Saturday, December 27, 2014

Just Remember...


On the morning of Christmas Eve, the phone rang as I was putting away dishes. It was my cousin Charlie calling from Buenos Aires. Charlie is about 20 years older than me. I met him when I was about five-years –old when he came to visit the USA for the first time. I remember I developed a huge crush on my then-25-year-old cousin. He was charming, funny, sweet, loving, and playful with me. He made me feel like I mattered and I knew he loved me.

Each time we visited Argentina, we stayed at my aunt and uncle’s place, where Charlie lived. When I met his girlfriend, Cindy, who later became his wife, I fell in love with her too. She was kind, beautiful, and always treated me like a princess. Over the years, I became very close to Charlie and Cindy. They were there for me when I lost my mom. They supported me when I was dating Robbie. They were just amazing people that I felt so blessed to have in my life, even if only long-distance. Going back home to California was always difficult for me, even before I had Robbie, because I was always sad to leave Charlie and Cindy behind. They’d cry, I’d cry, and our hearts would break with every good-bye at the airport. While we were away, Cindy and I would write often. They were really like another set of siblings for me.

Then life happened…My mom died. I broke up with Robbie, and I stopped traveling to Buenos Aires. I went from visiting Argentina practically every year for eight years when I was a kid to spending seven years without going. In those seven years, I didn’t forget about my cousins, but I didn’t do a good job of keeping in touch either. When I returned in 1995 for the first time in seven years, I discovered that the closeness I felt with Charlie and Cindy remained intact. It was pretty amazing and pleasantly surprising at the same time. We were able to pick up where we left off and spend quality time together catching up on life.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Wisdom For the Holidays from Wayne Dyer

I'm reposting this from Wayne Dyer's Facebook page. It spoke to me deeply. I think it's a great reminder we can all use now and always.



"Many years ago, when the holiday season arrived and certain relatives were due to make their annual appearance, I felt a sense of increasing dread. Far too many of us suffer from the pain of family get-togethers, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Somehow we allow the expectations and demands of our family members to be the source of so much unhappiness and stress, when what we really want is to be authentically ourselves and at peace with our relatives. The conflict seems too often to be a choice between being authentic, which means no peace with certain relatives, or having peace at the price of being inauthentic. Being peaceful and authentic can define your relationship with your relatives. First, though, you may have to assess your relationship with the closest relative of all—you.

In order to change the nature of family relationships, you’ll have to change your mind about them and consider that you are the source of the anguish in your relationships, rather than the individual whom you’ve pegged as the most outrageous, the most despicable, or the most infuriating. Over the years, all of these individuals have been treating you exactly as you’ve allowed them to with your reactions and behaviors. This can miraculously change when you choose to be at peace with everyone in your life—most particularly, your relatives.

If the focus of your inner dialogue about your family members is on what they’re doing that’s wrong, then that’s precisely how your relationship with them will be experienced. If your inner speech centers on what’s annoying about them, that’s what you’ll notice. But if you’re thinking, I am authentic and peaceful with this relative, then that’s what you’ll experience—even if that relative continues to be exactly the way he or she has always been.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Drama-Free Zone



When I was in my late 20’s, an ex co-worker and I became good friends. She was maybe six or seven years older than me and therefore was at a different stage in her life. Because I considered her a good friend, I thought it was my duty to tell her whenever I heard negative comments made about her. I thought I was being a great friend, showing how much I care by cluing her in to the nasty accusations her boss would make about her. I would see my friend (I will call her Amelia) get upset and I would feel so bad for her.

One day, as Amelia was walking into the office, I stopped her in the hallway to give her the latest gossip I had heard. But before I could even get the words out, Amelia asked me not to tell her anything anymore. She didn’t want to know anything else ever again. WHAT?! I was flabbergasted, embarrassed, and a bit insulted. Didn’t she appreciate what a good friend I was being? Didn’t she realize that I was telling her for her own good? But I respected her wishes and kept that story and all future stories to myself.

Amelia doesn’t know that she taught me a great lesson that day. What she did has always stayed with me and it has only been in the recent years that I have had the courage to do the same thing. When someone comes to report gossip about me, I ask them not to tell me anything anymore.

Think about it…How do you feel after you hear about negative things that have been said about you? How do you react? Does your face get hot? Does your heart race? Do you clench your jaw or grit your teeth? Do your neck muscles tighten? Do you get a headache? That’s what happens to me anytime I hear gossip about myself. It’s really awful...and that’s just the physical reaction. Of course there are also the emotions that trigger, which are not just a passing thing for me. The “symptoms” of having been exposed to negativity linger in me for a long time. The comments about me play like a broken record in my head. Unfortunately, I don’t just dismiss them easily.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Love Is Enough



What type of holiday person are you? Are you a Scrooge or are you Buddy the Elf? 

For years, I have been a Scrooge. Well, maybe more of a closet-Scrooge. For the sake of my children, I decorate the house; go all out with gifts and we do the prerequisite holiday activities like decorating the tree as a family, visiting Santa, and baking cookies or making a Gingerbread House. I’m actually very traditional in that sense because I want my kids to have the full Christmas experience, but at the same time I dread the holidays. Christmas music especially depresses me. If I had to work in a department store listening to Christmas music for eight hours a day, I would have to be institutionalized after a week. But seeing our Christmas tree finished and lit makes me happy and excited. But then again, don't even get me started on those cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies...GAG! However, I absolutely LOVE dancing in the living room with my kids when "All I Want For Christmas Is You" by Mariah Carey comes on the radio. It’s like I can’t make up my mind. Do I hate it or love it? I hate it for me. I love it for my kids. Bottom line…For years and years I have been eager to get the holidays over and done with because of how chaotic and sad they make me feel.

