The Shooting Arrow: LMU Acceptance

28 Mar

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Just as I expected, I received my acceptance letter from LMU to begin my Masters Program as an Art Therapist. I knew it. For almost 3 years I worked on my pre-requisite coursework on a part time basis at Los Angeles City College. I worked very consistently to get the best grades possible. I wanted my transcript from LACC to have straight A’s. I almost succeeded … I messed up when I couldn’t finish my Spring semester bc of my father’s passing.

When my father’s life came to a halt, so did my goals and plans for school. Everything stopped…for several months. I decided to continue pursuing my educational and career goals one day before the final class to complete my coursework began. And so I started up again 6 months after my father’s passing. Two part time jobs, one psychology class left, an entrance exam, and a 15 page autobiography were needed to complete my application for grad school. 

Everything was turned in! I met the deadline, checked every item off. I had a complete application and I knew I would get priority. Many students apply without having all the coursework completed. That’s because you need 12 units of Psych and 18 units of art coursework, this translates to 10 college classes. And so i waited.

While waiting, several people asked me, “well what happens if I dont get it”. To which I always replied, “Nah, I’m getting in, I did all the work”. I think it was Gurri or someone who said, “So you are shooting  with just one arrow and hitting the target”. YUP!

Finally I had my interview. I prepared myself and walked in with a lot of confidence. I had more questions for the interviewer than he had for me. He told me they would only accept 19 people into the program. Yikes! But i still walked out of the interview owning it. I had been very intentional through and through. Going to ceremony and sweat lodge and always putting that prayer forward. I am so grateful for my spiritual community that has grounded me in so many ways.

I am very grateful to the people who took the time to write me a letter of recommendation: Jeanne S., Camille A., and my art professor Robin Adsit. It was so hard to ask for a letter but it was my last opportunity to apply for grad school. This was it. Afterwards I continued to work on my autobiography. Again, I’m very thankful to my friends who went through each page and read my story. I know it was a lot to do for me, thank you for your feedback and encouragement: Maria Teresa, Maria R., Renaldo and Diana, Liliana, Sarita, Brenda Y., and  Barnica. To Sonji, Vanessa, and Xaris, thank you for being patient with me, we had a beautiful wedding to plan and I needed a bit of time to jump into gear with you ladies. Also my partner Jose, who simply continued to support me, lending me his apartment so that I could finish my application without any distractions. One more mention, when I was an undergraduate at UCSC, I participated in a program where peers and mentors supported me to have the courage to apply to graduate school. I wanted to keep my promise to myself and to the program that one day I would earn a graduate degree, it took  almost 7 years to believe in this dream again, but it was always deep inside. Thank you to the FMP 2004/2005 cohort, to EOP, and my mentors Paul Ortiz, Rosie Cabrera, & Gloria Chacon for inspiring that dream. Oh my goodness, and if I have to go even farther back … There have been countless people that have supported my journey into higher education. Period. This brown womyn needed all the encouragement possible!!! 

SO that’s it. That’s the big update. I sent my commitment letter in the mail today. I start grad school in the Fall …

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My father, a passenger in my car, my cumbia dance partner

25 Feb

“By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I write because life does not appease my appetites and anger… To become more intimate with myself and you. To discover myself, to preserve myself, to make myself, to achieve self-autonomy.” – Gloria Anzaldua

Writing has increasingly become the manner in which I self-medicate. In a world where we seek to be seen and validated, writing holds the space I need to unfold, hang, and air my pensive sensitivities. I share stories that need telling. And most importantly, I rest my mind and my heart because I’ve acknowledged myself. It’s a completely selfish act.

As I process the grief that continuously reappears in my life, I discover triggers that deeply affect my state of being. Seemingly unimportant experiences that remind me of my father, reminding me of his death, weave in unexpectedly. I understand now, this is how my grief appears.

My father went to Trade Technical College and became a certified diesel engine specialist. He was a mechanic on Bandini Blvd. between the 710 Freeway and Soto Blvd. I recently began working at a middle school in East Compton and use the 710 to get to and from work. Going South on the freeway is perfectly fine, but driving North begins to distract my mind from traffic. I head in the direction of the memories in which I would meet my father at his place of work. The 710 was the most accessible way to get to him, exiting on Bandini West, driving past the smelly slaughterhouse, and driving into a large diesel truck service station. My father would be underneath a big rig motor and he would crawl out in his navy blue mechanic uniform with a giant wrench in his hand. Always thirsty from the heat, he would give me a half-hug because he was sweaty and filled with engine grease on his hands and arms. This was the way he worked for almost 3 decades. This is the way I remember him.

