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”

 

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An American Job: Tapiando Cebolla

#52EssaysNextWave 16/52

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

#52EssaysNextWave 14/52

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.

 

Dinner Time: The Power of Connecting

#52EssaysNextWave  13/52

A rare day off.

Just in from dinner with familia.

After I invited the fam, I went round and round, do I feel like going?  why did I invite everyone?  I’ve been cleaning and all I want to do is relax.  I was actually nervous about getting together with my familia.  I’m overthinking everything.  What was that about?

As I sat there with them, I was happy.  I was relaxed.  And I noticed that they were happy and relaxed too.

I was able to talk with them, no need to get into heavy-duty issues, at least not that minute.  It was fun to talk about our day, our week, my sister’s workout, my baby niece’s friend Rafita from school, joking with my niece and nephew, just having fun.  No one with their phones out, just hanging out, at least for most of the dinner.

The type A in me always tends to make things more complicated than they need to be, turning everything into an event…the reality is that sometimes all that is needed is to connect, really connect, with the people whom we love.

How do we do this?  For me, it’s all about making sure that I DIS-connect in order to RE-connect.

  1.  Put the phone down.
  2.  Look everyone in the face, listen to them.
  3.  Enjoy their company.
  4.  Work will always be there, leave work alone.
  5.  Be present.
  6.  Relax.

Driving home, I realized how much I actually MISSED my family.   I miss connecting with them – especially when I’m so busy with events that it seems that there’s no time to connect.  Tonight is a sign that I need to connect more often.  No big event required.  No over thinking.  Sometimes all it takes is a table, chairs, sharing a meal, and good conversation.

Thanks, familia!

Rest In Peace?

#52EssaysNextWave 12/52

Today’s is my lovely Mama’s birthday may she RIP.

I’m known to post regularly about Mama: random memories, how many months it’s been since she’s left us (44 months in a few days), pictures that I find around the house, pictures of her table that we update with each holiday, her tradition of giving treat bags to her friends (which, by the way, I’ve passed two holidays because my life got crazy-busy, yes, I feel guilty) and more.

More than once, I’ve had folks tell me that I should let her go, that I should let my mother rest in peace, that I have separation anxiety issues.

Having gone through the trauma of losing my mother, I’ve realized a few things:

  1.  Everyone grieves differently.
  2.  Everyone honors their loved ones in their own way.
  3.  The greatest gift that Margaret gave us, her familia, was sitting us down and telling us how she intended to live out her life, that she loved us and knew that we loved her, and that she knew that we would always be together.

Mama was right.  When she was gone, we would have each other to hold on to, we would know that we were loved, and we would know that she was going to be happy in her eternal home.

So the fact that I celebrate my mother constantly does not necessarily mean that I want time to stop, that I want her back, that I want things to stay as they always have, that I’ve not accepted her departure.  Wrong.  Margaret told us she would be alright, that she was ready to leave, that she would be happy.  There is no way that I would want Mama to be sad or suffering here on earth when she was clearly ready to go HOME.

It took me much longer than my siblings to accept this harsh truth when Mama first told us what was what.  However,  I became so convinced that Mama was right as we took care of her those final weeks:  no food, no water, no medicine and she didn’t look weak or emaciated or sad or suffering.  When it was time, it was time.

When she was with us, we Torres5 would always marvel about the crazy positive reaction would be on social media to anything we posted about Margaret, she would be a little shy when we’d tell her or read folks’ birthday wishes or comments to this or that post, but then you would see her famous little quiet smile.  Mama used to always tell me, “omg, this isn’t a competition!” to which I’d answer, “Of course it isn’t, you always win!”

Happy Birthday Mama/Mother/Mom/Negra/Prieta/Marga!

 

The Phone Call

#52EssaysNextWave 11/52

Marisa ran toward her desk when she heard the phone ringing.  “This is Marisa” she answered.  From the line, she heard the words that she had been dreading, “You Gonna Talk to Me Now Bitch?”.   Marisa could feel the color drain from her face and then shoot back up, her heart felt as if it would jump out of her chest, she could barely keep her composure, she couldn’t completely go off as she was, after all, in her office cubicle and others would have surely heard this conversation had she ‘gone there’.  Marisa’s mind raced a million miles a millisecond, “whaaat? how? hoooooow? OMG! what do I do? chiiiingao! what do I do? omg.  How? HOW? Hooooooooooooow in the f@#$ did he find me? What do I say to him?”

“Answer me bitch!  Did you think that I wouldn’t find you? Noooow talk your shit bitch!”  Marisa was taken aback, stunned.  “I really can’t talk right now” was all that Marisa could get out of her mouth and she hung up.  A few seconds later, the phone rang again…and again…again…and again.  After finally turning the ringer off and saying a silent prayer hoping that no one in the office noticed what was up, Marisa gathered her things and left the office for an “appointment”.

Once in the “safety” of her car, Marisa was completely in disbelief and shock.  Should she cry? scream? call someone? call him back? quit?  what?   Ten minutes seemed like an eternity sitting in that car, completely unglued and uncertain of what her next move should be.

