My Father – The Magician

They say that little girls idolize their father for the first five years of their life, that they see him as a prince who can do no wrong.

I remember that innocent time when I saw my father as a wise, adventurous, and mystical man.  He was a magician to me; someone who could always find an answer to my endless questions about the world and who could always foresee the future, my only regret is not having asked the questions that burned in my heart or what the outcome of our own family would be.  Shame and respect kept me from asking the right questions.

I adored my father and  placed him on a pedestal for the first few years of my life.  He was my dear Papi and I was his Pozolito, his Chuchi.  Only he could call me so, anyone else would get a red-faced snarl.

I was happiest in Villa Coronado, Chihuahua, a sleepy dusty town that witnessed my father’s birth into a young buck of seventeen before he took off for the states in a haste flavored with broken laws and unexplained trails of pursuit.

There and only there did I feel alive and connected to him.  Only there did I have the courage to speak to my father.  Only in that land of red earth that coated my mouth was I able to look up into eyes filled with kindness and mirth instead of the usual emptiness or anger, and carry on a conversation.  But I always waited in jealous agony for my prima to engage him in a folktale and only when he got going did I feel a flicker of hope and pride that this was my father, and I awkwardly blurted out my observations and thoughts on the story he’d laid out like a crisp white sheet set out to dry on a sunny afternoon.  Of course my words pour out like marbles from a glass jar, falling over each other and spreading out on the ground in random and disconnected directions.  So eager was I to show him that I understood that I ended up sounding like an idiot and when he rolled his eyes at me, the faint glow that warmed my heart from his happiness died inside me.

Mostly I preferred to remain quiet so I could warm myself in the fire that roared inside him when he played his harmonica or got going on recounting an adventure from his youth.  He would look around then and I would perk up when he looked my way and I nodded at him as if I understood his secret meaning, as if I knew all just as he did, in my six-year-old eyes.

My favorite moments that sent me soaring higher than a bald eagle against the red Chihuahua evening sky were when I had him to myself.  When he would be sitting on the white twine chair in the anteroom and I would sidle up to him so his arms would encircle me and “lock” me in.  “What is the password?” would send my little body into invisible convulsions of joy and I would guess at anything and everything that I knew would NEVER be the password so he would never let me go.  I wanted to stay there forever until the dusk turned over and the darkness brought the howling chill of night and made my Papi hold me closer as I pretended to sleep and he carried my limp body to bed.

Or when he acknowledged, seeked me out even, and I experienced his genius as a father and saw him as a clever man of life.

My Tia had a small goods store in which she carried papitas Barcel.  They had a promotion, a lottery of sorts.  You could choose which bag of chips you wanted from the hanging cardboard and when you opened the bag, you could win anything from a sticker to a toy wrist watch.  I always hung around the store with my primos and tia, letting the hours pass me by as I helped weigh and dispense half a kilo of jamon or bagged media docena de huevos in clear plastic bags.  My father rarely came by so it was a  warm delight to see his frame fill the doorway and ask me what I wanted as a treat from the store.  I looked around unsure of what I wanted.  Should I get a Carlos V chocolate?  A Mazapan?  My eyes found the bright green cellophane of the papitas Barcel and I pointed at them.  “Which toy do you want?”, my father asked as he walked over to the chips.  My eyes widened in amazement and slight disbelief.  “El reloj, papi.” (The watch)  My father confidently walked up to the shelf and pulled off a bag of potato chips and asked me, “Do you trust in me that this will be the watch?”  He looked so serious that I nodded vigorously to show my faith in him.  I opened the bag slowly as my hands had grown sweaty from the anticipation, and reached in to look for the prize.  My hand trembled as I pulled out a pink plastic wrist watch.  This plastic toy was cheaper than the town’s hooker but it filled me with awe as I looked at this wonder of a man who was my father.  With that, he smiled at me, “No que no?” and walked away.

I sat down and didn’t know whether to cry or laugh or both at the magical moment that had transpired.  When my primo made a smart ass comment about the cheap plastic around my wrist, I got up and slapped him hard on the face and ran off before anyone could react to my unexpected display of anger.  I went to sleep that night holding on tightly to that watch and dreaming of the magician who came alive in those sweltering hot summers of his homeland.


