One Step At A Time

#52SlicesOfChingonaLife  #52EssaysNextWave 8/52

So blessed to have a full life.  The past 6 weeks, however, have taken their toll on the little time that I spend on myself, to get myself in order.   While I have no regrets on things that I’ve taken on:  taking Interpreting classes, taking care of my lil nieces on weekends, trying to make a lot happen with not enough staff, etc.  I noticed that my attitude was not right:  impatient, tired, irritable, tired, overworked, tired.

While I don’t want to stop doing what I do, I do know that I want to work smarter, not harder;  to take time for myself as I strive to complete life goals; to admit when I’m tired/burnt out instead of acting like I should handle it all asi nada mas, to make my self-care a daily part of my life. As I work my way out of the quemada/burn-out zone, I decided that, no, I didn’t have to follow ALL of the tips I find on taking care of myself all at once, so I decided that I would try to handle ONE of them within the next month.

In no particular order, here are 3 self-care tips that I’d like to learn more about:

Don’t Give Up The Time You Set Aside
No matter what your profession, you should keep boundaries to preserve your work-life balance. Blocking time on your calendar to decompress is only half the battle: actually utilizing that time for personal care is the other. Hold yourself accountable to keeping the time you set aside for yourself. If you slip, then learn from the moment, reset and restart. – Tracy Avin, MBL Benefits Consulting >>It could be walking for 20 minutes a day to writing in my journal to drinking water, algo es algo.

Leverage Your Commute Time To Decompress
As much as we all want to carve out time for ourselves, the reality is we often get pulled in a different direction given the demands of our everyday lives. One thing I can always count on in my day is commute time. Instead of driving, I take the bus and use the time to relax by reading or listening to music. Our Microsoft CFO, Amy Hood, openly talks about how she takes the bus and does this, too. – Rakhi Voria, Microsoft >>One of the reasons I love taking the train so much,  I don’t have to deal with the traffic mess — Iately, it’s been watching YouTube and taking naps LOL

Follow The Two-Minute Rule
David Allen’s bestselling book, Getting Things Done, explains the two-minute rule. It simply states that if a task takes less than two minutes, then do it straight away. This eliminates procrastination, which reduces stress and allows you to stay organized, which grants you time to decompress at the end of the day. Practicing this rule will surely provide you with personal balance. – Dane Matheson, Sourcebits  >>This is one I will try ASAP, I want to see how much more I can get done in one day!

I guess I’m tired of being tired.  Ready to learn how to make positive changes.  It all starts with one step.

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Signs

#52SlicesOfChingonaLife  #52EssaysNextWave  7/52

Yesterday I was a mess.  I was in a state of overwhelm.  It didn’t help that I woke up with remnants of a migraine, late, and rushing around.   Part of my morning routine is to turn off all of the lights and I always look out of the kitchen window.  It’s like my way of saying hello to the universe as I wake up.  The first thing I saw was Mama’s tree, covered in pink blossoms, her ‘popcorn’ tree she used to call it.  I took this as a sign that she was with me that second.

As I posted this picture on my social media, here were my thoughts:  I’m “off” this morning. This pic of Mama’s tree will help put things into perspective today. How this señora willed herself to wake up and be grateful for a new day, no matter how she felt, astounds me and propels my stressed-running-late-negative-ass forward to make this an important day. Thanks for the signs Mama. #MargaretLivesInMe

Regular readers know that my mother was left partially paralyzed from a stroke thus, for the most part, she was confined to the house and dependent upon us to drive her wherever she wanted to go.  Sad, because one of the joys of Mama’s life was to pick up her keys and take off driving in her car, her “me” time.  I remember she was a morning person and would wake up in a good place – she needed that positivity to deal with her family of night owls, morning people we are not.

