Raising Kevin

Tomorrow Kevin turns 20. 20 years ago a little baby boy entered the world, and like most mothers, I had dreams and hopes for him. Mostly to have a life full of love and joy. To learn about the world and to become a man that will contribute to making it a little better.

Truth be told, Kevin is still at home. No job. No school. He’s not doing much of anything. I know that society does not approve, but there is so much more than what meets they eye when it comes to Kevin.

Have you seen the Netflix series, “Raising Dion”? It’s about a little boy who is born with super powers, and his single mom tries to help him navigate the situation by helping him to control his powers so that they don’t hurt others or himself. It’s a fun little show depicted from a comic book so of course conflicts are resolved in tidy little boxes and where heroes save the day!

In some way Kevin was born with “super powers.” Powers that disabled him rather than enhanced him, and boy did I have a lot of difficulty navigating on how to help him control those powers.

Kevin was more than a strong willed child; more than stubborn. Kevin at a very young age was already having feelings of depression and mania along with aggression and low self esteem. In addition he was having some sleep issues which contributed to decreased function of every day tasks. He was suspended from school a few times for some violence, and power struggles with teachers.

I did everything the parenting books told me to do. I punished him, I took away privileges, I even tried positive reinforcement. I tell the story often about how it took FOUR hours to get him to sit on the naughty step for four minutes (since he was four), as taught by Super Nanny. Remember her? NOTHING was working. He continued to act out, have tantrums. and deep down I felt like something was off.

When I divorced his dad, his condition only got worse. What you have to understand is that Kevin witnessed some domestic violence, resulting in watching his dad get hand cuffed and taken away. So naturally, I took him to family therapy. From there, we had him evaluated. I was told that he had anxiety and depression. We had a sleep study done, and it turns out he had restless leg syndrome. His pediatrician gave him a prescription of Clonidine to help him sleep along with Iron supplements to help with his restless leg syndrome. It seemed like it was working, he fell asleep and woke up with no issues.

Here is where it started to get complicated. It turns out that there are some medical doctors out there who believe that children should not be taking drugs that alter their brain. I was told that as his parent it was my responsibility to make sure I was actually parenting him to help him get better. I was told, no, SHAMED, that I wasn’t giving him proper sleep hygiene and that eventually with a consistent night routine his brain would mature and he would sleep better. So we took him off the Clonidine.

When Kevin continued to show defiant behavior and threating suicide, or at least telling his peers and teachers that he wanted die or he was better off dead, we had him evaluated again. So I found a Social Worker, male, to help Kevin navigate his life. Kevin also started seeing a psychiatrist who prescribed some meds to help with depression and anxiety.

Little did we know, Kevin was hiding the pills. I even would make him take them in front of me as I looked inside his mouth to see that he had swallowed them.

When it was time to check in with the psychiatrist we reported that we saw very little to no change in Kevin, again we didn’t know he was hiding the pills, she adjusted the dosage.

After a few weeks, still no change.

I remember sitting in her office reporting that I was frustrated and that no matter what I did it did not help. I described to her how in one incident during a school function, that I thought would be fun for family, Kevin did not want to participate. I pushed him. So Kevin, angry at me, decided to walk home. Our home was five miles away, and it was already dark outside. Out of my frustration, I let him. Of course we ended up picking him up after about 10 minutes and went home stressed and agitated.

The psychiatrist then looks at me and tells me that Kevin’s problem is that I needed to grow up and be the mature adult. It was very childish of me to let Kevin walk home. Basically all of Kevin’s issues were parenting issues.

By the time Kevin was in high school, we continued to see him struggle. He barely made it to class and I received several notices from the school that Kevin was truant so much they were going to call the police. All the way up to his Senior year I found myself once again having teacher parent conferences regarding Kevin’s behavior, and just like all the others, this one ended just the same — it was a parenting issue.

Last summer Kevin was hospitalized because his depression was so bad. I thought for sure after that experience he would want to get his shit together and make something of himself. He was supposed to follow through with a therapist and take the meds the doctor prescribed him. He did not.

So here we are. My 20 year old lives at home with no job, no school, no life.

Looking from the outside in, it’s probably a parenting issue right? I mean why not just kick the kid out? Why are boundaries not in place?