Shit throws me for a loop sometimes.  Standing here in San Diego with the ocean lapping at my feet, my hotel room 15 feet away, disbelief fills me as I sit here drinking a glass of red and nibbling on dark chocolate.

I am incredibly lucky to be here.  What made me any different from those no longer here?  What makes me different from those that experience a similar fate in their childhood?  The pain was too strong for them, it smothered and ate them alive.  They walk around half empty, falling apart with each passing day.  And yet here I am feeling stronger with the passage of time; filled with hope that I am moving forward.

I don’t want to touch on the pain, I don’t want to mention the past; some day I will be able to openly tell you why I felt so destroyed though I’m sure many of you guess correctly at it.

But now I just want to type, type, and type about the happiness I have found.  It’s nothing supernatural, I didn’t win the lottery, I don’t live in a castle, it’s nothing material.  It’s a state of being.  It’s peace. It is clean, lovely, uncomplicated love and good honest day-to-day living towards something better.  It is traveling, meeting strangers, smiles on the road, holding hands, embraces, endless kisses goodnight to my little monkeys…   It is many things, it is all and it is nothing grand.  Yet I feel like I am floating.  I am coasting.

I am alive.  Thank you.  Thank you to myself for making sure that is possible.  Thank you to my daughters for the inspiration to live and to find a renewed sense of hope.  Thank you world, thank you trees, sky, grass, vibrant colors that fill this earth.  Thank you San Francisco with your kindness and magical introduction to love.

So Happy…


When You’re Smiling…

As Louis Armstrong croaky crooning convinces me, when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you…

For all of those of you who are unfortunate enough to be my Facebook friends, you will notice that I constantly urge others to strain happiness and hope from everything good in life, both big and small, and firmly believe that by conserving and accumulating small feats of joy and victories you will eventually find an overall sense of contentedness if not happiness in your daily life.

Lately it seems that with each breath I take, I exhale out a sigh that is pungent with a drunken happiness.  My lips cannot stop curling up and I keep angling to lean back on any surface and lay there like a happily fed cat, licking away any remnants of the taste of luxury that life provides me with.

I walked down to the weekly Farmer’s Market all smiles to load up on avocados, broccoli, carrots, onions, spinach, and other vibrant greens and my favorite vendor gave me a hefty discount for cheering him up with my bubbly demeanor.  Bubbly, me?  Who knew?!

Filled with the glow of the compliment (and savings!) I floated over to the flowers where I was greeted with my usual, “Hola Senorita Susan, como le puedo complacer hoy?”  I can’t help but beam up at him every time and he rewarded me today with a half off discount.

Seemingly trivial things in life sometimes really do make you feel special and chip away at the stresses and worries and turn those frowns upside down. 🙂  In my case, they turn in to a wide grin slapped on my face that probably make people question my sanity. 🙂

But I can’t help it and I can’t stop believing it.  My stroke of luck, my change of personal circumstance, the gains I have made professionally.  Life is beautiful and I can’t stop smiling now because everyone seems to be smiling along with me…


When I see you dance

I was tempted to write this in Spanish as it seems to flow out of me more in my native language.  Funny how whenever I think of my happy childhood memories, I think of them in Spanish.

When I see the two of you dance, I feel suspended into an ageless bubble of warmth and comfort.  I am a little girl of 5, a teenager of 13, and a woman of 28.