So later in the day, I was still not right and was stressed going back and forth trying to decide on taking a class or not, I then saw another sign from Margaret:

Whenever I’m struggling, I always see pennies in random places, this one was on the seat on BART. Sign from Mama that I’m doing the right thing. It may have taken me 3 weeks to decide but I showed up to yet another Interpreting Drills class and talked my way in. I got called on a lot in class (maybe she was testing me LOL). Happy to know that my sense of aventada-ness is alive and well – fell on my face as much as I nailed it. With my crazyass life, these classes keep me focused . This next month, especially, will test my stamina and my time-management skills. No pain, no gain, no guts, no glory. I will handle this :).

I’m learning to pay attention to the signs when I see them.  Mama was reminding me that my goals are important, that they do matter, and that no one else but me can take care of my business.

DO NOT BE AFRAID to get back on your wagon for your health, for your truth, for your career or for your life goals. DO IT FOR YOURSELF – don’t let yourself down. Late or not, show up for you!

My Ordinary Day

#52SlicesOfChingonaLife   #52EssaysNextWave2019   6/52

Ordinary Days. For years and years, I ran from these days, too square, too much of a routine, too mundane for my busy life.  All I knew, or wanted to know, was moving fast, planning one event bigger than the next, moving from one town to another and another.   I always had something to do, somewhere to go, moving, moving, moving.  No time in my life for ordinary days.

Don’t get me wrong, it was (and is) exciting and a lot of fun.

But there came a time where I had to be there for Mama and for my family.  In 2014, Mama was walking her last journey on this earth.   I rarely left home, I helped my familia to take care of Mama and I was the one who kept the house up and kept everyone on schedule.  I super-surprised myself by being the one to move Mama when needed and to help change and dress her.  I remember one time I made her laugh when I pulled out a splinter from her finger como si nada.   Mama laughed because she never expected this from me, I was her miedosa daughter, scared of everything.  However, at the time, her comfort took precedence over EVERYTHING in my life.

I went right back to work a couple of days after her funeral and something had profoundly changed in me.  At the time, I couldn’t put my finger on it but I was different.   I was exhausted from weeks of caring for my mother, out of it, way off of my work-routine, and, I sensed that I was barely getting through the day, I didn’t know what I wanted to do anymore.

One thing I knew.  I got great comfort from the schedule that I made, week after week, for my family.  I knew exactly who would be at the house and when.   I was very happy that my family had agreed to keep the schedule going so that we could be there to take care of our father.    It was as if this simple, mundane, activity was keeping me on point so that I could get myself up out of bed every day to make it to work, to handle my everyday survival.  Day after day, I’d see members of the Torres5 doing what had to be done, and, some days, I’d see the same profoundly sad face that I wore on a daily basis.  I didn’t feel so alone.

Our sadness eventually lifted, as if we had all been in a fog.  Our household started feeling like home again.   It took a little longer for me to become accustomed to living back at home and, once I got into work and events again, I found that I was “back” and having fun again working it.

What shocked me was that I was starting to really look forward to ordinary days, days where I could just be, somewhere where I could breathe and recharge, where I could do cool things like laundry (my task yesterday) to organizing our spare room (which I did this morning).  OMG, my years of living my personal life on such a regimented schedule, was actually working for me!

The one thing that kept me from enjoying ordinary days was my lack of commitment to anything other than work.  Once I committed to our basic family schedule, it seemed as if more possibilities opened up, I started spending more time with friends, working out, writing, reading, and doing things that I loved, things that were, dare I say it, boring, mundane, routine, ordinary, and at the same time, glorious!  On the days I’m not “on the schedule”, I’m able to do “me” things and, truth be told, there’s no place I’d rather be.

My life might have been very different had I embraced the ordinary years ago.   Especially as I’m now convinced that this is where my true peace, joy, and happiness reside, inside of my ordinary days.

Now, it’s all about work hard and handle my business, so that I can enjoy my next “ordinary day”!

In 2019 Hay Comida En Casa

#52SlicesOfChingonaLife  #52EssaysNextWave2019  4/52

 

When I first saw this ‘advice’ on my social media, I had to laugh because who hasn’t heard this in one language or another?  “We have food at home”, I know that I heard this many times come out of Mama’s mouth.  Then later, as I was going through my receipts and bills, I thought of this again and really thought about it:  a big chunk of my receipts, and I always have a mountain of receipts, were for a coffee here, un McDonalds alla, and on and on.  Not only did I need to rethink my food spending, I could probably save a good chunk of money and live a healthier life by taking advantage of the fact that “hay comida en casa“.

