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DAY 3 #NAJOWRIMOPROMPT: MAKE A LIST OF ALL THE PLACES YOU WOULD LIKE TO TRAVEL TO

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imgresMAKE A LIST OF ALL THE PLACES YOU WOULD LIKE TO TRAVEL TO

I was in middle school when I asked my mom if we could go to Australia. At the time we lived in an agricultural town in California, and had only driven annually to Juarez, Mexico to visit family. And here  I was, all 13 years of me, asking my mom to go to Australia.

Her answer? “We can’t go there! We don’t know anyone in Australia!” That moment gave me a glimpse into my mother’s world, and a better understanding of her. Maybe it also gave me a better understanding of myself as well. I wanted to go to places we had never been to, and never considered knowing people at these places as an issue. Elementary school field trips made me realize that visiting new places gave me a jolt of excitement and a sense of wonder. If a country or other location fascinated me, why not travel to see it?

As I grew older, my travels took the shape of spontaneous day trips to unfamiliar locations. My first cross-Atlantic journey took place in 2008, where I traveled through Europe in 24 days. I don’t know if I ever felt more alive than that time, and I hesitate to try and re-create it, because it just cannot be. However there are a few places from that trip I would like to re-vist and spend more time in.

Brussels, Belgium
Prague, Czech Republic
Venice, Italy
Paris, France
London, England

Other places I would like to re-visit:
Austin, Texas
Seattle, Washington

As for new places to visit:
San Antonio, Texas
Nashville, Tennessee
New Orleans, Louisiana
Mexico City, Mexico
New York, New York
Giza, Egypt
Marrakech, Morocco
New Delhi, India
Auckland, New Zealand
Croatia (coastal)
Athena Greece
Berlin, Germany
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Dublin, Ireland
Antarctica

In looking at this list, I am realizing that if I want to visit at least half of these places, I need to get-a-move on!

To take part in July’s #NAJOWRIMO, visit: http://najowrimo.org/welcome-to-najowrimo/blog-and-updates/

DAY 2 #NAJOWRIMOPROMPT: WHEN HAVE YOU TAKEN THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED?

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WHEN HAVE YOU TAKEN THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED?

When I look back I feel like “The Road Less Traveled” has been a common theme in my life. Do you relate to this? I know I can’t be the only one.

I am a Chicana who grew up in the predominantly Mexican/Chicano town of Salinas, CA. As a kid, I felt like I walked in two worlds. The social world of my peers where we played familiar games, and my personal life which was rich with a curiosity of how this world “worked” and mainly consisted of wildlife documentaries. These documentaries excited me and made me happy, however when I tried to share this knowledge with others, they were not interested and quickly diverted to their playtime. Even though I was very young, I could feel the difference between us. I had no idea this would be the pattern for most of my life.

Most of what I have done has gone against the grain of my family’s values. The excitement was pleasant but the loneliness was painful. Moving away at 15, then at 19, choosing to not have children, preferring to live alone, being vegan and feminist, and constantly challenging the status quo were discomforts my family had to grow accustomed to.

Although these experiences shaped most of my early life, a more recent experience stands out as a very significant example of taking the road less traveled.

The weight of living life from a place of grasping for safety brought me to my knees. All of my familiar ways no longer worked for me, and I was faced with resigning to hopelessness or going through a re-birthing process that was painful, unfamiliar, and foreign to my family, friends, and community. I had to look back at my life, reach out for help, and learn how to walk in this world in a different way than I was raised and accustomed to. Although most of my life consisted of consciously doing things different than my family, in this moment in time, I was stepping out of my unconscious family patterns, and seeking my authenticity in an existential way far deeper than I ever had.

This poem not only captures the experience for me, but became an anchor I would return to several times to help me through that dark and painful time.

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

~Mary Oliver

To take part in July’s #NAJOWRIMO, visit: http://najowrimo.org/welcome-to-najowrimo/blog-and-updates/

DAY 1 #NAJOWRIMOPROMPT: MAKE A LIST OF ALL THE CITIES YOU HAVE SPENT AT LEAST ONE NIGHT IN

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Okay, so this started on July 1st, but I’m jumping in now! It’s hard for me to turn down a writing prompt, especially a month’s worth of them. Will you join me?