At family parties, after tiring myself out from dancing, chasing my cousins at “tag”, breaking the pinata, and happily having my fill of carne asada and soda, I would sit down exhausted on a metal fold out chair.  Heaving and puffing from my latest bout of running, I could catch small snippets of my own perfume of sweat, happiness, and birthday cake icing wafting up my nose.  I wiped my bangs off my face and rested my bright red cheeks on my shoulders as I caught sight of the two of you.
The strange sadness of Ramon Ayala’s “Mi Piquito De Oro” would pierce the night and your heart with its sad low crooning of his voice and accordion maneuvers.  It would unfailingly prompt some deeply hidden feeling in my fathers chest to push itself forward and lift him off his seat and set his beer aside to walk towards you and ask you to dance.  Your entire demeanor would soften and you would revert into that young woman being courted.  You would elegantly offer your outstretched hand with nothing but the out most regal grace, and comply to his request.  I knew of the eagerness that filled your chest, of the hope and love sparked anew, but you hid it as you walked with him towards the dance floor.  Only when you were in his arms, your face and expression veiled from his eyes, did you allow yourself to relax into a young girl in love.
That sweet smile that curled your lips into a perky pout became more charming by the softness in your eyes.  Your head resting so lovingly on his chest and the swaying of your hips to his rhythm captivated my imagination.
I sighed and my eyes danced alongside the two of you.  Everyone else would disappear into edges of a dream as the two of your would waltz your way around the room.  Faster and faster until the music would reinvigorate his limbs and inspire his two left feet to keep up with you as he spun you around until you giggled in his ear.  You held him tightly and he leaned over you protectively and I stared, unblinking, to tattoo this image into memory.
I remember the times when I would inevitably fall asleep curled up on a chair and Mi Papi would come over to carry me to the car.  The cold air would pierce my dreams as he scooped me up but I would pretend to keep sleeping so the two of you would remain sweet to each other say sweet loving remarks about your Chuchi.
In the car, the steady hum and bouncing on the road made it difficult for me to keep pretending at sleeping but I shut my eyes tightly and listened in reverie at your calm conversation, peeking every now and then to spy the two of you holding hands, kissing each others neck, and erasing the anger and tension that usually prevailed.
I would lay in bed in my party dress and white stockings, blackened at the feet from running on the grass and ground, and fall into a deep sleep of hope and peace.

Victory: Keeping My Womb Alive

I was strangely calm as I walked into the white hallway, sterilized with flourescent lights, and gave my name at the maternity ward.

“Hi, I’m here to deliver my baby.” The nurse took one kind look at me and cooed, “Oooh baby, you ain’t having nothing but a false start.  You’re too calm to be having a baby.”  I smiled back at her.  “I’ve had contractions for a few hours now at home and came when I couldn’t take it anymore, they’re a couple of minutes apart.”  Startled, she got up and led me into an anteroom and had me go through the motions of undressing, tying the gown and lying down on my back with my legs propped up in those cold metallic stirrups.

I grimaced as her hand pushed its way inside me but she quickly pulled it out as she felt the head of the baby crowning.  In a flurry of movements she flung off her gloves, wheeled me quickly down the hallway into a delivery room and yelled for the, “Doctor! Doctor! She’s having a baby!” which made me giggle inside, thinking this is a maternity ward right?

My husband paced around the room wanting badly to be anywhere but in that room where the blood would soon come; squeamish, he kept asking if I could hurry, if he had to be there.  When the contractions grew to an excruciating pain and I couldn’t find a rhythm to breathe through the force within me that threatened to turn my body inside out, I gripped his hand tightly and he started yelling and complaining to the nurse that I had hurt his hand.  He was still rubbing it and looking at me with contempt when another nurse kicked him out of the room.  Blonde wisps fell on her forehead and the crinkle around her eyes drew me in as she held my hand, placed her cool palm on my forehead, wiping the sweat away, and prompted me to breathe along her rhythm.  Everything grew quiet as I looked into her eyes, a pale blue like a winter lake, and all I could hear was the loud sucking in of my own breath and the swoosh and drop of my chest as I exhaled slowly, allowing my body to ride the wave of pain that swept my body.

Just as the doctor was walking in I could feel an incredible pressure of a head pushing its way out from between my legs and in a panic I pressed my thighs tightly together but the nurse gently placed her hand on my knee and in one fluid movement I unlocked my knees and felt a heavy mass leave my womb and slip into the doctors hands.  A merry cry if there ever can be one, filled the room and I anxiously looked to see my baby, to see my Diego as we’d been calling him for the nine months I had carried him inside me.

“Congratulations!  It’s a Girl!”

I must have looked confused for they brought Her closer and repeated, “It’s a Girl!”  “Are you sure?”  I asked in a hopeful tone, I had wanted another little girl so badly but had come to terms that I would have a boy as the ultrasounds had shown.

