Monday, February 8, 2016

Red carpet ready

Tradiciones.  I wanted my daughter to experience traditional celebrations from an early age. Quite a few we established as our own family though neither Rambo nor I had experienced them as children including setting up a Nativity crèche during Advent, building an altar for Dia de los Muertos, and celebrating SuperBowl Sunday with our extended family of college friends.  Some I inherited from my own childhood: celebrating Nochebuena, honoring El Senor de lo Milagros in October, and being aware that 28 de Julio was as important to my folks as 4th of July.  Some I continued from my single days: participating in the Dance-Along Nutcracker and hosting an Oscar party.  These are our traditions. We celebrate them year after year with our loved ones. They help us savor the seasons and make the most of moments. 

The kiddos approved of the 2015 host
In recent years, the Oscars have gotten increasingly disappointing. They have always been god-awful long. They have always had their share of too-long speeches and ill-conceived musical numbers. They have always been really white.  I have watched the Oscars since I was a junior in high school and the Oscars have rarely featured folks who look like me. Now I love J-Lo but she don’t look a thing like me. Besides, she is nowhere near winning one of the coveted gold statues. In any case, the closest someone I can truly relate to was even close to an Oscar was when my man crush por siempre and once-upon-a-time dinner mate Benjamin Bratt was escort to Julia Roberts.  So, yes, #Oscarssowhite and yet here we are, a household of brown people and our multiculti clan of friends and family still gathering over a feast to watch the damn awards.  You may wonder why.

Sometimes I ask myself that question. Rambo pleads with me at least once a year to give up and host an Alma Awards party.  My one-word answer: tradition.  When I was a misunderstood artsy high schooler, film became a passion.  I would hop on BART and head to the Embarcadero or downtown Berkeley and check out all the Best Picture or Foreign Film nominees. Once I could drive, I’d make my way to the Piedmont.  As with books, movies became a vehicle to unwind or an opportunity to let my own creativity be inspired.  So, watching the Oscars became a way to celebrate some of those films and performers.

Before the New Parkway opened in Uptown, we mourned the loss of the original
The annual Oscar party became a way to share my pastime with my friends but more importantly to bring folks together.  Now, in our 13th year, my close friends expect my Oscar party. They know I will choose a theme, that I will cook main dish and sides in conjunction with the theme, and that we will roll out our own red carpet. On occasion, I have given out Oscars for best movie-themed costume. My brother is our Meryl Streep, having won the award the most times (twice). Now that the little ones are older, they will cheer for the Best Animated Film nominees and maybe admire a dress or two.  The grown folks will vie for the award for best commentary. With Rambo in the mix, even more shade is thrown. If I was more Twitter –savvy, I’d live tweet some of our zingers.  We have a great time, even when the awards show is a fail as when poor James Franco and Anne Hathaway nearly killed us with their ill-advised co-hosting gig.


If throwing an Oscar party in light of all the boycotts this year makes you question my ability to think critically, then question away. Folks have been questioning my “wokeness” for years.    It’s my party and I will cry or laugh if I want to.  I’m well aware of how race and ethnicity have played out in Hollywood and it is maddening and frustrating.  But canceling a party that loved ones remember fondly won’t change that mona que se viste de seda.  Chris Rock and I will be holding it down. Besides, maybe Queen Bey will crash the party and let everyone have it with more “Formation.”  One can hope. 
M's 2011 red carpet look

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Surreality check

Lynchian: refers to a particular kind of irony where the very macabre and the very mundane combine in such a way as to reveal the former's perpetual containment within the latter. David Foster Wallace

It has been a while since I needed to escape reality through television shows.  Usually I watch TV shows that parallel my family life like Blackish or Fresh off the Boat (TV show parallels), serve as bonding time with M as with Top Chef or Chopped Junior, or feed my craving for intelligent horror, The Returned
 Definitely in my Top 5 of Best TV shows EVER
Last week offered the return of my beloved The X-Files

