Sunday, June 26, 2011

Conquering Fears

If I were to randomly throw a rock as far as I could out my window to the East, West, North or South, I would hit either someone I'm related to, someone related to someone I'm related to, someone my kids went to school with or someone that would know where I live and know where to send the police to when said rock hit them on the head! Relax...I'm not throwing any rocks out my window, just trying to make a point that I live in a small town where everyone knows or is related to everyone. I live and have always lived in a small town setting, sheltered and protected from the rest of the world. That's why I'm a scaredy cat!

My whole life I've been a scaredy cat. Afraid of my own shadow and the shadows of those around me. You know those little kids that hide behind their mother's skirts when strangers try to talk to them? That's me. I remember many times that we would go to eat at a fast food restaurant and I would want more ketchup or more fries or an ice cream cone and my mom would give me money and tell me to go up to the counter and place an order. I would rather starve then walk away and do something on my own...and my mom would let me, she wouldn't coddle me, she'd let me do without if I wasn't brave enough to do it on my own.

When I was in the 6th grade we moved to Yuma, Arizona. For some reason the school I attended there was a hard one for me to make friends at. I hated going to school there. I have one particularly painful memory of my mom dropping me off and I'm crying and begging her not to make me stay and I'm holding on to the car door and screaming and other kids are watching me and laughing and pointing. My mom, in tears, drives away. I'm sure her heart was breaking to leave me, but she was also a no nonsense kind of mom and she knew that I had to go to school and I had to learn to adjust if I was going to grow up to be a healthy, productive adult. Later on that day she came back and talked to my teacher and the next day I remember the teacher sending me out of the room to wait while she talked to the class. I stood by the door and heard her tell all my classmates that I was having a hard time adjusting and she asked them all to be nice to me and invite me to play with them. That turned things around and I made friends, but how sad and pathetic was I?

But as Friedrich Nietzsche once said, "That which doesn't kill us, makes us stronger." Or as my mom is fond of saying, "Los golpes quitan lo tonto". Because of having to rise above these tragedies I had to learn to be strong and not let fear conquer me. It's a good thing that I learned that lesson because I ended up being a single mother with two children age 7 and 11, and in order to give them a normal life and help them to become healthy, productive adults I had to conquer my fears of being alone and raising them alone.

I've never been one to just pack up and go on a vacation all by myself, heck I can't even eat alone in a restaurant. But as a mother I had to get out of my comfort zone and show my kids that they could do anything. I remember a vacation that we took to San Diego. I was terrified. Terrified to drive all by myself from Shafter to San Diego. That's a four hour drive! Anything could happen on the road alone (and this was before cell phones). I was terrified to know that I would be staying in a hotel, just myself and my two little kids! I would be in total charge of making sure that they were fed, had fun and didn't get hurt while being four hours away from my parents, my siblings and friends! I was terrified to be staying alone in a hotel room with them. I can tell you I didn't sleep much that trip. But I did it and we had a great time!

I conquered my biggest fear when I took my kids to Hawaii  when they were roughly 15 and 11 years of age. I've already explained how terrified I was to be four hours away from home with two small children. Now I was going to be a whole ocean and a plane ride away from anyone that could help me if trouble arose!! Yikes! But I had won a trip for two and it was almost free to take my son, how could I not go to Hawaii? It's Hawaii!

So I planned for every conceivable mishap, but they happened anyway! I rented a car to take us from Bakersfield to LAX. Once there at LAX I couldn't figure out what to do with the car or where to leave it. By the time I found out where to drop it off and we rode the shuttle back to LAX we missed our flight! They were able to re-book us on another flight but we would have to stay overnight at the airport! Again...Yikes! The kids were thrilled, although at times bored, but I was terrified! Constantly looking around and trying to keep my kids and myself from strangers, which wasn't an easy task since my kids were nothing like me and they weren't scared of anyone and no one was a stranger to them! The good thing about having this happen is that I was so busy staring at strangers that I didn't have time to be scared of getting into an airplane and flying over an ocean with my kids!