I have known for a long time that there is really a very good reason for being depressed during the holidays. It all goes back to comparison and expectation. We see movies and commercials of perfect families having a perfect Christmas morning in their matching pajamas, sipping hot cocoa by a warm fire, with their department store Christmas tree perfectly decorated and their gifts perfectly wrapped. These fictional characters later have a perfect Christmas dinner with family and friends where a perfect turkey is served and everyone is dressed perfectly to the nines. But that is not reality. At least not mine. But I want it to be. Every. Single. Year.

My Christmas reality usually involves chaos, mismatched pajamas, gifts that look like I wrapped them with my feet, me yelling at my screaming kids, a lopsided Christmas tree, watching the KTLA fireplace burn on TV because we don’t have a fireplace; and usually someone is sick; someone is disappointed (me); someone is offended (me); someone’s feelings are hurt (me); and someone is upset (me). Every Christmas I ask Santa for perfection but all I get is imperfection. Basically, I have a hard time letting go of what I think is supposed to be and accepting what is. (Just like BrenéBrown's book "The Gifts of Imperfection" talks about.)

I have had many grumpy Christmas mornings – I’ve been angry that my son didn’t sleep literally ALL NIGHT and kept me awake with him ALL NIGHT, while my husband snored like a train (This actually happens every year because my kid is an insomniac the night before Christmas and really, truly does not sleep ALL NIGHT. I kid you not. I've even resorted to giving him Benadryl to help him sleep, to no avail and I reiterate...ALL NIGHT!) I’ve been upset that my son’s reaction to his gifts from Santa wasn’t what I anticipated. I’ve yelled at him when immediately after opening 10 gifts from Santa, he asked to watch TV. I’ve been pissed that my husband didn’t help me take photos and video of the kids while they opened gifts and instead he actually had the “audacity” to just watch them enjoy the moment. I’ve been disappointed that our Christmas breakfast wasn’t an extravagant buffet brunch, but rather scrambled eggs and frozen waffles on paper plates. And in my warped mind, I am convinced that I am the only woman on the planet having an imperfect holiday, which only further aggravates and upsets me.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Lost, Found, Butterflies Abound



My last post was unexpected. I received a Facebook message from a friend asking if I would talk to a friend of hers about the adoption process (something I have done for several friends of friends over the years). That night, I thought about this girl (whom I have never met and have yet to speak to) and her struggle to get pregnant and the difficulty of the decision to move on to adoption. Suddenly, I felt inspired to write a post about it as I recalled my own painful infertility journey; how lost and alone I had felt back then. I thought about how many people really have absolutely no idea what infertility feels like and the strong roller coaster of emotions that accompany it. And so that night I started writing an Open Letter to Women of Infertility Everywhere. By the next morning, I finished it, and published it on my blog and posted it on Facebook.

The outcome of that “Open Letter” has blown my mind away. I wrote it with the intention of helping this girl to not feel alone and with the hopes of shedding light on infertility with some of my Facebook friends who may be uneducated on the topic. But as of right now, it has been viewed nearly 3000 times and it has been shared on several other blogs; on message boards on Babycenter; on Twitter; and all over Facebook.  I even saw that someone did a search on Yahoo specifically for The Courage In Me! AND The Courage In Me is third on the search results! WHAT??? I’m still processing it all.

The “Open Letter” has been read not just in the USA, but literally all over the world… Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Greece, Germany, India, Malta, South Africa, Argentina (I’m assuming this is by someone I know), Denmark, Belgium, Mexico, Libya, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, United Arab Emirates, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Philippines, South Korea, Puerto Rico, and Italy.

Like Maggie (my BFF) said to me…infertility is a subject that transcends race, religion, socioeconomic status, class, etc. Unfortunately, it is a universal struggle. It is a topic that is relatable to millions everywhere on this earth.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Open Letter to Women of Infertility Everywhere

Dear Infertility Sister:

I’m writing because I know that you’re hurting. I know it’s not easy being you. I know you feel wounded and alone.

I know that it doesn’t make sense that you are being excluded from experiencing what your own mother, sisters, aunts, cousins, and friends have all been able to do without any trouble.

I know that you feel immeasurable desperation to have control and a say in when to have a baby. You wonder why everyone else gets to plan and choose and you don’t.

I know you feel powerless at the hands of your body. I know you hate your body because it has betrayed and rejected you and made you its victim. When you were a little girl, your body deceived you into believing that one day you’d get to have a baby. Sometimes you remember when you played with your friends and put a ball under your shirt and pretended to be pregnant. You remember how much you loved your baby dolls and how you believed that one day the scenario would be real.

I know that you feel stupid when you recall the times you had pregnancy scares and all the years you used contraceptives. You now realize it was all in vain because your body isn’t able to do what it was created to do.

I know that you feel defeated and resentful for doing everything you were supposed to do to prepare your body for pregnancy. You ate right. You stopped drinking. You bought pre-natal vitamins. And I know that you still take prenatal vitamins, you still avoid alcohol and all the other pregnancy no-no’s …just in case maybe this month you really are pregnant.

I know that you’ve kept track religiously of your periods for what seems like an eternity and that you have tried every imaginable trick and tip you’ve heard about or read about in an attempt to conceive your miracle.

I know you are sick and tired of seeing doctors and being physically and emotionally vulnerable with each insemination or in-vitro you do. You’re exhausted of being poked and prodded; of having ultrasounds, blood tests, procedures, and surgeries. You’ve endured enough humiliation to last a lifetime, opening your legs for strangers month after month, each time praying that this will be the last time.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Happy Ending Guaranteed



For the past 15 or 20 years, many friends have said to me “You need to write a book.” At first, I used to giggle and laugh at the idea, but eventually, I started believing them. I found it exciting, flattering, and interesting that friends from all walks of life came to the same conclusion whenever they’d hear my story. I’ve had friends say I could make a movie with some of my stories. I’ve had friends tell me my stories could make a great sitcom or dramedy script. (And if you knew some of the characters I’ve had in my life, you’d understand.)