Rambo met me at my parents’ house so we could watch the premiere with my dad.  Due to recent events
(and nope,  not at home), I decided to Netflix and chill with one of my all-time favorites, Twin Peaks. 
You may wonder how a spooky, surreal telenovela (folks who are insulted by the comparison need to check out Cuna de Lobos and El Maleficio; telenovelas aren’t always big hair, big fights, and big weddings) from the 90s could serve as an antidote to reality. 
Bad but badass villain; she's my secret Patronus
Ernesto Alonso serving in El Maleficio; must find on Netflix stat 
Twin Peaks hasn’t lost its edge over the decades; it is as creepy, funny, and mind-boggling as ever. From its lovely yet nightmarish soundtrack to its iconic images, I felt transported to that small town where not one thing is as it seems.  On a Saturday afternoon following what has been a mentally challenging week at work, it was the right counterpoint. 

I have learned, after years of hard work (and, as I like to joke, thousands of dollars), that my thoughts and emotions are best checked.  In other words, I can’t let my mind wander.  #icant.  So after this week of bizarre and confusing events, I could not sit around and think about them for too long. I seriously compromised my health and my career at one point in my life.  I realized I had to learn how to heal. I committed to change.  I know I thrive through routine, discipline, and spiritual practice.  I train for half-marathons. I train for Carnaval. I pray the rosary daily. When I’m really good, I pray the Liturgy of the Hours. My schedule and calendar, sometimes the cause of controversy with certain family members and friends, is full, mostly with cherished events and activities.  This is on purpose. This is deliberate.  I made a commitment to health that will not waver.  So, when faced with others who haven’t yet learned that important lesson and perhaps never will, I need a break.  Why not be entertained while being comforted? 

Reality can be daunting.  Indulging in some fiction that is somewhat stranger than the truth helps me.  As for confronting those strange truths, I am grateful that I now have the mental strength to face them all.  I also  have the experience to know I can't do much to help those who do not.  (Marsupium crotalus epidemic)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The plague on all our houses

I know your pain.  My hand has been ripped to shreds.  My back hurts from all the puncture wounds.  My hand spins when I think of all the time expended, all the words unheeded, all the energy I could have spent on my family, myself, even household chores.  Most of us have suffered from this condition at one time or another; in fact, many of us will continue to battle it for the rest of our lives. The scientific name is Marsupium crotalus, more commonly known as rattlesnake in pocket. (See also being played, taken for a ride, used and abused, bamboozled, or doormat syndrome.) 
The condition is symptom-free at its onset. After initial contact with the viper, the patient may not notice any negative changes. They may interact with the infected reptile for months, even years, before the bite occurs.  Marsupium crotalus is the result of the slow-acting toxins released from the snakebite.  Marsupium crotalus may include the following symptoms: chest pains, headaches, stiff neck, clenched jaw, back spasms, depression, anxiety, anger, irritable bowel syndrome, and a host of other physical and emotional complications. While treatable through a regimen of self –care, including therapy, it can recur through a person’s lifetime.

You may wonder why anyone would willfully put a rattlesnake in one’s pocket. There are a number of reasons why someone would take such a risk. The person may suffer from empathy, the need to nurture, hope in someone’s untapped potential, or consistently feel the urge to help others. Many people want to “pay it forward” in an effort to give back to the community at large. Occasionally, people who have pre-existing conditions may have compromised immunity to Marsupium crotalus. In any case, it is highly unlikely that the rattlesnake will successfully sublimate its instinctual need to attack. Sooner or later, someone is going to get hurt.

I too have Marsupium crotalus.  My therapist asked me a few months ago how one recognizes a rattlesnake.  I said the rattling tail is the giveaway.  She pointed out that the rattlesnake gives fair warning. I agreed that I don’t have any good reason to pick up the damn thing. The snake, and all the snakes I have known, revealed from day one what it was. The key is learning to head in the other direction when I hear those cascabeles shaking. 