So, here we go.

ALL THE CITIES YOU HAVE SPENT AT LEAST ONE NIGHT IN

As a kid, our annual family trips consisted of:
Riverside, California
Las Cruces, New Mexico
El Paso, Texas
Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico
and Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico (once)

Then with my mom, when I grew older:
Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico
Silao, Guanajuato, Mexico

Then on my own:
San Jose, California
San Francisco, California
Seattle, Washington
Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
Friday Harbor, Washington
Washington, DC
Portland, Oregon
London, England
Wurzburg, Germany
Brussels, Belgium
Prague, Czech Republic
Vienna, Austria
Rome, Italy
Venice, Italy
Lucern, Switzerland
Paris, France
Austin, Texas
Olema, California
Santa Barbara, CA

Anzaldúa, Coyolxahqui , and Dorothy: Homecoming and Re-Membering

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coyoEarlier this month I attended a conference titled: “The Feminist Architecture of Gloria Anzaldúa: New Translations, Crossings and Pedagogies in Anzaldúan Thought”. Although I only could attend half of day 2, it felt like an intense, and deeply rooted homecoming.

I first became familiar with Gloria Anzaldúa’s  work in 1996, when I was an undergraduate student at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. At that time I had been away from my hometown of Salinas, CA for 5 years. I was 24 years old and wrestling with issues of cultural identity, gender roles, academic poverty, romantic partnership, my place in my family and the world outside it. Although I enjoyed new experiences, I felt out of place and conflicted in the mainly White  campus. Being that Salinas is an agricultural town, with a predominantly Mexican heritage population, the 5 years away from it left me with mixed feelings of being hungry for new experiences and homesickness for the small things that brought me what comfort.

I was in a Feminist Studies, Cultural Studies class when I was introduced to Anzaldúa’s work. At that time, reading Anzaldúa’s work was both nourishing and challenging, I did not consider myself an academic, but loved learning. Anzaldúa and other feminist authors used words that were unfamiliar to me, and described concepts that felt bigger than what I was ready to understand. Yet somehow, I could feel some sense of familiarity as some concepts did resonate with me, and helped me to name some of the struggles and challenges I was facing as I questioned parts of my “otherness”.

Despite feeling too green to completely understand Chicana feminist texts, I kept their books close to me, taking them with me to every place I relocated to. Anzaldúa and other Chicana feminists writers became older and wiser sisters to me, and over time, I turned to them when I needed a reminder of where I came from, and a connection to a part of me that I was yet to meet. I suppose I subconsciously knew that I would eventually grow into their works, and as a result, grow more into myself.

When I decided to attend the conference this month, it was a complete confirmation that I had indeed grown into, not only knowing, but into living many of the experiences Anzaldúa describes. As I slept that night, I dreamt of earthquakes. An internal experience I am all too familiar with. I often have felt aspects of my internal world crash or adjust against each other, each piece of me trying to make sense of me. This has resulted in seeing pieces of me reflected in various people, places, works of art, and communities. It has mostly left me feeling out of place everywhere. A stranger among strangers and an outsider among outsiders. It seems I have spent my life trying to find people and places where I can see my complete reflection. In failing to find this, I resigned to accepting my outcast nature.

At the conference, I could feel the beginning of something magical happening. The day after the conference,  I revisited Anzaldúa’s words and I felt my parts come together, and my whole being finally reflected back to me. It felt like abrazos, like the “whole” I have been searching for. It was blissful and frightening. Too new to feel true.

Like Dorothy about to leave Oz, I wondered why I didn’t understand these lessons all along. The words were there and so close to me for so many years,  yet I couldn’t see their deeper application to my life. How much suffering could I have spared myself had I just opened Anzaldúa’s  books again? And like Dorothy, I knew that I had to make the journey myself, because I wouldn’t (and didn’t) believe the truth if it was told to me.