When we finally arrived in Hawaii we were met by a man (another stranger) who owned a cremation disposal company. He had his own plane and would fly people up to dispose of cremated remains. His company was the one I had won the trip from. We arrived at around 2am, it's pitch dark, a stranger is meeting us and he's telling us that we're going to get into his little 4-seater airplane and flying across another ocean to the island of Molokai! I can't say Yikes enough here people! My legs were still shaky from the huge jet we just got off of and now I have to get into an airplane small enough to fit in my driveway at home? But we did, we had no choice at this point. Never had the words "what doesn't kill us can only make us stronger" resounded in my ears louder than at that moment!

Once in the airplane my kids went to sleep, which is good as they didn't see that when you looked down from the airplane, there was nothing but BLACKNESS! Pitch darkness! A darkness I had never seen before and have never witnessed again! I knew that in that blackness there was only water. Water stretching for miles. Water with sharks and whales and sharks! I know...are you all saying Yikes! with me at this point?

We arrived on Molokai and he took us to the hotel we were to stay at. We had two adjoining rooms. My daughter April being in high school of course thought it would be awesome if she could have one whole room to herself, so my son and I shared. We had not been in bed for half an hour before April called me and said there was a lizard in her room and she was scared! I'd never prepared myself for lizards! So we called the front desk and they sent a man out (another stranger) who shoo'ed the lizard away. We expected him to come with a shovel and cut the little beasts head off...but apparently on Molokai, lizards are a way of life and considered good luck! I have to tell you, none of us slept well that night at all.

But the next few days we had a fabulous time exploring the island, swimming in the hotel pool, walking along the rocks on the beach, we even hit golf balls so we could say someday that we played golf in Hawaii! We didn't have any more lizard adventures and the island was secluded enough that I felt the kids and I were safe. After three days on the island, the cremation man came back for us. He also gave flying tours out of his airplane and he picked us up nice and early and gave us a tour of many of the neighboring islands. He told me how much he normally charged for this tour and it was quite a bit and we were getting it for FREE! So what do my kids do? Fall asleep of course! They missed the whole thing! But I will never forget the views, the waterfalls, the stories about the leper colony. It was amazing!

Cremation man dropped us off on the island of Oahu where we took a shuttle to another hotel on the beach. I was starting to feel a little more comfortable and even brave. My newly blossoming bravery became even more obvious when the kids started looking at all the brochures in the lobby of the hotel and they wanted to try everything. Snorkeling, para-sailing, boat trips, luaus! How could I take my kids to Hawaii and deny them any of those adventures? I couldn't! So we did it all. We got into a boat that took us out into the ocean. You can't touch bottom when you're out in the ocean...that thought didn't really sink in until I was actually out there. There is something truly terrifying about knowing there is nothing beneath your feet for miles! But I did it, I conquered that fear and went snorkeling and swam out and away from the boat for a bit.

The next day we got into another boat, a smaller boat, a para-sailing boat. I wish I could stay I para-sailed, but I didn't. Not because I didn't want to, but because I wanted my kids to have that adventure. They loved it and they were not one little bit scared! I was so proud of my brave little kids!

We walked around Oahu, went to the beaches, the malls, the Polynesian Cultural Center and had the time of our lives. It's a memory that I will never forget and one of my proudest moments as a scaredy-cat and as a mother! I and I alone had sole responsibility for my young children across the ocean in a strange place and I don't think they ever knew how scared I was! Hurray for me!

I can't say that I'm not still a scaredy-cat, because I am. But I'm not a coward. I found this definition of cowardice online, "Cowardice is the primacy of self. When you put your own well being ahead of anything or anyone else, regardless of your commitments or responsibilities to them, that is cowardice. It differs from outright selfishness, although that is a part of it, in that it is driven by fear, not greed."

This post was inspired by the book "The Unexpected Circumnavigation" by Christi Grab. I received a complimentary copy as a member of the online book club From Left to Write. All opinions expressed are my own. You can read other members' posts inspired by "The Unexpected Circumnavigation" at From Left to Write on book club day, June 28th.