I have previously written about my failings in helping others. (betrayal blues) I have been disappointed and devastated by the negative outcomes of helping relatives, professional colleagues, romantic partners, and friends. I wish I could say I am completely healed from Marsupium crotalus. After all I have experienced, some of which has been chronicled in previous writing, I thought I was cured. The last several months have taught me that I still need to work on being aware, assertive, and self-protective.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a resource to someone who is struggling. I can’t control how the person I help will respond. I can control how far I will go in offering my support. Sometimes the best choice I can make is the one to walk away, to not engage, and to care from a safe distance. 



Sunday, January 10, 2016

The battle against girl drama

Hurt that's not supposed to show
And tears that fall when no one knows
When you're trying hard to be your best
Could you be a little less

Do you know what it feels like for a girl
Do you know what it feels like in this world
What it feels like for a girl

Strong inside but you don't know it
Good little girls they never show it
When you open up your mouth to speak
Could you be a little weak …”What it feels like for a girl,” Madonna

During the early weeks of my pregnancy, I was convinced my baby was a boy. I immediately began referring to “him.” When I went for my ultrasound, I saw my baby’s face but not gender. My baby kicked and rolled quite actively.  While at work a few weeks later, I received the phone call revealing my child's gender. She was a girl. I sat at on my desk and wept for several minutes. I wept with joy, fear, and sadness.  I would be parenting a girl.

I call them girl mommy woes. I know parenting is tough work and can sometimes be emotionally exhausting, whether you’re a mother or father, whether you’re raising daughters or sons. As a woman, I struggle with raising my daughter to face the challenges in dealing with other girls.

The infamous holiday talent show from _Mean Girls_ 
“Girl drama” is a problematic term for me. I know it’s real and yet I wish it wasn’t. Those struggles hurt M and they hurt me.  I find myself talking about other girls and women with vicious judgment and even rage. Rambo helps to balance out those moments. Though he is quick to communicate with teachers if he senses any pattern of bullying against M or other girls in her class, he also reminds me that M has the power to respond(or not) to these situations.  Me ha costado mucho trabajo, I have worked my tail off to calm down, breathe, and not let M see how angry these situations make me.

What my daughter is experiencing isn’t anything unique.  Almost all women have faced and continue to face gossip, exclusion, and verbal harassment. It's especially difficult when your closest friends are involved. That's what hurts M the most, when her "besties" opt to leave her out of activities or make mean comments to her. Like many women have and do, M has to contend with the mean girls. Earlier this week, M wore a pair of sky blue short shorts to practice. I had initially purchased them for her use at dance, specifically for the dance convention workshops she will soon attend. Rambo and I have complained about the hemline time and time again pero mija es muy hardheaded (wonder where she gets that?).  She has worn these shorts to practice at least three times with no negative feedback from either coach.  One of her friends proceeded to tell her in a rude voice, “You shouldn’t be wearing those because you’re going to get kidnapped.” The girl then added, “Everyone can see your butt.” Two other friends, including one of M’s closer friends, chimed in with “you look naked. You’re naked.”  M chose to move elsewhere in the practice formation and near three friends who seldom or never get involved in altercations.  M didn’t cry until she was safely in my car on the way to dance class. I reassured her that she had done the right thing and I offered other options such as informing the coach and letting the girls know she did not like their comments.  By the next day, those same girls were being nice and sought out M during meals and recess.  M shrugged it off by observing “they are not my bffs” and that “they need to stay in their lane.” She also pointed out that she knows which friends are truly best for her.  
Mean Girls antidote: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 

M is 7.  What will be like when she is 11? 13? 16? I admire M’s strength, her confidence, even that hard-headedness that frustrates me at times.  I’m no longer in control of the people spends her time with and definitely not in control how she interacts with them. I know these issues will continue over the years; shoot, I still deal with this kind of nonsense at work (grown women upset over Halloween costumes!) 
50s gals; apparently this group costume theme caused a negative reaction
I will continue to provide M with opportunities to be part of positive communities such as her dance studio, with SambaFunk, and with our extended family of lifelong friends.  

Dance sister silliness 
Rambo and I will offer advice on how to be proactive when dealing with interpersonal challenges. I will continue to check myself, to not let my anger and resentment over my own girl drama scars hurt my daughter unnecessarily