Open Letter to A Friend: It Doesn’t Have To Be A Death Sentence #52essays2017

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Today I received news that a family friend would soon be living with dialysis.  I was compelled to write a letter as it is a road that Mama and we, her family, know all too well.

When I got the news today about your diagnosis, I looked out of my window and the light of the sky looked exactly the same as when we got the news that Mama would need to go on dialysis.   I said a prayer for you that minute and my heart felt sad, just as it did a few years ago.  While we were all very concerned and sad to hear this news about our mother, we were uninformed and overwhelmed as we did not really know anything about dialysis:  would it be painful? how would this affect Mama? how did this happen?   All we knew is that it was major.  Add to this, Mama was adamant.  She would not go on dialysis and called us all together to tell us so.  We were almost desperate.  While we did not know much about dialysis, one thing was clear:  Margaret would die without this treatment as her kidneys were no longer functioning.

Eventually, thank God, Mama decided to undergo dialysis treatments under one condition.  That we know that she was doing this for US, and that we had to be with her, if she was going to dialysis, so were we.   Very shortly, our lives were completely changed.

Mama had to be at dialysis three days a week and we had to organize ourselves quick!  It took us a few weeks to adjust and eventually we had it down to someone getting Mama ready to go to dialysis in the mornings, someone to go with her, someone to pick her up if need be, someone to be home to be with her.  Was it easy?  No.  This entire family had to work together on our goal of keeping our mother alive and well.

The dialysis center will give you a bag and lots of information about what you will need to take with you on your treatments. We had to learn how to be organized and to have everything that Mama might need when she went to dialysis:  a bag with extra clothes, aspirin, medicine, snacks, gum, water, blankets, small pillows, headphones to watch the small TV in the chair.   My advice to you is to be like Margaret, take whatever you need to feel comfortable and secure NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE SAYS.  If you need four blankets, one rolled a certain way, another to cover you, and a couple for backup, than you do it and do not give in to anyone.  You are the one who will be undergoing the treatment for 3 hours or more, and you will get cold, anything that will make your time go by as peacefully as possible, do it.  God love us, we tried to tell Mama “why do you need that? are all of these blankets and pillows necessary? etc.   Your children will learn, as we had to, that, as long as you are able to make decisions about your care, then it is up to them to respect your decisions.

Please  pay attention to how you feel and what works for you, or not.  Some days Mama would come out of dialysis completely exhausted.  However, she did need to take her medicine and eat something.  Either we would have something hot and cooked ready or she would want to pick something up.   Once we would help Mama into her bed, the BEST sound ever was the sigh she would let out when her head hit the pillow.  I grew to love “Mama’s Time Of Day” — somewhere between 2 and 4 in the afternoon, where the house was quiet, she would either watch TV or look out of her window before drifting off to sleep.   Please do not be afraid to rest, please do not try to stay up or awake for anyone if you don’t feel like it, naps will save everyone’s sanity and give you the rest that your body needs.

Sometimes the treatments will make your body cramp up or your blood pressure will get low.   You’re lucky, you are able to walk and get up to walk off a cramp.  Our mother was partially paralyzed and cramps were sheer torture for her.  One thing that always helped Mama when her body would cramp was to eat something salty:  lemons with salt, pickles, olives, chips.  Sodium levels are low and it’s important that you tell the dialysis crew that you are cramping up so that they can help you out.  Also let them know if you are dizzy ASAP so that they can make adjustments to bring your blood pressure up.

I don’t tell this to you to scare you any more than you might be.  It will take time for you and the familia to figure out how things will go for you.  I can also say that I have friends who are on dialysis, who drive themselves to and from their treatments, who handle the treatments well, who LIVE for years and years.  I have one friend who has been on dialysis for over 10 years and is going strong.   There may also be the possibility of a kidney transplant as another family friend was able to do.  If you feel afraid, someone can always go with you to your treatments.  One of us was usually with Mama thru her entire treatment.

Dialysis is not a death sentence.   Right now, it is what will keep you alive and although I personally have not gone thru the treatments, I did learn how to make Mama more comfortable and, for a long time, Mama felt better (once she got used to the treatments) Although things were not easy, I would do it again in an instant if she could be here with us.  You knew Margaret, quiet but she spoke up when she had to do so and speak up she did when it came to her care and what worked for her — I know that you will do the same and pray for you and the family to muster the strength and committment to make dialysis work for you the best way possible.

Let your family and friends be there for you.  You are so blessed to have the prayers of an entire community, they would help you I know.  Our family has already walked the road that you are just starting on.  Any questions you have, any information you need, any fears you would like soothed, please call us.  We love you and are here for you.

Fighting Words #52essays2017

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A few years back, when I went to court to confront him for harassment/stalking, the DA had asked me to get statements from anyone who had been directly affected by his actions.  These statements would be presented to the judge to show the level this individual had gone to in order to get to me, get my attention, destroy me, destroy my reputation, to break me.

