Collateral Damage No More #52essays2017

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#52essays2017

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

The Minute I Mop the Floors…The Eternal Battle

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Whatever went through this family’s mind when they decided the the house needed WHITE floors has dumbfounded me for years.  I understand the reason for the floors, it was easier and much safer for Mama to walk on, as she had been left partially paralyzed from her stroke.   When she was alive, it was difficult to come in and clean the house.  First, she did not like us getting into her “stuff” and so it felt like I was always cleaning around the stuff.  Second, I was here once a week or so, not that much, as we Torres5 had our schedule of cleaning/cooking for the folks.

Fast forward to now.  Dad and I are roommates and he is fun to be around.  I still am not the greatest housekeeper but I feel that I have, respectfully, stored a lot of Mama’s things after her passing thus cleaning around things doesn’t happen that much anymore.  Our house has become a very social house and I try to keep it relatively clean and presentable in case anyone wants to stop by anytime.  Thus I find myself cleaning constantly to try to keep up with the mess.   Mopping floors is a given.  As we live on the Ranch, you better know that dust, tierra, leaves, lodo, are all up in that mix.  If I let the floors go more than a couple of days without mopping, it is not attractive.

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I do everything to let the fam know that it’s “no ins/outs for 20-30 minutes” – tell them, yell it out, text them.  Everyone gets the message except for Dad.  The minute I put the mop into the bucket, and I hear the sound of the mop sloshing the hot water around, I think, “there’s no way he’ll hear it”, as I hear the sound of the plop of the mop onto the floor, I think, “he better not decide to walk this way/go to the bathroom/get up out of the chair/get out of bed”, even after I tell him I’m mopping the floor.   Sure enough, I will have JUST finished one side of the house, or just finished mopping the bathroom, and I’ll hear him moving about.   First word in my mind is usually ‘chiiiiingado‘, and then if I happen to catch his eye, he has to hear me go on and on and on with ‘DadTeDijeWhyDoYouAlwaysDoThis?‘, and then I just have to shake my head because yavaliomadre and he has tracked all over my clean floors to go to the bathroom or whatever y ya.

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By the time I mop once more, I’m still shaking my head, but my rage is gone.  I have always taken care of my father – I’m partly to blame if he’s chiquiado.  Daddy’s girl here has always made sure that he eats, that he’s taken care of, that the house is presentable so I’ve enabled him for sure LOL. While I could sit there and talk it out with him, which I have done many times, I know that I am dealing with an 81 years young man who will not change overnight, he does things MikeTorresStyle, in his own way, in his own time.    As I mop the floor again, I wonder HOW is it that he KNOWS when I am going to mop the floors LOL?!? I tell myself, ‘NEXT time, I’ll do this or that, say this or that” and then I have to smile — I’ve “lost” this round, and look forward to being able to brag on the day when I can mop the floors of this house uninterrupted.    And then I hear it…Oh no, there goes the heater on full blast again…..Sometimes you have to pick your battles.  Gotta love Daddy.  #52essays2017

My Friday Night Luces

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Fridays.  End of the workday.  End of the Week.  The sunset always looks different to me on Fridays.  As the sun goes down, and as dusk settles in, I love the way it looks when the street lights start coming on when it’s still light outside, the color of the green, yellow and red of the stop lights seem to jump out that much brighter on a Friday.  Friday Night Lights are usually associated with high-school football games and, as I’m not that into sports, my lights are known as FridayNightLuces

As anyone who works in the Bay Area knows,  Friday traffic is usually very heavy, people trying to make their getaway for the weekend,  parents rushing to pick up children and get into their warm homes, folks going out to games, concerts, dinner and more.  The roadways are jammed in all directions and one is always listening to traffic reports to hear the conditions of the road.   I do the supercommute from the Bay to the Valley so I’m always doing the ‘ pleaseGodpleaseGodpleaseGod’ that there are no accidents because then it’s all about grrrrrr! and a parqueadero atmosphere on the freeway.  Most nights, I stop somewhere to wait it out: dinner, shopping, writing.  On this Friday night, however, I had to be home so, ni modo, I had to be all up in that mess.  As I drove, or should I say, as I did the stop and go thing, I started noticing the different types of lights — my FridayNightLuces.

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I first saw the brilliant reds, reds of the hundreds of tailights in front of me.  I knew that I was going to be on the road for a long while.   I then looked into my rear view mirror to see the shiny, bright, lines and lines of white lights of the cars who were behind me on this journey, all trying to move forward.   To my right, on the hills,  I saw the warm, inviting lights of many of the homes and could imagine comforting things:  a fireplace, dinner being prepared, people enjoying a meal around the table or in front of the TV settling in to watch a movie, the sound of a doorbell where pizza was being delivered yay no-cook mode, and, if I looked up and saw second-story lights on,  my thoughts would go to someone getting ready for date night, music playing, a glass of adult beverage nearby, the smell of perfume, smiles as they look forward to the evening.

