Writing a Children's Book is not Easy but it's Fun!

So this weekend I went to my second class with Laura Lacamàra at the Writing Pad. There are nights when, after I’ve read to Gael, he still can’t seem to get to sleep and to get him to relax I either sing him a children’s song or make up a story or a song on the spot. He likes it when I make up songs and stories. In fact, he loves my stories and I love it when he responds positively to them: laughter, questioning, loving, understanding, etc. He particularly likes one about a boy who carries with his favorite book with him everywhere he goes. The book is huge but only he knows what the huge book says and he refuses to share it with anybody, especially not with his little cousin who keeps pestering him about it. But finally, one day she just wears him down and he reads the book to his little cousin. The little boy opens the huge book and begins to read the one word: Fart! Now, keep in mind, Gael is five years old and his current favorite funny words are fart and poop and pee.

Anyway, long story short, my reasoning when Gael enjoys my stories is: I’m good, I should really write a children’s book – at least one. So when the opportunity to take a children’s book writing class I just felt like I HAD to take it. And honestly, there’s always been a bit of a desire in me to write a children’s book. I love to illustrate and I love to write, what better way to combine my two loves!

The class has been quite eye opening. I’ve tried before to write a story for children but it’s not easy. Laura has  really broken it down for us and I’ve been able to turn that real life wrestling story of mine into a child friendly story. By the end of the class we will have a dummy book that we will read to an audience of small children. I love kids but they can be brutally honest and that’s scary. Gael is gonna come with me and he’s the one I want to impress, I’m really hoping he likes my story cause if he doesn’t it’ll be back to the drawing board, which I probably wouldn’t mind but still I just want my son to see this dummy book turn into an actual book so that he can proudly that his mom did that.

I think we parents want our kids to proud of us just as much as our kids want us to be proud of them don’t we? So, I guess that’s what I’m trying to do here, make my kids proud but honestly, I hope that they already are . . .

Until next week!

Esperanza Beltrán

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Yesterday 

Yesterday was International Women’s Day. My husband told me to not do anything and I had planned on “following his orders.” I wanted nothing more than to do nothing other than the things I enjoy like writing and art. I planned on not cooking, not picking up messes and not doing anything I didn’t need to do. I imagined myself sitting at my table in my artistic space listening to music and making art. But alas! I am a mother and a mother must care for her children. She must make sure they are clean, make sure they are fed and she must not allow fights to get too loud.

It turns out I finished doing the laundry, I cooked dinner and I helped with homework while at the same time doing mine. But I also wrote – I wrote about myself on the About Me page and I did manage to sneak in 10 minutes of art fun in my journal. I even managed to fit in a doctor’s visit, a grocery store run and, at the insistence of Gael, (my 5-year old son) an hour at the library improvising a game of Guess Who? which neither one of us has played before.

“Okay,” I said, “I think you have ask me questions so you can guess which one I’m looking at.”

“Ohhh, okay,” he said and I decided to ask first so he could see how to ask his questions.

“Is it round?”

“Yes.”

“Is it a fruit?”

“Yes.”

“Is it an orange?”

“Yes!”

It was the most exciting thing to see Gael get that excited over a good “guess.” And then it was his turn.

“Is it round?”

“Yes.”

“Is it the orange?”

“No.”

“Is it the apple?”

“No.”

“Is it the donut?”

“No.”

“Is it the banana?”

“That’s not round.”

“But I’m asking questions.”

“Okay.”

“Is it the strawberry?”

“Um, yes. Okay, let’s go look at the books”

“Yay!”

Looking at my day, I’m surprised I’m still here. We women really are something amazing. What would the world be without us?

Which brings me to what I was thinking about yesterday – about the women I admire. There are many but here are just a few . . .

Sandra Cisneros, a Chicana writer who now lives in Mexico, which, by the way, is my plan for the future. The House on Mango Street is one of my favorites but I’d have to say that I am in love with Caramelo. Caramelo inspired me to keep working on my own grandmother’s story. Her writing style is the kind of writing I aspire to achieve: clear and simple but true and transcendent.

Maya Angelou, a black writer who stole my heart with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. That book was the hook that made me read Gather Together in My Name and Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas, and Heart of a Woman. Then there’s her poem Still I Rise which only she reads perfectly. Of course there’s more of her work I need to read but I already love her.

