June 16, 2013

Lessons from the original Superman

Father's day is always a fickle time for me.  Today marks 30 years since the last Father's day I spent with Sarge.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  It was the first time I was able to "purchase" a father's day breakfast for him.  McDonald's had a promotion that year if you colored a sheet that was provided by them and took it in for Father's day, your dad would get a free breakfast.  I didn't know it, but that would be the last time I would spend a Father's day with my dad.  Five months later, just 2 months shy of my 13th birthday, he was gone. 

I have been without him longer than he was with me. Still he has been a powerful influence in my life. His words and actions have permeated me for the remaining years I have been without him. His words float over my head in everything I do and say to others.  Today as in everyday I honor the Superman he was to me. 

Little lessons he left me with:
  • Love thy neighbor - Sarge was the neighborhood guy.  Someone needed a tool, he would be the guy to come and borrow one from.  If your car broke down in the middle of a delluge of rain, he was the person you called. Not only would he give you a ride but  he would try to fix that car or get you the help you needed.  The day of his funeral I met so many people that were touched by all the things I never knew he did.  He was a giving person who loved humanity.  No one was ever more or less than him, we were all of the human kind and we should all help each other in this world. So when I lose my patience in Los Angeles traffic I remember, we are all human and we all need to look out for one another. 
  • Appreciate the simple things - Music was always blaring on any given day at our home.  Sarge would play anything from classical music, swing, to Mariachis.  He would sing to his heart content without abandonment, even though his voice was that of nails on a chalkboard.  Simple outings were the catalyst to "great adventures" as he would call it.  So it was no surprise I was excited when he took me to the city of Corona for an adventure to seek out a great doughnut. Who cares if it just a few miles from our city, it was somewhere new we had never been.  It was his appreciation of the simple joy in life that has gotten me through some rough times.  Seeking out that hole in the wall cafe and people watching has brought me to a calm place where I could think things through.  Listening to a favorite song can take me back in time to a wonderful place when things were calm and fun.
  • Laugh at yourself -  Sarge was the original dork. Never afraid to make a fool of himself and laugh along the way.  He made sure I never took myself or life to seriously.  I would get in funks as a child and some how he always managed to make me laugh at his antics.  He would point out the great humor in things, even if it was the crappiest day ever.  So now, I manage to look at life and see the humor in things.  It makes me smile and I can be the same goofball my dad was to me with my children and see the smile I had as a child being reflected back at me through the kids.
  • Never forget your history - I never knew my grandparents, they were gone before I was born but I definitely knew about them.  Sarge never failed to take me on his lap to tell me of things when he was growing up, about how his family life was with his parents.  He took me to Mexico to meet my extended family to develop a relationship with those who carried our history. He wanted me to grow up proud of how far our family has come and how far I could take the rest of our history.  One of the major reasons I blog about my children and myself is to carry on that rich tradition.  Much is to be said about storytelling.  You never know what lessons you are learning from your own rich family history.  
  • Get up and succeed - He picked me off the floor after I fell off a bike, cleaned up my scrape and placed me back on the bike I had just fallen off.  Giving up was not an option.  I was crying my eyes out and wanting to give up, but Sarge encouraged me.  Every step of the way he was there to cheer me on.  Little successes where HUGE accomplishments. He made sure I understood that no matter if I had an audience or not. I was the master of my own pride with all those accomplishements.  So when I was able to do the major things in life like graduate from college or simply help potty train a two year old I could stand with pride and never give up.
There are so many more that I can list but these in particular have helped me get through the good, the bad, and ugly that life has out there.  All he did for me in the short 12 years of my life has stayed with me.  It's not about time that you spend with your children, it's what you do in whatever time you have with them. 

For the men who create those strong bonds with their children I salute you.  You never know what your teaching your little ones and what life lessons they are learning along the way. 

Feliz dia del padre Papi.  Te extrano muchismo! <3>

May 12, 2013

The Original Super Single Mom

Life lately has been tough.  Something I did not think I would be doing is raising children on my own.  While there father is a participant in their lives, it really is not like I can say I have a partner in raising these children.  I find myself giving 99.999999% of what should really be a shared experience. I have wrestled a very long time with this fact.  I attribute this to my own childhood.  Sarge was always a very active participant father and most loving partner in my childhood.  I was truly blessed to have two parents in the early part of my life. Lately my lovely insomnia has hit me at 3 AM.  Somewhere in my mind something was stirring, maybe the fact that some days I feel stretched over two times over, worried about Kindergarten progress, summer vacation plans, how to effectively get help for getting the kids around.  I have felt pretty alone and overwhelmed lately.  Then it hit me the other day.  I am not the only one this has happened to.

October 9, 1983 Mami became a single mother and a widow.  I remember sitting next to her holding my hand just outside the IC unit that my father was in when a nurse came out to call someone else in the hallway.  This moment is burned in my memory only because the nurse had blood, my fathers blood all on the front of her crisp white scrubs.  Mami pulled me in close and tried to shield my fragile 12 year old eyes from seeing what I was seeing.  In her arms I shook with fear.  We both held each other for what seemed like a very long time until the doctor came out and said my father was gone.  Our world as we knew it was gone. 