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I then see the orange-ish color of  lights along the freeway that always reminded me of when I lived in  Denver because I loved seeing the world covered in snow and those orange-colored lights put such a cool glow onto the fallin snow.  The orange-colored lights also took me back to a couple of places where I made out with a certain gentleman LOL for some reason, I could never figure it out, he always found the glow of those lights romantic and there we would end up!

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As I moved farther down the road, I would see the dreaded lights of the sirens which could mean highway patrol – so it was all about get off of the phone LOL! Police in pursuit of someone, ambulance and/or fire trucks – and after doing the sign of the cross because it usually meant someone was injured or in pain.  I would always breathe a “yes!” if the lights were on the other side of the freeway and hope that I wouldn’t be on the road that much longer.

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On this Friday night, I saw the full moon rising.  One of my very favorite lights is moonlight,always has been.  Moonlight on the hills, peeking in through the trees, reflecting on my black Jeep.  On my commutes, I get the privilege of seeing the moon rise and set many times.  I finally stopped trying to take pictures of the moon as I drive because I can never get a shot good enough to do it justice; that, and it drives people crazy that I take pictures as I drive and upload them on the road LOL  The skies were clear so you know that moon gave off an awesome light!  A great view especially when I’m blasting music in my Jeep.

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Two very comforting signs along my commute are as I look to the left, I am able to see the “Jesus Saves” and a huge cross all made out of lights,  which tells me that I’m getting out of the Bay and into the Valley and a few miles later, I love seeing the HUGE American Flag flying in the wind a todo lo que da surrounded by lights – I always feel thankful that I live in a free country and things like that when I see the flag.

By the time I get to the last part of the commute, it’s as if all one sees is the flash, flash, flash of the signal lights.  I hear a lot more honking horns and always joke that this is when the real road rage sets in, when people, me included,  have like HAD it with driving with two hands on the wheel, teeth clenched, stressed because they have to be somewhere.  Me, I have no patience for traffic at night so all I want to do is get off of that road and I can often be heard exclaiming out loud, “que vas a hacer? que vas a hacer? what. are. you. going. to. do? ‘get in there! no ves que te estoy dejando entrar?’  The lights lose their peaceful quality, I actually get irritated seeing the lights when, a short time before, I was completely entranced and lost in thought!

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Once I get to my exit from the freeway and make that left turn down my road to the Ranch, where we grew up with my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins on my father’s side, everything starts to calm down.  I again see the comforting lights of the homes as I go down the road, the lights over empty parking lots at the warehouses near the Ranch and then finally, at the Ranch, I turn into our fenced-off dirt road and smile because, of course,  all of the houses are dark or almost dark, that is, all of the houses except ours, my fam are nite owls.  All lights on, doors open (if it’s not cold), music or TV on, and I will usually find my Dad:  writing, playing guitar, or as I found him on this Friday night, in his chair covered with a blanket watching flamenco guitar videos on “YouTube”  — I then put my stuff down on a chair, smile and think that the light of ‘all is right in the world’ is a great one to come home to.  #52essays2017

 

The Power Of Writing: OMG Dad is finding his Inner Chingona

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Dad and I have spent all week thrown down sick at this house. All it has been is puro coughing and misery. For the past few days, neither of us had the energy or desire to do anything.   One of things I’ve started to notice is, that lately, Dad and I have the same tastes on lots of things, including writing.  I took these pics of us a couple of weeks ago, he was writing in one room, and I was writing in another. OMG Dad is finding his Inner Chingona!

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Dad’s been wanting to write his life story and for YEARS, he had been using his typewriter, yes, a typewriter. Well, yesterday, he decides that he’s going to use his laptop to put his story down so that I could review and edit it later. It was transforming. Dad was INTO it, into using the mouse, into learning the keyboard, into putting his thoughts down, sitting down at the table, happy, into it. As it was, after all, the middle of the night, I went in to check on him and almost told him to go to bed and then I stopped myself. I stopped myself when I saw his face deep in thought, eyes glued to the keyboard, I saw “it”. When one is in the I “have” to write mode. Where one is in that zone of pure creativity, on it, focused, working it. Where your fingers are working completely in synch with your mind and where your work is at its most authentic. Maybe when this creative surge is over and we review his work later, we will find that some things may need to be revised or removed, but there is usually always SOMETHING salvageable from creative surges of writing. Therefore, it was very important for me to let him be, to let him finish his train of thought.

I know this feeling well and, for many years, I would suppress my love of writing as something boring or something that people with no lives do. Once I got to that space where I decided it was time to embrace writing, I started making more and more time for it. Now writing is a permanent part of me, an expansion of my voice, much more than a hobby. I think to myself with a lil bit of sadness, “how long did Dad want to write and dismissed it? I also think about Mama and about people no longer with us who left without doing the things that they wanted to do, things that would have made them feel more whole, things that would make them happier.

So now it’s all about me embracing the fact that Dad “needs” his writing as much as I do, maybe more than I do, he’s 81 years young, and he wants to get so much out on paper.   Making things easier for him will be what I am supposed to do, help him work the laptop, teach him Word so that he can save things easier, showing him that the computer is nothing to be afraid of.  I think that it’s fun to be able to share something with my father.

