Sunday, May 22, 2016

The accidental artist date

When I was in college and working as an English tutor and writing workshop leader, my wonderful supervisors introduced me to the practice of artist dates. An artist date is an opportunity for a writer, artist, or any person to go on a solo date and enjoy an activity alone as a way to foster creativity and self-love. It could be a solo visit to an art museum or a long hike or something as simple as blowing bubbles. We were encouraged to make a regular practice of artist dates and to journal about our experiences. I loved the idea; it appealed to the introvert in me.  It was a practice I continued over the years. 

Now as a busy mom, artist dates may happen once a year.  Since my daughter’s school calendar has a different spring break than the district in which I work, I usually indulge in a spring day where I visit my favorite cafĂ©, volunteer, or maybe catch a movie neither Rambo nor M will enjoy.  I savor those quiet moments as I do my writing time or my morning runs.  I like me time.  It gives me a chance to recharge. 

Recently, as part of ongoing staff development, I took a self-care survey.  My results in the relationships category weren’t surprising but nevertheless disappointing.  It seems I haven’t been giving my friends enough of my time.  In the spirit of reaching out, I asked an old friend to join me for a film festival and dinner. It would give us a chance to reconnect while allowing me to see a rare film by my favorite director.  I bought the tickets, checked the train schedule, and anticipated a happy reunion.

OG Chicas del monton: early Almodovar divas
Due to unexpected circumstances, I ended up on an artist date.  While I felt worried for my friend, I decided to enjoy the film and the time alone.  It felt like a trip back through time: a 1980 film from the incomparable Almodovar in a classic Mission District movie house followed by a cheap slice of pizza in an old school pizza joint.  Since I was alone, I was able to get back to M while the sun was still up. It was a genuine treat.


Being my own best friend took years of practice. My accidental artist date was a great reminder of the lessons that relationship has taught me.  Unforeseen changes don’t have to be inconvenient or uncomfortable.  Alone doesn’t have to feel lonely.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

M's boho mama

“…what she gave instead was her own DNA, her own boho mama-in-the-black-stockings self, and she trusted that this would be enough.” Lisa Jones, Bulletproof Diva

Five months ago, one of my dance sisters approached me via social media inbox. An outspoken woman, she prefaced her comments by saying she likes to say things directly to folks. What followed was a discussion about my relationship to M.  The conversation truly touched me. It not only made my day, a typical busy weekday at work (which has provided endless writing material, nuff said!), but it helped me reflect on my motherhood for weeks and even months.  How unlikely and yet so necessary that I had the opportunity to do so. 

Motherhood happens.  My choice to have M and the million choices I have made in raising her have sometimes been unconventional and non-traditional, but never irreverent or irresponsible. Because while parenting is intuitive and flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants spontaneous, it is also a huge undertaking. It is THE big deal. No amount of writing and talking about tiger moms or helicopter moms or free range moms or any combination of these can change the fact that motherhood and fatherhood matter.  Yes, I don’t often plan how situations will play out; I can’t.  My seven-year-old has been her own person for as long as she could speak and stand up on her own; basically I’ve been dealing with this independent-minded individual since she was 10 months old. Every day I am learning something new about her, about myself, and about the world through our relationship.  When I get a rare opportunity to really think, reflect, and plan for our relationship, I take it and revel in it. 


About a month and a half ago, one of my closest friends asked to interview me as part of her women’s studies project. She had decided to focus on the parenting choices of the children of immigrants. We enjoyed a deep discussion on motherhood.  I wasn’t discussing writing or dance or education and yet all these folded into the conversation.  That is how my experience as a mother has evolved.  M experiences the vast majority of my experiences with friends, culture, food, and the arts. What we miss from traditional play dates, I hope is more than made up for in making memories.  

Post samba class selfie 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Ivan Drago mode

A not-so-funny thing happened on the first Friday of Lent.  I had not yet experienced my Lenten Miracle so an incident that occurred prompted a reaction more intense than You’re Ruining My Advent.  I went into Ivan Drago mode. 

Ivan Drago, for you non-Rocky franchise fans, is the foe in Rocky 4. 
He is the Russian fighting machine played by Ms. Grace Jones’ then-boyfriend , Rhodes Scholar-turned-model Dolph Lundgren.  Drago is methodical, ruthless, and cold as the Siberian tundra.
Drago's statement of purpose
Not only was he physically superior to Philly’s finest, Rocky Balboa, but Drago was mentally Teflon.  
No heart of gold here.  In fact, you could argue Drago was heartless.  
Serving up sideeye
When questioned about the possibility that he could fatally injure Rocky in their international title bout, Drago utters his famous line, “If he dies, he dies.” 

What I could possibly gain or learn from such a character?  I know there’s value in protecting myself and handling business.  After all, I struggle with rattlesnake in pocket syndrome(Marsupium Crotalus); I’ve been betrayed by those I trusted, even as recently as this year. I also struggle with fear of intimidating personalities.  I am making it a priority to tap into my fighting spirit. (#innermongoose) At some point, I need to fully commit to the professional and personal work before me.   I need to focus on completing my goals. So yes, I will go Ivan Drago if the situation warrants it.  

Sunday, April 3, 2016

A reader's reflections

By Emily Dickinson
“We are all connected. You can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind.” Mitch Albom

“To survive you must tell stories.” Umberto Eco

Tengo mucho que hacer and yet I always make time, somehow, when my alma mater comes calling. Every year, I read scholarship essays.  I may have to carve out time between mommy duties after busy workdays. It is time well spent.

My task is to read 25 scholarship applications in a week’s time. The applicants are asked to detail their extracurricular activities and respond to three short essay prompts. They are asked to discuss their lives, their leadership, and their goals. As a former English teacher and Upward Bound teacher, I have spent hours helping high school students tell their story to colleges in a way that is authentic and compelling.  It is no easy task. The scholarships for which I serve as a reader are earmarked for first-generation college students.  More often than not, these young people balance family caretaking and part-time jobs with their busy schedules of honors and AP classes, club meetings, practices, and volunteer work.  Their stories are worth hearing.

During my recent reading gig, I read stories that have made an impact on me.  While some applications were less than engaging, there were some who stood out. My heart ached for the student with a lifelong health challenge.  I felt teary-eyed for the young farmer whose reflections on love of land and animals were wise and poignant.  I pondered the limitless courage of the child who raised both parents while they battled addiction.  While I may never know whether or not these young people won the awards or admission, I did my small part to help.


I cannot lose sight of the opportunities I was given. I was one of those students.  Someone saw my potential and helped me.  I will not stop offering those opportunities to others.  In return, I am blessed with the gifts of inspiration and motivation.  I am reminded of my purpose. 
Image by Tom Grey