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Mud Slinging and Three Generations of Overcomers

Without knowing it, our words can be easily turned into muddy shoes.

Let me explain.

Recently, a person unknowingly, took their muddy shoes (their words) and trampled on my accomplishments. Their words unwittingly undermined my story. 

A Puerto Rican girl from humble beginnings, with an illiterate mother and a father whose first language was Spanish, and didn’t come to America until the age of 13.

She didn’t learn how to read until fifth grade, and even then, for years struggled with the composition of writing- expressing herself through the written word .

She dreamed of becoming the first member of her family to receive a college degree.

Despite how high the cards were stacked against her, she was accepted to her dream school- DePaul University, and received a bachelor’s degree in education. But, her educational journey didn’t stop there, she would go on to receive two Masters Degrees, one from Erikson Institute the other from Concordia University.

My journey wasn’t easy.

I had to make sacrifices, and overcome many obstacles. But looking back, I know God took me through this journey to break through some generational curses- of poverty, alcohol addiction, verbal and physical abuse, and educational setbacks. 

This blog is about three generations- my father, myself, and my daughter. These stories are intertwined through the Latino blood that runs deep within our veins.

However, it is important to note that our experiences are sadly not exclusive to us. We know many have struggled before us, with us and future generations must endeavor to overcome, what we faced. 

To this day, my daughter has to face obstacles because of her Latino last name, and that is where my father’s journey began…

My Father’s Story, written by Carlos Maldonado

In the winter of 1968, my godmother/aunt, from my mother’s side, went to Puerto Rico for vacation. She persuaded my parents to move to Chicago.

So, in the summer of 1968 we came to Chicago, with only our clothes in our suitcases.

My aunt’s kids taught us how to answer basic questions in English, so that when we went to school we were at least a little prepared.

On the first day of school in 8th grade, I was horrified. The class was mostly black and white kids. I was the only Puerto Rican kid.

My white teacher asked, “What is your name?”

I told her, “Carlos Maldonado.”

She told me to repeat it, which I did.

She said, “mmm no. Your name is Charles McDonald. You are in America now, so your name is Charles McDonald. When I call your name, answer to Charles, Ok?”

I didn’t know what she was talking about, so I just said yes.

The next day when she was doing roll call, and said “Charles McDonald”, I didn’t answer. This made her really mad. She came over to me, told me to get up, took me – by the arm – to the back of the classroom, and told me to sit there until I learned to answer roll call.

Again, the next day, she did the roll call, and again I didn’t answer. For weeks, this happened.

Until, I was taken out the class and put in a classroom with kids with disabilities. I was demoted a grade, because I didn’t speak English, and mostly because I refused to answer to my, so called, “American name”.

My story, written by me.

It was my first day of Kindergarten. And I, unlike some crying students, was ecstatic to start school. I couldn’t wait to learn how to read.

But, that excitement was short lived. I was placed in a Bilingual Classroom. My teacher only spoke Spanish to us.

This would’ve been fine, if I was fluent in Spanish. But, my first language was English. At the time, it really was my only language. I barely understood basic Spanish, and I struggled to form simple sentences in Spanish.

While the colors, shapes, alphabet letters, and numbers were being taught in Spanish, I was doing my upmost best, to capture the gist of what was going on around me.

But, no matter how hard I tried, I was lost. The only time I felt at ease was during song time.

Oh, how comforting were the songs- De Colores and El Pollito Pio.

I am not sure how I ended up in the bilingual classroom. And why, I wasn’t switched to the English speaking classroom after the first week of school.

Perhaps, I was placed there as a result of my last name. Or, more likely than not, I was identified as someone who could help with adding to the school’s bilingual student count. Especially since, the student population was predominantly African American, and the Bilingual Teacher most likely needed students for her program.

You see, my dad’s education was “sink or swim” . The Bilingual Education Act was approved in 1968, the year my dad arrived in Chicago, and it took a few years for schools to develop an effective bilingual program in their buildings. Shoot, there are schools that are still struggling with this.

And, here I was, a fluent English speaker receiving a Transitional Bilingual Education in 1980.

After four months, I was finally placed in an all English classroom. But, the damage was done.  The students already were taught the colors, shapes, alphabet letters and numbers in English. And they were moving on to learning the sounds of the letters.

I was behind.

And, that became my story for five years.

My daughter’s story, written by Bianca Ariel Sanchez

Northwestern University runs on a quarter system. Winter quarter is infamously the hardest of them all. The combination of frigid weather and dark nights, make it hard to motivate oneself into doing work. Can I get an amen?

Well, I too was hit with this winter quarter syndrome and procrastinated on an assignment for my Multimedia Storytelling class. It wasn’t a complete mess, just a typo here, an error there.

The next class, my professor began mid-quarter evaluation.