Linking up to Serenity Now, Weekend Bloggy List!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Iwanna Wednesday - In Lust with Pink

Last week I was visiting Amanda at Serenity Now and while she cleaned her closet. I was in lust with her Pink Chucks which you can get a little glimpse of HERE. See the one, right there in the middle? Iwanna pair just like those. So since today is Iwanna Wednesday, the day when I can want anything my little heart desires Iwanna share with you all what I found!

First...awwwwwwww, come to me you little beauties! Aren't they gorgeous? Pink Converse. Why didn't they have these when I was in high school? I remember I had a generic brand, but they were blue and white...not pretty in pink like these. Iwanna these little babies!

But is there anything prettier than pink and black together? I am loving these Vans! I'm loving the shade of pink on these too...not too hot pink. I gotta tell ya, Iwanna these just as bad as the Converse above! Maybe more the longer I look at them.

These are Keds brand. They're a little simpler and remind me of the P.E. (Physical Education) shoes we had to wear in high school. That was back in they day when it was a requirement that you had to take four (4) years of physical education (no childhood obesity then). We used to have to change into P.E. Clothes & sneakers like these Keds but they had to be white. Each Monday Ms. George, the P.E. teacher, would hold inspection and your sneakers had to be pristine...hence all of us girls learned to take them home on Friday to be washed and then we would use white shoe polish to further brighten them up! Ahhhh, memories :-) I loved high school!

Iwanna pair like these too! I love slip-on vans! I had a pair of brown ones that I loved but they got pretty ratty looking. I'm wondering if these have these at the Vans store in the mall. These would be so cute for summer with shorts don't you think?

I think these might be little girl shoes...but I have a little foot so I think I could get away with having them fit. Could I get away with wearing such cutesie little shoes with little hearts and what-not? I am 52 years of age after all and I should dress my age right? Right?

NO....Iwanna some like these and I don't care how old I am! (I think I'm gonna be one of those little old ladies that wears purple and red! You've read the poem right?...if not, click HERE to go read it, that's the kind of old lady I aspire to be!)

And I've told you that I've caught the running bug? Well I've decided I'm going to train all summer on my bike and then in September or October when the weather is a little more "not hellish" I'm going to buy these running shoes!

Oh I've never Iwanna'd anything more than these *sigh*. (Well maybe Keanu Reeves, but he's not shoes so he doesn't count!)

I could run to the sun and back in these shoes! Or at least I would look stylish when the paramedics pick me up in the middle of the street where I'm dying of Sciatica, a Heart Attack and Asthma all at the same time from thinking I can run!

Which is your favorite? Are you a pink girl? Do you want to be a purple and red old lady? Happy Iwanna Wednesday and may all your Iwanna wishes come true!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day - Memories of my Dad

This post was originally posted in October of 2008. I think it's fitting today as it's Father's Day. I was answering a question posed in a book of reflections called Reflections from a Mother's Heart.

The question was...Where did your father go to work everyday and what did he do?

For as far back as I can remember my dad has been a farmer, farm hand, foreman, farm supervisor, tractor driver, mechanic, jack of all trades. My earliest memory of his work is when he worked in Eloy, Arizona for a man named Cecil or as he and my mom said it "Seeso". I don't know the name of the ranch but I know my dad grew cotton and hay. I know that he took me to work with him sometimes and Seeso used to call me Guera (meaning very light-skinned). I remember that Seeso was very short and very light skinned and very fat and I liked him, he was always nice to me and I liked that he called me Guera, he was also very Guero.

I know that my dad worked very hard and left very, very early every morning to go to work. We were always asleep when he left and when we were little...up until I started school he would make a special breakfast drink called a "Ponche" which consisted of milk, raw egg, sugar and cinnamon. He would mix it up real good (when I make it now, I put it in the blender, but I know we didn't have a blender way back then) and he would warm it up (without a microwave) and he would put it in a bottle for me and my little sister before he would go off to work. That way he would buy my mom a little extra sleeping time as we would drink our warm little Ponche bottle and not wake up hungry as soon as he left. Now I know that you're probably wondering about why we didn't die of ecoli, drinking raw egg, but I have a theory about it that I call simply "God loves little Mexican children".

