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 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

Politics Begin with Me

When it comes to the world of politics it seems that we have replaced our own morals and values with that of righteous arrogance and dehumanizing other people.

I am just as tired as the next person and even discouraged with our own behavior when it comes to discussing politics. In some ways I am actually a bit terrified with the darkness that seems to be hovering around when I read comments and posts about our politics. For some reason we think it’s okay to berate, insult, and name call in the name of politics.

I get that we all have our own opinions about how our society should be ran. We all want lives that have meaning. fulfillment and enough money to live comfortably. We all want to have freedoms to express our rights and the rights for others. Yet, as soon as a decision is made in regards to something we don’t like, we spew out the insults and force feed our opinions onto others thinking it will somehow mend the differences.

Are we really going there? Are we really going to call our leaders “Idiots” because they have a different approach on how to deal with the current situation? Are we really cutting off relationships because of disagreements on issues that really don’t have anything to do with us individually?

Do we not teach our children not to name call? Do we not teach our children that we should be kind to others ESPECIALLY to those who are different than us? Do we not teach our children to work out disagreements by listening and understanding the other person, EVEN WHEN we don’t agree with them?

Why then is it okay to react in ways that are so childish- yet we hold higher standards of behavior for our children, when we ourselves can’t even live up to those standards.

Maybe we should stop and reflect on our own issues and find out why we are so angry and quick to insult and belittle our brothers and sisters.

It’s easy to write a blog post (ahem) or post on social media our opinions about our politic views without ever reaching out to the people we should be discussing these issues with. Do we email or write to our representative on how they should serve the people who voted for them? Do we participate in political protests? Do we go beyond the voting booth and actually volunteer at a shelter or adopt the unwanted baby?

How can we teach our future generation to be better when all we are showing them is that it is okay to throw tantrums by name calling, holding on to our own righteousness, and declare our ways higher than the other party?

It’s ironic how we want to live in a world where Black Lives Matter, LBGTQ have the same rights as straight people do, a world where EVERYONE has the right to pursue happiness. We do this by condemning the racist and shaking our fists, telling them they need to change, because we know that racism is wrong! Then with the same breath condemn the person who is not of the same political party, as if the other party is nothing more than a lower standard than our own. Hmmmm isn’t that the definition of racism?- to believe that certain people are below us due to the color of their skin? How are we blinded with acting in the same way with people who have different political views from us? Why is it so easy to dehumanize a person due to a “label” and feel justified to insult, berate and name call? Maybe we need to realize that there is another war going on- a war of Partyism- a war against worldview defenses and affective polarization.

Is not our mission here to remove all traces of bias, hostility prejudices, intolerance and hate from our world? I confess that I have tried to do so, not perfectly, and certainly not in my politics. I may have a beautiful life, but an ugly politics, all based on my own beliefs and values. And let’s face the truth- our beliefs systems are not always accurate.

Until we can entertain the thought that we could be wrong, until we can live out the Golden Rule to those of a different political party, until we can give kindness, mercy, love and peace to EVERYONE, will there be a nation we can all be proud of. That is the kind of politics I can stand for!

But let it begin with me!

Love Always

Let it Snow, Let it Be

It’s snowing outside. It’s October 26th and it’s snowing outside. Not just a sprinkle of powdered sugar dusted on the ground, it’s the kinda snow that weighs heavy when you try to sweep it off the sidewalk. It’s unusual for it to be snowing this much in the dry desert in the middle of October.

Then again, life has been a little unraveled these days. Wouldn’t you say? It’s unusual that an entire city, state, country and world to be going through so much at the same time. I mean, it’s okay when a person or family may be going through hard times, but when everyone you know and everywhere you turn are having a difficult time, it makes it difficult to cope.

2020 was suppose to be a BIG year for us. It was the year Kevin would graduate High School and go off to college. It was the year Avery would start Kindergarten and Stacy would be in her Senior year at Highlands.

2020 was suppose to be year of milestones. My mother-in-law planning her trip to Italy to celebrate a mile stone birthday. It was the year my dad decided to place my grandma in the Nursing Home because she was just getting too hard to take care of.