One friend I had in my late 30’s used to talk to me a lot about my future book. She enjoyed writing like I did and so it was a fun topic for us to discuss. But we were both on the same page (no pun intended) that I couldn’t write my book just yet because I still didn’t have my “happy ending”. You see, at the time, I was trying to get pregnant with baby #2, and to me, that seemed like the best possible and happiest way that the book of my life-story could end. 

Inside, I hated myself for thinking that way. I hated myself for it because it felt like I was saying that adoption had not been good enough the first time around and that the true measure of success as a mother would only be mine after I had experienced pregnancy, labor, and the birth of my spawn…a little mini-me with my DNA. (Word to the wise: if you know anyone who is waiting to adopt or who has adopted, don’t ever tell them “Watch. Now you’re going to get pregnant!” It’s a huge insult and every adoptive mom I know hates that comment. File that under "Things To Never Say To An Adoptive Parent")

Anyway, after three years of trying to conceive, I threw in the towel and we began the adoption process again. After two more years, we became parents to our beautiful baby girl and we lived happily ever after. The End. No, not really.

You see, baby #2 actually didn’t bring the happy ending I thought it was going to bring me. Of course I was overjoyed, over-the-moon happy, happy, happy. And anyone who saw me then or knows me now can attest to that. She was (is) our little miracle and the answer to our prayers. She completed our family and filled a big void in our lives. What I mean that it wasn’t the happy ending I thought it would be is that I still didn’t think it was book-worthy material or the way I would end my book. I didn’t feel inspired to sit down and start writing my story. Obviously, having a newborn deprives you of the freedom to sit at the computer and write, but even if that hadn’t been the case, my heart still didn’t feel like I had gotten the happy ending I was expecting to feel.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Chihuahua In Me



I'm afraid I'm going to start sounding like a broken record soon because how many more times can I write about what an angry, bitter, and resentful 20-something year-old I was? How my rage came out in unexpected places and my victims were innocent McDonald’s cashiers or Bank of America tellers? But that is who I was back then, so I suggest you get used to hearing some crazy stories. I also choose to see the humor in the insane antics of my youth and reflect on them as something to laugh about now rather than beat myself up for them. I would also like to add that I have 100% proof that there is a God, because if there wasn’t, my now-husband would have left my ass a long, long time ago.

I am not a tall girl. I am only 5’2” and in my early 20’s I weighed 105lbs. My attitude at the time though made me feel 6’5” and 275lbs. In my mind, I was the Incredible Hulk. In reality, I was a yappy, little Chihuahua.

Shortly after DJ and I became a couple, he had the privilege of witnessing my rage firsthand. As I mentioned in the last two posts (here and here), just before we started dating, he had been going out with a “troubled” girl. What I meant by “troubled” was that she lived in a group home for girls, literally just down the street from his house. He broke up with her to be with me.

Well, these girls would pass by DJ’s house in their group home van and yell obscenities at him on his ex-girlfriend’s behalf. One time, I happened to be outside with DJ when the van drove by. They started cursing at me and calling me names. Naturally, I yelled and cursed back. DJ was mortified at my behavior. (Especially because I did it in front of his parents who were outside with us too.) The van came to a halt and popped into reverse. I thought “Oh shit.” I had flashbacks of my grade school days and the bullies who tormented me and that one wannabe gang-banger in particular, La Sparkles, who had made 6th grade unbearable.

The van stopped in front of the house and I continued my yelling rampage while DJ and his mom and dad tried to shut me up and had to physically hold me back from approaching the van. If it hadn’t been for the three of them, the headline would have read: “Van-load of Angry Latina Girls Beat Up A Fellow Angry Latina Girl”. I have to ask DJ what he remembers of the incident, but I believe one of the girls (not the ex-girlfriend) got out of the van to threaten me while I shouted “&%$#  YOU!!!!” at the top of my lungs.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

No Longer A Marionette


I feel so happy for how far I have come in evolving as a person. I feel immense pride when I look at who I used to be and who I am now. The changes may not be noticeable to outsiders or to most of my friends and family, but to my close, inner circle (i.e., my husband, children, and best friends) I know they see the new me.

I spent most of my 20’s in a rage. I was angry, bitter, resentful, critical, judgmental, and defensive. I felt that everyone was out to get me. I felt attacked and misunderstood. I hated how my life had turned out and I felt it was so unfair. I was angry that my dad wasn’t who I needed him to be; I was angry I was on my own; working so hard to support myself; I was especially angry and heartbroken that I would never be loved again the way my mom had loved me. Because I knew that that kind of love was one only a mother could give me.

In my 30’s, I still had rage. I was still angry, bitter, resentful, critical, judgmental, and defensive. But the reasons were all different. Most of the negativity revolved around losing my baby and my subsequent infertility, as well as dealing with my own adoption issues. I was angry that God had given me a baby and then took him away; I was resentful of all pregnant women; I was critical of myself for not conceiving; I was judgmental of mothers who I thought didn’t deserve to be mothers.

Last Saturday, I had the great pleasure of hearing Carolyn Myss speak at a conference. She is a best-selling author and an internationally renowned speaker and educator in the fields of human consciousness, spirituality and mysticism, health, energy medicine, and the science of medical intuition. Carolyn was captivating and real.

One of the things she said that really hit a nerve with me was about the power of our wounds. She talked about healing from whatever hell we’ve been through. She said it’s not about forgetting the hell; it’s about taking the wound and saying “You won’t control me anymore.” She said we don’t need to dismiss what we’ve been through, but we also shouldn’t allow it to make us marionettes. Carolyn then went on to say that most people would get on with their healing quickly, but instead they discover the power of their wounds and that is what stops them from healing.