I know that my dad left and did whatever he did at the ranch or the shop and then he would come home in the morning when my mom had us all "up and at'em" and she would fix him breakfast, this was usually around 6 or 7am. Then he would ride off in his truck again to return when it was lunchtime. He would have his lunch, grab a quick nap while we crawled around on his legs while he slept and then he was off again.

Sometimes, depending on how close he was working, we would see him off and on through the day until he came home, usually at about 6pm and he would have dinner and fall asleep. He worked hard and came home pretty tired.

I remember one time he came home and he ran in the house and yelled out at all of us to follow him outside. Attached to the grill of his truck he had a mountain lion or bobcat, not sure which, but it was tied to the grill. My dad chased the little guy in his truck (kinda like a cowboy would with a horse) and he lassoed it and tied it to the grill and brought it to us so we kids could see it. I remember the cat was pretty angry and hissed and growled. To me it sounded like a lion and I thought my dad was the bravest man in the world to chase and catch wild animals like that. Dad then drove it further out into the desert and released it.

One thing about my dad that I didn't know then, but I do know now is that he had a pretty bad temper and he was very sensitive about what people said about him, or how he perceived people thought about him, and I'm talking about people at work. His boss or a coworker could say something in all innocence and my dad would take offense to it and quit. He would go home and tell my mom, "Well I quit" and she would commence with the packing. Once I started school I would come home at least once a school year to see a U-Haul trailer parked in front of the house. I would hand my books to someone in my class and tell them with tears in my eyes that I wasn't coming back anymore and to please tell my teacher goodbye and give her my schoolbooks. And that would be that for my friends and education in that school.

Let me run down the list of schools I went to:
I started 1st grade (because at that time there was no kindergarten) at:

Eloy, Arizona, then
Toltec, Arizona, then
Harquahala, Arizona, then
Yuma, Arizona, then
Poston, Arizona, then
Calipatria, California and came to end up in
Shafter, California.

Now I could be wrong about that rundown, I seem to remember there might have been other schools, so I reserve the right to edit!

All I can say about my dad is that he lived and worked for us, his family. My mom tells a story of my dad stopping after work one day to buy himself his usual can of beer and I had just been born and he realized right then that by buying himself beer he was taking away from me. He realized that with the money he was spending for beer my mom could buy me a dress or something else I needed and he quit buying his daily beer.

My dad is still alive, and he's not in the best of health both physical and mentally. Especially mentally. I don't know if it's early stages of Alzheimer's or Dementia or just Paranoia or Schizophrenia, I really don't know so how can I label it. But I know the brain my dad is living with right now is not the brain of the man that lived his life for me. I have to remind myself of that a lot because I do get angry with him because he does and says hurtful things, but I know that I am who I am today because of him. My children are Americans because of him. I survived being a single mother because of him. I have pride in myself because of him.

Yes, my dad went to work everyday and he did something at that place he called the ranch everyday...but his real work, his paycheck is us...his kids and grand kids. I once read this poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson and when I did I thought...someday, when my dad passes this is what I want in his memorial cards because this is what my dad was...

To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch… to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!”
–- Ralph Waldo Emerson

You are and will always be a success dad, because I have breathed easier because you lived.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

H.A.L.T. = Helping Animals Live Tomorrow

Most of you already know this sweet little girl. . .

For those who don't know, this is Chorizo, my daughter April's precious little puppy (actually she's close to a year and half old, so I don't know if she's still a puppy but she'll always be a puppy to us!). This little doll is cherished more than any other animal I know. April makes sure she receives the best and healthiest food, the best of medical care, the best exercise and grooming a dog could ever wish for. She is loved beyond belief!

Chorizo, who is a female by the way, has brought April and I closer to each other and closer to the plight of animals everywhere. Because of this little girl and my daughter April, I've gotten more active in animal fund-raising. A few months ago in April, we participated in the first ever "Bark for Life" hosted by the American Cancer Society. You can read about and view pictures of that event HERE. The American Cancer Society's "Bark For Life" is a Relay for Life fundraising event that honors the care-giving qualities of canine companions.The event was a lot of fun and it was nice to be part of the "first ever" and we definitely plan to do it again next year!