Driving home today on the 710 really push my feelings in a heavy way. I sensed the memory through my body and shook it off. I don’t want to drive on the 710 North again. It triggers my grief. Sadness becomes my passenger as a search for the next highway home.

To end this piece in a good way, I have to write about dancing. My father LOVED to dance. L-O-V-E-D. He would laugh and carry a huge smile when he moved around on a dance floor. He enjoyed live music, Peruvian dishes, and a cold drink. He would invite the ladies to dance, panuelo waving in his hand, fancy white shoes shuffling and spinning. Only once did I have the chance to ask my father to dance with me. Mirrors of each other, in that moment I discovered that my love for dancing was a genetic bond I share with him.

I went out dancing on Saturday night, my left leg still feels the cramps from the lack of stretching and inconsistent exercise. Whatever. I dance like I mean it and I will sweat, jump, spin, groove, and rock to the music. My cumbia is my dad’s cumbia, and I remember him this way. He is my dancing partner on the dance floor.

There are other triggers that take me to the memories of my father. When they show, I just pray that I “handle it” with grace and patience, never with shame. 

head mecanic

Freedom looks different to each person

9 Feb

“Freedom is a pretty strange thing. Once you’ve experienced it, it remains in your heart and no one can take it away.” – Chinese Artist Ai Wei Wei

Across the world there is a multitude of confines that place limitations on our bodies and our expression bc of political, patriarchal, and/or corrupt reasons. I simply don’t want to talk about that right now. It is my responsibility to acknowledge that it exists. It is your responsibility to understand the many ways in which it happens everyday, almost everywhere.

I relate to Ai Wei Wei’s expression, not in a political sense, but in a spiritual sense. The first thing that came to mind when I heard this was the way in which i have felt the most free when I am out in nature. If you have the opportunity to leave the city and visit a forest, a mountain, a river, or a cliff overlooking the ocean, then you know that the fresh air you breath satisfies more than your lungs. There is calmness in the mind from a walk into a damp forest that crosses a creek whose running water makes that mellow melody of water over rocks and pebbles. That moment when you decide to take off your shoes and let your feet touch the cold water is freedom.

Freedom

I have been fortunate to travel, backpack, snorkel, hike volcanoes, and make my own fires for warmth. I have tasted sweet, clear running water from rivers that fill as the sun melts the snow on the mountain i can point to. I’ve been tumbled and lifted, cradled and cleansed by ocean waves that make me feel weightless. I have felt powerful in my arrival to lost lakes and morning dawns after the pain and struggle of mile long uphill terrains. I have felt freedom this way.

Having found freedom in nature is the reason why my spirit always feels a sense of deprivation when my body resides in the city. I was born and raised in Los Angeles. When I was in high school i wouldn’t ditch to go smoke or drink at some kick back, i would jump fences and go boogie boarding at the beach. I would go swimming or visit the Friendship Bell in San Pedro and look out to Catalina Island. This innate necessity for freedom is probably what led me to go to college in Santa Cruz. I escaped South Central at 18 to fall in love with a redwood forest.

I’m going to leave this city… again and again. I really will. Im always planning my escape. When I finish grad school I am going to live some place tucked between hills and ocean. I will have trails and bike paths that cross rivers and hot springs. I am going to find my piece of freedom outside of this city.

Until then… I suppose i will “vacation” in far away lands, “retreat” to local mountain sides, and keep on hiking the local trails of Eaton Canyon and smog filled Griffith Park.

Who does she think she is?

12 Jan

I believe.

In myself

To do the things that no one else had time to do, that no one else could do.

Because surviving was more important than this writing

I was born into a different mode of continuance

Dependent on the need to express my complexities.

And it’s this entangled reality that is scary to even formulate into words, to draw and exhibit, to dance and let go of.

I do it anyways.

If I couldn’t write, if I couldn’t paint, if I didn’t dance, surely, I would cease to be.

To exist in these ways is intimidating.

But who am I to stop, all that must be generated.

To be let free, the ancestors before me stretch the walls of my skin.

They pound and they scratch, so I listen, carefully, to find a way to give them voice.

To let their pain be heard, to let their struggle continue, to let their hopes live on.