It was apparent that Marisa’s getaway plan had not worked as she had hoped.  This was job number FOUR and, for this one, for the first time, Marisa had to change cities.   If he was able to get to her direct work line, then he HAD to now know where she was working, did he know where she lived too?  Taking deep breaths, looking right to left, searching for signs of her coworkers, for anyone strange, for him, she put her head down, trying to hide the tears streaming down her face, and quietly drove away, unsure of where she would go next.

Sadly, this is typical when a woman finally finds the nerve to remove herself from a bad situation.  She leaves thinking that ‘things will be better’, almost hopeful, almost positive that she’s done the right thing.    No one tells her that leaving is the beginning of almost uncontrollable drama.  There are still more roads that lead to  fear, anger, humiliation, shame, sadness, and sometimes, violence before it’s all said and done.  No one tells her that the madness will come at her from any/all sides, with sometimes double/triple/quadruple force.    That this will the most difficult and dangerous time of all.  That there are no guarantees that she will come out of this journey intact, much less alive.   Life truly becomes day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute where all she does is question herself and her decisions.   Everything gets even more complicated and overwhelming.   For every time she puts her head up, she must continue to put her head down in order to get through the day, to show her family and friends that she is alright, to strive for some semblance of normalcy in a world that has come crashing down in front of her.

These stories are part-me and part some of the women whom I’ve met along my journey of finding my way back from similar abusive situations, these women understood me from minute one, and helped me to regain my balance and my sense of self.  From time to time, I’ll share a story in hopes that someone reading this finds the courage to say “ya estuvo”, get their power back and change their life.

 

 

 

A Lil Bit of Cafe and Whole Lot of Jesus

#52EssaysNextWave #10/52

Saw this on a cup this morning — “All I Need Is A Little Bit of Coffee And A Whole Lot Of Jesus” and I’m totally relating about now!

Earlier this morning, my beloved Blackberry screen gave me the boot. I’m constantly teased about having a Blackberry…’do they still make Blackberry?’, ‘so do you like have a fax machine too?’. I don’t even trip when people tease me, I figure that, if I’m going to put money out for a smartphone, then it WILL be the kind of device I want. Blackberry girl por vida.  Some might say that I’m terca, and resistant to change  LOL.

I honestly do not remember the last time that I was without a phone. In radio, I always had use of phones provided by the company, for my past events, I’d activate a Metro batphone so that I wouldn’t mix my projects up. Not the case now and I’ll likely be without a phone for the next couple of days.

Me, who conducts the majority of my business on that Blackberry from my real oficina, my Jeep. I actually had to ‘serenarme/calm the eff down‘ when I realized that, in order for the insurance I pay on the thing to kick in, that it wouldn’t be right away.  I walked that parking lot starting to freak out  in the crazyass wind almost ready to throw down the cash LOL.  How am I going to live without my phone?

When I got back on the road and literally saw traffic in every direction of the freeway, I decided that I didn’t need to deal with that mess and got off of the roadway.  I also decided that I needed to see the ‘lado amable’ of the situation…getting myself out of the day-to-day grind and back into my positive frame of mind at my favorite happy place:  Writing. Listening to Music. Writing. Inhaling the smell of coffee. Writing. Calming down. Writing. Getting Inspired. Writing. Feeling grateful.  Writing.  Getting my prayer on.  Writing.  Realizing that not only Jesus, but God and the Virgen of G, have my back and that everything will be alright.

Disconnecting from the phone, Blackberry, email, social media is a good thing, a great thing.

That is, unless I go straight to the real ‘DT’s’. 

Or maybe I’ll get a good night’s sleep for once LOL

Si Se Puede Carmen!

Just Say Good Morning Already

#52EssaysNextWave 9/52

5 years old.   I was getting ready to start kindergarten.  Everyone telling me how exciting school would be, how many friends I would make, how many fun things I would do.   I was having trouble with this, I didn’t feel excited at all.

That first day, I remember being dressed in my blue dress with the white sweater, white socks and black mary jane shoes.  I don’t really remember anyone bringing me into Mrs. Brunton’s class.  I remember that I was just there.   I don’t want to think that I was just put on the bus to face it all alone.

Because that’s exactly what it felt like to me.  Like I was left all alone.  Without Mama.  And how were the kids doing at home without me?  This place seemed too big.  This place didn’t feel nice.  And why do I even have to come here?  This is what I used to tell myself every single day before and after crying tears into my little white sweater before hanging it up on the little hook.

Circle time.  Circle time was a nightmare for me.  First, I was afraid.  Second, I was almost in tears and didn’t want anyone to see me cry.  If I spoke up, people would see my fear and hear the quivering of my voice like I wanted to cry, who wants to be known as a big baby?

My teacher, Mrs. Brunton, was not kid-friendly, and to this very sensitive and scared little girl, not one kind word, not one nod of understanding.   She lost patience with me that first day when I did not answer “good morning” to her during circle time.    On that first day, she punished me for not speaking during circle time.  I had to stay inside during recess time, trying to understand what I had done wrong.