Yes, you would be right if Kevin was a “normal” lazy kid who just wants to stay home and play video games all night.

But Kevin is not a “normal” lazy kid. Kevin has a mental illness. A true mental illness that disables him. One of the symptoms is called “Anosognosia.” What is Anosognosia? NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) defines it this way: When we talk about anosognosia in mental illness, we mean that someone is unaware of their own mental health condition or that they can’t perceive their condition accurately. Anosognosia is a common symptom of certain mental illnesses, perhaps the most difficult to understand for those who have never experienced it.

This explains why Kevin won’t take his meds and won’t talk to a therapist. We are not talking about someone who is in “denial” but rather- When someone rejects a diagnosis of mental illness, it’s tempting to say that he’s “in denial.” But someone with acute mental illness may not be thinking clearly enough to consciously choose denial. They may instead be experiencing “lack of insight” or “lack of awareness.” The formal medical term for this medical condition is anosognosia, from the Greek meaning “to not know a disease.”

Now that we know what is truly going on, I can actually parent him the way HE NEEDS TO BE parented. There is a way to help these individuals who suffer from this condition, and after watching some webinars on how to talk and help these people get the treatment they need, this Mama is full of hope that Kevin will in fact be a productive member of society one day.

It will not happen over night, and it will not be easy. Simply, because I have no say on his medical treatment now that he is an adult.

This has been the most challenging journey of parenthood I have ever experienced!!! Mental Health for children, especially twenty years ago, is still stigmatized and making the correct diagnosis is tricky.

I cry a lot and hurt a lot for Kevin. Who wants to see their kid this way? What’s worse is not being able to fix it!! I don’t talk a lot about Kevin or his condition, because I’m still learning myself and the fear of shame that comes with telling people that my kid isn’t doing anything with his life right now.

I will end by saying that this whole experience has humbled me as a parent and an educator. I know more than ever that we cannot look from the outside in and think that a problem child is a result of inconsistent and inappropriate parenting. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it is something else. In the end, we need to love people more and share more encouraging words rather than judge them and write them off.


Our Family Story Chapter 3

“Ohhh!” Ofelia wakes up to the sound of groaning. Juanito was in bed crying in pain. Mama was patting a cold cloth on his forehead. “He’s burning up!”  

“What’s wrong with him?” asks Ofelia scared. 

“It seems that he has broken his hip.” Mama sighs. 

“Will he be able to walk again?” 

“We need to take him to the doctor, but the only doctor lives in Taos.” There was a long eerie silence. “We don’t have any money to pay the doctor anyway.” Mama’s voice was starting to shake, her lower lip quivering. 

“Comm’on hita, lets make breakfast. and pray for your hermano.” 

That day Mama stayed by Juanito’s side, trying to get him to eat and drink, but the pain would not settle. The fever would not break. Ofelia was in charge of prepping and cooking the family meals while Mama tended to her baby boy. While working Ofelia whispered prayers for God to heal her little brother.

Each day he seemed to get a little worse. Juanito was not recovering and Mama was exhausted. She stayed up as much as she could to tend to him. 

That night Ofelia was praying extra hard, and lit extra candles of the Virgin. She prayed to the Mother of God that He would exchange her life for her brother’s. She begged and she pleaded. When she slowly walked to the bed side of Juanito she saw her Mama leaned over his body, crying. Papa had is hand on her back and his head bowed, tears dropping to the wooden floor. The moon light shone through the window and the candles that were lit on the alter enlarged the shadows of her parents.

 Ofelia’s heart stopped, she felt small and the shadows on the wall seem to enclose around her. “No!” she whispered. She squinted trying to keep the tears from coming, to cry meant to accept the reality of her brother’s death. If she could keep from crying, maybe it would be a bad dream. Her throat could not hold it in anymore. The lump jumped out and she fell to her knees. The tears did come, and her brother was dead. 

Our Family Story Chapter 2

The story continues for Ofelia, if you haven’t read chapter 1 yet, you can find it here in my blog. Enjoy!

“Hola! Come estas hermano?” Papa always greeted the store merchant with such respect. “I have lots of potatoes for you today.” 

“Es muy bueno, gracias! Hola Ofelia, you grow so much every time I see you!” He lifted her up from the back of the wagon and set her on the ground. “Gracias Mr. Martinez!” She runs inside ready to purchase her candy. 