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Dorothy’s lesson of “There’s no place like home” always sat awkwardly with me for many years. Especially those years where I was deep in my journey away from home (both physically, emotionally, and spiritually). But I understand now that the home she refers to is not the little farmhouse in Kansas, but the home that has been with me all along. Even before my time. It is my birthright, my divinity, my ever-evolving identity, and communion with the divine itself.

It is connecting with my favorite parts, getting to know them, accepting them, loving them. It is coming home to my body, this body that has devoted itself to my very survival.

“With the loss of the familiar and the unknown ahead, you struggle to regain your balance, reintegrate yourself (put Coyolxauhqui together), and repair the damage. You must, like the shaman, find a way to call your spirit home. Every paroxysm has the potential of initiating you to something new, giving you a chance to reconstruct yourself, forcing you to rework your description of self, world, and your place in it (reality)…” G. Anzaldúa “this bridge we call home: radical visions for transformation”

I have studied psychology, indigenous healing, myth, the S/hero’s Journey, shadow and light integration, chakras, dreamwork, the enneagram, and so much more, all in the attempt to make sense of myself of this world. All these have played a significant role in my healing. I wouldn’t be here without them. Re-connecting to Anzaldúa’s work has been both the journey home and the existential glue that fuses these pieces together.

More importantly, it is the fact that she speaks of psychology, existentialism, spirituality, and so on with concepts and language that is in my blood. She uses words and concepts that are culturally relevant to me. They are my cultural inheritance, so I have had them all along. Re-connecting with Anzaldúa has guided me to re-connecting  with myself on a deeper level that no colonization can take away from me, hard as it may try.

Colposcopy Pains: What I Wish I Would Have Done

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This post is going to talk about gynecology stuffs, specifically: the colposcopy. If you don’t want to know about this fucked up vagina procedure, feel free to skip, or better yet, pass this on to someone who you love who has a vagina.

A colposcopy is done when your have an abnormal pap smear that warrants a closer look. It is a way to screen for precancerous or cancerous cells. A colposcopy truly can turn physically and emotionally painful quickly, and the emotional roller-coaster that can follow is real. I have had two colposcopies before, both yielding no further action. However the one I had today was a worse experience than the other two. Then again, maybe I have some kind of post-colposcopy amnesia that keeps me from running in the opposite direction of the gyno’s office. This is partly why I am writing this post; so that maybe – just maybe – I will take my own advice should I (better not) have to do this procedure again. Mostly I hope this information helps you be better prepared for a colposcopy in the event that you need one.

My vagina is hard to put a speculum into. At 42 it’s drier and, even with lube, my doctor had to try three different speculums before finding the one that wouldn’t cause me too much pain and help her see what she needed to. Even then, she had to take the speculum out, and re-insert it twice because the walls of my vagina kept pushing in. Because my vagina was being stubborn, this colposcopy lasted much longer than usual. I’ve heard most sources say the procedure takes around 5-10 minutes, but mine felt like it took 15-20 minutes. The pinching and prodding felt worse as time went by. I was nauseous, felt like I needed to go to the bathroom, and kept cramping. Every poke and pinch shot increasing pain through my body and towards the last 10 minutes I started crying ( I seriously told myself I wouldn’t cry this time). The pain was getting worse and I had a huge flood of painful emotions coming up. I felt helpless, ashamed, and angry. I wanted to love my body so much, and felt like somehow I betrayed it but having to go through this.

By the end I was dizzy and wobbly. It took me a little longer to get up off the table and get dressed. I felt like a wreak. The loneliness was still there overall I just felt icky. Thankfully I was given a pad for the inevitable bleeding that was to immediately follow. As I left the doctor’s office I dreaded going to work, I was emotionally raw, still in pain, and just wanted to lie down and hug my cervix. It’s been 8 hours and I am still feeling waves of pain on my cervix.

Looking back, here is what I wish I would have done.