#52essays2017

De 2016 al 2017, Happy New Year!

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2016 has been my year to embrace my new reality and to make serious changes in my life. Gone was the drive for “been there, done that” projects and jobs. Sure, my wallet is feeling the loss of revenue but I had a straight-up blast doing all kinds of event stuff: training people to work booths this event season, watching them get into having fun with people and bring in sales. Loved working new festivals – a challenge with entirely new audiences and much bigger ones, man I learned a lot!  I had so much fun coordinating Vanessa and Erick’s wedding this fall, and when I translated documents for folks, I watched people’s faces turn from fear into straight-up relief as I helped them find their power and get some justice from their issues, and the one event where I told BFF Lisa, “girl, you know that I am your friend” as I helped her coordinate a walk for dogs and their owners at a winery…and y’all know that I am not an animal person LOL. Working events for my Latino community is something I will a l w a y s  do and it’s always fun to be amongst the raza.  The key for all of these events is that I was ready to do things differently, to take charge of a different aspect of an event, to get those nervous chorros that make me more prepared, to learn how to be more effective. Sometimes, you have to shake things up and shake them up I did. I had the most fun I’ve ever had in my entire professional life.

One of my 2016 goals was to work it for my familia. Very happy to report that we remain as close as ever and my roommate Mike Torres and I still get along. My Dad is an original, he does things his way, when he wants, where he wants. The days at the Ranch start at night – Dad’s drilling, hammering, doing the laundry, working on his papers, and playing music. While working an event, I get a picture texted to me of Dad in his new convertible, all I could do was shake my head and smile.

I am the one who needs my space and quiet time – the space I’ve found in our “girls’ room” and the quiet time well…I’m just happy that my 81-years-young Dad is still running around, doing his projects, playing music, and helping to keep us together. We Torres5 are finally getting back into a routine, each taking a day to be with Dad, and it’s so funny when a bunch of us are at the Ranch when it’s ‘not our day’ LOL   Torres Babies, old and young, are the JOYS of our lives. The little ones are all doing all of the firsts, talking, going to school, playing together, etc. So much fun.

We still get together to pray for Mama on the 11th of each month, I didn’t know if Dad would want to keep it going and, he’s cool with it, so you will find the Torres Fam praying together which keeps the family united.

So many milestones in 2016: Our STE2 graduated with his Master Degree from SFSU, Our Antonia celebrated her Quinceanera, Our Lucia was baptized in Texas, our Olivia started preschool at 1-year-old and was ‘promoted’ to the next level because she’s so smart, Jami and Michael got married, Sabrina is helping take care of us and the nation somewhere in the MiddleEast,  we celebrated Mother’s Day at the Ranch taking “serenata” to all of our mothers, we celebrated Mama’s birthday at Jackson Rancheria, one of her fav places, we had a fun Ranch Día de Los Muertos/Halloween party and we celebrated our 14th Grijalva Girls Christmas Reunion and this weekend, we celebrate our Christmas/Dia De Los 3 Reyes.  Sadly, at the very end of the year, we lost our cousin Chella in Mexicali and our prayers go out to our cousins.

I just got my results of the State Interpreter Exam and I passed THREE parts out of four, y’all know that this is an all or nothing exam so no passing, and, once I get over the disappointment and the urge to analyze every little thing I may have done wrong, I will be back at it studying.   This is a pride thing now LOL.  I’m all over this MF after the New Year LOL!  I will be so happy once I pass this test once and for all.

My BFFs and I have tried to meet once a month all year to catch up on the chisme, love them. It was a very sad time during the summer as BFF Maria Garcia was battling cancer and I was very sad the day that she left but grateful that she was no longer suffering. She gave me so many little things that I randomly come across: purses, makeup, clothes. Miss her.

My writing will move more front and center in 2017.  If I am to call myself a writer/blogger, then I will be much more authentic and work it like I never did before.   I will be participating in a year-long challenge to write one essay a week in 2017 and am very excited about starting!  I hope you will enjoy what I am putting together, and, if you do not, I hope that you will still read and let me know what you think! #52essays2017

So much has happened in our world in 2016, especially during the last weeks of the year.  It feels as if disappointment, uncertainty, sadness, and hate have taken their place front and center.  As Mama always said, “this too shall pass” and I believe in the goodness of people, of this country and this world and pledge to be part of the solution and not the problem.   There will be many changes in my life in the upcoming year and I fully intend to “buscar el lado amable”, look for the good in people and situations,  and strive to come out of 2017 happier and healthier.

I have lots of plans and lots of ideas for how I intend to spend my 2017. Gone are the days of living head down without any joy in my life. It took me many, many years to start living my life rather than watch my life go by. I don’t know where I will end up next and I have a lot of faith that GodJesus&VirgenOfG will lead me to the people, places, and situations where I need to be. Thanks for your help and support this past year, thanks for visiting my blog and reading what I write, thanks for loving me and my familia, and I hope you all have a Happy New Year.
#52essays2017