Sunday, May 17, 2015

More than a parade

Last year, on the Sunday before Memorial Day, I rose before sunrise and began to get dressed for Carnaval.  I had asked to be able to sit on the float in full costume, my Wound-Vac covered in our theme colors.  I began the long process of applying my makeup.  As I applied the beautiful shades of color to my face, I began to feel sad. I had wanted so badly to be off the Wound-Vac.  True, I had never finished learning all the choreography. But the best part of performing in Carnaval is feeling a part of a body, a body of alegria and axe, a body which exudes grace, strength, and pure joy.  With the little machine literally attached to my body, I knew I exuded pain and weakness. I burst into tears and called my mom. “No puedo hacerlo. (I can’t do it.)”  She understood and plan B, which was to sit in the grandstand with M and my mom, went into effect. I took off my beautiful gown and donned my samba school tee.   I stopped crying, grabbed my camera, and headed to the parade. 
The morning of SF Carnaval 2014
I cheered loudly for SambaFunk; they were magnificent.  I also cried. I consider it one of the more painful moments during my recovery from surgery. That was nearly a year ago.

I came to SambaFunk through a lovely woman I met on Dance Party. A brilliant dancer, she had asked me to check out her samba community sometime. I expressed mild interest; I had taken two samba classes prior to my difficult pregnancy and had always wished I continued.  A few months passed before I finally took initiative and asked when I could join her in class. On a cold January evening, I walked into the second floor studio of the Malonga and within two hours, I had found a second home. King Theo’s wisdom, love, and positive energy inspired me to take on this new creative and physical challenge.
After my first SambaFunk class in January 2013. Photo by Elise Evans
At exactly this time, I was preparing for a job interview. I would be competing for a vice principal position in a different district. I am convinced the energy I received through my dance class helped boost my confidence. I got the job. I was learning how to be a carnavalesco at the same time I was learning to succeed in a new work environment.  SambaFunk has been more than a dance class. The energia it provides has been a blessing. 

Taking part in Carnaval has tapped into so many aspects of my personality.  I rediscovered the superhero in me as a Funky Gogo Love Bomber. I also learned half-marathons are nothing compared to parading nearly two miles in 6-inch platform boots.
GoGo Bombers doing their thing, SF Carnaval 2013. Photo by Yvel Sagaille.  

As I struggled with illness, I reexamined the grace and power that is inherent in being a woman, beautifully heralded in my incarnation as a regal Star Mother.  While I didn’t get to parade in Carnaval last year, I was able to take part in the San Diego Brazilian Day parade.  

SambaFunk, Brazilian Day San Diego 2014. Photo by Soul Brasil. 
My mother and M traveled with me and stood proudly on the sidelines cheering for us.  With each Carnaval, I learn more about costuming and parading.  I also realize it is more than a parade.

Obrigado SambaFunk for welcoming my little family into your embrace.
Rambo and M, Pan-African Film Fest 2014 
w M on the red carpet at the Pan-African Film Fest 2014
Thank you for the prayers and love you gave me when I feared the worst about my health and for your loyalty and support during my recovery. Thank you for helping me become the best version of myself.  
Preparing for SF Carnaval 2015, M's first Carnaval 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Not about me

My mom once told me that Mother’s Day was not about me, despite my role as a mother. She said it was a day to celebrate her and the women who came before me.  See, my momma doesn’t play; don’t let her sweet grandma demeanor fool you. She’s more a whoop your butt with the cucharon type of mom with an occasional Mommy Dearest moment. (What, like you don't have those?)
Tina, bring me the axe! 
Momma will tell you what is what.  So when she checked me on the Mother’s Day situation, I listened. She explained that is a day to honor the hard work and effort our mothers make.  She added that M and Rambo had to honor me.  So, instead of viewing Mother’s Day as a new holiday in my honor, it continues to be a day where I thank my mom.
Mom and M's first picture together
Despite all our battles, Momma is my role model. I know no other woman who has worked so hard outside and inside the home for her children.  I know no other woman who has parented siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, even play cousins by marriage(who are so trifling they don’t deserve her) with so much patience and generosity. No one keeps a clean house like my Momma. No one can cook a dinner party for dozens of people like my Momma.  No one best take on my Momma because she will let you have it.