I had completely forgotten about all of this until I found a SIX page letter written by Mama.  To see her compelling words took me completely back to that time in my life, Mama was partially paralyzed and had to learn how to write all over again with her left hand.   She had always had beautiful handwriting and it was difficult for her to look at her handwriting ever again.  I, on the other hand, had so much admiration for Mama and the strength and committment it took for her to start over from zero.   Aside from learning to write again with her other hand, Mama also had to write much slower and would have to position the pages just so in order to be able to put the words onto the page — for her to be able to write one page could take hours.

Having a stroke might have slowed down Mama physically but not mentally, thank God.  Where Margaret may have been quiet, even shy, when in front of people, she was so eloquent and could WORK IT in writing.   I remember that, sometimes, we Torres5 would be hesitant, almost nervous, to tell Mama about anything we were going thru, at first, because we knew that it would be ON.   But then, we would watch in wonder after turning in one of Mama’s notes to a teacher or to an office.  In spectacular fashion, Margaret handled it for her Torres5 and it was thrilling to watch her, unafraid, fight racism and discrimination, apathy, and more in attempts to get justice for us.   It was very apparent to all of our teachers that NO one messed with Margaret’s children.

So once I saw this six-page letter, I was amazed because I know that this had to have taken her days to write it.  Then the tears came, tears of anger that my mother had to go thru this stress in her own home because of one stupidasspendejo.  Mama always respected my privacy, never got into my business, and deserved to live her life in privacy and peace.  That this tranquility was taken from her, albeit for a short time, saddens me to this day, she never asked to have her life disrupted, never asked to be involved in this mess.

Through my tears, I started smiling.  Because, in writing this letter to the judge, my mother was doing what she had always done for me, took care of me, stood up for me when I could barely lift my head, had my back, made me stronger, got me through many a day, and made sure that she would contribute to my receiving justice.  More important, seeing this letter made me happy:  it was like Mama was reminding me to get a hold of myself and know my worth.  It was also a confirmation that Mama a l w a y s  had my back and HOW blessed am I to have this in writing?

I’m always grateful for signs:  I needed to see/feel my mother today.   Mama’s words were always powerful and today she reminded me of how far that I have come…and so thankful that I do not live this drama 24/7 anymore.  Because on one fateful day in 2013, one Margaret Mary Torres decided to pick up a pen and put it to paper, to use her words instead of her fists to fight, once again, for justice for her child.

#52essays2017

#AshTag

 

Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday opens Lent, a season of fasting and prayer. Ash Wednesday takes place 46 days before Easter Sunday, and is chiefly observed by Catholics, although many other Christians observe it too. Ash Wednesday comes from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting. The practice includes the wearing of ashes on the head. The ashes symbolize the dust from which God made us. Ashes also symbolize grief, in this case, grief that we have sinned and caused division from God.

For most of my life, I have gone to Mass on Ash Wednesday, no meat on Fridays, always wondering what to give up for Lent – candy, chocolate, salt, fast food were always some of the things I would give up because I “had” to, I don’t know if I ever really took Ash Wednesday that seriously until this year. Not only did I take it more seriously, I felt like a lot of people did as well.

Maybe it’s the wave of negativity that is going through our country right now…all of the hate-filled sentiment in the country: anti-immigrant, anti-Latino, anti-Muslim, and more have people on edge and fearful of their families’ future…but I sensed that people are looking for their higher power to help them find peace and comfort in this very uncertain world.

In either case, I decided that, this year, I would give up something that I needed to change about myself or my life. Normally, one is supposed to keep these things to themselves as it is something between you and God. But, in the spirit of keeping myself accountable, I am giving up the following for Lent: Doubt, Worry, Fear of Failure, and Arriving Late. It really is time for me to stop doubting the plan that God has for me, worrying will not help me anymore at all, and there is no way that I will know success unless I experience failure. Arriving where I need to be on time will keep me punctual, honest, and accountable. It will not be easy (especially the last one), but I as I am already in major-change mode, a few more changes wouldn’t be so bad.

Sincere prayers are always good too.  Spreading positive energy is so important, especially toward those individuals who need prayers, especially those who think that they don’t need any support or prayers.  Praying for people might help them do the right thing and to be more positive…I can only imagine that any positive, peaceful, and happy thoughts and prayers will make our world feel more stable, less uncertain, hopeful and full of love.   I’m done wallowing in negativity and I am ready for a spiritual journey…

I have 40 days to try to change a part of my world, looking forward to a Happy Easter.

#52essays2017

 

 

 

 

One, Two, Three, JUMP! #52essays2017

 

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It all started with a jump rope.

I hadn’t jumped rope in many years.

As posted on my social media that day:  “I think I may have found the key to feeling younger and healthier…jump rope. I haven’t done this in many years and am having a blast. I wish I was not in work clothes. Just need to remember that I’m not 10 so I have to take it easy para no darme en la madre. Buying one today. #NoLonjaZone

 

It took me forever to get started, to anticipate the exact moment when I would need to jump over that piece of string. I noticed that when I would think too much about the jump that it became more difficult to do it, and do it on time.  I kept at it and finally I started to get a rhythm going.  But, again, once I thought too much about it, I would stumble and get all caught up in that rope.