Sor Juana Ines De La Cruz, a feminist Mexican writer and nun of the 17th century. Although I do not consider myself a feminist (more on that in another post) nor a religious person (will also write about that later) I do admire her rebelliousness, her view on life and her intellect.

Mother Teresa, a nun and missionary. The way she took care of the forgotten is a trait I can’t help but admire in her. For some reason I have a special love for the homeless which is why, at least in small doses, I give to them directly whenever possible. Of course what I do does not compare to Mother Teresa’s work but I do believe in that quote by Aesop:

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. 

Hoping your Women’s Day was just as eventful,

Esperanza

¡Hola! and Welcome!

Hello world!

My name is Esperanza Beltràn and today I start my blog. In it I want to say the things that make my head spin when I’m alone. There are three reasons for my starting this blog and they are: 1. I am a writer and I NEED to write; 2. Our current social/political situation; 3. I have cancer.

There has always been an inherent need in me to write, an addictive love of papers and pens. On my bed were spread out handmade notebooks from paper picked up from the local high school’s recycling bin and in the notebooks were songs and stories that lived only in my head. I didn’t know it then but I was already a writer. Actually, I didn’t know it until about three years ago and I am now about to turn 38! It’s not that one day I woke up and realized I was a writer, it’s been a process. There have been many life situations in the past years that have forced me to keep journals. Those journals have brought me a lot insight, one of those being the full understanding that I AM A WRITER. It made me remember the story I have always wanted to write and realize that writing it is not only possible but necessary now more than ever.

I find myself constantly thinking about the book I started but have not been able to finish. Coincidentally, it is the human story of a strong indigenous woman – my grandmother. My parents are indigenous Mexicans whose first language is not even Spanish. They have crossed many hurdles while having to learn Spanish, then some English and finally, enough US History to become US citizens. They have worked all their lives, raised me to love literature, to be empathic and to always try to do right. They have also made mistakes, similar mistakes to those of black parents, white parents, Asian parents, etc because just as in any other race, my set of immigrant parents are humans well. And as our immigrant community is struck with a daunting and uncertain future, I feel forced to be a voice to those who are my people and who might feel unheard. Documented or not, the stories of our immigrant community need to be told and need to be heard and the more of us there are telling and listening to those stories, the less of a possibility there is that we will be ignored.

Not only are we faced now with a drastically changing world but I also find myself having to (temporarily) face a life with cancer. There are situations in life that force you to do things you would never have done, like shaving your head or that force you to do things you would have done if you hadn’t been so afraid like speaking up – which is what I’m doing with this blog. Cancer is one of those life situations. As I sit here in front of my laptop writing, a beanie on my head, an open journal to my left and my two favorite pens on my right, I think to myself “what could be better?” There’s a humming sound outside my window, someone must be mowing their lawn. Birds chirp as they fly from tree to tree. A dog barks at a stranger and a driver steps on the gas, must be a young man. There’s organic food in the refrigerator and there’s nothing I’d rather do than to wait for someone to prepare food and bring it to me but fortunately for me, I am very able to get up and make it myself. I’ve heard of people who’ve said that cancer is the best thing that happened to them, I look forward to counting myself as one of those people in the not so far off future.

For now, this blog is my own little adventure and for those who decide to join me:

¡Gracias!

Thank You! 

My (lack of) hair, again . . .

I’ve been thinking that I had not shared with you how I felt the day I shaved my head. That was a very important day in my life with cancer. And because I can’t remember exactly what I felt, I’m going to share with you that very special part of my journal.

I shaved my head.

Of course I cried. I had to. I think it was like the ultimate sign of my having cancer. This whole cancer thing still feels strange. Foreign, even. Like it’s still not something I’m going through. I don’t know, it’s hard to explain. As in: Really? It’s me who has cancer? Or maybe it’s not so much a question as it is a shock. I don’t know. All I know is I have a lot to be thankful for. My husband who, not only shaved my head and shaved his own, but also cried with me when I faced him with my bald head. Maybe it was the waiting for the baldness to arrive that had me in a rut. I don’t know but whatever it was I guess I simply accepted that I had to do this, like the quick pull of a bandage. It’s faster and less painful but painful nonetheless. And I’m still a woman. A stronger woman? I hope so. I strive to be so. There’s still a picture I need to take. I know that one day I will want to look back just to see how far I’ve come (or will have come). There’s still a lot of work to do. Still a lot of fears to overcome. It’s okay. All will be – is – as it is supposed to be and You (God) are with me. Thank you!