As soon as I held her, she Smiled at Me.  Her beautiful gaze locked me in and I know that they say the newborns don’t “smile” in the sense of an emotional trigger, and I know that they claim that newborns can’t “see” you but only general shapes and forms but she SAW me.  And she never stopped smiling.  My beautiful sweet Eliza.

The nurses placed a medical bracelet on her chubby arm and took her to the side to clean her up.

The young female doctor nonchalantly asked me if I wanted a tubal ligation (a sterilization procedure) as she was sowing my tears from the birth.   Up to this point I had been drowning her out, concentrating on conquering the pain of each suture she made.  I opened my eyes and sat up, throwing her off-balance, Yes! Yes please!”

I might have seemed overeager so she pulled up my chart and called the senior doctor over.  “Oh no honey,” he started as he kept skimming my file, “you’re only 21 and we can’t make these decisions on the fly.  I apologize that it was mentioned to you, we can’t do this without having prepared beforehand.”  I slumped back down into the bed and quickly turned to stone so I could deflect the needle entering and leaving my flesh.  “Did you numb her?” “No, I thought she had an epidural.” “It’s on her chart, she had a natural delivery, no pain meds.”  “I’m so sorry, so sorry.  DO you want something for the pain?”

I rolled my eyes and shook my head and waved for her to finish it.


For a long time afterward, until I finally had the courage, strength, and good sense to leave him, I felt a twinge of bitterness towards that young doctor for not having gone ahead and closing off any possibility of my having any more children, of not giving me some sense of control over my body and ability to stop being further entangled with him.  But with time I realized that it would have been worse, a disability, if I had gone through the procedure.  I would have held onto it as proof that well things weren’t THAT bad if I could at least not worry about getting pregnant again and I would have stayed.  I might still have been there now, dead inside, cold and numb and mechanical on the outside.  And my two angels would have greatly suffered for it.

Instead I realized that I could not keep living a life of grey days and black nights.  And I hold my womb in my arms and I treasure that it is there alive and well and mine.  No one controls it or my body.  After years of abuse it is at rest, at peace, and it is but a part of me.  I am whole; no longer broken, mending yes, but  thriving.

Twists and Turns

I’ve been gone for a bit, I have had a few moments when I have wanted to sit down and write but I kept putting it off.

I think the best writing comes when you feel the emotion pouring out fluidly like a stream of water filling up a glass; you hardly have to try to get it out because it just keeps on going so easily.


I have always wanted to love.  I have memories that go back pretty far, some where I couldn’t be much older than 2 1/2 years old and it was always the same urge to love and be loved.  Memories of standing up on my crib watching those around me, holding on to the side rail and wanting to capture someone’s attention; anyone to pick me up and hold me.

When I was twelve I decided to run away.  I had several impulses to leave before then but this was the first time that I decided to methodically plan out my exit plan and timeline of goals so that I coul survive and sustain myself without falling into harm.  I was in the seventh grade and my parents had bought me a neon yellow fleece sweater with a matching neon yellow and gray hiker’s backpack from Old Navy.  When I was home alone I would put this pullover on and try to see how I could improve my packing skills so I could fit in jeans, underwear, tops, layered clothing and a loaf of bread with a jar of peanut butter.  I would pull out some paper and write letters to each of my family members telling them how I felt towards them, what made me leave, the secrets that remain hidden from them; and then I would crumple them up and walk to the kitchen.

The flickering and tick tick of the pilot coming to life was a ritual for me; feeling the heat of the flames lick at my palm as I waved it closer and closer, longer and longer, over the fire; hoping to feel something, anything.  Then tossing the crumpled letters in one at a time until all that was left was black as coal ashes that would stain the stove top.  I would pull out the dish rag and scrub at the black soot until the surface was white and shiny again.  And I would walk back to my room and look around, hoping for a sign that would prompt me to leave.  Instead, I would inevitably find a toy of my baby sister and I would feel horribly rotten for thinking of abandoning her.  I would slump down and unpack and watch my fingers, trembling with defeat, pull the blanket over me so I could sleep the reality away.

