Mercy and When the Forgiveness Lightbulb Flashed

I had already been diagnosed when one day you came home excited because you had talked about cancer in one of your classes. You said, “Basically, it’s like your body is mad at you.” That thought, in a slightly different form, had already begun to slowly try to sneak up on me. It was gonna be one more thing to add to my list of things I had done wrong. But that little line was like a big neon sign shining in my face. Not because I didn’t like what you said but because it was true. You know what neon signs do, don’t you? They make you act. Like a picture of a pink neon girl shining – never mind…

Anyway, I had to act upon that sign instead of taking it as a straightforward accusation of some sort.

I thought about that line over and over, wondering what the answer was. Even though it wasn’t a question. I was making myself mad at those who had hurt me but really, if I boiled it down, I was mad at myself.  So I came to the conclusion that– as duh as it may seem – I needed to not be mad at myself and in order to do that I needed to forgive myself for everything: the times I had hurt myself, the times I had allowed others to hurt me and the times I had hurt others (especially my children).

So yeah, your line is kind of what turned on that self-forgiveness lightbulb for me.

I haven’t for a minute thought that God is punishing me with this disease. So when your uncle’s wife (or girlfriend) has told me more than once that I should ask God for misericordia. I don’t say anything to her because that is what she believes and for me to try to explain my beliefs to a Mexican sixty-year old woman would be like trying to shake a tree from where it has spread its roots with my bare hands, it’s not happening. I think of a way I might be able to explain this to her, it might go something like this

Okay, listen lady!

Just kidding :l

Seriously . . .

Ummm . . . . . . . . . I don’t really believe that I need to ask God for mercy because I don’t believe He is punishing me. One asks for mercy from someone who is punishing or hurting one in some way and I don’t believe God punishes.

Do you think that would work? Or do you think there would be a Pero…

Anyway, so yes that is why I do not ask for mercy.

I asked for mercy enough times in elementary school. My friends and I used to play a game called “mercy.” The way it worked was we interlaced our fingers and one of us would put the pressure – as hard as possible – and other one had to yell Mercy! when she couldn’t take it anymore. The point of the game, of course, was to see who could take the most pain. I remember crushing a few fingers 😉

That game was fun!

So Goodnight from this comfy hospital bed that bends in all the right places. May your dreams be beautiful dreams filled with unicorns and mermaids and gnomes.

Love,

Mom

 

 

 

HONESTLY . . .

Honestly, I was feeling like a superwoman the first few days.

You’ll feel nauseous, you’ll be in bed, throwing up, you might cry of pain, every worst possible scenario was spoken to me. But when I got up from that comfy chemo chair and walked out of the City of Hope without a single pain and one, two, three days went by without too many reactions, I wondered what the heck all those doctors, nurses and ex-cancer patients had been talking about.

I had been getting up before 6 to shower and get your brothers ready for school. Up early and doing the things I usually do. Friday I drove 100 miles to see my therapist because I really felt like it and because I was feeling up to the drive. Yeah there were some stomach cramps and towards the end of the drive the bones in my feet were beginning to hurt. Still, I tried to keep my spirits up with my Spotify lists of fun music. Like 2Pac and Eminem. I know you’re thinking I should be listening to Celine Dion and Ana Gabriel. I agree, just not always.

When I got home yesterday and saw the delicious chicken legs in the skillet and the colorful vegetables in the steamer that your grandma had prepared, my stomach got excited. I sat down at the table with her and took a really nice bite to the meaty part of the leg. Tasteless. Just like the lunch I had taken with me for the drive. No flavor. My tongue feels raspy, as if it just had a handful of salt poured over it. Even water has no taste. Can you imagine? I can’t even taste the absence of taste? Anyway, I still ate because I was hungry and because I have to. But by the end of my dinner I’m wondering if I will have to live without taste for the next couple of months. I’m worried, I’m already not a big eater.