Papa and Mr. Martinez start bringing in the sacks of potatoes inside of the store.  Ofelia admired their strength and hoped that one day she would meet a man as strong as her Papa. 

Looking out the window, Ofelia could see the remains of the burnt buildings in the Taos Plaza from the fire a few weeks ago. It was a devastating event because the buildings in the plaza were contiguous which meant the one fire would spread to others. “How’s the rebuilding going?” asks Papa to the merchant. 

“Slow.” he answers. “I think the town is getting ready to establish a fire station and public water to limit the fires we have been experiencing.” The Hotel seemed to have dodged the flames.” 

“That’s good. At least we can still have tourists come visit.” 

“Perhaps.” says the merchant. “Until they decide to move here and try and change our village.” 

“True,” Jose says empathetically. Running a business was hard, especially after the recession of 1929, and with fires burning down some essential business with no insurance, the town was an economic bomb shell. “I need some flour, oats and dried beans please.”  He looks over to Ofelia and smiles. 

“Sure thing hermano! And you young lady, what can I get for you?”  She points to the candy in the jar. “Some of those please!” She couldn’t wait. popped one in her mouth and both the merchant and Jose chuckle at her enthusiasm. 

As Jose loads up the wagon. Ofelia enjoys the sweetness of the candy. “Don’t tell your mama about letting you eat that candy before dinner hija.” 

“Oh I won’t papa!” 

The ride home was quiet and lucid. Ofelia’s mind was a little worried about her families well being, and knew they were really hurting since she wasn’t allowed to go to school anymore. She was happy to help, but at the same time wish she could do more. 

When they arrived home, Ofelia could see her brothers digging the holes for the fence posts. She runs inside to show off her candy.  Meanwhile Papa was asking her younger brother Juanito to unhitch the horses and ride them back into the barn. He was a little green with this chore, being only 6 years old, but it was expected that everyone pitch in in some way.

The scream caught everyone off guard. 

Mama sprinted to the sound. Ofelia’s eyes widened. It all seemed like what she was witnessing was moving in slow motion.

Juanito was on the ground and the horse was out of control. Jose grabs his rifle, “NO!!” yells mama, trying to take the gun away from her husband. “Let me go!” He runs towards the horse and BOOM! Mama leaned in and saw that her little boy was till breathing.  Papa lifted him up and carried him into the house. 

What it seems

The world is dark

Everyone angry lost hungry

The mountains hiding behind haze and smoke

facemasks hanging low and high and ripped off and fuck off

Everyone hangry for beauty understanding violence hope- yes hangry for hope

nothing fulfills nothing satisfies

busy schedules vacations stuff and more stuff

Starving for touch and truth

money brings hope or is it lust

division by color-division just because

nobody cares so nobody cares

light will keep shining and shining and shining

it’s there

in books art love music color – so many colors

hidden in smiles and eyes that see beyond self

The world reborn everyday to those weary worried washed away

And so it is what it seems

Our Family Story

Chapter 1

The bright sun was warm against her face. Sweat was forming on her sunburnt forehead. She knelt and picked a potato off the green plant and placed it in her basket. It was almost full of all the others she had harvested. She wiped her forehead and she could hear the children laughing and playing at the school yard just beyond her house. Her curiosity got the better of her and she snuck away and  peered through the wooden fence of the small school yard. She saw the little boys and girls swinging on the rope tire, others playing tag, some just playing marbles. Her heart yearned to be there, but she knew she could not attend. It wasn’t that her father didn’t believe in education, it was that he needed her to help with the farm. “Ofelia!” yelled papa yanking her back to reality.  She immediately ran back, she learned at an early age to obey papa, otherwise the leather belt or skinny tree branch would leave marks on her bottom. 

 “Com’mon hita, finish up! We have to go into town tomorrow to sell these potatoes.” 

“Yes, Papa!” she frowned.  

They worked until the sun began to fall behind the mountains, which overlooked the entire village.  Ofelia always stopped to admire the colors of the sunset. The oranges, reds, purples, and how the clouds had a glow that gave her a sense of peace and love. The sun quickly sinking or perhaps being swallowed by the mountain, not knowing where the sun would go to rest. 