Friday, October 24, 2014

My DJ



The other night I watched an old episode I had recorded of Oprah’s Master Class. The guest was Robin Roberts. I thought she was absolutely brilliant. In fact, I jotted down some of her pearls of wisdom because they were that good. One of the things she said that resonated with me was that God has three answers to our prayers: 1) Yes 2) Not yet 3) I have something even better in mind. Robin said that her favorite is the third one. She thinks it takes courage to believe that the best is yet to come.

I have been reflecting a lot on the prayers and requests I made of God in my lifetime and how so many times I felt like he wasn’t listening. He let me down when I lost my mom when I was only 16; He let me down when my relationship with my dad was rocky; He let me down when I suffered the second-trimester miscarriage of my sweet baby Gabriel. He let me down month after month, year after year, when I was trying to get pregnant. He let me down when we had an adoption fall through. Over the course of 25 years, He let me down more times than I care to count. To be honest, I lost my faith for a long while because I felt that God had forgotten about me.

But the truth is, He really hadn’t forgotten about me. It’s like Robin Roberts said…He had something even better in mind. Losing my mom was one of the worst tragedies of my life. But as a result of the circumstances that followed her death, I met my husband. So many times I have thought that if she hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have met him. Losing Gabriel and suffering through infertility for years were my two other great tragedies. But again, if I hadn’t gone through those things, I wouldn’t have the children I have today.

So it all goes back to what I always say…everything happens for a reason. Everything happens the way it’s supposed to happen, when it’s supposed to happen. We just need to keep the faith and know that God doesn’t forget about us. And as someone once reminded me as I was crying about my infertility…God is perfect. He doesn’t make mistakes. I’m not gonna lie. This is a very tough concept for me to accept because SO many times I have been 100% certain He has made a terrible mistake in not answering my prayers and requests. There are still some things I’m not sure I understand how/why they happened the way they did and maybe I never will. I just have to believe that He has my best interest at heart and knows what is best for me.

Monday, September 29, 2014

What Loss Left Behind



In my last post, I said that good things result from our bad experiences. If we pay attention, we will recognize that in every bad situation we are faced with, something good happens because of it. I have had a lot of bad experiences in my lifetime, but I also feel that I’ve gained a lot from all of them. For me, the best thing that has come from all of the difficulties in my life has been personal growth.

Two of my favorite qualities that resulted from the challenges I’ve endured are empathy and compassion.  I haven’t educated myself on these two qualities, but I’m assuming they are learned/can be taught. Maybe some of us are more inclined to be empathetic and compassionate, but I think we all possess the ability to become them. I think it is greatly due to empathy and compassion that I have connected on so many levels with so many different people in my life.

It is in my nature to try to put myself in other people’s shoes. I try to imagine what it must feel like to be them. Doing so, also helps me to minimize judgment because when you try to picture what it would feel like to be in someone else’s situation, it makes it harder to judge them for their choices because we actually, really don’t know what we would do until we go through the experience ourselves. So many times I have said “Oh, if that happened to me, I would do XYZ and I definitely wouldn’t do ABC! And so many times, it turns out that when I’m confronted with the exact scenario I imagined, I end up doing 123 and ABC and saying “$#@% I was so wrong!!”

My friend Sara recently sent me a video on empathy. It’s voiced by none other than my hero, Brené Brown. It’s only two+ minutes long but perfectly captures the definition of empathy. Please watch it. My hope is that next time a friend comes to you with an issue, you will remember this. RSA Shorts - The Power of Empathy

And in case you're wondering, here are the definitions of empathy and compassion from the online Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Empathy: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.

Compassion: sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

If You Look For It, It Will Show Up



I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad this week. Well, honestly, I think about him all the time, but this week more than others. On Sunday, I had a dream that he died. In my dream, I knew he was dying but I avoided going to see him at the hospital during his last couple of days because I didn’t want to deal with the pain of saying good-bye. Then after he died, his spirit came to me. I expected his spirit to be loving and understanding but he wasn’t. Instead, he made me feel guilty for the choice I made in avoiding the hospital. I woke up in a panic at 6:00AM and contemplated calling to check on him. (He lives in Buenos Aires and I only see him about twice a year.) I decided not to call and instead began to cry as I told my husband about the dream. Later on that day, I called my dad and told him about the dream. He laughed at me. It’s not the first time I’ve had a dream that he dies and I call him about it. He always gets a kick out of it and likes to ask questions about what he said or did in the dream.

Suddenly in the past few months, my three-year-old daughter has become hugely enamored with my husband. She went from being a mama’s girl to a daddy’s girl overnight. She not-so-gently broke my heart when she adamantly declared “Me love Papi” after I told her “I love you.” The next day when I asked her for a kiss she told me “No. Me kiss Papi” and ran to kiss him instead. As we sat together at the dinner table this week, I saw her lovingly gaze up at her daddy while she rested her head on his arm. She is officially in-love with him. I had expected it to happen one day, but I did not expect to feel the satisfaction that came with it. So I have been wondering why do I like seeing her develop a crush on her daddy?

This morning my daughter grabbed my hand and pulled me to the living room to dance with her. As we shimmied to The Police’s “Every Breath You Take”, she stood on my feet to dance. She had never done that before with me (or anyone else that I can remember). As we giggled and laughed (and I got a serious workout), I had a sudden flashback of doing the same thing with my dad A LOT. I know it’s a normal kid thing to dance on your parent’s feet, but I had completely forgotten. As I did my best to dance with my 33lb toddler on my toes, I reminisced about my dad and what a truly beautiful, fun childhood I had with him. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t always sunshine, butterflies, and rainbows, but the positive childhood memories with him stand out more than the negative. And that’s when it occurred to me why I am feeling such satisfaction in seeing my daughter with my husband…because I remember what a great feeling it was to be in love with my dad. I remember that I wanted to marry him. I thought he was so smart, funny, and handsome. I was in awe of him and so very proud to have him as MY daddy; proud to be his daughter. It thrills me to no end that my daughter is experiencing the same joyful feelings.