Jumping rope taught me a couple of lessons:  one, I was out of shape;  two, I had been living my life so tentatively, hesitating on every detail, living in fear, that I was hopelessly in my own way thus could not move forward.    I decided that maybe jumping rope would move me out of my comfort zone a little. If I listen to the sound of the rope as it hits the ground and then jump, that I might be able to live life without so much hesitation.

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Hesitation is driven by fear:  fear of what is going to happen “if” I do this or that;  fear of what others may think, fear of making the wrong decision, fear of ____, fill in the blank.

I noticed that I was really tentative as I drove this past week, the first week without massive rain.   I had been driving for weeks with hands clenched to the wheel, trying to avoid getting into an accident, trying to avoid potholes that seemed to grow larger with every raindrop, trying to remain patient thru some of the worst traffic ever.   One would think that, once the sun came out, that I would be flying across the freeways, NOT.   Add to this, one of the headlights of the Jeep had gone out after I drove past a deep pothole in the rain…so it was harder to see the road on some of those stormy nights.

Once I noticed how tentative and hesitant I had become, I started trying to get the heck out of my way so that I could do simple things like pay bills, get the headlight fixed, get to where I needed to be on time.   Every time I completed one of these goals, I would feel this massive release of nervous energy from my body, sometimes it would be so intense that I had to take a minute to catch my breath.   it would feel as if chorros were coming on!  Your body really does sense things before you can get your hands around it, I didn’t even realize how much of my life I had started to suppress out of fear.

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It had also been difficult for me to reach out to others lately.  Fear of letting go, of having people see that my life is not perfect and “together”, of having to give before receiving.  Withdrawal had been my refuge for these past couple of years.  It was just easier to step back and not have to talk to anyone, not have to explain anything about this man or his most recent actions, and shield myself from the world.

But, like jumping rope, one has to learn to live life without hesitation.  Not everyone is out to destroy you or your reputation, every decision does not have to be a matter of life or death, and merely existing is not living.  I am open to anything that gets me back on my track in a positive way.  I would have never, ever thought that something so simple as a piece of rope would be part of my InnerChingonaSupportSystem yet here we are.  Can’t wait to buy a sturdy jump rope!   I made one key decision last night:  I told Dad that I wanted him to hit up Home Depot and find me some rope just like the one in the picture LOL and you better know that he’s on it, he even tells me, “mija, you’re gonna need handles too, I’ll find them!”  See?? I reached out to someone (Dad), I made a decision (to jump rope) and did not hesitate, now let’s hope that ‘no me doy en la madre’!    

DON’T HESITATE.  BECAUSE THERE CAN BE SOMEONE WHO WILL NOT HESITATE TO TAKE YOUR CHANCE.

#52essays2017

 

Collateral Damage No More #52essays2017

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It’s late afternoon, and I am all into the project at hand, headphones on, music playing, I’m 100% focused.  I see my phone light up, and see a familiar phone number, “woooow, it’s Mr. C, and it has been a very long time since I’ve talked to him, should I answer or not?  I don’t know, especially after that last time…”  Pride be damned, the chismosa in me wants to know whassup, so I pick up the phone:  “Hello”, “Hey Carmen how are you doing? I feel really bad about what happened and wanted to apologize for going crazy with the texts and I want to apologize to your friends for getting all up in their faces but you have to understand that I was receiving so many weird texts and calls and I was really tripping and was scared.” 

Story of my life these past couple of years.

Let me explain the incident Mr. C is referring to:   I had sent out a group text and, sin querer, his number was included on the group text.  The message was a positive one, I was updating friends on my life.  I was getting positive responses from all except for Mr. C.  His responses were of the “eff-you” and “who the eff is this” nature.  A text war ensued when, PJ, another friend included on the text,  jumped to my defense and began to tell Mr. C off via text and then all hell broke loose.   I finally texted both PJ and Mr. C separately to ask them to stop with this back and forth texting madness and promptly received an “ok” from PJ and Mr. C replied “eff off“.  That was close to a year ago.

I didn’t even have to ask what types of calls or texts Mr. C had been receiving because I knew exactly whom he had been referring to.  Regular readers of my blog know that I have been completely cyber-abused/harassed by Joe.   You name it, I’ve seen it, you name it, it happened.  The majority of this mess has taken place publicly and online:  thousands of emails, text messages, social media postings.    I just put my head down and tried to weather the storm and get through my life.    It was painfully obvious that this man needed an outlet for his rage and I was the target.

It was one thing to come after me.  But he took it to the next level:  this person transferred his rage and major issues in his life to people totally unrelated to him.  These innocent bystanders became collateral damage in a fight with someone unknown to them, having to deal with receiving posts, emails, text messages that talked about me in the worst and most vile way, and he would tell these people things that I “said” or “thought” about them – friends, colleagues, bosses, family, even people whom he thought I knew, were not immune.

How was I supposed to deal with that?  I had people calling or emailing me, completely freaked out, offended, angry, afraid by these sick messages and calls.  Many people, for different reasons, turned their backs on me.  Some were afraid:  “I have kids, I can’t be worrying that this guy is following you or something”, some were angry:  “why the hell is he contacting my supervisor? Putting this kind of stuff on my work website?; others attributed it to him being straight-up crazy, ‘why is he putting your phone number out there? Why is he putting my phone number out there? Why is he asking me to fire you?