2020 was suppose to be a great year. Instead it became a year of loss, a year of cancellations.

I don’t know about you, but this time of shutdown has me really reflecting on the value of time and how precious life really is.

It’s ironic really. I mean I am really good at making up worst case scenarios in my head. If someone doesn’t text back in 33.5 seconds they are dead from a car crash. If we finally pay off one debt the transmission breaks and I am doomed to walk everywhere for the rest of my life. And what’s so ironic is that the plans I had for 2020 were nothing horrible. They were plans of prosperity and abundance. I didn’t think I would have to bury my grandma during a pandemic. I didn’t think I would have to drive my son in a parade to receive his diploma. I didn’t think he would be back home in his room taking online classes instead of living and having the time of his life at the college campus. And now we are doing our best to navigate online kindergarten. And teaching online was something I didn’t sign up for either.

Granted, I have a job. I have a house. I have food to eat. And the masses say, be grateful. I am. I am grateful. But I’m also hurting. Can someone do that? Can someone be grateful and hurt at the same time?

All I know is that what we are going through is hard.

It. Is. Fucking. Hard.

It’s not the shut down alone, that is so hard, oh no. It’s the fact that ON TOP OF the shut down we have to experience all the losses that this pandemic caused: Loved ones. Jobs. Money. Lifestyles. Marriages. Friendships. Community. Sports (to some degree). Eating out. Shopping. Travelling. Visiting. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few items. And so we are all experiencing loss and grief right now.

It’s hard to be supportive to others when you yourself also needs support. So then we end up suffering alone because we don’t want to burden anyone with our petty little problems when everyone else is going through so much.

If we could only put down our judgements for now and just be there for people.

But lo and behold. People still only care about their own agenda. They only seem to care about their political views. So the best thing to do is spread false news and fear like it was hot fresh Krispy Kreme Donuts.

Lately, I feel like I’m losing myself. I don’t know yet if that’s good or bad. I just know that I am in the middle of a process and it’s depressing me. I know I’m suppose to be hopeful and faithful and make the best of it, but it seems so much like the snow I am watching fall from bedroom window. Heavy. Beautiful. Hopeful. Peaceful, yet causes so much havoc. It’s unusual as this whole year has been, and much like the snow, we cannot control it. We can only let it be.

I do believe that a person can be grateful and hurt at the same time. In fact, that might be a sign of maturity or this shut down has officially caused me insanity.

Love Always

Certain Dates

There are certain dates that seem to trigger emotions in us. Today, for example, is my youngest daughter’s birthday. As much joy and excitement one can feel for a celebratory day, it also triggers sadness.

Avery’s birth story was one that changed relationships. I have written about it before, and although each year seems to get better, this one brings on a new kind of sadness with once again a newly defined relationship.

There is nothing more painful then when you have family members who want nothing to do with you and your family. In fact, I am confident that most of our pain in this world has to do with some kind of broken relationship.

Maybe it is for the best, but it doesn’t stop the pain. I’ll never understand why being right, or hurt, matters more than loving and forgiving. Think about that. Maybe we could all have better relationships if we could just love and forgive- let shit go and just get along.

I know- I’m starting to realize what an idealist I am. So instead of contemplating the “what could be” I will accept “what is” and celebrate someone’s life.

Life is the true gift and Love is the bread and water that makes life grow. And that’s why certain dates have more meaning than others- days of joy, days of sadness, days of healing, days of brokenness, days that trigger emotions in us.

Love Always

Does Anybody Care?

I’m struggling.

I don’t mean the typical struggle of everyday tasks and everyday problems… I’m really struggling. Struggling to know my place in this world. What and why I’m here. I don’t know if it’s because of the state of the world, or just the fact that this hovering feeling that something is isn’t right is suddenly surfacing, but I just don’t know how much longer I can really take it.

You see, it’s this constant fight, this conflict in my head, the voice that says I am not enough. Not smart enough, not funny enough, not pretty enough, not efficient enough, just never enough!!!

I am constantly feeling like I have to keep up this charade that I am okay and that I have it all together. I smile, I run, I say positive affirmations, when deep inside I want to cry. I want to yell. I want the noise to stop!