I recently spent some time reading online articles about how women get their positive self-esteem, self-worth, confidence, etc. from having had healthy relationships with their dads early on. Reading the articles (too many to list) reaffirmed to me that although my dad made a lot of mistakes after my mom died, he also did a not-too-shabby job with me during my first 16 years. I believe that one of the reasons we were able to make our way to the relationship we have now is because of the foundation he laid early on. The articles also reassured me that I chose a great husband with the ability to be a phenomenal father to his little girl.

So why am I telling you all this? Well, because I see them as all the good things that came out of the bad things I went through. After I lost my mom, I never thought life would be good again for me. When I was fighting left and right with my dad during those years, I never imagined we could be where we are today. When I was mending my broken heart, I didn't think I would ever recover and eventually find my soulmate. When I was suffering through infertility, it seemed impossible that one day I’d have a child. Life throws us curve balls but it’s up to us to see it as a good game despite the challenges; to find the benefits those curve balls gave us.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Smart Phone, Stupid Girl, and A Pug



During the last part of July, I was happily going about my day. I had been working on a blog post, continuing the saga of my harsh break-up with Robbie in 1988; texting back and forth with friends; planning what I would make for dinner; checking Facebook frequently throughout the day; just  a normal, lazy summer day for this stay-at-home mom. But then out of nowhere, things changed that day for me and I took an extended break from my blog and social media to do some soul-searching and reassessing of what I am doing and where I am going on my courageous journey. 

My hiatus from social media and from writing has given me the opportunity to think and evaluate how I spend my time. My biggest revelation was that I was spending a disgusting, shameful, and embarrassing amount of time looking down at my phone – mostly on Facebook, my blog, and most recently Twitter. When I wasn’t on those three, I was texting, reading articles on Yahoo, taking quizzes to find out which Frozen character I am, or squeezing in a game of Candy Crush here and there. 

It would actually be accurate to say that I was addicted to Facebook specifically. It was the first thing I would do in the mornings and the last thing I would do before bed. Every morning, as I stumbled into the kitchen to get my coffee, I would have my head down in my phone, checking the latest posts from friends or reading comments they left on my posts from the day before. I am certain that I spent more time on Facebook that Mark Zuckerberg himself. Worst of all, I didn’t make billions like he did. If anything, it ended up costing ME money because I was using up all of my data every month and paying overages. My husband was actually looking into getting me on a bigger data plan. Because of Facebook and just my smart phone use in general, I stopped reading magazines because I no longer had time for them. While waiting for my son after school or in the doctor’s waiting room or at red lights…no matter where I was or what I was doing, I had my stupid head down, looking at my smart phone.

That day of revelation, I made the “drastic” decision to delete Facebook from my phone (i.e. Log out of it and remove the shortcut and bookmark. For an addict, that is drastic.). Addiction problem solved! I did the same with Twitter – though I was only using Twitter for my blog, I was starting to enjoy it a bit too much and I sensed a similar addiction brewing. I admit that my Facebook hiatus was intermittent. I did log on a handful of times for some special exceptions throughout the past six weeks.

That same day of revelation, I also shut down my blog. I was feeling too naked; like I had shared too much; said too much; in other words…vulnerable. (There’s that damn word again.) And as I mentioned in an earlier post, I was suffering from yet another vulnerability hangover. A close friend made a well-meaning comment about how much I share on social media and in my blog and it sent me over the edge that day and caused me to shut down – literally and figuratively. I almost deleted the blog all together, but thought better of it and only shut it down to the public. (It’s not like anyone would miss it or even notice, I thought.)

The more the days went by and I was no longer looking down at my phone, the more deep thought I gave to what it all means – Facebook and my blog particularly… As I messaged back and forth with one of my dear friends about my blogging hiatus, she said it best “in order to blog well, you’re neglecting someone, somewhere.” Her comment gave me that “a-ha” moment that Oprah talks about. I had to accept that no matter how badly I want it, I am not and never will be Carrie Bradshaw. For starters, I am married. Carrie was not. I have two young children. Carrie did not. I am a stay-at-home-mom with a household to run. Carrie was not. I do not get paid to write. Carrie did. I do not have the luxury of a leisurely breakfast on Sundays with my three closest friends. Carrie did. I do not own a pair of Manolos. Carrie did. And I won’t even get into Carrie’s sexcapades. Bottom line…I am a real person. Carrie is not.  So the question becomes how do I juggle my passion for writing with my responsibilities of wife and mother? The answer is “I don’t know yet but I will figure it out eventually.”

So moving on to Facebook…I kept thinking over the course of this past month “What’s it all about? What are we all doing coming together in this virtual crack-house called Facebook? What does it all really matter and mean anyway? What are our motives for sharing our stories and photos? Why do we have the need to be heard in this particular forum?” Here’s what I have concluded based on my own experience using Facebook. I may be right. I may be wrong. Who knows? (I’m sure there are some interesting, much better researched and written papers in the last 10 years on the psychology of Facebook than what I have to say about it. I’m sure it can also apply to all Social Media in general.)