As they walked into their little adobe house, Mama was in the kitchen making tortillas and frijoles.  Ofelia could smell the dough being cooked on the fire stove and hear the pot  of beans boiling. Ofelia loved cooking and baking with her mama. No cookbooks, no written recipes, though it didn’t matter to her because she couldn’t read anyway. She just memorized the ingredients they had on hand.  The Great Depression had hit their family hard so they learned how to stretch every meal so that everyone in the family could eat. 

It was a quaint little village called Arroyo Seco where her parents settled after the Mexican War.  Being born in the United States automatically gave them and their children citizenship and all the rights that came with it, such as making a living, going to school, and paying taxes. The night was chilly and the stars were  twinkling a little more than usual. The night sky always gave quite a show when the air was cool. There was something about looking up at the stars the drew her closer to her faith. She prayed daily and continually to this God and her family belonged to the little adobe catholic church that sat on top of the little hill of the village.  “Oye, vete dormir, it’s getting late!” her sister nudged her. “Okay, okay.” Ofelia annoyed and excited. In the morning they would be headed to the main town of Taos. It meant a day of riding in the wagon and visiting shops and other family members. Ofelia was saving some money to buy some of that sweet candy she was gifted last Christmas by her papa. Salty and sweet which gave her soul the satisfying relief of hope that life could be sweet. 

There were no dreams that night. Leaving to Taos meant leaving way before the sun peeked over The Mountain. No time to dream when you have to wake up that early. Mama made coffee, fried potatoes and scrambled eggs from their chickens.  Ofelia helped her make the tortillas. The family ate around the homemade table that was still not big enough to fit everyone, but somehow they managed to do so. 

“Make sure you feed the sheep and dig the holes for the posts while we’re gone hito.” papa yelled at the older bother Juan. “I know, Papa! No te preocupes, don’t worry.” 

“El dice ,No te preocupes,  so he says, last time you forgot to lock the chickens up after feeding them, remember. It took four hours and one dead chicken to get them back in! Don’t dare lose that sheep!” 

“Si, tonto!” Laughed the younger brother Polo. 

“Shut up!!” yelled Juan. 

“Vente, it’s time to go.”  Papa announced, trying to break the rivalry between the brothers.  Papa leans into Mama and kisses her on the cheek. “Be careful,” as she looks with worried eyes. 

Ofelia got to ride in the back of the wagon with all the sacks of potatoes. The ride was bumpy and slow. The family could not afford a horseless carriage, so they continued to use the old wagon that served their family for two generations. 

The wagon was not covered so Ofelia was able to enjoy the view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The sun was rising and Ofelia was so grateful, she was starting to get a little cold and she loved the warmth of the sun. 

A few hours later, Ofelia could see the Pueblo and she knew that meant they were almost there. She dug in her pockets and felt the loose change. She could taste the sweet candy on her tongue. Little did she know, that the day would not go as she had hoped. 

Let Your Light Shine

Did you know that the stars in our galaxy come in many different sizes and luminosity? In fact, our own star, the sun, is very small in comparison to the majority of the stars in our universe.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a small town where there is little light pollution, so star gazing was one of my favorite pass times. There is nothing more breath taking then watching the dark velvet sky splattered with so many stars it literally makes your heart stop.

It’s true that some stars shine brighter than others. In fact, the brightest stars are not only the largest, they have the shortest life span. This is because they burn through their fuel quickly, very much like a large vehicle burning its fuel quickly in order to produce energy and burn through your wallet. I also read somewhere that we are made from the same stuff stars are made out of, and well, that just made me feel giddy inside.

I mean, technically that means we are all stars! All shiny and twinkly and well, different from all the others too. Some do shine more brightly than others, and some live a long time and some barely shine for a moment, before they die, because even stars have to die.

And doesn’t this little astronomy lesson give us a bit of a metaphor for life and death? I mean, we may never understand why we have to die, or what the whole meaning of life is, only that we feel the immense joy of new life and the immense pain of losing life. What I find the most interesting is when a star dies, it usually explodes and expands and sometimes shines brighter or creates a black hole.

And so it is with us, right? I mean when someone dies, we tend to see that person’s life in a more luminated way don’t we? Suddenly we realize just how far and wide and bright this person shone while living- if the person was good of course, and I do believe the majority of us are good. We see the smile, the laughter, the tears, the prayers, the struggles, the achievements, the emotions, in a whole other light.