My mom has shared that her own mom, mi abuelita Chelia, has always been tough and brutally honest.  She has told me stories of Chelia’s harsh discipline. Mama Chelia is known for her blunt rants on everything and everyone.  I remember a trip we made to Churin.  My mom, who suffers from chronic back pain due to a slipped disk, was miserable during the bumpy bus ride back to Huacho.  She gritted her teeth and braced herself to no avail. Tears of pain flowed silently down her cheeks. Chelia leaned over and asked, “Que le pasa a esta mujer? Estas llorando? Te voy dar un lapo si sigues llorando.”(Translation: Woman what is the matter with you? You crying? I will slap you upside your head if you keep crying.)A few moments later, she wiped my mom’s tears and rubbed her shoulders without another word.
Chelia sharing her wisdom with me 
Because motherhood isn’t only nurturing and caretaking, it’s butt-kicking, name-taking, history-making, and barrier-breaking.  To be a mother means to be a woman of strength and character. So to the assertive warriors who came before me, my models of strength, Feliz Día de las Madres.  

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Dearest Brett

Eight years ago, I was thirty-four.  I was depressed, overwhelmed, and doing little to get better.  I also lost one of my dearest friends to cancer.

Today is the anniversary of Brett’s death.  I honor the day annually. I also still celebrate his birthday.  While he lived, we began a tradition of gag gifts for his birthday including a bulk pack of Irish Spring soap to commemorate the time an aging barfly walked up, took a deep sniff, and wondered aloud why he smelled so good and a box of Lucky Charms because of the goofy leprechaun voice he would use on the phone at work.  It didn’t matter what we gave him. He loved it and made a big show of his appreciation. He was a man of great joy and gratitude.

Some people may wonder why I continue to honor Brett in the way I do. Brett had been my confidant and the voice of reason during a time when I wasn’t the best version of myself. A coach by vocation, he would encourage me as he might have one of his players: he was direct, results-driven, and often tough.  So he continues to be my coach.  For every training run and half-marathon I complete, it is Brett to whom I dedicate the final mile. Every time I face a challenge, I remember Brett during his final months.  While these thoughts may be saddening, they are also empowering.  My friend transitioned in strength, power, and joy.

This is a letter I never completed last May:
Dearest Brett,
When I was in the hospital nearly two weeks ago, I realized I was on your floor.  I don’t know which room you were in but I remember the elevator ride w T. I don’t remember the walk down the hall but I remember how you held my hand as I struggled not to cry. You told me not to worry.  That moment illustrated the man and friend you were. 

What you taught me was to persevere. And so I have. At work.  On training runs and at half-marathons.  Through illness. When I fight, I do so in the knowledge that you are in my corner.  

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sitcom storyline

La verdad and we ain't ashamed: some of our family is spent watching TV. We don’t just settle on the couch, Simpsons style, zoning out before anything. Now that M is 6, we are much more thoughtful about what we watch together. Gone are the days of watching trashy VH1 reality shows (thank goodness M was a baby and will never remember I Love Money) or hoping that the Glee storylines wouldn’t get too sexy because those musical numbers were so awesome (Rumor has it/Someone like you mashup days). In recent months, we have been watching sitcoms about families not unlike our own, namely Fresh off the Boat, Cristela, and Blackish. Interestingly enough, we are living one of the storylines.

Rambo’s mom now lives with us. M gets to enjoy spending more time with her Nana. Rambo is watching his use of profanity. Yes, the house is tidier. But, as witnessed on a few of the episodes of the previously mentioned sitcoms, living in a multigenerational household has challenges—and we don’t have the benefit of writers crafting a script that resolves those in half an hour.

Lest you think I’m living out a Monster-in-Law feud, I’m blessed.  Nana and I have never exchanged unkind words and probably won’t, given the positive nature of our relationship over the last seven years. An old friend of mine used to endure insults about her appearance from her longtime boyfriend’s mother.  In spite of that, she would bring the woman souvenirs from business trips, only to have them rejected.  Not surprisingly, the relationship ended when the boyfriend stated his intention to have his mother move in when they married.  I took notes on that situation. I am grateful for a decent suegra.

Nana has joined us in watching our shows. She was not too impressed with Cristela (too Americanized) and Blackish (she thought it wasn’t funny) but she did like Fresh off the Boat. What we love about watching these shows together is that they speak to and for us. They reflect loving families, families that we can relate to culturally, philosophically, and experientially. Besides, a thirty-minute time limit on any family problem is a good goal to have.