I woke up today, Saturday, with pain in my feet and my stomach cramping. I didn’t get up to shower, instead I got up to spend 20 minutes on the toilet because chemo has made me very constipated. After those very long minutes without my book, because I had forgotten to take it with me, I walked out to the kitchen and had breakfast. As tasteless as the chicken leg. The rest you know, I laid in your bed trying to stay put. While you showered I started thinking and told myself that I am not exempt from any of the discomforts (I know that’s putting it lightly) that other cancer patients have had. I’m not Superwoman, I am not superhuman and I do not have a free pass. What I do have is this. Where I can let you know what it’s like for me and where I let you into my mind if just for a little sneak peek. I hope it’s not too scary. Lol

I leave you with this, a text my writer friend sent me:

Everyday [in treatment] is a day closer to full good health.

This just summed up everything for me and I hope it does the same for you as you go through this with me.

I love you with all my heart,

Mom

It’s A Long One

Okay so, I’ve been gone. I had promised not long ago that I would start the blog again. Surprisingly, I’m feeling pretty good today, considering I just went through my first round of chemotherapy. Honestly I wasn’t feeling afraid, I was actually just ready to start after going through so many tests and phone calls with the insurance. I just wanted to get the whole thing started. As I was sitting there in that very comfortable recliner with a pillow and a warmed hospital blanket, I noticed almost everyone had a family member sitting by their side. A mother, a daughter, son, husband, wife, friend. It was beautiful  and I couldn’t help but feel grateful that I was one of those lucky ones with my husband by my side. All the nurses were nice, I was being taken care of, I was in the right place and with a name like City of Hope, what else could I expect?

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It’s been a few hours now since I came home and all I’ve felt is a stomach ache that comes and goes as it pleases. I think the positive reaction my body is having to chemotherapy might have to do with three things: my change in foods, Nina (my therapist), and the decision to open up mind a little in regards to religion. Let me explain.

The first – food – it’s been hard not being able to eat chocolate or ice cream or potato chips or any red meat. Hamburgers look appetizing sometimes. A glass of the orange juice we keep in the refrigerator for you guys seems like an easy choice at times, but I hold back and the reason I do that is because I want to be around for you guys. I want to be around for a long time because I don’t think I’m done here. I think there’s still so much for me to do and so much to see you guys do because I know you guys are gonna do some awesome things. I believe that with all my heart. Just like I believe in what it is I’m here to do, even if sometimes I’m completely confused and don’t know what direction to take. I also do it because I want to set a good example for you guys and I know I fail sometimes but at least in this I want to feel like I’m doing, if not everything right, at least my best. And believe me, I am really doing the best that I can in removing these foods from my diet.

The second – Nina and therapy – has been one of the best things I’ve done for myself and for my family, that is a fact. It’s a slow process, you might see me swing back and forth at times but I’m learning how to pick myself up faster, better, stronger. I’m learning how to let go of the pains of my childhood. It’s not easy, just like the food. I’m learning that the things we really want in life are hardly ever easy. Actually, maybe even never but that is what makes them worthwhile. And when we get there and find out that in that “there” there’s more. I’m learning that that famous search for happiness has no exact answer, no place or time or thing. All it is is a choice. That’s it. We can either choose to be happy or we can choose not to. That’s it. We wake up everyday with the opportunity to make that choice. Happy or not happy? I’m learning that life is not without problems – ever. We all have problem because honestly life would probably be boring without them. The thing is how we deal with them. What we tell ourselves about those problems. Do we blame ourselves? Others? Do we dwell on them day in and day out. What do we tell ourselves about our lives about ourselves? We can either say and think positive things about ourselves and others or we can say and think negative things about ourselves and others. Again, it’s simply a choice we have to make everyday. And it’s hard, yes, but we can keep using “it’s hard” as an excuse for not doing what is best for us and in turn for the world or we can just keep trying. No, we can not do everything perfectly every time, all we can do is try, fail and try again. I think the hardest thing of all, for me at least, has been forgiveness. I think it might be one of the hardest things for many of us. Forgiving, in an unforgiving mind, means letting that person go without the proper punishment. What does that person who hurt you get? How can they just go around life as if they never did anything? What about all the pain they caused you? And then because we can’t forgive those who hurt you, you can’t forgive yourself for the stupid things you did, for the pain you caused to somebody. And you realize that just the way you’re carrying that sense of fault with you, they person you blame might also be carrying that same bag. Unfortunately, sometimes it requires some screaming, some actual speaking up and saying, “You hurt me and I’m mad!” Sometimes it’s the only way to let it go. And sometimes that takes courage or at least the desire to finally not feel the tiredness that anger and resentment cause. That’s it. Or you don’t wait until that moment, you do it simply because you want to be happy and because you simply realize that the person who hurt you was probably also in pain and didn’t know how to deal with it. In the end what has really begun to free me is forgiveness, believe it or not. It’s such a huge weight that has been lifted from me and it feels good. I know that there’s still more work to do but I also know that if I was able to do what seemed impossible, then I am able to do all the other stuff.