And just like those stars that shine the brightest, the people who also seem to live their life the brightest among us, have the shortest life span. And I can’t think of any worse kind of tragedy in our world.

So with all that pain and confusion and anger and sadness of losing someone too soon, I think we need to listen to the way they lived their life. We need to remember that these people showed us that it is not about the duration of our life, but the donation of it. It is not about how long we live, but how we live that matters the most.

I think we need to stop attaching the “missing out” experiences as the losses that pain us. Does it really matter if I never see the Eiffel Tower? Does it really matter if I never earned that degree? Does it really matter that I ride in a hot air balloon? Bucket lists are great, but they are not what makes our life worth living. Nobody ever says, “FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out) on their death bed. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t go and have adventures, but what makes those adventures worth it is WHO are doing it with. When you stop and reflect about a person’s life, you tend to realize that their love, their LIGHT is what mattered the most, not what they did.

So I leave you with my favorite poem, in which explains that our light was not meant to be hidden.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were all meant to shine as children do.
It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone.

And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give
other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

Love Always

Live and Let Live

When life seems harder than usual, and let’s face it, it has been, this little slogan, “Live and Let Live,” has gotten me through some really hurtful situations.

I love my family and I love the family I have married into, the family where I work, and the friendships that have developed into family. I am truly convinced that life’s true blessings are the ones that contain fulfilling relationships rather than the material things, which means the opposite is true- when relationships are difficult it causes a lot of stress and turmoil. When we are grieving the loss of a loved one, mending a broken heart, or trying to change the dynamics of relationships by placing boundaries or just simply outgrowing some of them, we tend to carry the pain with us and learn how to live a life different than what we are use to. I don’t know about you, but sometimes changes in my life are good and I welcome the change with open arms, whereas when changes that I think are negative, I tend to resist and try to control the outcome in some insane way.

Whatever the reason, our little life here on Earth is dependent on the relationships we build with others. So it makes sense why we hurt when we lose someone we love.

Death. Divorce. Break up. Moving away. New boundaries. These may cause negative stress

Birth. Marriage. Blending Families. Making new friends at work, sports, hobbies etc. These may cause positive stress.

But when you are cut off completely from someone’s life, especially from someone where it is difficult to have a nice clean cut off because you share the same family members and friends, not only hurts and causes harm to the person being cut off, but it also harms and hurts the other family members.

It’s one thing to set boundaries and still have dignity and respect for the person regardless of HOW you feel about them. But when you can’t enjoy birthdays, holidays and other mile stone celebrations because you have been ostracized can have really negative effects on you and the people around you.

I will never understand why. Why is it so hard to talk through misunderstandings? Why is it difficult to swallow our pride and just love the people we don’t really seem to agree with, or like?

Even after all the apologies, all the open doors to make amends, what more can a person do?

I can understand cutting off abusive people in all shapes and sizes. I can understand cutting off people who use you. I can understand cutting off harmful and manipulative people. But when it’s done to you and you and there is no chance for reconciliation??? That’s rough!

In other words, as one psychologist wrote, “in less than grave scenarios our American love affair with the needs and rights of the individual conceals how much sorrow we create for those we leave behind. We may see cutting off family members as “courageous” rather than avoidant and selfish. We can convince ourselves that it’s better to go it alone than to do the work it takes to resolve conflict. Some problems may be unresolvable, but there are also relationships that don’t need to be lost forever.” (emphasis mine)

I am not saying that everyone should be best buddies, but we should be very careful and be more aware about the relationships we have, because more than likely, our individual relationships involves way more people than just the people who have been cut off, causing harm, sorrow, and hurt.

So when I feel the hurt and pain of this situation in my life, I mutter quietly to myself, “LIVE AND LET LIVE,” which to me means, I will live my life in peace, and allow others to live their life in peace, even when it hurts.

Love Always

A Year of Closures

When the world shut down a year ago I, like all the others, did not know the outcome of the future. Strolling through social media and you can tell that many of my friends were handling it in many different ways. Some were silent, some rolled up their sleeves and went to work helping others in need, others used humor and wit with their memes and posts. I have been spending a lot of time in self-reflection and dealing with some health issues- nothing serious, just enough to stop running and heal.