Something clicked in me in that instant, and I decided that, yes, I had complete control of everything that goes into my mouth.  I also cook for Dad a lot as well.   We could both benefit from eating healthier and, what if something happened to either of us?  Something that would make a doctor tell us “this is it, if you continue eating this or that, you will die”.   I had heard of a friend’s wife being told something similar, that she would have to change her eating habits that second or she would die.

I noticed that I had begun to eat emotionally.   I remember going home after an emotional day and chowing down.  I didn’t even enjoy it.  Then there was the day where I had gotten it into my head that I needed to have chocolate every day, bought a candy bar, which I didn’t really even want, and ate it, so unsatisfying.   And THEN, because truth does not lie, I saw a picture of myself and I look like I swallowed a giant ball, lonjas for days.

After seeing the picture, I realized that I hadn’t felt healthy for a couple of weeks.  That something had really been on my mind bothering me during this time, didn’t think “I should call someone and talk this out”, no, it was “I need to make some guacamole”.   I hadn’t been checking on myself lately.  Taking care of myself had become a battle with my sick ‘woe is me, no one checks on me either’ mind.   My lack of self-care was showing (literally) and, after I realized it, it was ‘ON’.  That day, I even wrote in my journal, “this is IT, there has to be another way”.  I started listing the things that I could do in that moment to save my life.

I had a list of about 5 or 6 things that would need to be handled immediately.  I decided that I needed to brown bag it with real food, not jusgueria junk food,  drink water, SLEEP more, rest when I needed to, think about the real food that I liked to eat so that I would have more of it at the house,  choose better foods for Dad as well.  I also felt that I had to be much smarter about my commute which was tearing my patience and rest to shreds.   If I could tackle these necessary things, I might feel better and have time to do more of what I really wanted to do.

The first night of “taking care of myself” saw immediate results, I slept better than ever, the aches and pains, both physical and emotional, suddenly felt more manageable.   Taking leftovers, oranges, apples, bananas, water, etc, to eat was actually really satisfying and, while I did ‘need’ a piece of chocolate that first week, it was nowhere near the desperation that I had felt the week before.   And surprise, how productive was I?  I got soooo much done that I amazed myself.

The takeaway from this post is that, if you don’t take care of yourself emotionally, it WILL catch up with you physically.  Look at your emotional health before spending money on that huge meal or shiny new toy — you’ll end up with a bigass lonja and a lot less money in your bank account.  I want more for myself in 2019 and, like all new endeavors, it will take time to get there.  I’m ready.

 

 

The Angry Man, the Baby Girl, the Rain, and Me

#52SlicesOfChingonaLife  #52EssaysNextWave2019  3/52

It’s rainy, everyone trying to stay dry.

I get onto the light rail train and a homeless gentleman is blocking my way and I’m half-in, half-out of the door. The man is furious because I ask him to move, he starts yelling and, in my defense,  other passengers yelled back to him. I was all squished into a corner and he didn’t move and, necia yo, neither did I.  I didn’t feel like arguing with him or anyone at that point.

I decided to let God deal with him until he wanted to get off of the train.  There happened to be a lady with 2 cute baby girls in front of him.  The woman asked him if this was his stop, and he proceeds to yell at them to move.  The woman had a lil one in a stroller and a tiny one standing near her.  When the man started yelling, the lil girl walks out of the train.   If the other passengers were angry when the man yelled at me, it was straight-up bedlam when he yelled at this family and when we saw the little girl, afraid, walking out of the train to let him pass.  Everyone went in to keep the doors from closing on this lil bebita so she wouldn’t be separated from her mom.

This man got angry because, according to him, no one cared about him or his things.  I used to be very rude to these folks until my sister told me one day,  ‘you know, people who are on the street aren’t all bad, mad or crazy, even though having no food or roof on your head can make you seem like you’re crazy‘.  I tried to have compassion because, you never know, it could be me on hard times.