  • I believe Facebook is a place we go to stroke each other’s egos.
  • Facebook can cause us to feel less than, not enough, and jealous by comparing our lives and ourselves to others.
  • We use Facebook to make ourselves feel better; to compete; to show off; to brag; to whine; to complain; to boast.
  • We use Facebook for attention, acceptance, belonging, approval, validation, and connection.
  • We escape our reality through numbing ourselves mindlessly on Facebook for hours on end.
  • Facebook allows us to be voyeurs and satisfies our curiosity about people who are irrelevant in our daily lives, whether they be people we know or absolute strangers.
  • We use Facebook to stay “in the know” and up to date on drama and gossip. It prevents us from feeling left out.
  • Facebook can cause us undue, unnecessary, and/or unfair drama. We get offended. We get defensive. We get caught. We get angry. We get sad. We get upset. We get jealous. We get hurt. We get unsolicited advice and unwanted opinions.
  • We use Facebook to raise awareness; to inspire; to promote; to discover; to learn; to educate and to be educated.
  • We use Facebook to laugh; to share; to reminisce; to commiserate; to be silly and goofy; to spread joy and wisdom. We use it to reunite with long-lost relatives and friends.
  • We use Facebook to cover up our reality. We post photos of our delicious dish of liver and onions or our cool new lawnmower because maybe we don’t want to publicly share that we found out our mother is dying or that our boyfriend is cheating or that we are failing miserably at work.
  • Facebook is all about appearances. It allows us to put on a show. It makes us inauthentic. “Look at me, look at my happy life, my great family, my fun friends, my cool vacation.” It gives us a chance to control what other think and perceive of our lives.

I have often heard friends say that Facebook is a lot like high school and I agree. Mostly, this has been said in reference to the drama, competitiveness, and cattiness we’ve all witnessed. But something else occurred to me. Facebook is a lot like high school in the way of stereotypes and cliques. Our newsfeed is our very own, modern-day  Breakfast Club. Most of us have FB friends from all walks of life. Some of us can probably fall under more than one category and many of us don’t fall under any:


  • “The jocks/athletes” – the people who mostly use FB to post about sports.
  • “The drama geeks” – the people who mostly use FB to post about the drama in their lives or to whine or complain or draw attention by posting just one word like “Sad”.
  • “The loners/wallflowers” – the people who mostly only lurk on FB incognito and never “like” or comment or post anything but they know every move you’ve made because when you run into them, they can recite back all your posts of the previous year.
  • “The rebels and the mean girls” – the people who mostly post in anger/annoyance/ frustration or with a bad-ass attitude
  • “The brainiacs and Alex P. Keatons” – the people who mostly post informative news articles or politically-driven posts.
  • “The hippies/deep thinkers/philosophers” – the people who mostly post inspirational, uplifting, metaphysical, new age stuff.
  • “The popular ones” – this is a multi-layered category in my opinion. This can be a group of people who are together all the time, for one reason or another, and post about it regularly. This can also be the ones who post multiple times a day (popular in the sense that they show up in your newsfeed a lot). This is also the people who have 500, 700, 1000+ FB friends and all their posts get on average 100 “likes”.
  • “The class clown” –the people who mostly post comical things.
  • “The Phony’s/Wanna-be’s” – the people who “like” or comment on stuff you post but really you know they are giving you the finger.  Or the people who comment on your photo with something like “Looks like a FUN party. I had a super-busy, crazy-fun weekend too!” but really they are secretly angry, wishing they had been invited to your party.


Facebook has changed the way we think/act in our everyday lives. We think in terms of post-worthiness. We have inner-dialogs and rehearse in our head what will make a good post. I would see my kids playing outside and my immediate thought would be "I'm gonna snap a pic and write 'Good ol' fashion fun on a hot summer day!" And obviously, the photos we take are not always pure in their intentions. They are often taken for the sole purpose of posting.

Facebook has robbed us of wondering what ever happened to <fill in the name of your childhood neighbor/teacher/gardener/school bus driver>. There is no mystery left as to where people are now. They are all there, waiting to be found.

Facebook has changed the way we catch up with old friends and acquaintances when we run into them after years of not seeing one another. “OMG, it’s so great to see you! How was your trip to Rome? I saw the vacation photos you posted. Did your mom ever get that surgery for her hernia? I saw your post about the pain she was in. I loved your post about your son’s karate lesson! Did you see my post about <name of old high school friend>?”

Facebook brings people together and tears them apart. While we are busy connecting with our virtual friends we don’t realize that we are disconnecting from the people sitting right next to us in the car, on the couch, and at the dinner table. (We have all been with people who spend more time posting pictures of their Mojito/toes at the pool/Tiramisu than talking to you.)

Facebook stirs up gossip and speculation. If you’re absent from FB, if you get deleted, if you deactivate your account, if your Friend request isn’t accepted…no matter what  you do, it will cause others to wonder and make up a story about what happened.  Our typical, usual posts set a precedence of what is expected of us. If there is a sudden change in pattern and behavior, then speculation and gossip will also likely occur.

I realized that just like I practice intention in other aspects of my life, I should also think about intention in terms of Facebook. We need to pause before posting and ask ourselves what is our intention with what we are posting. I started asking myself “What did I gain by sharing all this? How did these posts serve me? How did they make a difference in my life and/or others’ lives? Were these posts strictly for my ego?” I started wondering…does posting pictures of my kids or passionately publicly declaring my undying love for my husband make me a better mother or wife? Am I  a bad mom for not posting pictures of my daughter’s first day of ballet class? Does it mean I don’t care if I don’t post?”

I started imagining my eulogy. What would be said about me in relation to my Facebook usage? I think it would sound something like this:

“Jackie roughly had 154 Facebook friends.  She purposely kept that number low by Facebook standards because she tried to limit who she allowed into her Facebook world. She posted near-daily and sometimes multiple times in one day. She enjoyed “sharing” Iyanla Vanzant’s and James Van Praagh’s inspirational quotes as well as music videos and quotes by her children. Jackie “liked” many spiritual, new age leaders such as Maya Angelou, Oprah, Brene Brown, Marianne Williamson, Brian Weiss, Deepak Chopra, Gary Zukav, and several others. Her most popular post was in 2011 when she announced the adoption of her baby girl. That single post garnered her 71 “likes”. Jackie had a passion for sharing photos and shared at least 90 albums of photos over the years. Hundreds of her photos were Mobile Uploads. She never posted a “selfie” where she was behind the wheel of her car. Her “selfies” always had another person with her because she felt weird about posting pictures of just herself. She was a self-proclaimed “Facebook Fairy” as she made it a point to sprinkle “Likes” on lonely posts that had none. (Always one to show empathy, Jackie knew it wasn’t a good feeling to post something and not have any “Likes” or comments on it.). Jackie never posted about her dog, Mimi’s death or about her infertility treatments while she was doing them. She was an open book and shared a lot about her personal life, but some things were just too painful to post. Although she had 154 Facebook friends, it is so nice to see that 20 of you showed up here today to commemorate her life.”