I don’t know why but the quarantine magnified my insecurities. Everything I thought I had under control somehow reared its ugly head. I felt inadequate. I felt alone. I felt that I was just not good enough. Remember my post on how bad I was feeling back in August? I love my blog for that reason alone. To express myself and let the world know that despite all those negative feelings I kept showing up.

The year of closure lead me to a new season of maturity. A year to close off all the insecurities that hold me back to be fully alive. In all the self-help work I did, I realized that self-insecurities is nothing more than another form of self-conceit. It keeps my focus on myself, and when I focus so closely on myself so much so that I cannot see past my own self, the world loses out because I hide in shame rather than live with love, joy and peace.

Everyone has insecurities. EVERYONE! It’s HOW we deal with them that matters. We can surrender to the temptation to keep feeling inadequate and unworthy- and coming from personal experience, it’s not a happy place to be. Or we can accept that we are in fact inadequate, but we choose to be present anyway. We keep doing what we are doing even when it feels rough.

Since August, I have showed up for my students to the best of my ability. I have showed up for my own kids to the best of my ability. I have showed up to my family and friends to the best of my ability. And that is all life requires from us. Nothing more and nothing less.

I’m ready for the new chapter! I’m ready to be who I am and to do what I can to uplift others, because when I am busy living a life that encourages and edifies others, there is no time to dwell in the insecurities that call out to us in that high pitch annoying voice, telling us all the ugly lies about ourselves.

The truth is that we are loved more than we can understand, and no matter how messy and awkward it may feel, we are called to share that love with others around us.

Let us close the door of last year- the year everything closed- and let us have “closure” from the past, and keep on keeping on.

Remember Love Always

Santa is coming to Taos

Throughout my Elementary School years we would perform a Christmas Pageant for our families and the community of Taos. Everyone who came had to sit in the old Enos Garcia Gymnasium on those old hard creaking bleachers. Mrs. Murphy, our music teacher, would have her students sit by grade level. Her piano sat in the edge of the sidelines. The children nervous and fidgety as everyone settles down and gets ready to hear the wonderment of their children perform the classic Christmas Carols. As soon as Mrs. Murphy stood up and began to talk in the microphone, we all knew to shut up and do as we practiced. I might add that we may have practiced more on sitting and standing in unison then singing… am I right?

It took weeks of practice to get the performance just right. Mrs. Murphy would spend time teaching 5-11 year olds all the Christmas Carols, God bless her soul! She would play the piano and we would do our best to harmonize and memorize the songs the best we could, because who knows what Hark the Harold Angels Sing means when your 7 years old?

My most vivid memory is walking to her music class and she would sit us all in a circle on the floor. She would play the songs for us that we were going to learn, and then assign some students to play instruments. I was so happy when I was selected to play the triangle. I had one little part… the one time I had to hit this triangle at the most opportune time of the song. It was a big deal. A huge responsibility! I think this is the first time I actually understood stage freight and excessive sweating in areas I shouldn’t have until puberty. You see, if I messed up the timing, the song would be ruined. It was for the song The 12 days of Christmas. So there were 12 of us who were the selected few- the elite- to make this song come alive! I did not want to give up my spot, so I played that triangle like nobody else before me. “DINGGGGG!” It was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard! I should have been a professional triangle musician. Maybe I could have been part of big productions like Titanic or Star Wars– you never know.

Then Mrs. Murphy was having solo try outs. Not for instruments, mind you. Singing try outs. This was the mother of all tryouts- the American Idol before American Idol. Except Mrs. Murphy had the vote, not the audience. Try outs would be during recess. You know it was serious business if you had to give up your recess for anything, unless of course you got in trouble and had to stay in for “recess detention.” Which I know nothing about, by the way. Ahem. I love singing! I won’t do it in public, and I think it’s because my heart was broken that day when I did not make the cut on Mrs. Murphy’s American Idol. I may have cried a little in the girl’s bathroom, but at least I had the triangle.

My mom would dress me up super fancy for these pageants. There was this one dress that I still remember. In some ways, it made me feel like an angel. It was so exciting! Every boy and girl dressed up, hair combed, face washed and hands clean. Again, if you had to wash your face and hands for anything, that meant it was a big deal.