What got me was, that this man wanted things his way a huevo… at the expense of this cute lil bebita, who in her little pea coat and Mary Jane shoes, could not hurt him.   He just wanted his way.  Kind of reminded me of 45 and the children in the cages, government shutdown, 45’s temper tantrum because he did not get his way, people suffering for some madness the HE created.  It was obvious that this man on the light rail felt the same way, especially as he kept yelling racist remarks and cussing at us as he walked off of the train completely enraged.

I was so happy to see that people did the right thing working together to protect this child and her family, and these were people of many colors who jumped in to help.  I saw more good people than bad on this day.  Gives me hope.  Hope that people are united by doing good for others instead of tearing them apart.

God bless those bebitas and their mother.  God bless that angry man. God bless our country.

Reading Into 2019

#52SlicesOfChingonaLife  #52EssaysNextWave2019 2/52

Excited with my first reading list for 2019.

I used to have a designated reading corner in every house I lived in. However, it’s been harder now that I’m at the Ranch.  Plus, at some point, those books did eventually make the move to any or all of the following locations:

1. My purse or bag
2. The bathroom
3. The bedroom

When I noticed that my phone started taking over and I was starting to click into articles, etc., I decided it was time to think about how I read. I love having a book in my hand, I love going through the pages, if there are pictures, I spend time checking out the pictures and, as square as it may sound, I really love physically opening and closing the book, like I’m going in and out of another world.

I can do Kindle, or read sometimes off of my smartphone,  but it’s not the same, it feels like I do when I’m chisme-scrolling through social media, email, etc.  It’s easy to click things, dismiss them, or worse, forget about them as you chisme-scroll.  It becomes more difficult to lose myself in Kindle/Phone and I really do love to lose myself in a good book.

Yesterday, my family celebrated Christmas (on 3KingsDay) and my lil niece was very excited about a ‘chapter book’ that she had received as a gift. I loooove that she likes to read and looks forward to it.  My goal has become to expose my lil ones to reading, to going to the library, book fairs, book sales, you name it.  I have seen folks checking out something like 40 or 50 books at a time for their children, I don’t know if I’d go that far but it would be fun to go for it if my littles wanted to do it.

I remember always checking books out from the library even as a little girl.  I’m still a library girl at heart and tend to go straight to the ‘new’ book section as it is a big section and I always find something.    I had a goal once to read all Latino authors from A to Z;  I think I got to the G’s and got off track, I should revisit that goal.

Either way, I have decided that, no matter how busy life gets, that I will go through 2019 with a ‘libro’ in my hand.   I’m searching for a place to create a reading corner, for now it’s in my Jeep, where I spend the majority of my time and I almost finished “An Unlikely Journey” by Julian Castro over the weekend in the peace and quiet of the car.   Highly recommend this book especially if you grew up as I did:   culture, both of them,  front and center, activists as mentors, student activities, and working with and for your community.

Doesn’t matter where you open a book, or how you open that book, whatever and wherever works.  Just read.

 

Stunned Into Silence At the Carwash

#52EssaysNextWave 17/52

As I was taking my Jeep into the car wash earlier, and the water was shooting out onto the car, there was no signal for the radio (yes, I always listen to the radio), so I saw that I had a CD in the player. A saber which CD, it had been so long since I listened to the CD player.

It happened to be one of my homemade driving CDs – I usually make these for myself and my sisters. This happened to be one that we all loved. So, I’m sitting in the Jeep enjoying the music as the car was covered with soap bubbles and brushes went back and forth removing copious amounts of dirt and grime, the black Jeep looked gray from the dust and dirt I’m embarrassed to admit.

And then a song comes on and I was stunned into silence. It was a song that took me back to a final conversation after a breakup. OMG. The words were almost verbatim what I had told him! The song is called, “I Try” and, while she is not the original singer of this song (it is Angela Bofill),  the version that hit me straight in the face is sung by the great Maysa Leak of the band Incognito, a favorite vocalist of the Torres Sisters.