And finally – religion. I know that this is a hard subject because of all the things that I’ve believed and maybe still believe because I have a very objective point of view and because I prefer not to follow blindly. I have questions that I might never find an answer to and I finally realized that that will be in any religion if I were to choose to change. Questions will always be there inside of me because I’m just a curious person by nature. But for now, I’ve come to the conclusion that Catholicism is the religion I was born into and that I am a bit lazy and a bit not interested in moving to another religion in which I might end up feeling the same way. I’ll stick with Catholicism because that is where my roots are and because that is where my traditions are. I love altars, I enjoyed doing the forty day chocolate fast this year for Easter, I love the celebrations of the saints of each village. I love nativity sets in Christmas, I love Quinceañeras and the blessings of babies (even if I don’t agree with the Catholic reasons for baptisms). I love all of that. I think I realized that giving that up would be a little like giving up a little of who I am. I might not agree with everything they say or do but I know that every time I walk into that chapel behind the church, I feel safe, I feel like I can think and talk to God in any way I please and He won’t mind. When there is mass I hear singing in the background and my heart sings with them. When I walk out an old lady is kneeling on the center isle, praying, chanting and for some reason I feel connected to her because that is how feel when I’m pleading with God trying to get Him to tell me what it is I’m supposed to do. Although I feel more like spiritual person than a religious one, I do feel like a Catholic church is that physical place, besides my home, where I can practice my spirituality. It feels good to have this place where part of my childhood lies.

So there you go, that is what’s on my mind now. They’re things that are sometimes easier to say in writing than out loud (for me at least) but whatever the case, it is important to say.

Please remember always that I love you and that everything I do – the good, the right, and sometimes the bad and the wrong – I do for you three and of course for me too.

Love,

Mom

 

Mystery and Magic

Yesterday I went to the beginning (or the end) of the rainbow!

I  wasn’t looking to do that, it just happened that the rainbow landed on the left side of the street I was driving through, on an empty lot filled with growing weeds.

And because I want to keep this magical and mysterious for you, instead of telling you what I saw, I’ll tell you what there I didn’t see: there was no pot of gold and there were no leprechauns dancing around or CareBears sliding off the rainbow. But what I saw left as much in awe as any CareBear or leprechaun or gold would have.

I wanted to take a picture but I was driving and I couldn’t and when I went back (because I actually did drive back to see it one more time), like magic, it had disappeared.

What I did take a picture of though was this:

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You see the light on the three flowers? That’s what Gael and I come home to every day after I pick him up from school. Everyday. The way the light hits those orchids is so pretty and when it’s at the same time everyday, it’s really beautiful!

I also took this picture of Gael and his ladybugs which he said were him and Nauj but Nauj said nooo and instead named them Red and Dot.