See what I mean? None of this will matter in the end. It is really just fine for this stupid girl to put down her smart phone.

*****

I usually require some type of inspiration to start writing. Something has to trigger in me – something I see, read, hear will get my wheels turning with things I need to get onto paper ASAP. Today, I returned to Facebook and looked at my Courage In Me page. I hadn’t been on it in quite a while and I saw I had a new notification. It was for a new “like”. It was my first “like” from someone I don’t know. Just a random stranger “liked” my page! Wow! I clicked on the person’s page and saw a beautiful photo of a gorgeous pug.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I remembered my beloved Mimi. The pug had Mimi’s face, her eyes, her stare.  And call me kooky-loca-crazy-weird, but I took it as a sign that Mimi is with me still, pushing me to find the courage to once again write.





Thursday, July 24, 2014

When I Gave Love A Bad Name



I don't have too many words of wisdom or inspiration today. So this is all I'll say:
It’s a good thing my dad instilled fearlessness in me at an early age. Because of that fearlessness, I was able to take care of myself after my mom died. I didn’t know what I was doing but I just followed my gut and tried to imitate my mom – minus the hair-pulling and bops on the head. (I didn’t do those things to myself.) The fearlessness I speak of is the kind that makes me believe in myself; the kind that allows me to make decisions without having to run them by 100 people first; the kind that makes me confident; makes me take initiative; makes me be proactive in getting what I want, doing what I want.

*****

At the end of my trip to Buenos Aires in January 1988, I boarded an airplane heading back to California all by myself. It was my first time flying alone anywhere and here I was, 17-years old, on a 20-hour flight with a layover in Chile. On the outside I played it cool, but on the inside I was nervous and scared – but not scared enough to not do it. My dad and Felicia were staying in Mar Del Plata until March to continue overseeing his two businesses. In the meantime, I was going to stay at my Aunt and Uncle’s house with my three cousins (two of which I was going to public high school with).


After my mom died, I yearned for a mother-figure and my aunt (by marriage to my dad’s brother) filled the role very well. She became my surrogate mom and because she had two daughters similar in age, I think she could relate to me more than the other adults in my family. Although I had grown up seeing my entire family every single Saturday during my whole life with my mom, I had never gotten to really know my aunt until after I lost my mom. I immediately felt comfortable opening up to her and sharing my thoughts, feelings, and struggles without feeling judged. Her parenting approach was very different from my mom’s. She was more of a “friend” to her daughters and didn’t instill the fear of God in them like my mom had in me. I liked it a lot. It was easy and fun to talk to her.


My cousins and I had grown up together and had always gotten along. I have fabulous memories of my childhood and teenage years with them. When I started going to high school with them, our bond grew closer. Then, when I temporarily moved in with them, they became like sisters to me. They welcomed me with open arms and made me feel at home. They were excited to have me as their guest. I remember them showing me to my room. I would be sharing a bunk bed with my youngest cousin. My aunt gave me space in the closet and bought me my own little chest of drawers. It was a small gesture of kindness but it meant the world to me. I felt like I belonged and like I was finally somewhere that felt like “home”.


Immediately, the day after arriving back in the U.S., I went job-hunting. I spent a couple of hours going around from retail store to retail store in a shopping center nearby, looking for “Now Hiring” signs and asking for applications. (Listen up kids, in the olden days that’s how you searched for a job. There was no internet!) Where I really wanted to work was at a cute, fun-looking flower and gift shop. Although they didn’t have a “Now Hiring” sign, I decided to go into the store anyway and ask for the manager. (Fearlessness in action) A “manager” came over to talk to me. I asked if they were hiring and he said “no”. We chatted a bit. It turned out he wasn’t just a manager. He was the owner. He told me about his shop and showed me around. He explained to me about plants and flower arranging. He showed me photos of headdresses he and his partner had made for various competitions, as well as photos of Rose Parade floats he and his partner had worked on. I was fascinated by all of it, but mostly by him. He was friendly, warm, and funny and seemed like someone I would want to work for. At the end of our conversation he told me he’d give me a job! (Later I found out that he only worked in the flower shop one day a week. The other days he worked as a hair designer. I just happened to come in on the right day!)


I excitedly wrote Robbie a letter to tell him about my new job! I knew he’d be happy for me especially because I had offered to help him pay for a ticket to Canada (see my previous post). During my trip, we had also discussed where he would live once he made the move from Canada to California. While we were in Argentina, my dad had thought maybe Robbie could move in with my aunt’s mother for a while until he found a job and got established, etc. Luckily, my aunt’s mother was on board with the idea. She agreed that Robbie could move in with her when he arrived in the U.S. I was very excited about these now-very-realistic plans. It made much more sense for Robbie to temporarily move to Canada and then make a permanent move to the U.S. than for me to temporarily move to Buenos Aires. However, the more real things became, the more panic I started feeling. I started wondering “What if I make him leave his mom and brother; make him move thousands of miles for me, and then I decide he’s not the man I want to marry?” I knew I loved him with all my heart and I was (near) certain I wanted to marry him, BUT…what if I was wrong? What if I wanted to date other guys? What if I was jumping into this too soon? What if I was stuck with him here in the U.S.? I wouldn’t be able to just break up with him that easily if he was living with one of my relatives! I suddenly felt trapped and confused.


