Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Deadlines are Necessary

During graduate school I had a strict monthly deadline to get work turned in to my advisor. The only break I took was the one day it took for her to get back to me with feedback, and the two or so weeks between the last deadline of the semester and the new semester. I carved out time whenever I could, as I've blogged about before. But with life as busy as it is, I don't write nearly as often as I'd like. As I work on two novels while revising another, I realize that deadlines got me moving. Knowing I had to get done by a certain date got me in front of the keyboard. I thought that having an agent would be the push I needed to keep that momentum. Unfortunately, that's not how it's been. While I know that I owe her work, it's not the same when I know she is patient and busy with her other clients. 

I have learned that it has to come from within. Maybe one day when I'm with a publisher I might have the kinds of deadlines that keep my fingers flying across keys, but as I wait for that I have to get batter at imposing deadlines for my writing. I don't know how best to do that. Not sure if I should write the deadline all over the house; set it as a task on my Outlook; create reminders on my phone, or all of the above. But, I have to do something because letting other things get in the way of writing is driving me crazy. Part of it is that it's a busy time, but then again, I stay busy, so that's a year-round excuse. 

The more I think about it, the more I think that my barriers are emotional. I am so close to the characters I've created that I don't want to give myself a deadline to be done with them. I want to keep developing them. I keep recalling a lecture I heard at school that said that while as the author we would love to sit in a coffee shop for hours and listen to our characters talk to each other, develop their relationships, and get to know them, our readers aren't satisfied with that. They want something to happen, which is completely understandable. As a reader, I want that, too. But as a writer, I want to keep my characters close and so knowing that I'm working towards the end of the story, their story, makes me sad. I don't want to lose them even though more characters will come. At least, I hope they will. It's the never-ending fear of many writers - myself included, that the story we are working on, the characters we are creating are the last ones we will ever write - our last great idea. That insecurity becomes a self-imposed obstacle, leads me to procrastinate, to play with my characters in my head, avoiding getting my ideas on the page. 

That said, I have to do better. I owe it to my characters, myself and my desire to be a writer. Even if no one ever wants to read my writing, I can't keep it in my head forever, I have to be brave and determined enough to set a deadline and finish their story.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thankful and Thoughtful

At this time of reflecting on all that I am thankful for, I count the same things I did last year:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • A job I enjoy
  • Writing
  • Feeling loved
  • My health
  • The health of my daughter
  • New experiences
  • Travel
  • Laughter
  • Strength
With those thoughts also come some reflections that elicit some sadness. Among all the good, I have had moments when I have thought that I am grateful that Warren hasn't had to experience things that would have caused him pain or disillusionment.

Most of the time thinking of what Warren has missed makes me angry. I hate that he missed the birth and milestones of his nephew; his sister's wedding; his parents' visits; our daughter's 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th birthdays; my graduation; seeing his brother-in-law live out his dream of being an entertainment wrestler; being at his best friend's wedding; and the every day occurrences that bring joy and energy to life.

On the flip side, there have been some tough times that have made me think, "Thank God Warren isn't here to see/experience this." Though brief, those thoughts in themselves are painful. I wish that Warren was here, period, but the reality is otherwise. In light of that, there are times when I can imagine his pain at seeing some of the things that have happened. Whether it's within the family, among friends, or the turn our society is taking, I am thankful that he is spared that pain. Yet, I would love to have his words of support and arms wrapped around me in assurance. I felt safe and strong in our union, like whatever I was facing would be OK. In those times when I ache for that feeling, I am slightly comforted knowing that he is in a place where that pain cannot touch him, where his joy cannot be interrupted. I am stronger because of what he taught me, and while it is not easy dealing with those moments of insecurity about whatever is causing me grief, time has taught me how to overcome. I have a wonderful network of support - some of it put in place because of Warren being in my life, and other relationships strengthened because of having been his partner. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Celebrating a birthday in the wake of last week's election results sucks. I didn't feel the joy it takes to truly celebrate. But, when it came down to it, there were two feelings I needed and those were love and safety and I got both, which merits celebrating.

As I wondered what to blog about this week, the words love and safety played through my head like a chorus, and I knew that was what my heart wanted to share. But the catch was that I wasn't sure how to articulate it in a genuine way that didn't come off as gloating, or paranoia. Then I reminded myself that I just turned thirty-seven  damn it, and it's OK to be proud! I also realized that paranoia is fleeting and I won't allow it to take residence within, which took its power away and made it palatable to explore. 

Taking stock of my life, I can't think of a time when I didn't have the security of love. From my parents and extended family, to teachers and pastors, I could read their love languages and that helped me feel secure in myself. It built my confidence and got me through the times when my ego was hurt, or my faith was rocked. In adulthood, I have the same base of love that continues to give me strength. Actively thinking about the love I have in my life, and the love I've known, I am humbled and strive to pass it along. My love language is to serve, but I understand that doesn't always translate. I have been trying to show love in other ways, and while it is a work in progress, I am committed to becoming versed in several love languages. Those whom I love deserve nothing less.

As I thought about the love in my life, I felt less afraid. These thoughts were with me as I drove my daughter and I two hours across rural Iowa on the eve of my birthday. It was dark and for the first time in over a decade, I feared for our safety on the road. I had tried to stay away from the media since the election, but I hadn't been able to escape the stories of hate and increasing assault happening against Latinos and women. When I saw that I needed gas, my heart raced and my stomach got the queasy feeling it had all week. I tried to calculate in my head how far I could get on E, while chastising myself for not filling up when it was light out. I also gave some serious thought to becoming a gun owner. Never in my life has that been a thought, yet here I was considering the logistics of living with a gun, while keeping the kids in my life away from it. I have never wanted to own a gun. There is nothing wrong with gun ownership, my dad has had one since I was a kid and I understood that it helped him feel safer raising his kids in a place where gun violence was a part of every day life. But for me, I wanted to believe that I would never have the kind of fear that would make me want to own a weapon that can take a life so swiftly, and yet here I was wishing I had that kind of power because I needed to stop for gas. With these thoughts came anger. 