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Red is the one on the top leaf and Dot is the one on the bottom leaf. I know you think I’m making this up but I’m not. I actually did get to know them a little bit. Red is bigger and from the very beginning he was the one climbing to the top of the jar trying to find a way out. Dot, on the other hand, stayed at the bottom, just kind of walking around the edge. At first I thought that it was because Red was, like his name, louder and more extroverted and Dot was more of an introvert, thinking things through first, like a typical introvert. I don’t know, I could’ve been partially correct but I’m not sure because later I noticed that Dot had a broken leg and that was why he was mostly staying at the bottom. But even with a broken leg look where he walked to…

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almost to the top! It took him a while but he made it, he’s a very strong lady bug. And you’ll be glad to know that Gael has already let them go, they’re somewhere in the backyard happy to be home, I’m sure.

So there you go . . .

Rainbow beginnings, glowing orchids and persevering ladybugs. Little things we take for granted as we grow up. But believe me, we always return. And it feels pretty good when you let yourself believe in magic and mystery every once in a while. So with that being said, I wrote this song for you:

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger,
May you never take one single breath for granted,
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed,
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance . . .
I hope you dance
I hope you dance

Okay, okay, so I didn’t write it, Lee Ann Womack did, but she does say a little bit of what I want to say to you so here’s the rest of the song ( I hope you like it) 🙂

Plants, plants, plants!

Look at what Gael and I are growing! Can you believe it?

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Okay, so this is what happened. A couple weeks ago I wanted to make some pinto beans for dinner so I left the beans to soak for one entire day before cooking them – ’cause you know how long pinto beans take to cook, and then we’re using that little stove right now – and when I got ready to cook them I realized I had soaked toooo many beans. I only ended up cooking a little over half of them and the rest I left in the container because I didn’t know what to do with them and because I was too lazy to try and figure it out.

A few days later, the beans were still in the container, still waiting for me to see what I was going to do with them and that’s when Gael noticed they had started opening up and growing little roots (or whatever they’re called)! He was so excited and honestly, so was I. So I got a little pot of soil with a plant I was trying to get to relive (yes, I really thought I could relive a plant), I pulled out the dead rosemary roots and had Gael put three beans under the dirt. I had him do it because I think he really might have a green thumb. And now look! a little bean and we’re waiting for the other two so cross your fingers.

Oh and look at the gladiolas I got at Trader Joe’s. They’re so pretty!!! I love that fuchsia (for fucha) color! And I really like the little altar which, to me, is more spiritual than religious even though all the images are Catholic. But I’m still waiting for the Buddha to show up : )

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How about you? Are you taking pictures everyday? Practice, Practice, Practice!

The more scared we are of the work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it. -Steven Pressfield (The War of Art)       (P.S. Not to be confused with the Art of War)

 

Love, Mom

Sooo . . .

Let’s pretend I’ve been here all this time, that I didn’t stop writing in this blog for you and let’s start all over again.

Did you notice I changed the picture? I’m sure you did. I was going to use the one you took (which I like better) but that picture is yours and I don’t want to take it from you : ). I love this picture too though. I love the colors and the rusticity of it and I realized that this is the kind of art that I love, the kind of pictures I love to paint (a cream rustic background contrasted with strong punches of color). Have you noticed that? In my writing too is the same (a backdrop that recedes with characters that make everything come alive).

But you know what I love most about this picture? It’s that it reminds me of our mini mother-daughter trip. I had a lot of fun and I hope you did too. I don’t know but I have a feeling it changed a lot of things for you and what you thought you knew about yourself. Like where you come from (meeting new family) and where you want to go (your choice of career). I’m sure, as exciting as it is, it’s also very confusing. And that’s okay, I guess it’s kind of supposed to be that way, otherwise it wouldn’t be fun right?  You might make the right choice or you might not. But really, I don’t think choices are supposed to be right or wrong, what they do is they take you to places that are either good for you or they’re not. Drugs and alcohol -> addiction, unemployment, homelessness.  Education and hard work -> passion, a job, a home. When you decide on your career (because that’s probably one of your main concerns right now) make that decision based on what makes you feel alive and excited, angry even, not on what you think will bring you a higher social status or a nicer house. Those things will come to you all by themselves if you work hard and with passion. Don’t follow the rules, there is no order of how things are supposed to be. There is no first things first. First is what’s inside you. What’s calling you? You’re in a good time right now, you have no responsibilities other than yourself. You can choose to take whichever path you feel is right for you right now. Will that guarantee that everything will be perfect? That your future will be forever bright? No, not really. But at least you won’t be left in the “what if I had . . .” zone. In the “hubiera” place that is so horrible to live in.