I couldn’t aplogize for something that I had not done and it got to a point where I could tell in a person’s face, voice, text, or email that they had received one of his disturbing messages.  I was forced to experience extreme vulnerability, I had nowhere to hide, everything was out there for the world to see.  It was almost too much to bear.

The things I did to try to prevent any more collateral damage astound me:

I remember that I screamed out this question to Joe, “WHAT. WILL. IT. TAKE. for you to stop calling my job and letting me work?” after being completely overwhelmed by one call after another after another after another to my OFFICE for at least an hour or more day after day.   My co-workers had nothing to do with this, nor did clients or listeners yet they were collateral damage, their day was disrupted by his pendejadas.   I was stunned when he said that he wanted money, and the amount was in the thousands of dollars.   It was not my proudest moment, but I did pay his price.  Did it work?  No.     I was trying so hard to keep it together and trying to show the world that I was fine and dealing with it.  But the thought of him going after others just to get his point across, was enough to keep me in line, to keep me afraid that he would go off on innocent bystanders in my life – my parents, my siblings, my boss, my friends, my colleagues.

I have since learned that there is no rhyme or reason to this type of person’s madness, that he would resort to anything in attempts to control me or my actions.  The twisted goal was to intentionally damage my reputation, my friendships, spread derogatory messages, false rumors, embarrassing me, humiliating me, damaging my self-image, stealing my privacy and my security.

Joe succeeded, for a short while.   I was worrying about others so much that I forgot to take care of myself, to rest, to destress, to relax.   When I was completely exhausted and broken down, I had nothing left.  You would think that I would have come to my senses.   But there I went again, de pendeja, trying to change things on my own:  I thought, “I’ll meet up with him and try to talk some sense into him, I’ll make him stop calling my parents’ house all night every night”, what did this accomplish?  An argument that escalated into a fight with him taking the keys out of the ignition of my Jeep and leaving me stranded.  Looking back, this was one of the turning points, I had to ask for help… OMG it was a mixture of feeling utterly mortified and relieved at the same time, there was no point in trying to act as if anymore.  My primo didn’t judge me, thank God, as he helped me call the police, get keys made, all the while talking to me so that I would know that I was not alone and advising me to bring God into the mix so that He could help me get myself together.

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Eventually, I LISTENED as my Inner Chingona stepped in to help lift me:   I finally recognized that, for all of my personal drama, that I was always able to get a job, my reputation might have been a little tarnished but I could still work it.   I saw, firsthand, that my family would never turn their back on me – they might be disappointed or angry with the situation, but always there for me.   Friends and colleagues are, slowly but surely, making their way back.  Many of the conversations are similar to the one I had with Mr. C – where they were afraid, angry, and concerned for their safety.  While some have come back, sadly, others continue to stay away.  I can’t blame them, especially as, to this day, they still receive random filth and sick messages.  All under aliases of course and, what can I do?  I cannot control him or his actions.

Aside from collateral damage suffered by friends, colleagues, and family,  I continue to work on my personal collateral damage.  It is extensive:  loss of confidence, loss of privacy, loss of security, the almost PTSD effects of having all of my business put out there in the most negative, destructive way – flashbacks and nightmares can come back when I least expect it.  It hurts to have to relive some of these things but the ONLY way change happens is if you are willing to peel OFF the layers of hurt, humiliation, anger, and embarrassment as you bring this darkness into the light.

E v e r y t h i n g  is now documented, there’s no other way around it.  Having these receipts helped me get justice when I needed it the first time around. The way I see it, things will catch up to Joe eventually.  I can only deal with my collateral damage and continue to keep moving forward.   Part of the healing is to show others that they are not alone, to tell my story, to help someone break the cycle, to not be afraid to reach out, to show others that, yes, I made some SonsaTontaPendeja choices, yet I have come out on the other side.   Peace and, peace of mind, especially, is the greatest feeling ever.

I’ve learned, the hard way, that I must take care of myself, especially as much of my life and work is handled online and via smartphone.   These tips work for me and will really help you be safe and secure.  Also, I might add, you need to start thinking as an abuser does – abusers go thru great lengths to cover their tracks which makes it difficult for you or the justice system to find them … you can learn how to do this in order to take care of yourself, to have your own back, to stay safe, to have peace of mind.

  1. Change your usernames and passwords frequently.
  2. Block your caller ID on your phone if someone is harassing you.
  3. Turn off GPS location facilities on your computer, camera, and phone.
  4. Use a safe email address. Don’t be afraid to create a new one if you have to.
  5. Do not hesitate to block anyone from your social media sites.
  6. Watch who you add as “friends”, red flags are: sites with no profile picture, no mutual friends, sites that were created the day you receive the friend request, weird names, or names that sound contrived, made up.
  7. Use a safe and public computer (i.e. public library) and do not use any computers that belong to people whom your abuser knows. Don’t lend your computer out to anyone.
  8. Delete your internet history (although digital footprints can never be entirely deleted)
  9. Document any and everything that doesn’t feel safe to you
  10. The most important tip:  If it feels unsafe, LISTEN to your Inner Chingona, do not discount that little voice inside of you, our bodies sense danger before our minds get their hands around it.