Suddenly the world feels so dark and empty and you can’t even hug your friends or see their face in real time that says they love you and that they are there for you. If they are, it’s distant. And when you finally get to see them, you have to pretend it’s all “good,” because it’s too awkward, too sensitive and too intimate to get real. Or maybe it’s just me….

I suppose when you are a wife, a mother, a teacher, a coach, a friend, the oldest daughter and sibling, there is this unspoken expectation to stay strong and be the light for others. And you know that people are looking up to you in certain ways, you want to be strong and somehow perfect, so that you feel important and big when in reality you are just a small human in a big sea of “what is supposed to be-” Lost in the waves of so many other people in the same boat- I’m “suppose to” look a certain way. I’m “suppose to” act a certain way, “I’m suppose to” believe the right beliefs. I’m “suppose to” hold it all together and do so with a smile and a twinkle in my eye.

Then when the flood gates open and you wonder if this is all there is, the darkest of all voices tell you, “Nobody really cares anyway.”

That is the end of the line isn’t it. When you believe nobody really cares. Sometimes I do wonder and I realize that I try really really hard to care, so that must be true for you and everyone else too, right? I wish that my caring would heal the world and make all our shortcomings go away, but it doesn’t. It’s hard when you let your heart bleed and then it bleeds, and bleeds, and bleeds, and you think, “maybe it’s worth it.” Then you feel so empty you just want to shout and ask, “Does anybody care?”

Love Always- Care Always

Let’s Take a Moment…

Let’s take a moment and just breathe. Let’s take a moment and think about all the good that is around you. Smell the air, feel the air fill your lungs and liberate your shoulders from all the heaviness it’s been carrying. It’s been a hard few months. And it looks like the road ahead is not going to be an easier.

It’s easy to focus on all the problems. It’s easy to let the problems eat us up. Before we know it we become annoyed, angry and anxious. How can we possibly get through the hard times if we are carrying so much negativity?

I sometimes wonder if the problems themselves are what eats us up, or is it our attitudes about the problems that really gives us the headaches, stomach pains, or panic attacks. I mean, yes, problems are hard and messy and we don’t want to deal with them- and that is precisely why problems are so tricky, because we don’t want to deal with them-we’d rather push them aside, ignore them, or find the easiest and most convenient path to rid of them so we can continue with our little life of luxury- or our little plans we have for our life.

I know this virus screwed up a lot of our plans. Hell, it had the worst timing. My son was denied a traditional high school graduation ceremony, it cancelled all of Spring Sports, summer vacations, and anything to do with summer plans, and now it threatens our school year- in which my youngest daughter may be denied a traditional start of her school career- who wants to start Kindergarten online? It also threatens my oldest daughter’s senior year of volleyball at Highlands. I may not be able see her play and I may not be able to coach Cross Country. I have already cancelled Student Council. Everything I had planned, and everything that I had hoped for, GONE!

No wonder there is so much resentment. No wonder there is so much depression. But what can we do? How do we face this? Anyone else feel helpless and pissed about the whole situation? After all, there are some moments in life that can’t be made up- that can’t be replaced.

It’s true, the virus has taken so much more than the lives it claimed and has caused so much havoc that our attitudes and mind sets may have taken a turn for the worst. We all want this to end and we all want to go back to the little lives we created for ourselves. I know that is true for me. I wish I could be in my classroom preparing for the first few weeks of school… the very same place I complained about because there was never enough time or resources to be truly efficient. The place where I sometimes felt the life suck out of me because I gave what I could with very little in return. The place where some people were difficult to deal with and at times and I would have to cry in the bathroom to let out all of the frustrations and hurt I carried….Now I would do anything to go back.

And isn’t life always mocking us in this way? Doesn’t life always have the last word, the final say, the lesson to be learned? Why do we continue to expect life to be easy? Shouldn’t we know better by now?

Yes, we need to take a moment and just breathe. Take a moment and be grateful for this time. Seriously! Be grateful! Let’s be thankful for all the small little joys that still exist. My son still graduated high school. My daughter is receiving a free college education because of volleyball. My youngest daughter gets to experience an education that many, and I do mean many, will not have.