I hadn’t read this util now and I’m glad I felt this way because as you know I don’t always feel like this. But when it’s necessary, I do. I have to. I have to because if I don’t then I will fall deep. Becoming bald was not easy but actually being bald has not been all that hard. It’s easy to cover up, it’s forced me to get creative and see myself in a new way. It’s one thing less to worry about in the mornings. It’s forced me to see a part of me I had not seen before and today, physically at least,  I know myself just a little bit better than I did before. All this is not so say that I want to remain bald because I don’t. I already have a stylist lined up and  am more than excited imaging how I’m going to style my hair when it grows back. What if it grows back curly? or brown? or thicker? or white?! I try not to scare myself with that but I do think about it and if it does grow back white I gonna try my hardest to just own it and be happy to have hair. We’ll see how that works out for me.

I leave you with a picture I took today on my morning walk . . .

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P.S. I love you very mucho!

Love,

Mom

 

 

What I Believe

This is what I believe about you:

I believe that you are a woman whose dreams are worth fighting for, whose dreams are valid, and whose dreams will come true. Why I believe this to be true is because I understand two things. My first understanding is that God has sent each and everyone of us with a job, a mission, to fulfill in this world. My second understanding is that if we don’t believe this about God, ourselves, and humanity, then what else is there to move us forward?

I believe that you are a strong and beautiful woman. Why? For the simple fact that God created you. And created you in that amazing and unique way that is you. I know this to be true because through every tough moment in your life you have and will continue to make it through exactly because of that beauty and strength that God gave you.

One last thing that I believe is that God=Love. You, all of this and everything in this world is fueled by love simply because that is what God is. I know that this might sound cheesy or fufi or whatever but I really believe this. I believe this even though we are constantly tripping, stumbling and picking ourselves up on our way through life. I guess any other way would not be as interesting right?

Oh yes, and don’t forget that you are Loved. Period. Not because, not when, not by, not at. Just Loved.

Sincerely,

Tu mamà

 

Tomorrow It Will Rain . . .

And then the earth will look cleaner and clearer.

We have passed the shock of the election results. Shock is a time for outraged stillness. you sit and you ask no one in particular: WTF?!!!

But then you wake up, your eyes start to blink and you begin to see the bigger picture. All this looks big, too big. And it is. Its bigger than any one of us. But not bigger than all of us. I think that now – this moment – is the time to realize and understand who it is we want to be. What kind of person do you want to be? What message do you want to send out into the world? Maybe if you don’t know what you want to be, you might at least know what kind of person you do not want to be.

You know? It is easy to react when we are angry. It is easy to say things that hurt, it’s easy to point fingers and blame the system, the politicians, the racist, and every person in between. That is the easy way out. It requires not much thought and not much action. Someone who knows a lot told me that in a time of joy and love, we have to let ourselves be led by our emotions. However, in a time of anger and rage, we must let our head lead us.

You are a very intelligent person and if you use it, you can achieve so much. You can change, if not the system, then at least your impact not the people you meet. I think it is time for us to show our best side, it is time to show who we really are as a people. Not as black or brown or white or whatever shade, but as humans. I choose to believe that the world is  composed of mostly well meaning people and I hope that you will too.

This Year . . .

I’ve decided to start writing about this cancer thing I’m going through. I’m at Barnes and Noble right now, I’ve picked up a few interesting books I think will help me understand what it is my body’s going through. How my brain (mind) can help me heal my body. I also want to explore how art and creativity will play a role in this. Actually there’s a few parts to this (in no specific order):

• The Brain
• Nutrition
• Creativity
• Spirituality
• Friends and Family
• Biology

This is a draft version of how I’m dividing my understanding of everything I’m going through. My head seems to be going in circles right now cause I’m so excited. I’m also worried a little about my grandmother’s story but something tells me that this has to come first. I have to understand myself first before I can continue trying to understand someone else. I feel like I’m my own little experiment. Anyway, the last thing I want to do is stress myself out worrying about a story that I know I can’t continue right now. Okay, so the books I’ve decided to begin my research with is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Who is Henrietta Lacks? She is a woman whose cells were cut from her cervix some months before her death and now those cells are the first immortal human cells. This is a small excerpt from the book:

“…what she’d think about cells from her cervix living on forever – bought, sold, packaged and shipped by the trillions to laboratories around the world. I’ve tried to imagine how she’d feel knowing that her cells went up in the first space mission to see what would happen to human cells in zero gravity, or that they helped with some of the most important advances medicine: the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization.”

