Sunday, March 15, 2015

An old friend resurfaces

At one point in my life, I seriously considered becoming a lay member of a monastic community.  I wanted to leave the world of work and personal life, if only seasonally, and focus on contemplation, prayer, and learning more about my faith. Inspired by poet and author Kathleen Norris, I specifically explored how I might become a Benedictine oblate.  Many events and people drew me away from this plan; however, some of what I learned sustained me through life’s challenges. How wonderful to know that Saint Benedict will be rejoining my daily litany.

Saint Benedict, apart from being a founding father of Western monasticism, is also the patron saint of gall bladder disease and inflammatory disease.  Two birds with one stone, pun absolutely intended.  

One of the stories told about him is that some of the monks, newly introduced to him and his Rule, decided to rebel and attempted to poison him during Mass. Benedict survived because the chalice broke and a raven stole the bread before Communion.  

The surgery I will have in the summer is elective; in the words of my new surgeon,  I’m “not on fire.” Still it is reassuring to know that I can literally call on Saint Benedict.  

Saturday, March 7, 2015

My newest theme song

“Once I get you up there, where the air is rarified
We’ll just glide, starry-eyed
Once I get you up there, I’ll be holding you so near
You may hear angels cheer ‘cause we’re together,” Come Fly with Me”

La vida da vueltas. Life moves in cycles.  At least once in a week in our house, these cycles can be broken down into choreography, “all the way around…all the way around”. My daughter is now a competitive dancer and more than ever, she is dancing with all of her being. She dances with her limbs and, when her confidence is strong and the music fills her, with her eyes and her smile.  She is beginning to understand why dancing is such a wonderful expression of self and joy.

It has been a season of milestones. As we prepared for M to take part in her first competition, I underwent a new series of medical examinations. At first I suspected a flare-up in my IGM. So we began a round of antibiotics. After an ultrasound revealed changes in my gall bladder, I have been assigned a new surgeon (the wonderful surgeon who oversaw my recovery last years has retired) and I will soon be discussing next steps. I am feeling better physically but emotionally I have my moments of panic and wistfulness. Last year’s journey was challenging. I don’t want to miss out on M’s season of competitions and shows. I don’t want to miss out on another Carnaval. It doesn't take much for me to become tearful.  

As one of my favorite writers Hettie Jones writes, “See we tender women live on.” I was grateful to focus my energy on M’s dance journey. It was a whirlwind weekend in Dance World. Her costumes were adorable. Her makeup looked great.  My mom and I were schooled in the art of putting up thick, heavy hair into a French twist. I cried happy tears as M danced her first routine before the judges. The song they danced to felt like an anthem. 

When we got home, I continued to sing or whistle “Come Fly with Me, “both at home and at work.  Why had it resonated with me? The lyrics are a romantic invitation to travel.  The song is a reminder of the importance of taking opportunities to enjoy love and life. I realized that it is my time to fly with my daughter and my loved ones. No matter what doctors may tell me, my heart needs to rise and soar. Every day, I am invited to fly.  Every day, I will take flight. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Evolution of a half-marathoner

It began as a bet. Under the mentorship of the amazing Mama L of East Bay Team in Training, my fabulous best friend had recently earned her first half-marathon medal.  At the time, I didn’t run (ok that one time in college at the Q-Dogs party when someone shouted that there was a gun; I ran then), not since high school PE. In fact, I barely passed high school PE. I always had a twisted ankle, an infected bug bite, or cramps. Nevertheless, I had signed up for a fitness boot camp.  My best friend pointed out that I would likely run at each workout. I complained that I’d likely strain my bad ankle. So she bet me I would survive without injury and that if I did, I would run alongside her at the inaugural Rock N’ Roll San Jose Half-Marathon. Fine, I said.

It wasn’t fine. It was miserable. I could deal with everything but the running. I hated every second of it. The sweat. The breathing. The impact of my feet on cement. How damn slow I was. But I never got hurt. So I joined my best friend at the San Leandro Marina for my first training run with Mama L. She helped me adjust my posture and my stride. She taught me how to breathe while running (3 inhales through the nose, 1 exhale from the mouth). She was easily the most positive person I had met, full of insightful advice about life as a whole. Despite the physical challenge, I found myself motivated by the mental training. So I committed. 

In the eight and a half years I have been a runner, my commitment has never wavered. I’ve had to drop out of races at least three times, twice because of tendonitis in my bad ankle (see I wasn’t whining) and once due to my long recovery from surgery. But as soon as my body felt ready, I was back out on the asphalt and the trail. Running has become such a part of me. It is my time to meditate, to celebrate, and to just be. I owe my best friend and my running coach many thanks. 

Those first two miles are never going to be exhilarating. I will probably never get much faster. I may never look like a runner. But I run. 
* Today marks my fifteenth half-marathon!  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Because it's my year to review

I clicked on the Facebook year in review. It wasn’t all bad. As a matter of fact, it featured postings and photos relating to my samba school, my beautiful, loving tribe that truly deserves a piece of writing dedicated to them(2015 seems a good time to do so). While I smile when I remember all the dancing, laughing, and celebrating we did, I realize that the story of my year is much more complex. Facebook may have some matrix that detects the number of likes and comments; I know better.

In terms of my personal growth and the strength of my family, 2014 was a challenging and therefore inspirational year. We have weathered illness( and major surgery)and the death of loved ones among other troubles. I learned a long time ago that my attitude in trying moments is in my control. I can choose to love, smile, pray, breathe, be.

The following are seven photos from last year. I look forward to another year of love, unity, and peace.  
Great America Dance Day 2014 : By then, I was on my third round of antibiotics and within two weeks I would be hospitalized for emergency surgery. Pero ni modo, my baby comes first. I love to watch her dance so this day was no different. 
Photo by Elise Evans.  Look closely at my right shoulder. I am wearing Mr. Backpack. I had to make my final payment on my Carnaval costume even though I knew I most likely wouldn't be able to wear it. So even though I was sad, angry, and exhausted, I was happy to see my dance family practice. 
Mr. Backpack: gone but never forgotten

Photo by Rambo. The Four Generations photo he had planned since we decided we were going to Peru. 
My family at the most beautiful place on Earth  
Photo by Soul Brasil Magazine.  San Diego Brazilian Day Parade.  I finally did get to dance with my samba community.
My inspiration