I’m thankful for the family and friends in my life that have been there for me, in both the good and bad days. And isn’t that what true gratitude is all about? To be grateful not only for the good days, but also the bad. I mean, why should we only acknowledge the good in our life…. shouldn’t we say, “Hey, hard times are here, and it’s okay, and it’s going to be okay.” “I don’t know how or why we are going through this, but we will get through this.”

In other words, it is unfair of me to accept the good things from God (life, the universe, higher power) and sing with joy and then fight the bad things from God (life, the universe, higher power) and become bitter and indifferent. Sometimes courage and bravery isn’t always jumping in front of a moving train to save the world, sometimes it’s quietly submitting or surrendering to what God (life, the universe, higher power) has planned. I know it sounds counter-intuitive- because surrender sounds like defeat, or a crushing of your spirit, but by accepting the difficulties in your life and learning to trust God (life, the universe, higher power) while facing them is the greatest act of courage. The problem is that we don’t like to wait for the outcome, and sometimes we don’t like the outcome because it doesn’t fit in our little jar of good treasures, in other words, we didn’t get what we wanted, so we think trusting God (life, the universe, higher power) is useless.

All this to say, I’m sorry life sucks right now. I’m sorry that we are all going through a difficult time, and I’m sorry for the losses we all had to endure. But I believe that if we can take a moment, breathe in the air and be grateful for the circumstances that are beyond our control, we might be able to get through this with more kindness, love and empathy.

Love Always

Education will End Racism

Like everyone else I am at a loss of words and heartbroken over the events of George Floyd. So many issues are evident here and racism of course is one of them. I read a lot of posts from social media about white people doing something about this problem- this hundred of years old problem. This problem that is so childish- wait- no it is not childish because children by nature are not racist, they are groomed and molded to feel superior over another human.

Like so many I feel helpless and powerless over the issue. Who am I to try and make a difference? I’m just another minority as well. A Hispanic woman with no influence, money, or power to end something so big as racism.

I’ve seen people encourage each other to protest, donate money to an organization, to google what can be done to help black people feel more equal. So I thought about what I could do. Because doing nothing isn’t acceptable. What if George was my dad, or uncle, or my son? I know that I would want something done- hence hashtag justice for George Floyd.

So what am I doing about it? Well, I’ve been trying to do something for the last nine years in my classroom. That’s right, I teach my students about racism so they are aware of the ugly truth when people think and believe they are superior over others. We read literature like “March” by John Lewis. “Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry” and “The Watson’s Go to Birmingham” all stories about racism in the perspective of the black person.

We discuss the issues and I have them write speeches on how they can end racism. The ideas, the articulations, and the passion that these kids display is nothing less than that of what I read in social media- wait- again I give too much credit to the adults- these speeches by sixth graders are not passive aggressive memes to rile up the masses. They are the raw and radical ideas of the mind of a child who hasn’t been jaded by society, and if they come to my class believing they are superior to others then they are UNLEARNING racism.

As much as I would like to give money to an organization that helps fight racism, I really don’t know if that’s enough. As much as I would like to stand in front of a political institute with my signs and fist in the air, again, I don’t know if that’s enough. Heck, writing and publishing this post is definitely not enough because my audience is only in the two digits zone. I don’t have enough of an audience to influence anyone- I’m not Oprah or Glennon Doyle.

But you know what? I actually do have an audience. Hundreds of little minds ready to learn and discover the world around them. My blog and social media accounts may not reach further than my front door, but I have a platform that is more powerful than any I can think of. EDUCATION!! Teaching our children to care about others regardless of race, class, beliefs, sex, or sexual orientation and whatever differences we have! That right there is what we need to do more of. I call for all educators to teach our children better. If you’re a racist or sexist teacher then I challenge you to educate yourself about these issues.

What’s the point of teaching our children the academics to become an Engineer, Doctor, Lawyer, Plumber or Construction Worker if we don’t teach them to be kind to EVERYONE?!?