One year it snowed. Which wasn’t unusual in Taos during that time. This snow storm, however, dumped quite a bit of snow. I sat on the hard floor of that gymnasium and sang those Christmas Carols with all my heart, I wanted Mrs. Murphy to regret not picking me for a solo. We sang about Silent Nights, Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (with the funny little echoes to match), Santa Claus is Coming to TAOS (not town) Away in a Manger (what was a manger anyway), Deck the Halls (what in the world does that even mean), Frosty the Snowman, Joy to the World, Little Town of Bethlehem and every one’s favorite Feliz Navidad, who didn’t love shaking the maracas! Of course there are some of those songs you are not allowed to sing at a Public School, heck we can’t even say the word Christmas in some instances, but during that time, it was that pageant that gave the Christmas Spirit its joy and peace. It was a time for families to grin and come together and enjoy a little Christmas Cheer– To put away all the problems and disagreements and just enjoy a production that came from the heart of a teacher and the children.

At the conclusion of the pageant it was custom to pose and take pictures with our friends to record the moment. As we stepped outside this particular pageant, we entered a true Winter Wonderland! The snow on the ground went up past my ankles. As the snowflakes fell , the sky glowed orange. Each snowflake slowly floating down gave the whole town a peaceful aurora. The trees and mountains never looked more beautiful! I had to ride in my Pita’s and Grandma’s big truck that day. I sat on my grandma’s lap as Pita navigated the wet and slippery roads. Seatbelts were not necessarily a law that was enforced back then. Wow, I’m old! Apparently the new law took away my rights so in protest I sat on my grandma’s lap– kidding- had to throw that little political gem in. All I remember is looking out the window feeling so full of joy and peace and love. When I saw our little house on La Loma Street, covered with snow and smoke coming out of the chimney, there was a blanket of contentment that covered me that I could not explain until today.

Going home after the pageant meant a two week break from school. It meant making tamales, cooking posole and red chili. Baking biscochitos and Grandma’s famous rolls . Lighting luminarias and watching all those Christmas shows on T.V. when there were no pausing or recording them for later. Oh the anticipation!

To me those memories mean more to me than anything I can open under the tree. In fact, if you asked me what I got all those years ago, I can’t remember. Maybe a doll, some clothes, a game or two. Of course the one gift I will always remember, which I wrote about before. But what comes to mind when I think about Christmas’ past are the moments I shared with friends and family. What makes this time of year the best time of year is that we get to be with people who matter. Of course this year, no matter what this Christmas will look like, may look a little different, never the less, we should all take time to remember all the wonderful memories we have made. Not to rub in the fact that we might be missing out this year, but to remind us that we are truly blessed. Even if your past ones were not all warm and fuzzy, I definitely have some memories of the dysfunction of my family, but even then, I think, how wonderful it is to be alive!

The last I heard Mrs. Murphy passed away in 2013, but the gift she gave us was one that was priceless. I will still sing my little heart out even though I wasn’t selected for a solo, because I love singing, just not in public! I also love my people, and just like the pageant, my people are in my heart and mind bringing good tidings, joy and peace.

Love always

Due to the COVID 19 Pandemic am I unable to raid my parents photo album and upload the pictures that were taken during these pageants. My parents do not have a computer or internet to send me these precious moments of time. So if you happen to have been a part of these and have some pictures, please post or send them to me roxyjaecks@aol.com. I want to add them to this piece. Thank you!

Asking for Help

Parenting is not easy. Parenting in the 21st Century is not easy. Parenting during a Global Pandemic is fuckin hard!

Today something happened. I was sitting at my kitchen table just finishing up my 2nd period class when Kev walks in the kitchen and carelessly looks inside the fridge, as most hungry boys do and then walks over and glances inside the pantry. I can tell right away that he wanted my attention. I waited a bit, pretended I was busy on my computer. One of the attributes I have been trying to instill in this kid is being able to advocate for himself. I mean he’s 18 years old after all, which means he should be able to do such things right? At least that’s what all the “professionals” and our “well developed society” tells us. See, there is this magic spell that happens when someone turns 18. They rapidly become these responsible adults who have their lives all figured out. They know exactly what they want to do as a career, they never need assistance in “adulting” like making their appointments, paying all their bills, and of course making this world a better place since we screwed it up to begin with.