These feelings didn’t leave me when I got older.  I postponed my plan of leaving and figured that I would find a relief when I went off to college and I concentrated my energy on doing well in school.  But the twists and turns of life would always veer me off my road.  The darkness of depression would weigh me down and I would sink into the black sea of inertia; finding other ways to feel, other means of escaping reality which made me lose my way.

And it was easy to give into a quick fix of feeling better; through relationships and compliments; through the idea of a family and an impromptu marriage.  And soon the swelling of my belly gave me both hope and heavy sadness that I would live beyond 26 years old.  It is easy to judge my decisions from your point of view; why fall into so many destructive situations time and time again?  But would you really care if you “knew” you would not live beyond your 20’s?  If you had the firm belief that eventually it would all be over anyway, would you really care that you were endlessly fucking up?

But through motherhood I found a vine that tied me down to this Earth and refused to let me go.  When Iza came tumbling out close behind it forced me to wake up from the fog of life I had been perfectly accepting as the only reality.

I held a very painful battle within myself when I had my daughters and the only thing that kept me from falling deep into the abyss of suicide was the acute understanding that I would now be harming them by leaving them with such a bitter introduction to life.

I don’t know how I found the strength to shake myself into awareness of my surroundings and plan a real exit plan; a journey into a better life for my girls if not for myself.  And I stuck with it and I left.

Failure at Marriage: I never thought I would marry anyone but when I did, even if at a moment of stupidity and pressure, I felt that I had to carry it through the end and when I didn’t, I felt the heavy cloak of shame slipping off my shoulders and baring what a useless person I was.

Every now and then I look back and I wonder at what went wrong.  We were both attractive, young, so full of energy at the beginning; but it was too quickly drowned out by our heavy baggage of childhood memories that we dragged with us into our new life.  And now I know that walking away was the best thing I could have done for the girls and I.

But I lay broken, disappearing as I couldn’t eat or sleep.  I had no self-worth.  The twisted thing is that I would have moments when I would look in the mirror and think, who is that beautiful young woman?; but that would quickly dissolve into a self mocking attack against my own psyche.

And I had quite a few missteps and I certainly found numbness along the way.  I don’t regret the passage of time and I don’t hate myself for what I put myself through; let bygones be bygones.  Live and learn and I did, I have, I do.

I am still finding my way in life, both through the stumbles and joys, but I do it at a much slower pace.  I have learned to take my time, to listen to my instincts, to my thoughts, to what makes me happy.

And happiness is there for the taking.  I never thought I would feel the kind of love that my girls give and show me every day.  It is the most beautiful feeling in this world and it erases all of the pain and ugliness that I have experienced.  Unconditional Love eases all but you can’t experience it unless you provide it yourself as well.  Loving the two of them is the most honorable privilege and I try to be worthy day in and out.

And for the day that I can give a partnership a chance again, well that still seems off in the sunset but the belief that it is out there is still in me.  I can and do love and it is freeing.  It makes me smile like a fool and it brightens up an already beautiful day.  Love for who you ask?  Love for love given.  Love for respect, care, admiration, appreciation, thoughtfulness, embracing the truth no matter how unappealing at times, love for reality.  That is freeing.  To be me.  To be Loved for more than skin deep and to discover the limitless supply of love and strength inside me brings me an incredible high.  And it is no longer numbness nor finding an escape; it is welcoming what is to come with the willingness to live not just to and keep going but to move forward in this path of twists and turns.

Will anyone ever love me?

“Call me when you have a chance, I need to talk to you!”

I picked up the phone immediately and called and she started pouring out all of the pain that she had been trying to keep tucked in neatly inside her usual composed self.

She had the threat of divorce hanging over her and all of it seeming to stem from an ongoing conflict over parenting in a blended family.  Boy, you have no idea how close to home it hit, and still hits, when I think about future relationships.

But when she asked through her sobs, “Will I ever find someone to love me? Will I ever be happy?”, that felt like someone punched me in the stomach.  It took me a minute to respond and reassure her, listen to her, be there for her.