I still remember listening to Mami cry night after night after he was gone.  Somehow in the mornings all that was gone and she got breakfast on the table and me out the door to school.  While I was at school she managed to arrange for a funeral, my care after school, and make other arrangements for our future. Mami became my advocate when people insisted that I wear black to the funeral when she knew all I wanted to do was wear my dad's favorite dress for me.  She didn't know I heard that argument she had, but I did.  I became less alone at that moment.  Mami would always have my best interest at heart.  She knew I was grieving the loss of my best friend.  She made sure the school knew I was going through issues and that I would not be the same child. 

Mami found a way to babysit children at home and get me what I needed.  I needed for someone to home to after school, security.  I always had clean clothes, a roof over my head, vacations, someone to show up at my school events. The most amazing thing to me was that she didn't drive a single day in her life and still doesnt' to this day.  The first vacation we took after my dad was to Florida, on a bus. Yes, a bus from California to Florida.  Years later I wondered, how? How did she come up with the money, how did she make the arrangements, how did she know we were going to be safe on the trip?

I looked back on that recently and knew, just knew that it was the same love I feel for my own children.  For many times that I feel defeated and alone, I remember Mami.  She did this alone, with no family nearby to support her.  Just her will to give me everything I needed and things that I wanted.  The love a mother knows no boundaries.  It does not know about her own grief, but knows about her child's grief.  I am the super single mom today thanks in part to all those experiences that Mami gave me and made it seem effortless.  Her grief, her loneliness, her struggles, all set aside.  So when people question how I do it all for my the Things I just hold my head high and say "I'm Super Mom Jr.". 

On this day I honor you Mami,  you survived my teenage years alone, I too shall make it through.

Happy Mother's day all!

February 22, 2013

Get up, Stand up...

Today Thing One did the most incredible thing. He stood up for someone that could not stand up for himself.  We were walking to have food at our local McDonald's.  We passed by the front of Target to get to McDonald's and a homeless man crossed our path to get to the popcorn in the trash can and proceeded to eat it. Thing One stopped in his tracks and whispered to me "Mommy he's eating from the trash!?".  I had to explain to him how not everyone has food or money to buy food so they eat where they can.  He asked if we could buy him some food.  I was so proud of him.  We bought the man some food and went about our business.  I couldn't stop thinking of the marvelous thing my little guy had thought to do.

Thing One reminded me that we as humans need to watch out for each others as humans.  It's a golden rule that Sarge had taught me. Unfortunately I couldn't see all the signs while I was growing up.  I say that with a heavy heart.  I faltered another human being at one point in my life.

I was in 5th grade in 1982 and inside I still felt like a big goof.  The dork in me was alive and well and preteens were the pits.  My body was that of a teenager more than a preteen, all kinds of awkward.  At least that is how I recall it.  I was lucky enough to have a father who recognized the signs and told me I was beautiful as I was.  Still, trying to fit in was all I wanted to do.  Subsequently I hung out with other girls I thought were cool and accepted me into their group.  It's a story that rings true for every insecure preteen trying to find there way in a clique or a group of peers.  What I didn't expect was that one girl in particular was a mean girl.

Like I mentioned earlier I had a particularly good support from my family, so her nastiness didn't get to me.  I knew how to defend myself from any little snippy comment.  Mostly I dealt with it out by being humorous. Unfortunately we all couldn't escape her.  There was one girl named Gloria that we had all grown up with.  None of us really befriended her in all the years we had been in school with her.  Gloria lived one street over from where I lived and I saw where she was living.  It was a very un-kept home and the house reflected how everyone in that family where.  Gloria often looked like she hadn't been bathed in some time and her clothing for two days was the same.  I mostly feared her, the unknown of her.  I never really addressed her and let her be.  Unfortunately Gloria met up with mean girl in the same class for 5th grade.  I was in the same class and I hung out with mean girl along with other girls.  Gloria was afraid of mean girl and the Mean girl fed off this fear.

Gloria was often subject of many of Mean girl's cruel jokes.  One day Mean girl threatened Gloria to do something. She forced Gloria to go to the restroom and take off her training bra and when she got back from the bathroom she was to hang it on the classroom door knob. Gloria did it and Mean girl laughed and had everyone in the classroom look at the door.  Laughter broke out.  I couldn't laugh. I smiled nervously, unsure if I should show my true feelings.  Inside I felt so bad for Gloria and the humiliation she was going through. Unfortunately me need to fit in outweighed what empathy I was feeling for Gloria. 

It has been 31 years since that incident and I replay that scenario in my head a lot.  Why didn't I have the courage to stand up for Gloria?  Maybe we wouldn't be best friends, but she needed someone to stand up for her.  I have often thought of how Gloria is doing and if someone had the courage to stand up for her.  I never saw her with a father, just a mother and some siblings.  I never got to know why she looked the way she did.  Her family probably didn't have the resources for food, clothing, or hygiene.  After 6th grade when we all went to different Junior High's I never saw her again.

While I may not have seen her since 6th grade she is forever burned in my memory.  Anytime I see someone being picked on, someone with no support I try to stand up for them.  No one knows their story, no one knows how much their heart hurts.  It takes two minutes of a kind word and gesture to make someone's day.  I see Gloria in every person I try to stand up for her because as a cowardly 5th grader I couldn't. 

I am proud of Thing One, he did it without a thought.  He empathized, he stood up for those that cannot stand up for themselves. He is five years old and wiser than I could have ever been at his age. 

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