Yes the world needs kindness and love and equality, but these concepts don’t just fall from the sky, they have to be taught. What the world needs is EDUCATION in order to achieve the riches of equality, love, kindness and most importantly peace!

In the words of one of my students, “It will take an ENTIRE generation for racism to end and it begins with education!”

Love Always

Please share if you feel other educators need to be reminded as to why we became teachers in the first place.

Face of an Angel

At the beginning of every school year I like to my students about my grandma. I teach 6th grade “gifted” Language Arts, that means I teach a specialized group of kids who are above their grade level in reading, writing, creativity and critical thinking. Basically I teach kids who read well.

When we are first getting to know each other, before all the academic stuff happens, I tell my students a story about how I struggled with reading when I was young, because I did not have a lot of exposure to literature based on my family’s background, thus giving me a bit of a late start on literacy. When my students learn that my grandma never learned to read, they are in disbelief.

I tell them this story for several reasons- one, that you can do anything if you are determined, and two, don’t take literacy and education for granted. As much as this pandemic is showing us the value of public education and the importance of equity, we will never have perfect access to educating our children. I want my students to appreciate the gift of reading and the value of hard work. This is because my grandma taught me what matters most in this side of the world.

As I was taking a trip down memory lane, I kept thinking about the legacy my grandmother left. It’s actually quite ironic with a bit of surprise and a big dose of humility. These stories and memories of her bring me to a place of gratitude and in a lot ways gave me a new perspective on life.

You see, my grandma was poor in the eyes of the world. She did not seek success in the way the world does- with grasping and hoarding. If my grandma ever had “dreams” for herself, I will never know. Did she dream about becoming a doctor or actress? Did she want to pursue a business endeavor that would make her rich? I honestly don’t know. All I saw and knew about her life was nothing but giving of herself and loving her family. Right or wrong, she loved and accepted everyone, and that is no exaggeration.

In a world that values and is obsessed with materialism and status, my grandma didn’t seem to worry too much about having a house that represented Martha Stewart’s expectations, in fact, when you walked into her house all you would see from wall to wall were pictures of her family and Jesus (and some of those Jesus pictures were pretty scary too, especially to a little girl, just saying). No abstract art, or R.C Gorman paintings, because to her the masterpieces in her life were the people she created; the world she painted on the canvas of her heart, was her faith and her family. She didn’t care if you thought her house looked tacky or maybe a little obnoxious, her pride for her family and faith shone brighter than any Georgia O’Keeffe painting. That’s right family, we are way more valuable than a flower painting! Who would have thought that every time we entered her house, we were entering a museum of the finest pieces of art in our history!

This is why her legacy is so ironic and humbling. Growing up, I always thought I was deprived because of how poor we were. I learned to become jealous of my peers because they always seemed to have more- the name brand clothes, the latest technology- and by that I mean CD players and game consoles like Nintendo- they would go on vacations and they always seem to possess some sort of cool gadget we couldn’t afford to have, and I would end up feeling left out. It’s interesting now, looking back, that I use to believe I was not only deprived of material stuff, but deprived of a “normal” family.

It’s easy to look at others and think they are better off than you. In fact, I bet they would be shocked and surprised to find out how happy you think they are (Oooo that is Twitter worthy right there, except I don’t tweet). We all want to have a family that looks like or resembles the Norman Rockwell paintings, where everyone gets along, everyone is happy and well fed. Instead we belong to families whose flaws are questionable and some who are just down right scary. Some families are truly broken. Others are just trying to survive, and then there are families who are so fucked up, it’s funny.

Grandma was never the person to try and be what she wasn’t, and she never tried to force her will on her family. At least from my perspective. Whenever I was in my grandma’s presence, I NEVER felt bad about myself. I don’t know exactly how she did it, but her love seemed to overcome any negative emotions that usually surface when dealing with family members or other people in general. In other words, she never held it against me if I stayed away too long. She never gave me a dig about not calling enough, or try to repay me if I didn’t meet some expectation. It didn’t matter to her what you did or how you treated her or others, she just loved you. She never made you feel bad for being human.