Very interesting right? This is a woman whose cells helped in creating what is now helping heal the cells in my own body. I think that is so amazing, my own little connection to this black woman who lived in the early 20th century.

This is where I’m so happy I love to read!

Everything will be okay, I hope you know that 🙂

Love,

Mom

My Hair is Falling!

My hair is falling and I’m scared, worried, freaking out. Yes, “freaking out” better describes what I’m feeling.

I stand in the shower and softly lather shampoo into my hair because it hurts and because I don’t want to rub too much hair out of my head. But no matter how much I try, when I finally get the nerves to open my eyes, the tub floor is always full of hair. It reminds me of a hair salon but there’s no one behind me with scissors in her hands, I’m not sitting on a chair and there’s no black cape wrapped around me.

What there is, is a mirror and when I look into it sometimes I don’t like what I see. Sometimes I want to cry because I want to see my hair the way I used to see it, I want to rub shampoo into my hair without being scared, without feeling pain. In the mirror I look strange, my eyes seem to be out of place. I know it doesn’t make sense but there seems to be some kind of connection between my hair and my eyes. Or maybe it’s that in my eyes is the sadness of seeing my head with less hair. You know? I didn’t think this was going to matter so much to me, after all it’s just hair right? Is it too frivolous to worry about my hair when there’s other things to think about, other more important things to consider right now? Maybe it is but I think about it and I think I’m in all my right to feel freaked out about this. How can I not freak out? I’ve had hair all my life. Actually I’ve had a lot of hair, you know that. Every time I’ve gone to get my hair cut, I’ve always received comments about how much hair I have (or had), about how black it was. Now I see black and white speckled with bald spots and it’s painful to see.

I haven’t cried over my hair though. Not because of lack of desire but because I’ve talked to God. I told Him it was okay if He decided that I had to lose all my hair. It was okay if it was meant to be that the bones in my feet hurt every once in a while. It was okay if I couldn’t walk fast the way I like to walk, it was okay if I felt constipated every once in a while, it’s all okay. The only thing I asked him was to please not allow my mouth to hurt so much that I could not eat, that my mouth burn as if everything was spicy. Out of all the side effect I’ve felt I have to say that the hardest was the pain in my mouth that did not allow me to eat peacefully. If He’ll grant me that wish I don’t know, all I know is that when I spoke to Him about this I spoke to Him with all of the faith I carry with me today. So, my falling hair even though it’s painful to watch, I’m willing to accept it.

You, your dad, my oncologist, other cancer patients have mentioned shaving my head. I won’t do that. I won’t do it because I feel like it would be like losing hope, like giving in to chemotherapy. What if not all my hair falls? What if I’m able to keep some of my hair through healthy foods. What if God decides that I only am supposed to lose some of my hair. I’ve promised Him that once I get my hair back, I will not longer complain about it. I will love and take care of it the way He would like me to. That is my promise to Him and to myself. I think back and remember how much I’ve complained about my hair, how many times I wished my hair to be curly or to be thin and straight or to be a lighter color or to not have that cow lick. I was never able to appreciate the blackness of my hair, the ability it had to hold curls if I took the time to put curlers on them, the capacity it had to hold volume all day. I had beautiful hair and I could’t see that but like I said, my promise to God and to myself is to love my hair in whatever form it decides to come back to me.

I know the it’s hard to learn to live one’s own life through other people’s experiences but I hope that with what I’m going through right now you will learn to love and care for the beautiful hair that was granted to you. Appreciate it for what it does for you and give back to it the way it gives to you everyday. Think about how every day it frames your pretty face, it protects your scalp from the heat, it warms your head in the winter, and it gives you something to get creative with. Just like everyone else you have your own kind of beautiful hair, love it the way it loves you. I would love for you to do this.

Have a peaceful and beautiful night!

Love,

Mom

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