 

This was not an easy post to think about or write about mucho menos putting my business out there for the world to see.  I actually started this post a couple of years ago but I never seemed to be able to read what I had written so most of these words have lived in the “drafts” section of this blog.   As I read this completed post, I realized something very powerful:  that I am standing in my truth, stronger, and protected, putting my business out there myself – it no longer feels like someone ripped off all of my clothes, pulled out the rug from under me, and left me thrown to the side of the road to die.  My survival depended on me listening to my gut aka Inner Chingona –to learn how to channel my fear and start the long process of fixing the broken pieces of my life.

It didn’t happen overnight.  But it IS happening.

 

#52essays2017

 

Inner Chingona sez No One Does You Like You #52essays2017

 

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#52essays2017

It is so easy to do things because “that’s the way it’s always been” or “everyone else does it this or that way”.  It is not easy to stand on your own two feet, to stand in your truth, to keep on keeping on, even when others think differently or try to tell you how wrong you are.

I’ve always had an opinion and I’ve always had my big mouth LOL.  I remember being told to shut up, quiet down, you don’t have to say everything you are thinking my entire life.  I would react out loud too, rolling my eyes, shaking my head, saying “whatever” or worse.  If I react silently, my thoughts go crazy complete with cuss words and all.  I have had many vent sessions at the wheel of my Jeep.  I had my own back, I was confident when I needed to be.Embracing my Inner Chingona, listening to my gut, has never let me down, WHEN I have listened.

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And then I found the courage to write these thoughts down and share them with the world.   I was able to expand my thoughts more, I was able to put so many opinions, feelings, thoughts, dreams into words, my words.  I spent years trying to find authors who really sounded like me, I knew that they had to be out there.  I finally found two or three authors that, when I would read their work, I would say “yup!” out loud,  would laugh and cry because I completely got what they were saying.   However, it took Ms. Big and Bad here a little longer to learn how to expect and embrace “constructive” criticism and others’ opinions of her work.  You see, I thought that, by me just be being brave enough to share my truth, that everyone would automatically agree with me. Wrong.   This morning, the following popped up on my “memories” on Facebook.  Below is my 2015 response on Facebook to someone who did not embrace my use of Spanglish in my writing:

I was told that my writing and posts would be much more relevant if I did them in one language versus another and tone down the Spanglish. May I say that, while I am 100% able to converse, read, and write intelligently in either Spanish or English, that my authentic self is bilingual/bicultural and I have NEVER viewed this as a negative thing ever. Spanglish allows me to be at home wherever I am and, most def, has opened doors that might have remained closed to me por no saber español o ingles. It took me many years to find authors who think, therefore write as I do. I’m not even angry about it, soy quien soy and I love to write “slice of life” style and, surprise! many people speak exactly as I do. For me, in writing, keeping it real is always important. How boring my world would be without talking and writing about my aventuras, triunfos, regadas, sonsadas? Someone will read and relate, that much I know. #SiSePuede #YNoMeAhuito#InnerChingona

I still do believe what I said on FB.  However, instead of getting my feelings hurt or offended that someone does not agree with me, what I have learned about my writing is this:  People embrace the effort.  I get comments all of the time about how they relate (or not) to my work, folks may not always agree with me but I love it that they do respect the fact that I have the huevos to put it together and put it out there.  For now, that’s enough. I am very happy when folks take the time to read what I write as I know that, with so much media going on at once in our lives, that it is not easy for one to sit down and actually take the time to read.       Now it’s all about staying authentic, writing,  learning and working on my technique, writing, reading and learning from other writers, writing,  keeping in touch with the world, writing,  and having a journal, a pen, or a laptop nearby so that I can write about life as I see it, and maybe finish some of the over ninety drafts that I have started!

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Find what you love to do, allow others to embrace your effort, and respect the fact that you have the huevos to put it all out there.  No one does you like you.

#52essays2017

Going Home. Ni Modo. Sometimes You “Have” To.

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I was struck by a television show I was watching earlier tonight: the character was Latino, and he had come home to find his mother lying on the floor, she had fallen. The caregiver had been gone for a couple of hours and the character was furious and went after the caregiver with the can of whoopass. At the end of the show, this character was going into his mother’s home, where he tells her how beautiful she looks, to which she responds that she had to look her best because she was so happy that her son was moving back home. And then the mom starts being a mom – “come sit down with me, watch my show, can you make me a sandwich?”  I had to laugh because I sooo related to this and this proves to me that I am not the only one who has “had” come back home.