So I’m sitting in the car, completely into this song, eyes closed, nodding my head to every beat of the music, and thinking back to that final conversation…you know the one, where you have nothing else left to lose, where you throw it all out there, where you are at your most vulnerable and, dare I say it, your most straight-up honest. Nothing was said in attempts to get him back, I always sensed that there was no turning back thus it wasn’t as elegant as I would have liked at times. It was the moment to throw it all in his face, calmly. So, imagine when I heard Maysa Leak sing “my” words….

…I try to do the best I can for you, but it seems it’s not enough
…Can’t you see that you’re hurting me, and I want, I want this pain to stop
…You know that I tried to be with you
…You know that I wanted to see it through.
…You know that I needed to make you mine.
…It was only a matter of time.

Looking back, this was one of the best conversations ever. I may have been very hurt, but I saw this man for what he was and wanted no part of this drama anymore because, in my heart of hearts, I knew that he would not change and besides, there was already someone else in the picture to deal with his mess. Mujeriego. We all have had at least one.

Another song to add to the personal soundtrack of my life. When you think about it, we all have at least one song that can transport us to another time and place, good or bad. While I almost wished that I had this song around then to get me through this sad time, I loved the fact that I could now listen to the words of the song and still dedicate it to myself (and him) LOL It’s more bittersweet for me now than bitter. Love how music, in the end, always heals, always makes bad times more bearable, makes good times even more awesome.

By the time I left the car wash, my Jeep was sparkling-clean, and I felt as if my soul had also taken a refreshing shower as well, so I was all smiles as I went off to finish conquering the day.

 

Enjoy Maysa Leak’s version of “I Try”

 

An American Job: Tapiando Cebolla

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Driving home an hour or so ago, I was driving thru what we call the ‘islands’ from the Bay to the Ranch. It’s one of the richest agricultural areas nestled between cities in the San Joaquin Delta. Just about all you see are fields, cornfields, tomato fields, onion fields and more.

On my way thru early this morning, all the workers were just getting situated in field after field. I thought to myself, “wow it’s early, they’ll be done for the day around 2 or 3 this afternoon.”

As I passed thru this evening, I was stunned to see workers STILL working. They had those huge work lights going to light their way. Now what really got to me was WHAT they were harvesting.

Tapiando cebolla”. Topping onions.

It must be said that I have not spent my entire life working the fields. However, I did work a few summers. Topping onions is one of the most unpleasant tasks of them all. This work involves shears and you are to trim off the long green stems of the onion and the stringy thin stems at the top of the onion and proceed to fill up sacks with the ‘topped’ onions.

The goal is to top all the onions in the long rows and put them into the sacks. I still remember looking down the row to see that we had sooooo many sacks left to fill to finish an entire row. Not only was I not the fastest worker, sometimes I’d cut my fingers with the shears…OMG imagine the stinging of the juice from the onions mixed with dirt, aaaaay! Miserable.

My eternal respect for those who harvest the food that we eat daily. It’s harvest season thus they are working hard around the clock. Topping onions is difficult enough in the light of day, but at this hour of the night, albeit it’s much cooler out of the hot sun, it must be even more complicated to work at filling those sacks in the dark.

As I write this entry, I shake my head, these folks are the topic of so much debate, so much racism and so much negativity yet there they are, en chinga, working it to get these crops harvested. And leave it to Latinos to find humor in even the worst work situation: I could actually hear them joking and laughing and the music going strong as they worked. These workers seemed so far removed from the intensity of the immigration debate…doing what they always do…working it.

I can only imagine how much more these folks could produce if people were actually grateful to them for providing food for their tables but, no, these workers and their families have to live in fear for so many things, discrimination, separation of familias, injury, illness…all this in the name of “American Jobs” which, by the way, no “American” wants to do.

My short time working in the fields was enough motivation to work at something else, anything else, but the fields. God bless our Latino brothers and sisters who take it for the team day (and night).