All of this had me thinking about how her life was just “different” than that of the average person. And then I realized something divine. My grandma was not an ordinary average person, she was in fact a courageous Angel. Even though the average eye would only see a woman, a poor woman with no education, a woman who might be considered “non-essential” in our society, would miss the true sight of someone who was a direct messenger of the divine, because Angels are divine beings who tell us about God.

How ironic and humbling that even though my grandma never read the Bible, or studied theology or mouthed off about her opinions and beliefs, her life directly represented what it means to love as Jesus loved. No agendas, no getting even, no guilt trips and no grudges. Instead, she gave love, hospitality, forgiveness, grace, and joy.

What surprised me the most these last few days of grieving is how much I realized what an Angel my grandma was to my sisters and me, and to the whole family. To think I was deprived when all along I was protected, cherished, valued and how fortunate I was to have such an Angel in my life. How could anyone be deprived when you have such valuable treasures right in front you?

The old adage rings true- “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” Even more so, the expression, “Heaven has gained an Angel” could not be more true. Ofelia was always an Angel, she is just in a different form now, and so her spirit lives on in us now- to those who she called family.

Love Always

Video credit Jo Gabaldon

It’s not Good-Bye

I hate good-byes. I hate how permanent they sound, and I hate how awkward they feel, because deep inside, it hurts to say it. “Good-bye.”

The one thing Kevin told me was the hardest part about being a Senior during this pandemic- it wasn’t the graduation ceremony, not missing the silly prom, or the other activities that would not be experienced- he said the hardest part was not being able to say “good-bye” to his peers. To give that final send off before they all head in their own directions.

I suppose that’s why I hate the sentiment. I don’t want to accept that life brings changes. Sometimes I want everything to be as they were. Especially when everything and everyone around me is doing just fine. Saying, “Good-bye,” feels like I’m okay with whatever was and it is now over. It is time to move on.

Life can be cruel. It doesn’t ask you when you are ready for good-byes. It’ll lift you right out of your-self and BAM! change. What is even worse is not knowing what is ahead. What do these changes mean?

I am not talking about the pandemic- although it sure sounds like it. No. I’m talking about the death of my grandma. As I type this post, she is lying on a hospice bed ready to have her last breath. I had the choice to go and see her; to say “good-bye.” I couldn’t do it. I did not want to do it. I may have a change of heart, it all depends on what happens tomorrow. This pandemic doesn’t help the situation either.

Death always makes me reflect about my own mortality, and how fragile and precious life is.

Let me tell you about my grandma. She raised my sisters and me. She was married at 16. Never learned how to read, instead she had to work in the fields on her parents land during the Great Depression. She sent off her husband to fight in World War II. She had a baby that passed away at 6 months because she lived too far away to get the help she needed. She adopted a little girl afterward. Raised four boys. One of those boys was rather wild and never left the nest- that would be my dad and why my sisters and I lived with her and our grandpa (Pita). Pita died in 1990. She lived the remainder of her life widowed.

She NEVER held grudges. She worried WAY TOO MUCH about her family. She prayed everyday. She cooked and baked for her family. She loved the casino, perhaps too much. Oh, and she only spoke Spanish. That’s important because all of her grandchildren do not. We can understand and speak a few words in Spanish, but we are not fluent. Yet, we were able to communicate with her. That’s what happens when love is the dominate language. Love can break any barriers, including a language barrier. That woman loved her family NO MATTER WHAT!

The world will not know or miss Ofelia Abeyta, but her family will. We have been touched by her strength, courage, and unconditional love. Her legacy is her family.

So I will not say, “good-bye” to this amazing woman. I will say, “see you soon, Grandma!” or better yet, we are going to sit in heaven and drink a beer and tell stories. Yes, there is beer in heaven.

I love you Grandma! I am the woman I am today because of your love for me. You loved me when everyone else seemed to abandoned me. You helped me to understand the meaning of love AND the meaning of family. You taught me those words are one and the same.

I hope you have someone in your life who has touched you as the way my grandma has touched mine. Most importantly, I hope you will be the Grandma in this crazy world. To love your family and friends unconditionally.

Peace to you and yours!