Two weekends ago April and I participated in another fundraiser for animals. This one was a 2nd annual event. A 5k fun run/walk put on and benefiting an organization known as H.A.L.T. Helping Animals Live Tomorrow. Halt is a rescue program. They rescue homeless dogs and cats, provide medical attention to them and then attempt to place them in a good and loving home! This program relies on the help of sponsors and volunteers and fundraisers such as this 5k fun run/walk.

Now I'm not gonna lie and tell you I ran this thing, cause I didn't. I wasn't even sure I was going to be able to walk it! 5k is 3.107 miles. The Bark for Life walk was only one mile, that was easy peasy! 5k...that's a different story! But it was for little guys like this one. . .

You can't help but want to do what you can to make sure that the little guy (or girl) in the picture above finds a home with someone that will love him and cherish him as much as we love and cherish Chorizo! And if getting my lazy butt out early on a Saturday morning and walking 3.107 miles is going to help, then I'm there and so is April and so for that matter was Chorizo............and all these people!

Bakersfield has a great bunch of people with BIG hearts! There were a lot of people there and it was a great event. I'm sure they raised quite a bit of money and I'm sure this event will just get bigger and bigger each year. You can go HERE to see tons of other pictures taken by a professional photographer Two K Photography who donated their time. Thanks Two K!

There were a lot of runners! You can't help but be around runners and not want to run! April, Chorizo and I walked all the way to the halfway point, but on the way back I told April I wanted to try running so I did. I grabbed Chorizo's leash and she was in doggy heaven being able to run with me. I didn't run far, probably not even 1/2 a block, but I did it about 4 or 5 times and it felt great! I've never been a runner, but I think the running bug has bitten me. Can you believe a little more than a year ago I was bedridden with Sciatica and now I'm running! I told April that next year I'm going to run the whole thing! I don't think she believes me... but I'm going to try.

I didn't take my camera with me, but I did have my phone so pardon these pictures, they're not great, but at least you get to see some more of the little cuties that we were all trying to help. It's sad to see them in cages. But during the run/walk itself, volunteers either ran or walked them on leashes. I'm sure they were in doggy heaven too!

Since then I've been riding my stationery bike, I'm up to 7 miles now and as soon as I have a chance to go shopping for some running shoes I'm going to start training to run this event NEXT year!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Pecans in the Cemetery

I know I've been A.W.O.L. as of late. No excuses...just life and a new venture of which I'll tell you guys about sometime soon. I'll be back to let you know what I did this past weekend and some other little random tidbits. But for now..........enjoy Pecans in the Cemetery! Ooooooooooooooo!!!

On the outskirts of a small town, there was a big, old, pecan tree just inside the cemetery fence.

One day, two boys filled up a bucketful of nuts and sat down by the tree, out of sight, and began dividing them. "One for you, one for me, one for you, one for me," said one boy. Several dropped and rolled down toward the fence.

Along came another boy riding along the road on his bicycle. As he passed, he thought he heard voices from inside the cemetery. He slowed down to investigate. Sure enough, he heard, "One for you, one for me, one for you, one for me..." He just knew what it was.

He jumped back on his bike and rode off. Just around the bend he met an old man with a cane, hobbling along. "Come here quick,' said the boy, 'you won't believe what I heard! Satan and The Lord are down at the cemetery dividing up the souls!" The man said, "Beat it kid, can't you see it's hard for me to walk."

When the boy insisted though, the man hobbled slowly to the cemetery. Standing by the fence they heard, "One for you, one for me. One for you, one for me." The old man whispered, "Boy, you've been telling me the truth." Let's see if we can see the Lord...?"

Shaking with fear, they peered through the fence, yet were still unable to see anything. The old man and the boy gripped the wrought iron bars of the fence tighter and tighter as they tried to get a glimpse of the Lord.

At last they heard, "One for you, one for me. That's all of them. Now let's go get those nuts by the fence and we'll be done...?"

They say the old man had the lead for a good half-mile before the kid on the bike passed him.