A Joyous Moment

#52EssaysNextWave 15/52

Just looked on my drafts, unwritten posts, unfinished essays, and find that I have over FOUR HUNDRED of them.

Every one who writes has a perfect situation where inspiration and creativity flows like a cool breeze or a gentle stream.  No drama, no craziness, no rush, no interruptions.

Here is my Joyous Moment:  Right now, here I sit, alone, in the living room of the house, all windows and doors open at this hour, music blasting, with only the light of Mama’s table, the TV, my laptop and a little flashlight, and me writing.  I’ve been at it for a few hours now and haaaaaappppy!

Especially as event season is upon me, I tend to write a lot every day, but I write proposals, copy points, event timelines, etc.   My mind is beyond busy with constant ‘to-do’ lists, what needs to get done, what has been done.  Granted, this helps me immensely to keep things moving and in order, and while it is joyous when events go well, it does not give me enough of these kinds of joyous moments, where I am ‘me’, at peace with the world, recharging my batteries, doing things that I love to do.

It helps that the house is completely quiet this weekend, as Dad is out-of-town.  Usually all of the lights are on, he’s working on some project or another, his music or TV shows blasting, and it doesn’t feel like a girl’s house LOL.  This type of night reminds me of almost every night when I lived in my own place.  While I still come and go as I please, it’s different with roommates and you know how it is, it’s a little harder to find those “me time” moments.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s no where else I’d rather be, but sometimes, it’s the BEST to be able to do whatever you want, whenever you want.

So tonight, I will sit back and enjoy this Joyous Moment, Me Time, Girl Time, blast MY favorite music, and write until I get sleepy…or write all night like I’ve been known to do.

I must make time for these Joyous Moments (and writing) more often.

 

Aretha

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Aretha Franklin passed away this past Thursday, August 16th. Her influence on the world of music was monumental, the first woman voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the first (and undisputed) Queen of Soul, the first women to successfully fuse gospel and soul, winner of so many accolades and awards, an activist, a musically integral part of the Women and Civil Rights Movements.  Her songs were full of pain, love, and hope.

Being that I was raised in a musical household, I remember hearing Aretha songs from waaay back and I was proud of myself when I learned how to spell R.E.S.P.E.C.T. But I didn’t really get into or appreciate her music until later, when I was heartbroken and trying to find music to match some of the moods that I was in. I remember hearing Bonnie Raitt saying that “I learned more about men from listening to Aretha Franklin than I could have ever learned from any man”.   So I went back and listened and many times, closed my eyes, and said a silent “yep”, because I could totally relate.

Needless to say, the Aretha songs that really got to me on those times when I couldn’t think of how to move forward from a heartbreak are the ones that remain my favorites.


How many times have we walked straight into a wall (sometimes time and time again) when we were all into some man?  Take “I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You”,  I smile today on the birthday of a certain man for whom this song was tailor-made, and when I was convinced that everyone was wrong, and that we would be together forever.  Yeah, yeah, I told myself this many many many times and, at first, I’d listen to this song with straight-up defiance, and then I’d only listen to the title of the song, as if to will him to straighten up and respect our relationship.   As reality began to hit, I slowly realized that he would never change, ever.   For a time, that was enough.  But it took me listening to this song over and over and over, maaaany times, alone, not talking to Mama or sisters or friends or anyone, to get me to finally accept that this was over.

So many of Aretha songs STILL stop me in my tracks at certain times:  “Ain’t No Way“, “Daydreaming” , “Oh Me Oh My, I’m A Fool for You Baby”, “Baby I Love You“, “Chain Of Fools“, “Until You Come Back To Me” along with the super classics “Respect“, “Natural Woman“, “Think“, “Dr. Feelgood“, “Do Right Woman Do Right Man” and so many more.

One of the greatest to ever sing it like it is, Aretha’s classic music will live forever and likely serve as Life Education for so many of us who are unable, or too embarrassed, or too messed up in love, to put their feelings into words…that is, until they can get their power back and most important, get their R-E-S-P-E-C-T back.

RIP Aretha Franklin.