In the meantime, I was having fun at my new job. I was working just three or four days a week from 4:00pm – 8:00pm. (Don’t ask me how I remember the hours. I just do.) I really liked the job, the atmosphere, and my co-workers. One co-worker in particular became fast friends with me. His name was David (not really, but let’s pretend) and he was quirky and funny. Again, just like I shared with all the people I met, I told David all about Robbie and our plans for the future. And again, just like had happened with Jay, I found myself giving David rides home after work (why the hell was I attracting losers who didn’t have cars???). One day, about a month after working with David, he asked me to the movies AS FRIENDS. I accepted thinking “What’s the big deal? He’s just a friend. I can go to a movie with a FRIEND.” I have to admit, I liked the attention and I was flattered by his interest in me. But then we held hands at the movies, and then damn it, wouldn’t you know it…he kissed me. (I’m feeling kind of slutty telling all these stories but honestly, I swear on a stack of bibles, I was as holy as they came back then!)


Anyway, I was back to feeling like a sinner-whore who had betrayed her loyal, innocent, long-distance boyfriend AGAIN! My guilt got to me quickly and I cut it off with David although that was hard to do considering we worked together! But I gave him a long speech about not being able to see him outside of work anymore because my heart belonged to Robbie and we were going to be married one day, blah, blah, blah. I’m sure he didn’t believe an ounce of what I was saying but a week later, for my 18th birthday, David bought me a license plate frame that said “Happiness is Robbie and Jackie”. It was David’s way of assuring me that he knew I was serious about my intentions with Robbie and I really appreciated it.


The more I imagined Robbie moving to the U.S., the more scared I became. That feeling of being “stuck” with him kept popping up. As a grown adult, I realize that my fear was of getting stuck taking care of him when what I really longed for was someone to take care of ME. I didn’t feel confident that Robbie could take care of me and our future family in a country where he didn’t know the language. He would be coming here with just the clothes on his back, staying in a borrowed room, starting to build his life with me from ground zero. Don’t get me wrong…I knew Robbie was intelligent and hard-working, but I felt a huge burden of responsibility whenever I imagined him here, living just a few miles away from me. (I didn’t see it then, but I certainly see now the tremendous similarity to my dad’s own story of coming to America.) I was just 18. I didn’t really know what I wanted, but I knew it wasn’t that.


Meanwhile, David and I started hanging out together all the time. We acted like a couple but we didn’t identify as a couple. My letters to Robbie had started dwindling from the moment I had met David. I had gone from writing two or three times a week, to once every couple of weeks, to once a month. I really believed that (most likely) Robbie and I would be together, but I was putting my focus and attention on the person who was tangible and near me – David.


In April 1988, just three months after leaving my beloved boyfriend behind in Buenos Aires, I wrote him a letter to let him know that I was cooling things off with him due to my plans for college and a career (which was really all B.S.) At the time when I sent the letter, it seemed like the right thing to do. I wasn’t breaking up with him. I was just re-assessing our pace and putting “us” on hold. I knew I was being hard on him by accusing him of being immature, irresponsible, unrealistic, and lacking ambition. Looking back, I can’t believe how cruel and mean I was. I don’t know what would have made me call him all those things, but I suppose it was my way of justifying my interest in David. It was also a way of making sure Robbie wasn’t going to show up in the U.S. anytime soon and become my responsibility. I had come to the disappointing realization that every time I envisioned him here, it wasn’t what I actually wanted to see come true.


After I sent the letter, I told David about it, thinking that now he and I could start more of a real relationship and see where things went. Well, David had news for me. You see, what he hadn’t mentioned in the previous three months of knowing him was that HE HAD A GIRLFRIEND! I had virtually spit on the man I had loved for a year and a half for an asshole I had just met, and it turned out he wasn’t going to be mine. Talk about karma. I was floored and oh so very angry. But I thought maybe I could still salvage my relationship with Robbie. Maybe it wasn’t too late to say “Never mind. I made a mistake! Just kidding!”


But it turned out to be too late. My letter had crushed Robbie’s ego. Like Bon Jovi sang, he had been shot through through the heart and I was to blame. I had given love a bad name. Robbie's response letter devastated me. He called me out on my bullshit. He wished me luck in finding someone “man enough, grown-up and mature enough” for me. He wrote he was sure that someone else had stepped into my life.  He said that he knew I would never get over him but that he would easily forget about me. But at the end of the letter he wrote “I’ll always be here. You know where I live. You know my address.” To say that I wept buckets of tears is an understatement. I was so broken-hearted. My intention hadn’t been to lose him forever. I had only wanted to slow things down! What had I done?! For the first time, since losing my mom, I was all alone. No boyfriend. No one to make me feel like I was their top priority in life.

*****

My favorite word is courage. One of my life mantras, when facing something scary is “I have courage.” It donned on me just two years ago that I have courage. At the time, I was only seeing the courage I had had in the previous four years. But now, re-living my life, re-counting my story, I see that I’ve always had courage. I think courage and fearlessness go hand in hand. But I also believe you can be brave and scared at the same time. (That’s what Brené Brown says.) Because if you think about it, it’s usually scary when you’re doing something that requires courage.


I was hard on myself back then for the terrible mistake I thought I had made in letting Robbie go for David. I called myself stupid and I thought it had served me right to suffer and not get David in the end for all the pain I had caused Robbie. But now I see it all as a lesson in courage. I bravely took a risk and gambled on my relationship. I was scared of the outcome but I acted fearlessly. Most importantly, I wasn’t settling for what I knew deep down in my heart wasn’t what I wanted. And THAT takes courage.


1987 - I already used this photo but I'm using it again
for it's appropriateness in my Bon Jovi reference