As I write, I’m now in my “apartment” AKA the “girls room” – the place where I grew up. It is sooo deja vu right now, the way the light looks, the way the house sounds kind of quiet, the way I’m playing the radio low, and, as it is tuned into a classic oldies station, it feels as if I am back in time to when I used to be in the room doing my homework! LOL


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My view in the “girls room”

Regular readers of my blog know my story of moving back home to be with my folks. Mama has since passed and it’s me and my father. While I admit that I  miss my former life profoundly which consisted of spending time with my now FamFriends, going out a lot, working a lot, trying to work on having a meaningful relationship in my life, and finding my place in the world.  However, I now realize that I was always looking for a sense of family and togetherness in every city I have lived/worked.  As I was alone with family far away, I didn’t really have to deal with work getting in the way of family things plus I was usually far enough so I wasn’t mired in the day-to-day routine.   To my amazement, I now realize that one of the things that I missed was the sense of ‘home’ – that peaceful feeling of being able to relax completely, to be yourself, to know that you are totally safe and loved.

I’m now all up in the day-to-day trying to keep this house in order, always watchful of my father.  Tonight, he seems down and, while I try not to get all up in his business, I feel better knowing that he’s not by himself.  My fear is coming home to find him fallen down or hurt or worse.   I just want him to be safe and happy.   I know now that familia has to work together to contribute to the peace, safety, and love that makes our house feel like a home.

This peace and joy did not come easy.  Caregiving is not an easy gig and the struggle is real because, at the end of the day, you are NOT their parent, even though it feels like it a lot of the time.  You are all up in their things and, in this house at least, no one likes it when you move their stuff around.   Also, in this house, Mama used to say that her kids were all chiefs as we all have our opinion on everything LOL.    She was right.  I especially would go crazy when things did not go my way and when this family would not follow the schedule that I made for us.  I had to learn to bite my tongue and to pick my battles.  I had to stop judging them for a million things, and just love them.

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For any of you who have “had” to move back home, these tips really helped me to make it a little easier.

  1.  Respect that it is not easy for your parents either:  someone, even their daughter, coming into their space can feel disruptive and they may be embarrassed that the house isn’t as neat as it used to be, or that they can’t do the things they used to.
  2. Dignity goes a long way.  I learned this first-hand when I was the one “assigned” to clean and change Mama’s clothes.  I was so concerned that she was comfortable as fast as possible that I didn’t cover the exposed parts of her body like I should have  One day, I just watched Toni, one of the hospice nurses, as she moved and bathed Mama with such care and dignity so that I could try to make her comfortable.
  3. Live like roommates and have the roommate talk:  This sets simple ground rules and has worked wonders for family unity and understanding.  It allows everyone in the house to live their lives, work, spend time with friends and work out issues.
  4. Respect each other’s space, get out of each other’s way when need be.  I have, on occasion, dropped Dad off to have a few drinks and sing with the mariachi and then pick him up … talk about Turning the Tables! He, on the other hand, is always telling me to get out of the house and go out, that he’ll be alright.
  5. Create Your Support Crew:  You may need help getting folks to appointments, getting meals handled, picking up meds, cleaning the house or to listen to you vent.  People do want to help how they can and, even if it’s just for a couple of hours, let someone be there for you as you care for your parents.

Change doesn’t have to be disruptive forever.  The way I see it, my parents gave us everything we needed to get out there in the world and as, nothing is free, it is important for me to be here now for my father.  Respect, dignity, open communication, support system, and stepping back when need be can make any situation bearable, even fun.  My Dad and I, thank God, are able to talk to each other.

Hablando se entiende la gente.  I’m smiling right now because we just had what is a typical nighttime conversation between Dad and I:  “Mija, quiero un taquito para tomarme la medicina”  he usually likes a snack when he takes his meds.  This Daddy’s girl says, “ok but ‘con tortillas de maiz‘ because it’s late.”   My father is Team Flour Tortillas all the way and I’m Corn Tortilla girl — and this is how we compromise LOL .  There you have it:  Another peaceful night at home on the Ranch.

#52essays2017

 

What? QueQUE? My story of Awe #52essays2017

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#52essays2017

AWE:  a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.  Synonyms of AWE:  filled with wonder, wonderstruck, awestruck, amazed, astonished, lost for words, reverential

Another Friday Night.  I’m sitting in major traffic trying to get home.  I’m listening to the radio and the host is talking about “Awe” and the listeners are calling in with their stories.  As I sat in my Jeep surrounded by cars on every side on the roadway, I started thinking about times when I was awestruck, when something completely stopped me in my tracks, when I was stunned into silence, when I was certain that it could only have been God behind it.

Back in the day, I was going out with someone whom I was totally crazy about, I hadn’t been this happy in a long time.  I just couldn’t believe that my parents did not like this person.  Oh, they had reason to feel the way they did, I accept that.  I was the one who was blind in love, I was the one who was going to change their mind, I was the one to change a negative into a positive, things would work out in my favor.

Well, things did not work out in my favor.  After too many nights of having to deal his drama with alcohol and viejas, I decided that I needed to get out of this mess and I left him.   I had estranged myself from my family where he was concerned, and so I really didn’t know who I could talk to about how sad and devastated I was.  I thought that no one would understand me and that they would just be glad that I had come to my senses.  I was not in any mood to be judged, I just wanted understanding.  I kicked myself for living a double life and for keeping things from my family and friends.  So now I had this intense drama going on in my head and I started beating myself up MORE for being with this person than GIVING MYSELF PROPS for being smart enough to walk away from a bad situation.  So, as often happens when one is overwhelmed and battling every kind of emotion, I became very depressed.  I also thought that, “there’s no way that anyone knows how I’m feeling because I haven’t told anyone anything.”  Yeah, right.