  • Taken a Benzodiazepine. I have a prescription for Ativan that I use for significant anxiety. I don’t use it often but I sure could have used it this morning. I was so nervous, as I knew from past experience, that a colposcopy is painful. I’m not much of a talker, but I was quite the chatty Cathy with the physician’s assistant (who was a total love). I noticed it was hard for me to relax when the speculum was being inserted, which made the whole procedure more painful, and take longer.
  • Brought a friend. Something about this procedure leaves me feeling so scared and alone (even with a patient doctor and comforting physician’s assistant). I wish I would have brought the most compassionate person I know to be with me and hold my hand through the whole thing. Never underestimate the power of a safe compassionate presence. Plus, having someone to drive home would have been super nice.
  • Taken time off. I had the procedure done first thing in the morning, and I wish I would have taken the morning or day off. I was light-headed, sore, and walking slowly. Being able to lay in bed and drink hot tea would have been a great way to practice self-care.
  • Read this blog postSeriously. Her honesty and humor feel comforting to me now, and if I would have read the post BEFORE the procedure this morning, I would have done all of what I listed above.

Even if your vagina isn’t as stubborn as mine, a colposcopy is generally painful. I hope this information prepares you for the procedure. Many hugs to you!

Note: I do not have a sexual trauma history and have never had an abortion. If this is a part of your history, I highly recommend ramping up on support people and measures when having a colposcopy. The experience of having someone causing you pain in your vagina and not being able to make it stop can trigger strong feelings and memories of being violated and/or having painful vaginal procedures. Talk to your doctor before you schedule your colposcopy to see if they have any additional recommendations.

Holiday Vegan Recipe #11: Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie

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IMPORTANT: This pie needs to be set overnight in the refrigerator.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie

1/2 cup of vegan sugar
1 15 oz. can of pumpkin
1 cup of soy milk (plain) (or other non dairy milk)
1/2 block silken tofu
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 container of vegan cream cheese
1 tablespoon (or more) of maple syrup
Graham Cracker Crust (Keebler brand is vegan, but check for honey, whey, eggs as recipes may change).

Preheat oven to 400F.
Set pie crust aside.
In a large bowl, blend all other ingredients into a creamy texture.
Pour mixture into the crust and place in the oven at about 400F for 45 min – 1 hr 30 min (when the pie is firm it is ready to be taken out).
Place the pie in refrigerator overnight.

Vegan Holiday Recipe #10: Vegan Pancit

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Pancit is a Filipino noodle which can be made various ways. Growing up in Salinas, it was common to see Mexican and Filipino families working together and living in the same neighborhoods. My sister acquired this recipe from one of her long-time friends and for years has included this dish to our family Thanksgiving feasts. She only makes it on Thanksgiving, which makes it quite the special dish to look forward to.

IMPORTANT: Pancit does not cook like spaghetti so be careful not to overcook it as it will get soggy. All pancit needs is a short hot bath to soften. Be sure to read and follow the package instructions. You can find pancit noodles in Filipino and Asian Markets, and sometimes at World Market. My sister uses the Excellent Flour Stick brand, which is vegan.

NOTE: If you choose to use a mock meat other that Seitan or Tofurkey Sausage, make sure it is not heavily flavored (such as BBQ or Italian). Anything close to a pork-like flavor is ideal.

Vegan Pancit

Cooking oil
1 package Tofurky Sausage (not Italian flavored), Seitan, chopped
3/4 C. Celery, chopped
1/4 C. Green onions, chopped
3/4 C. Carrots, chopped
3/4 C. Mushrooms, sliced
Soy Sauce
Teriyaki sauce
1/4 C. Sugar
9 C. Water
8 ounces pancit noodles (check for whey or egg in ingredients)

Heat oil in a large frying pan and saute the mock meat for approximately 1-2 minutes.
Add in all chopped veggies and continue to stir-fry until the veggies appear cooked through.
Stir in in soy sauce and teriyaki sauce to taste.
Gradually add in sugar, a little at a time, to taste.
Once every thing is to your liking, remove form heat and set aside.

Pancit Noodles:
In a stock pot bring water to a boil
Place pancit noodles in the boiling water and push down with a cooking spoon to submerge the noodles
Boil for no more than 1-2 minutes. Be careful to not overcook as they will get very soggy.
Drain noodles and place in a large mixing bowl

Mix in stir fried ingredients to the pancit, a little at a time.
Before serving, place the mixed pancit in a casserole dish, cover with foil, and place in a 350F oven for 15-20 minutes.

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