Do. Act. Move forward. Have you made mistakes? Yes. Are you making mistakes? Yes. Will you keep on making mistakes? Yes. There’s no way around that but forward. It’s okay to be afraid and angry. Go ahead and be afraid, be angry (anger can be a propeller, but only if you act). So, make choices and act.

I love this quote by Sandra Cisneros:

“. . . anger when it’s used to act, when used nonviolently, has power.”

 

Love,

Mom

Death and Time and the Lack of Words for it . . .

There are so many things I want to tell you about I don’t even know where to start.

Let’s see . . .

There’s yesterday when I made the mistake of making fun of Gael exaggerating his knee scrape (you know how he likes to overdo his little scrapes). When I picked him up from school he had a band-aid on each knee because he had been running, tripped and scraped both knees. He held his shorts up all the way to the car, we went to the market and he kept walking and holding on to his shorts, at home he complained even more. By dinnertime he couldn’t even handle getting up on the chair. Your dad was home by then and I made the mistake of saying that he was dying (of pain) only I didn’t say “of pain,” I left it at dying and he took it literally. He thought he was really going to die and I kept saying no, he wasn’t going to die but he kept crying and I couldn’t figure out what to say to fix what I had already said. Fortunately, after a few minutes he was okay but when I was dressing him after his bath he remembered and began to cry again. This is kind of how it went:

“I don’t want to die! I’m not old. I’m not old ma?”

“No, you’re not old,” and then of course you know me, I try to keep it real with you guys and of course we’re all going to die and I couldn’t lie to him and say he wasn’t going to die, so I said, “It’s going to be a long long time, one hundred years.”

“When? Tomorrow?”

“No, not tomorrow, a long long time. You’re a kid –”

“I don’t want to! I don’t want to be old! I don’t want to die!” he was ready to cry by now and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it so I said I had to go to the bathroom and left it to your dad who, of course, had no problem telling Gael he wasn’t going to die just to get him to stop crying and go to sleep.

“I don’t want to die,”

“No, you’re not going to die,”

“Nauj is going to die? He’s old?”

“No, he’s not going to die either.”

Tú estás viejito? I don’t want you to die!”

“You don’t want me to die? Okay, I’m not going to die.”

“Y mamá? Y Mayerlin?”

“No, tampoco. None of us are going to die, we’re going to be eternal.”

“Why everyone gets old? The house too?”

“Yeah, the house too.”

“Why?”

Now, how do you explain this to a four year old, life and death and time? So your dad just says, “because that’s life.”

“Oh . . . when we go to the new house this house is going to be old?”

“You don’t want the house to be old either?” (Your dad asked this like he was walking on glass)

“Yeah, it’s okay.”

(Relief!)

“Ok.”

That’s when it was finally safe for me to get out of the bathroom and go to bed.

“Daddy said I’m not going to die. Tu no?”

“No, we’re not going to die.” (If you can’t beat’em, join’em right?)

“Read me a book. The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” (Ironic don’t you think?)

“Okay.”

. . . he was a beautiful butterfly!

The End

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There’s also this morning that I was listening to the radio and they were talking about parents using iPads to replace teaching their kids the basics like abc’s, colors, shapes, etc. Is it okay or not?

There’s also the Lila Downs concert I never wrote about.

Then there’s Tia Pilar’s birthday party which I know I already told you a lot about but the one thing I didn’t tell you was how all the kids, rather than run around and play together, were all pinned to their phones or iPads and how Gael fixed that just a little.

And finally there’s this little poem and picture I want to share with you, can you tell what story it is?

But all this will have to be on some other posts so until then . . .

Love you and miss you,

Mom