Mama knew.

My mother had always been pretty religious, very Catholic.  She would always say things like ‘Let Go And Let God‘ and told us to “pray about it” and “believe” and things like that.  I’d sit there rolling my eyes saying, “ay Mom” and things like that.  But Margaret, always persistent, never gave up and, one day, she tells me that there was a Healing Mass coming up and that we should go,  Healing Masses are done all of the time in Catholic churches, it’s a time where you can receive a great amount of prayer for whatever illness or sadness you are going through.  I’m like “yeah, yeah” rolling my eyes and thinking, “she’ll forget about this”.  Well, forget she did not, and the day came for the Healing Mass.

I remember going into the Mass, still with some of my attitude on, thinking about “what will this do for me?“.  At one point during the Mass, there came a point where I had to go up to the altar where there were people standing in a circle who would pray for whatever I asked them to pray for.  I went up to the circle and told them how sad I was because of a breakup and they all started to pray over me.   I went back to my seat, a little confused and thinking about how this was going to help me because I felt the same as I did before.

After everyone else had gone up to be prayed over, we had to stand up for some reason.  As the priest was speaking, don’t ask me what he was saying, I put my hands on the pew in front of me.  As I stood there, I started to feel my body moving, like something was trying to get out.  I closed my eyes and, to my astonishment, I started to feel like my body was actually rising up, that I was starting to levitate, and I remember holding on to that pew for dear life, because I was sure that I was going to start flying.  I started crying because I didn’t really understand what was happening and because I didn’t know how to fly.

Once I realized that I was fighting this too much, I figured I would relax and let go – after all, I was in a church, what harm could come to me there?   As I relaxed my hold on the pew and just surrendered to the feeling of levitation, I started to feel something making its way out of my body, and making its way in color, I saw a dark gray film rising before my eyes and, as I looked up, it was moving up as well!  After seeing this, I sat down and tried to get myself together.  I was completely floored, exhausted, and at peace.  I remember looking over at Mama and, as we locked eyes, and we both knew that I had come through the other end.  I never knew if she ever saw what I had felt and seen just a few minutes earlier but I know that she understood that something profound had happened.  Now that I look back, how cool is it that I was able to share this with my mother?  Just like God, she never left me ever, I was not all alone.

I hadn’t really thought too much about that experience in many years.   In fact, as I listened to the radio on that Friday night, as others spoke about AWE, I almost hesitated as I dialed the phone number to tell MY story of Awe.  I was shocked that the phone actually rang and was answered by a call screener.  I would be telling my story to the world in a few minutes!   As I told my story of Awe on-air, I realized that AWE moments should not be forgotten, that reaching back to this moment in my life might have helped me to see the roadblocks, stop signs, signals that would cross my path in the future.  I cannot explain, to this day, why God chose that precise moment to personally bless me with peace and love.  I have learned that it’s important to talk (or write about)  about these wonder-filled moments to help me/us reflect on as heal and move forward from life’s disappointments, sad or bad times.

What is your moment of AWE?  Embrace, heal, and learn from this moment.

#52essays2017

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Back On My Own … For A Few Days Anyway #52essays2017


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#52essays2017

It’s funny, I’ve been on my own for years, had my own place, paid my own bills, did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, slept all day if I wanted to, be gone for days from my place as long as I wanted to, cleaned it, didn’t clean it, walked around in my bra and ‘chones‘, walked around completely nude, cooked one meal and ate out of the pan or used a tortilla to eat out of the pan, same meal, all day long LOL It took me a long time to feel comfortable living alone, I had always had roommates, ten roommates total throughout the years. I was nervous at first about living alone and then that was it – I loved it.

 

I never thought that I would move back home again – ever.  I have always been one to sleep in my own bed or, at the very least; I always carry my own pillow and blanket EVERYWHERE.  No matter where I stayed, even when I’d come back home, I always had my sleeping materials covered.  My family has always compared me to Linus, the character on Charlie Brown, who always carries a blanket.  Yet, here I sit in my pajamas and bathrobe, at 8:00 at night, on a day where I have not changed out of my pj’s, gone nowhere, and alternated from Mama’s chair to the couch to my bed in the “girls room”, on what has been my most relaxing day of the year.

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Flash back to a couple of years ago, I came over on “my night”, you see, we 5 Torres siblings decided to divide up the week to help care for our parents, and on this night, I could not make myself leave.  My mother, who had been ill for some time and who was undergoing dialysis treatments, was getting weaker.  What hurt me most was not the physical weakness, what broke my heart was the sense that Mama was getting tired of it all.  I thought to myself, I want to make her days/nights easier.  My nights were spent waking up once or twice to check on Mama and on Dad; I could never manage to sleep through the night.  I didn’t have much time to miss my life and my bed.  I think that, during that entire time, I slept in my bed two or three times.  When Mama passed away, we were all so grateful that she was not in pain or distress that she went peacefully.  As a family, we were all completely exhausted, we had all spent the last couple of months completely at Mama’s side 24/7.

