will result in a high cost– whether it be a negative result, or a positive result. So I do believe the word slave fits just right, because depending on our choice of who we are a slave to will determine the quality of our lives.

Yeah, that did not make any sense! Maybe I should smile more, because I can and it’s my best feature, and let the world know, I am a slave to love and hope and the rest is just that–live and let live!

LOVE ALWAYS and SMILE!

A Whole Five Years

Dan and I are celebrating five years of marriage. It was the broken road that we had to travel to find one another. The life we are creating together has been above any expectations I held when I dreamed of finding my life partner.

We’ve had our arguments, our disagreements, we even had to seek some counseling. We are determined and will do whatever it takes to make this work. Any healthy relationship takes work. It’s about giving and receiving. It’s about learning the kind of communication that enables understanding and compassion. It’s about having fun and keeping the fire a blaze.

It’s strange how we imagine love when we are young- that it’ll be so easy and effortless. To be carried away into the sunset and nothing will stop you and your prince.

The hard truth is that it does take certain skills to make a relationship healthy, thriving and everlasting. Listening skills. Forgiveness skills. Sacrificing skills. Encouragement skills. Boundary skills. Being Vulnerable skills.

It took me a little longer to really understand what true love meant. Dan has helped me understand that.

He stood by me in my worst and fought for me when I wanted to give up. He stood up for me when others criticized me or put me down. He respects me and honors me.

Dan isn’t perfect but his way of loving me is.

Cheers to five great fuckin years!

Oh and the man writes me poetry too…

Love Always

Poverty and Black Stockings

Our family grew up poor. That meant we had to be “creative” in having and buying certain material goods.

When I ran middle school track, our uniforms were old and the shorts were too short. In order for the team to be united and to keep the breeze from going through our rear ends, our coach required that we have black spandex to wear under our shorts.

I told my dad as I jumped into his clunker blue truck, “I need black spandex for track.” He drove me to Wal-Mart, the biggest store in the Northern Hemisphere of our State, and lo and behold, NO BLACK Spandex. Seriously, you can buy a gun, some ammo, a black ski mask, duckt tape, a crowbar and craw fish, but no black spandex! I mentioned that some girls on the team were going to the local sporting store in town, G & G Sports to buy theirs.

We parked the truck in the empty parking lot. We walked in and there was plenty to select from.

I found a pair that would fit and I just knew it would be the pair to set new records. “Twenty-two dollars!” my dad exclaimed in disgust. “Sorry, but I am not paying twenty-two dollars for spandex.” We left the store and I was disappointed.

The next few days, our coach kept reminding us that we needed black spandex as part of the uniform, or we wouldn’t be able to run at our first track meet.

So I had to find something and find it quick. I snuck into my mom’s closet drawer and pulled out a pair of her black stockings.

I put it under my shirt and ran to my room. I cut the bottoms and scrunched them up so they looked like black spandex. From far away you couldn’t tell the difference. No body could tell if they were stockings.

So when it was time to warm up for our relay race, one of my teammates stared at my “spandex” and asked, “Are those stockings?”

To my utter horror my secret was out! I freaked! My eyes popped out of their sockets and I shouted, “YEAH! IS there a problem?”

“NO! I just…”

“Just what?” My voice wasn’t very kind, but I was soooo scared that she would tell everyone else, and everyone would start teasing me.

So I did what anyone else would have done in this situation. I ran my ass off and helped our team win first place.

She said nothing more of my stockings. I was eternally grateful.

The next year I wore my moms’s stockings again, because for some alien reason, Wal-Mart did not provide black spandex and paying Twenty-two dollars was just something my dad was unwilling to pay.

I made Varsity Track that year. I even qualified for State as an 8th Grader, with those stupid black stockings.

When I was old enough to hold a job, I bought my Twenty-two dollar black spandex, along with a new pair of spikes, and deodorant- which is a whole other post at another time.

I am always amazed at how resilient children are, and mostly how when an obstacle presents itself we will do whatever it takes to meet a goal, or to participate in an activity or event. I was so determined to run track, and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me.

It’s true that poverty takes many forms. It often does mean lack of income, certainly, but it can be emotional or spiritual as well.

This particular memory I hold reminds me of the message I received when I was only a child- that I wasn’t worth even Twenty-two dollars. You see, it wasn’t that my dad didn’t have the money- he did. Most of his income went to his hobby in restoring old cars into hot rods.

So my sister and I had to find “creative” ways to fit in, to have certain items, even personal hygiene and health care. Ask my sister why her smile lights up the room today, and why she refused to smile for her Senior Portraits.

A child living in poverty is tragic indeed, but a child who thinks they don’t count is a child needing love. A child who believes they can’t do anything right is a child living in emotional poverty.

The good news is that being born into a poor emotional environment does not mean it is the child’s destiny to remain there. The past was not our choice- the present is.

How wonderful to pass this gift to others- that past wounds don’t have to define who we are!

LOVE ALWAYS!