Through me

I acknowledge our inheritance and change what we make of it.

To laugh to what we once cried about, to love when we were once bruised and humiliated.

To birth when they ventured to extinguish us. And to rise when they expected to defeat us.

Every thought conveyed to words, every brush stroke that is shaped, every step that I spin, it isn’t even me.

I’m just a vessel of ancient wants and needs that are fighting to be.

It isn’t me. It is everyone before me.

I believe in myself.

Otherwise, I risk the dangers of our children, following a repentance that simply doesn’t belong | to them |anymore. 

This piece was inspired after reading “An Open Letter to Women Writers of Color”by Gloria Anzaldua. Bt it was posted because i was told by my friend (who use to pick on me in middle school /who now follows my blog) , “you should at least write something once a month”. Done. 

Letting go of 2013, one day, one moment at at time…

29 Dec

Its 3 days before 2014.

30 days ago I freaked out when I realized the year was coming to an end.

3 weeks ago I asked my partner, what do you have planned for New Years Eve? And I began to cry.

Grief hits in the most unexpected ways.

3 days ago I took the graduate school entrance exam for the school im applying to. I passed the exam, drove home excited, and then the tears rolled out.

My successes also bring about my grief.

In the past, I am always ready to let go of the year and bring in the new. This year will be hard to let go of.  2013 will be the year when I lost my father. It is the year that I buried him.

To let go of this year, means to continue letting go of him in this physical realm of time and space. The spirit world has different boundaries.

Last night I was listening to “El Condor Pasa”, one of my dad’s favorite songs, from his favorite genre of music, traditional Andean music. We had conversations about one day traveling out to Peru together. And in 2014, we were going to drive from Guate to Oaxaca in his truck. We were going to travel up the mountain and stay in Oaxaca for several days.

It’s not that I miss the trips that will never happen. It’s that I miss the conversations, the arguments, the understanding, and the friendship we were building as adults. I spent my childhood and adolescence with resentment towards the man my father had been towards my mother. I had witnessed and felt things that children are not supposed to see their parents go through. And once I was mature enough to understand the complexity of his victimization and suffering as a young man, I forgave him for eventually becoming a perpetrator.

My father had changed in many ways. Having seen those changes through the years manifested in him when I visited him a year ago. It made me proud of him. And I told him. I was at the airport, returning to L.A., and I called him para despedir me, and I said, “Dad, estoy orgullosa de ti.” Those words meant a different chapter for us in our relationship.

The months leading up to my father’s passing, we were in conversation about me going to grad school and my new job. We were going to meet up in Costa Rica in June, and instead I had to drop off his murder investigation files at the embassy.

2013 was the year I had the courage to finally apply to graduate school. It was the year I lived in Costa Rica. It was the year I turned my career into what I wanted it to look like, a teaching artist with organizations that use art as healing. It was the year that my nephews were old enough to recognize me as their Tia and listen to the lessons I have begun to teach them about patience, compassion, and anger. I have a home. I have food. I have health. I have friends. And I have a lot of love inside of me. It’s been a year I will continue to build and grow from because it taught me lessons of forgiveness, faith, and love.

Im writing this because im letting go… of what specifically, im not sure… but im acknowledging the pain in letting this year go.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxVMNQo4HAM

Forget your turkey, eat this!

28 Nov

I just finished watching this film. Its a good film and a sad story about Native children who were kidnapped and forced to live in boarding schools. The truth is still the truth. Enjoy your turkey all you want, but remember that part of what you may be thankful for, came at the cost of life and the sacrifice of others.

 

Don’t let me go

20 Nov

Dear dad,

i remember… When I arrived to your home last december. it was hot and humid and I couldn’t wait to take off the corduroy pants I wore… You opened the door and welcomed me in. You embraced me with a big heart, a big hug, and a big smile…

“Bienvenida a tu casa…”

it was good to see you. it was good to walk into your home and into my room.

i changed into shorts and took off my shoes. I walked around barefoot on the cool, clean tile floor…

we would argue for the next 4 days about how I should wear shoes “y no Andes descalsa”… But honestly, my feet were perfectly happy walking on the cool, clean floors.

i wish I could remember more hugs. Bt now I will have to make them Up…

As I embrace you in my heart… Please feel what I feel…

It is warm between us. You wrap your arms around me. And I rest my face on your button shirt…

dont let me go … Just keep holding me …

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