But it makes me so sad when I hear this coming from women.  Why is it that so many of us (I’ve been guilty of it in the past) stake our happiness in love and relationships?

And why are those questions filled with so much pain, with such an intensity and hope latched on to them?

I am by no means qualified to philosophize on theories of problems rooted in childhood that continue to affect us if we don’t deal with them but it is certainly something I am familiar with.

I can’t help but see myself in other women when I see them struggling; it is partly what has given me the strength to leave relationships in the past.  I looked at the women that I grew up around and saw that nothing had changed in their life and perspective (except for more pain, helplessness, and bitterness) in the years that I knew and heard of their troubles.  I did not want to be standing in that same unhealthy situation 10, 20, 40 years down the line still hoping in vain that it they would change but the only difference being an aging face in the mirror.

This week marks what would have been 9 years of marriage.  It has me feeling like I am visiting a plot at the cemetery but the coffin is filled with broken promises of forever, hope, a teenager’s idea of a family, and memories so dim that they feel like those of another.

When I walked away from that, I felt at my worse.  I felt like an utter failure and it encompassed my daily worries, it lived in my dreams, in my dress, and self-awareness.  I wondered how I could have failed at loving, I questioned if I loved enough, if I had the capacity to love the right way.  And my self-criticism was a daily self-torture routine: was I not pretty enough, smart enough, entertaining/strong/woman enough to make my marriage work?

And most of all I wondered over and over – Would Anyone Ever Love Me?  Would I even allow myself to be hurt again?, to be vulnerable once more?  Was I even able to feel again?

And the thoughts were only compounded by harassment and hateful statements.  Who would love a single mom with two young children?  What man in their right mind would even look at me?

And sadly, my self-esteem was so nonexistent that I believed it, I wholeheartedly agreed with him.

And I struggle with forgiving myself for feeling that way; for believing those hurtful words, and for living my life measured by non-existing standards: by the idea that I was and could achieve nothing.

Words of endearment that came my way created an anxiety in me: both a source of disbelief and the idea that I had to conserve this new possibility of someone loving me.  And that’s a terrible way to start a new relationship.  That is completely unfair to all involved.

I have worked through most of what contributed in making me feel that sense of self-worthlessness.  Some of that pain is extremely deep-rooted and it is triggered by seeing it in others – especially young women, or by a color/movie/song/place that brings back a memory in full force and I have to revisit it and give myself time to work through it.  It’s a process of self-healing coupled with my desire to live life and reach my full potential that keeps me moving forward.  I am also fortunate to have wise women around me; women that love and support me, and inspire me to move forward with the proper sense of self-worth.
I know my strength, I know my capacity to love is immeasurable (as I am reminded when I look at my beautiful little girls), I am kind, intelligent, fun, interesting, beautiful (inside and out), and I am happy with the woman I see in the mirror every morning.
Even when I wake up with my hair looking like a tornado blew through it and my eyes are exhausted from lack of sleep, I love those eyes looking back at me in the mirror every morning.  I am pretty badass and fucking awesome if I may say so myself.  And I have every right to feel this way whether anyone, someone, The one, or No one stands beside me.
I am me: the feelings, qualities, strengths, happiness, and yes the occasional crankiness and sassiness that make me who I am, are all ME, independent of who tells me so or tries to tell me otherwise.
If you ever wonder those same questions, Be Kind to yourself and remember that you will be happy and you will be loved; but you have to start with the image in the mirror.  Because as your self-love grows, that image in the mirror will grow more beautiful, happy, and yes, even more fucking awesome than you already are.
I know that kindness and love to and for yourself can be extremely difficult when you have grown up feeling the complete opposite but you are no longer a child.  No one holds the power of your sustenance, existence, and mental well-being anymore; you are no longer dependent on your parents to survive.
Cut the chord, the emotional chord that responds to what other think of you.  It is hard; I won’t bull shit you; but it’s harder to live a life full of pain and self-hatred.  And it’s sadder for your friends and everyone that loves you to hear those questions: Will Anyone Ever Love Me?  Will I Ever Be Happy?
You are no longer a Victim.
Yes you Will be Loved and Yes you Can, Deserve to Be, Happy.