This went on for many, many weeks during that first year of school.  I remember being able to breathe and feeling so relieved “having” to stay in the classroom with the lights turned off during recess.  I was in there with the “bad kids” – always two or three kids.  But I did not have to feel the wrath of Mrs. Brunton for those blessed few minutes and my little mind would think and think about how to get the nerve up to be able to say “good morning”, how much easier my life might be, how much happier I might be — at least that’s what Mama and Daddy would tell me almost every night at home about saying “good morning” the next day.

Once the kids would come in from recess, I’d feel a little stronger.  And then this woman would have something negative to say.  Always something negative.  And my resolve to say “good morning” would crumble.

It finally got to the point where I was over being labeled one of the “bad kids”,  I wasn’t a bad person, I was a good girl.  There were a couple of kids who had not yet spoken up, and who had finally said “good morning” to the teacher and, when I saw that nothing bad happened to them after that, I started to think that, maybe it was time for me to say “good morning”.

It amazes me how, at that very young age, that I was able to watch things around me and find the safe time to use my voice and improve my situation.  One morning,  I shocked Mrs. Brunton and delighted the entire class when I finally answered “good morning”.

It would have been so much easier had the lady been a little more understanding and treated little Carmen with a little more care in those first weeks of school instead of losing her patience and being judgemental.   Little Carmens of the world need to be empowered and reminded of the rules for the classroom instead of being told that she is a bad girl.  All I remembered was feeling this intense pressure all of the time to say “good morning” – from home, at school, to the point of having headaches.  Now I think about…Who was right?  Who was wrong? How could this situation been handled in a more positive manner?  Why was it so hard for me to say “good morning”? why was this person so mean?

Shortly after that first “good morning”, the school year was, thankfully, over.   My parents received progress reports from Mrs. Brunton stating that I was withdrawn and would likely have learning issues throughout my school years.  Fast forward to first grade, and Little Carmen was happy, outgoing, and learning a lot.  I had a great teacher who was much more kid-friendly and I was able to thrive.  I also remember being happy to show my lil sister starting kindergarten that I wasn’t afraid or unhappy anymore.

Many years later, I heard that Mrs. Brunton was no longer teaching.  I felt a little vindicated, that 5-year-old Little Carmen was not crazy, that her instincts WERE right, that this was NOT a good person, especially not one to be in charge of the education, physical and emotional security of babies just starting out.  I was still a little angry, as I felt as if I got myself through this traumatic experience.  Even though it was the only way to relieve the stress from all sides, I spent many years trying to move past that fateful “good morning”.

I always harbor the hope that little ones have an easier time of their first days of school…that their little spirits are not broken as mine was, that they have positive people in their corners to help them see that there are more great teachers than bad ones.

I also know that this was one of the first times that my InnerChingona helped me get through it, even though, at the time, I had no clue who she was.

Reaching For the Stars from the “Fil”

#52EssaysNextWave 8/52

This morning, I had the opportunity to listen to Astronaut Jose Hernandez speak. We are from the same area and, while I knew about him going from farm worker to astronaut;  I confess, I never really knew his story. Now granted, I have never had aspirations of working it as an astronaut, but, as he spoke, I found that I could totally relate to his advice on the importance of having goals and making a road map to get you where you want to be.

I really enjoyed his storytelling as well. I’m always looking for authors whom I can relate to, who can tell my story. Just as I search for authors, I always listen to any Latinos who speak to see if they tell my story. I’ve heard many many many Latinos and Latinas speak yet no one came as close as Dr. Hernandez did this morning. He was funny without really even trying, he broke out the Spanglish as many of us do, and proceeded to talk about the important things we all share: familia, education, goals.

Familia is key to keeping you safe, on an emotional level, as you pursue your goals. Who else can you trust enough to tell you straight-up truth, keep it real, and support you at the same time?  Hearing the stories about family as he spoke in Spanglish were hilarious, heartwarming and they hit home for me.

As in his house, for us, college was not an option but an expectation. Our parents told us to try college for one semester and, if it wasn’t for us, it wasn’t for us. Part of Dr. Hernandez’ plan included putting in the work, no excuses, to get what you want, no matter what you are trying to accomplish.  I kept thinking about 2 or 3 unfinished life goals that I am now inspired to revisit and ‘get on it’ to make these goals a reality.

My father only needed to take us to work the fields very few times before we knew that it wasn’t for us, and that, like both our parents, we were destined to study and earn a living another way, not in  the fields. I’ve learned, thru my education, that my job is what I’ve worked for…radio and events are not for everyone and there is no way that I would have known that I could make a living at it had I not gone to college, university and got all into clubs, campus radio, events and taken the classes. I always joke that I get now get paid for what I had always done for free since I was a child.

Our world today needs role models.  Role models are not just for the very young or those young people who are just starting out; they are also very important for those of us adults who tend to get stuck in our ways, in the way it’s always been done, living in “I can’t”, “I don’t have time”, or “I shouldn’t” mentality, who need an attitude adjustment along with a kick in the ass to get moving.   The most important thing I learned was that we never stop learning and, if we can work through our fears and insecurities, that we can achieve more than we ever imagined.

At least, that’s how I want to do it.   Once I get out of my own way.

I’ll have to thank Dr. Hernandez for this much needed “patada” the next time I see him LOL.