Anyway, he asked, “Mom, are you busy?” I looked over my computer and said, “I happen to be on my prep right now and then lunch so I have a few minutes. What’s up?”

I had him sit next to me and it happened.

He asked for helped.

He advocated for himself.

He admitted that he can’t do this thing called life on his own.

You see, he’s not doing so well with online school as a freshman at UNM. He doesn’t get to hang out with his peers or have access to the resources had he been able to live on campus. That’s right, he had to move back home thanks to good ol’ Rona. So now he’s stuck in his room trying to navigate online courses with nobody to really help, because let’s face it, when everyone in the household is busy doing their own thing; working, schooling, appointments and such, there just isn’t the time to do what is necessary to succeed. Does this scenario sound familiar to anyone else, or is it just my family?

I refuse to feel guilty anymore. I refuse to accept the reality that we push our children to have their life figured out by 18, 20, or 30. Hell, I was married and divorced at 19 years old!! Started having babies at 21 (not married by the way, tsk tsk) and changed my major/careers at least three times. My husband barely found a job he is satisfied with in his forties.

So as I sat and listened to my son, looking into his big brown eyes, tears forming, I knew this was the first step for him to finally get the help he truly needs. If you have followed and read my blog for a few years, you know that I haven’t held back with my struggles with my son. If you know me well, you know how much my heart aches for that kid to have a successful life that he feels good about. Notice that I didn’t mention happiness. With everything going on around us, I have come to believe that it is not our job to make anyone happy. Happiness is truly a state of attitude and not a state of circumstance. Parenting is definitely not about making our children “happy,” otherwise everyone will end up exhausted and disappointed.

Kevin was never a happy child. I tried so hard to make that kid happy. Let’s just say that we both ended up angry, confused, and hurt. So now as I try to navigate this new normal, and I am not just talking about the Pandemic, but the new normal of what it means to raise children in this world where anxiety, depression and self-harm is a way of life, it is important that I truly understand what is going on.

So what is going on? Our kids are struggling and we need to be there for them. Not to criticize that they should already know better, not to shame them because they make poor decisions, or live a life that is different than what we imagined when we knew of their existence.

The conversation that followed in my kitchen today- Kevin wanted help but he didn’t want the shame that came with it. He was afraid of what other people would think of him because he needed a little professional help. I did my best to comfort and encourage him to take that leap of faith and give it try. After all, I’ve been on anti-depressants for a few years now and have worked with a therapist to help me navigate the depression and anger that lingers in my soul. I do it shamelessly because of the difference it has made in my life. No one questions taking Tylenol when they have a headache, and no one questions the diabetic when they need to take insulin. We shouldn’t question the mental health of our fellow brothers and sisters.

You know what? Kevin is a good kid. I always knew he was a good kid and I believe he will be successful. Right now, we need to realize that our children are really hurting during this time. So much of the world around them doesn’t make sense and as much as we want to blame our political leaders, or stay in our anger of the situation we are in, it won’t do any good for our children.

We need to hold them and tell them– no– promise them, that it is going to be okay. Somehow or another, it will work out. Sometimes life doesn’t go as we planned, and sometimes we really struggle and life really sucks, but that doesn’t mean they suck. I tried to explain to Kevin that what he is going through is “okay.” It’s okay to fail, it’s okay to be unmotivated, it’s okay to be confused, and hurt. I tried to explain that if we were not in a Global Pandemic his experience of college would be dramatically different. He would be able to hang out with his peers who have walked before him and show him the way. He would be having fun going to college parties, meeting new friends and girls. He would be having study dates, going to football games, and playing his trumpet at Popejoy Hall.

See, we have a responsibility to our children, to help them help themselves. To give them the hard answers that life IS hard. But what makes our lives so meaningful are the relationships we have around us, those relationships that refuse to let us fall, that refuse to let us stay stuck, that refuse to allow anger and hurt to drive our depressions.

Let’s be kind, most of all, let’s just BE THERE for our children. Whatever that may look like is what it should look like. Doesn’t matter if your child is 6 or 18 or 21. They need you, whether you are their parent, relative, teacher or friend. If you know them, you know what they need, what they need to hear, and what should be done.

We are in this together so let us BE THERE for each other as we navigate this bullshit virus and win at this crazy game called life.

Love Always