 

Fast forward to now, our house is so different now, there are many full-house nights, we host many more family events here at the house than ever before, Dad always has some project he’s working on in or outside of the house, there is music on and this night owl house rarely has lights out.  I finally moved my bed and things into the ‘girls room’, which is now my “apartment”, and while I sleep more, I still wake up at least once per night to check on Dad.  Trying to keep this house up is no easy task, especially, as Dad tends to leave things wherever he leaves them.   I’ve claimed one huge victory by getting Dad to stop throwing paper onto the floor and into the wastebasket LOL.

 

As Dad and the family would be gone for a few days, I was elated to have my life to myself for a few days in a row!  It was if I were going on vacation, what would I do?  Where would I go?  Who would I see?  Or NOT?   Well, the first night, I stayed up writing all night and had my music blasting – just like I spent many nights at my place not too long ago.  As I was battling the flu, I didn’t really do anything but move all of my blankets to the living room couch and spent the next day and night moving to and from the couch and chair, sleeping, watching what I like to watch:  msnbc, Oprah’s channel, chick flicks, and binge-watched TV, puro heaven. With every single nap, every minute spent under the blankets, in my favorite outfit ever, my piyama, watching only the TV I wanted to see, kicking back, I could feel myself getting healed physically, and felt myself coming back together as Carmen, the person, I felt like me, not a daughter or a sister, just me.

 

It was GREAT to be back on my own, even for a few days. Loved being back to cleaning only once (and the house staying clean), filling up a small trashcan only, using one roll of toilet paper the entire time and the kitchen stove getting a break as well LOL. Well, I wasn’t really completely alone, Mama was all up in the mix from her table and I’ll bet that she, too, appreciated the peace, quiet, no-heater blasting, girl time.

 

Make time for yourself, have your own back, spend time with YOU, reconnect with your InnerChingona, get your power back, even if it is for a few minutes on a crazy/busy day!

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Your Mama Says “Hi” #52essays2017


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As I got home tonight from work, Dad told me that he went to see Mama at the cemetery. He always says “Your Mama Says Hi”. I have been missing “Señora” big time today.  It’s cold, it’s dark, and I’m just getting over flu/bronchitis and sometimes all you want is your mama to make it all better. That’s it, that’s all I wanted today.  I love it when he tells us that ‘your Mama says hi’ like as if she’s going to be home in a little while or something.

I don’t know what it was about being near Mama, I felt safe, she wasn’t the ‘huggy huggy’ type and I didn’t feel offended because I think that she may have wanted to be more cariñosa with us but she was embarrassed, and maybe she thought that she didn’t know how to be more physically affectionate, who knows.  A lot of ladies from her generation were the same way.   I learned how to live with this but I just always k n e w that my mother loved me because she felt things so deeply. I could always sense when Mama was sad or hurt; maybe because I am the same way, my feelings run veeeery deep.  However, Mama always connected really well through writing, thank God. I have so many loving notes and letters from her. I treasure them all but I really love the stuff she’d write after she had her stroke, when she had to start from zero and learn to write with her left hand (as the right one was paralyzed), where a small note would take her hours to write, when she was as close to her inner chingona as possible, when she had decided that, by holding things in, she had a hand in her stroke changing her life forever. From that moment on, she always always always told us to never keep things in, so that we wouldn’t end up like her – in a wheelchair, walking with a cane, no longer able to drive or move about carefree.

Many many times she’d tell me to “calm down, don’t be so emotional, stop crying‘, and in the next breath, tell me that she was exactly the same way at my age.   Someone, somewhere along Mama’s life, must have told her to keep things inside, that it wasn’t cool to cry and carry on.  Maybe Mama’s generation were afraid of emotion, afraid of losing control, afraid of not being able to come back from an emotional outburst.  I didn’t, and still don’t, understand how one can hold in every single feeling, it would make me physically sick to hold so much in. I’ve learned thru life (and shots of therapy) that letting go and losing it all is a great way to get yourself back on track.  I would give anything for Mama and those of her generation to have believed this, they would have been happier and more fulfilled I think.   I always try to be affectionate with our #TorresBabies, no matter the age, breaking that cycle I guess.

Mama’s presence was always enough to calm me.  If she looked calm, I would stop freaking out about this or that.  If I called her and her voice sounded strong and happy, I knew that it was a good day.  Wheelchair or not, paralyzed or not, if I needed an attitude adjustment, advice, or someone to listen to me go on and on and on, Mama was down for it.  Today I so needed to get her take on things, to help get me on track, to have her tell me things like “LetGoAndLetGod” and then telling me to stop rolling my eyes and believe LOL.

She’s been gone 26 months now, and sitting here in her house, near one of her pictures (which, note to self,  needs to be surrounded by lights so that I can see her face at this time of night), I feel her presence and the one thing, the one thing, I want right now is to feel her warmth, to see her face as she helps me figure things out, and to hug and kiss her goodnight.  Maybe her message to me from Dad was her way of letting me know she’s here.   “Hi Mama! Dad gave me your message!”

 

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Mama & Me   #52essays2017