Stories of Summer 2014

I am currently experiencing a strong pull from hell, emotions running high but making me feel pretty fucking lousy and low.  I can sense what’s coming on, but I want to uplift my spirit a little tonight and get back to writing more by reminiscing on some of the things I got to do this Summer.

Early July, we got a visit from long time family friends from Chile.  It was Tia Coni (the mom), Paula (the daughter), and Camilo (the grandson).  They were initially friends with my aunt May when she used to teach Tia Coni’s son (who stayed in Chile).  My aunt May and Tia Coni became close friends quickly (this was like 30 something years ago), and soon they became a part of the large Varas Family –my mom’s side.  While they were here, I loved listening to their anecdotes with my Tata (my grandfather), how much he made them all laugh in his ways of lightening everybody’s mood with his white jokes that were incorporated in his regular speak.  People just loved him everywhere he went, and the Varas household was meeting place for every neighbor who needed to feel at home or a good laugh.  My Tata was giving even as he didn’t have much to give (he was a taxi driver and sustained 10 children and my Nona), and he showed much compassion for those around him.  I still have memories of him, blurry and far between that I cherish.  He passed when I was 5, but I do remember him vividly, mi viejito bello.

Paula and Tia Coni would tell me short stories of how much love they felt when he was around, when they’d come over, or he would show up randomly with a basket full of goodies for their birthdays.

 

Tia Coni's last night here.
Tia Coni’s last night here.

I got to spend a lot of time with Paula and Camilo.  They are both so easy going and funny.  Paula is a calm woman who doesn’t stress at all, very private, she could be serious but her presence was always sublime.  I have a picture of her and I when I was one year old and she was 10.  It’s funny because I had wondered sporadically about that blonde girl in the picture with me, and now we were hanging out all the way in freaking California.  We figured out quickly that we had a lot more in common then we could have imagined, we enjoyed each other’s company telling each other about our downfalls, our failed relationships, and single motherhood.  I brought her along with me to the spoken word events I never miss, and we went clubbing one night, drank a liter tall glass of some Maui drink  (I believe) at Saddle Ranch on Sunset Blvd., and miraculously made it home safe to continue our ratchetness because we were far from sober.

 

1 year old me, 10 year old Paula
1 year old me, 10 year old Paula

I drove her and Camilo around a lot.  They also learned how to ride the bus here and whenever I was working an entire day, they’d get on the bus and go to Santa Monica.  The three of us became very close.  They were here for about 3 weeks, but by the end of the first week I knew I was going to have a hard time saying good-bye.  I have found family in friends several times in the last years, people who I innately connect with and get attached to.  Could be my lack of connection with my own family growing up.  I seek that kind of love, you know?  When I find it in real, genuine people I feel truly blessed to love and be loved that way.  After they left I spent a week crying over them, they tenderly broke my heart into sweet little pieces.  I still miss them.  Their visit was the most endearing thing that happened to me this Summer.

at Saddle Ranch with Paula (tipsy lol)
at Saddle Ranch with Paula (tipsy lol)
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Camilo & Paula

Another sweet thing that happened was that I got to facilitate a poetry workshop in Spanish for mothers at a non-profit organization in Panorama City called Casa Esperanza.  Casa Esperanza is a prevention org that seeks to help families on Blythe St keep their children out of gangs.  They offer art programs for youth, neighborhood watch meetings, childcare, sewing classes for the mothers, and a variety of informative events mostly targeted for the immigrant community.  They were the first organization who opened their doors to the San Fernando Valley Dream Team (the advocacy group I initiated back in 2011).  We were able to hold our weekly meetings there for a while and disseminate the info we intended to share.

The idea of a writing circle for womyn, specifically mothers, had been brewing in my mind for a while before I finally took up the courage to approach Maritza (the director) and ask if there was a chance for me to hold these sessions with the moms.  She was happy to welcome me and we launched Palabra de Mujeres (branched off of ITWOW) as a Summer Program.  I gathered with 6 to 7 mujeres twice a week for six weeks, and guided them a little on poetry techniques, like similes, metaphors, personification, figurative speech, etc.  We had sample reading at the beginning of class, then dived into writing and shared.  Many of the times the womyn ended up sharing a lot more then what their poems said, but that was the exact purpose of this whole project: to create and nurture a safe place for womyn to vent, to release, and to commune and heal with other mujeres.  We all became friends, appreciative of each other’s character and input.  We had a reading to culminate, and it was sweet, and private.  They revealed their creative work to their loved ones and stood there as goddesses .  I loved seeing them happy, feeling empowered, wearing their make up right, wearing their hairdos, owning themselves.  I am so lucky to have witnessed all that.

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Palabra de Mujeres alumni at culmination reading.
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Maria Elena

This Summer I also got a full scholarship to a pretty incredible writing course called Digging Deep, Facing Self.  I unfortunately did not get to dig deep in sync with the rest of the class as I discovered I can only handle so much in a day where I have to tend to two jobs, a son, teaching, and playing tour guide for my family visiting.  I found little time to dedicate to the writing exercises but still managed to ground myself in the meditations.  I felt lucky to have been virtually surrounded by strong womyn who wrote such beautiful poetry, and shared it with us.  It could have been more for me, but I have two arms and 20 things to hold! Had to take care of myself, too 🙂  By the way, speaking of writing, I got published over at the National Latina Institute of Reproductive Health with a story about depression and motherhood.  My article got a lot of attention (more than 1,000 shares on Facebook), and well, all the wonderful comments and messages of support and encouragement I got from readers.

The cherry on top was celebrating Paolo’s 6th Birthday on August 10 (day before his bday).  I had a small gathering of my closest friends and family.  I tried to stay away from what I did last year when I invited 50 people and 60 showed up (way too stressful as I ran out of food lol).  Instead, I kept it intimate and reminded myself to enjoy every minute of it.  Our beloved Daysi made a beautiful cake Lego themed (just the way Pao wanted it), and all the kids enjoyed the pool.  Everyone brought something to eat, so we actually had tons of leftovers for my peoples to take home.  It was a great Sunday, and a great way to end our Summer.

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my son turning…6?!
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Daysi’s Masterpiece

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I am feeling much better now that I got to go over the really awesome things that happened to me this season.  I’m looking forward to enjoying Fall, my favorite one of them all.  And also ask this Universe to keep me afloat because emotional and mental crisis are real, and I don’t want to fall into one of those again. Ending this post on a happy note 🙂

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