I have survived thirty-seven years without a gun. I didn't want to change that. I wanted to continue to believe that I was safe and a weapon of that magnitude was unnecessary. I had survived gang-infested neighborhoods and living on my own in cities where I didn't know a living soul. I have been raising a daughter on my own for the last four years and never felt that I could not keep her safe, but at that moment I questioned whether I could really do that. I calmed myself with the thought that my family was waiting for me at the end of this trip with warm soup and birthday wishes. They expected the brave woman they knew and loved to walk through their door, and that was exactly what I was going to deliver.

In the end, I got gas through a pounding heart and being diligent of my surroundings. It was uneventful and I was grateful. I finished that drive feeling less anxious, less afraid and more like myself again. By the time I had gotten all the hugs and kisses that comes from walking into a family event, I felt like my armor was back on, carried on the inside and made up of love.

I have lived a good thirty-seven years. Come what may, I plan to love and be loved well beyond another thirty-seven.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

My Home?

I purposely stayed away from the media last night. I cooked a healthy meal for my family, we listened to music, read a bit and stayed away from social media and television. I went to bed praying the United States wouldn't choose a man who brags about groping women, over a qualified woman. I woke up to the opposite. In my quest for feeling like someplace is "home" I find that Iowa is not home, nor does it want to be. If I am honest, America doesn't want me to feel at home here, either. Last night proved that my neighbors, colleagues and fellow citizens stand for cis-gendered, able-bodied, white males and sent that message loud and clear.

Maybe it came as such a shock because my circle is so liberal. For over a year my feed has been filled with messages of denial that last night's results could be possible. I was shielded from the masses who want to see women and ethnic people "in their place" so I had no idea just how many of them there are. I grew to believe that we're beyond the kind of thinking and actions that are so reminiscent of pre-WWII. 

I grossly underestimated the power of fear and sexism that pervades so deep within the core belief systems of America.

To say I am disappointed would be an understatement. I am sad, hurt and feel betrayed by my country. Politics can be what they are, but at the end of the day, in my heart I know that this election was not about policies and government. It was about privilege taking its place above all else once again. 

Because the news and other media are taking so much time to dissect this election, I won't attempt it. I wish that my previous feelings of hope and belief that at the core of us all, we want to be good and kind will return, because right now it is a gaping hole.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

History Repeats Itself, but How Can it Not?

If we don't learn from history, we're doomed to repeat it. I'm paraphrasing a well-known quote by George Santayana, a Spanish philosopher. His point makes perfect sense. When we don't learn from our past, we continue to make the same mistakes. But, how can we expect to learn from a history we are never taught?

The sad truth is that most of us learned a watered down version of our history and did not question it. Maybe I shouldn't speak for others. I accepted it. At least, until eighth grade. Throughout my early years I enjoyed history class and the textbooks used to teach it. I had full trust in my teachers and school and expected that they told the whole truth. However, I was sitting in US History in Mr. Boyd's eighth grade class when I read a paragraph about Puerto Rico's role in United State's history. ONE PARAGRAPH. I remember flipping the page, thinking that the rest was on the other page. After all, how can a place that is neither its own country, nor a state, yet be so closely aligned with the United States only have a paragraph worth of information? I remember being pissed off that the publisher spent less than a quarter of a page on my history, and even more amazed that this could happen at a school named after a Puerto Rican poet! I asked my teacher about it and he stumbled in his response, trying to placate me with the little knowledge he had about the subject. I wasn't upset with him. He had he same limited history education that I did. I was upset with the whole education system that didn't think I was worth a complete history, that didn't think my history mattered. Flipping through the book, the same treatment was given to the Civil Rights Movement, Native Americans, and the role of the other Americas in regards to the US. Whole chunks of history were completely omitted. 

As I got older and pursued these topics on my own, the exclusions made less and less sense. How are we supposed to avoid the past if we don't know the whole picture? I certainly did not know the whole picture about what happened to pave the way for me to attend the same public school as my German and Polish neighbor, or why certain members of my family could serve in the military, yet not vote for their own Commander in Chief. I did not know that lives had been lost to grant me, and other women the right to vote, or the intricacies of the many wars that has divided our world. What good was my education if it wasn't showing me the true story and all the gory details that led to systemic issues affecting me as a Latina, as a female, as an American? How was I supposed to influence my world when I didn't know what exactly had shaped it to begin with? It was all so unfair and made so little sense. I wish I could say that my daughter doesn't face the same questions, but the respect and regard for accurate history has not evolved. Some can argue that technology helps remediate this, but it only works if you actively seek the knowledge and sadly, that's not always possible if access, time or both are limited. 

On the flip-side, digital information can easily be manipulated. You should question what you see on the Internet, and sadly, that's the same mindset that makes it easy to discredit the historic artifacts shared through this means. We wonder what's been doctored, or PhotoShopped. We aren't used to this information as part of the history we're taught, so where does it fit? How can we remember what we haven't accepted as truth? Knowledge is power and knowledge comes from experience - that of our own and those that came before us. It is unfair to expect that we learn from something that has never been shared. When we look at current events, how can we look to the past to help us resolve the future if the past that has been taught is incomplete?

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