Now let me take you into this class for a minute. The population at Northwestern is not representative of the US population. There are 15 students in the class. Four are not white. Coincidentally, or perhaps not so, the majority of us minority kids are huddled at the end of the long conference room table, the farthest away from our white female professor.

I had been doing well in this class.  I never caused any trouble, and mainly tried to blend in with the white conference room walls.  So, I wasn’t expecting to hear anything negative.

When I walked out for my evaluation, my professor greeted me with a smile, and welcomed me to sit on the sofa in the middle of the hallway. I sat down, and waited to hear whatever average comment she was going to give me.

Then *** plot twist*** I got racially stereotyped.

Let me back up. Remember that assignment I procrastinated on?

Well, this professor took notice of the sloppy work. And, rather than suggest that the classic winter quarter syndrome had hit me hard, this teacher decided to ask me if I have always had a problem with grammar.

Because, as she said, “Well, I know with English as a second language….”

And in that moment, I felt as though I really couldn’t speak English.

For the record, I don’t speak Spanish fluently. I can understand it pretty well and possibly carry a basic conversation, but I do not consider it my second language, let alone first.

After attempting to regain speech, I mumbled through my sad story of procrastination and winter quarter syndrome. After which, she reminded me that she is always there to help me with my grammar. 

She talked for another minute, then I walked back into class.

I looked at the class and realized none of those other students would have been asked the same questions that were asked of me. She would have asked them if they had a tough week, or if their computer broke down. Never, would she have asked if the cause of their errors was because English was their second language.

I was the only one.

The ironic thing is, I used to not embrace my culture as much as I do now. As of late I have developed an admiration for people that look like me. I listen to Shakira, not mainstream blonde Shakira, I am talking red-hair-punk chic, Spanish -singing Shakira. Every Monday I watch Gina Rodriguez on Jane the Virgin, #TeamMichael #Rogeliomybrogelio. I have been jamming to Broadway musicals, In the Heights and Hamilton by Lin Manuel Miranda, a fellow Mexirican. I even have begun trying harder in my Spanish class, actually attempting to retain some of the language.

It was like my Latino appreciation was flowing out of me, and my teacher picked up on it. I tried to laugh the situation off, but couldn’t. My mom and sister both told me I should have had a stronger reaction. I should have corrected her, or as Naomi said “cuss her out in Spanish, show her the language you really know.”

But I didn’t. I was silenced. And I regret it. Because, now I know if another Latina walks into that class and makes the smallest of errors, the same thing might happen to her. And, she too could feel as if, despite how she has proved her capability, despite the several well graded assignments, she is still a Latina that needs saving.

My father did become fluent in English. He received his high school diploma, and he went on to attend UIC (Circle Campus- as it was known then) for one year. But, he had to drop out because my mother became pregnant with me.

At an early age, my father instilled in me the importance of an education. He would always tell me, “use your brain, so you won’t have to use your hands too much in the future.” 

My father and mother understood all too well, the struggles of having to work hard in the  factories. Day after day, their bodies were overworked, and to this day, his body is paying for it.

I am not muddled by the muddy shoes that trampled it’s way through my past. But, it’s concerning that some can be so limited and constrained to their own cultural and experiential framework, that to totally disregard the inequality in both opportunity and impact of others, comes so freely.

Now, if anything, I am thankful. These last few days I was able to look back, and appreciate all that God has done for us.  And, more importantly, I was able to have my dad write and share his story, as well as my daughter.

How beautiful it is for her to know her grandfather’s past, my past, and how that has influenced her present.

Sadly, her father and I had to inform her, that as a Latina, with a Spanish last name, she will experience this inequality again, somewhere down her path.

And, this won’t be the last time for any of us…

How Feminism Saved the World: The Power of a Woman


Disclaimer: There exists a false pretension in regards to the meaning of the word Feminism. Some have made this term to mean the root cause of lesbianism, hatred towards men, an affront Christian values and principles, and disruption of our civil society.


How I define it- A way to call out injustices based on gender, and to vouch for equality among both sexes. That’s it, nothing more, nothing less.

As women in this world, we are constantly fighting an uphill battle. A battle for equality and independence from the masculine political (i.e the Patriarchy) system. In this world, women are objectified, silenced, and taken advantage of.

What feminism does, is fight for women’s voices to be heard, and for a woman to become equal with a man, not just in the workplace, but in civic society, as well.

Let’s start off with the workplace:

I am a strong believer that sometimes statistics can speak just as much as words, so let’s take a look at this chart.

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 9.26.10 PM

As a woman, this chart breaks my heart and, at the same time, terrifies me. According to the facts, A man and I can both be 2-year vets at the same hospital, doing the exact same job, with the exact same hours. Yet, he’ll be payed more just because he is a male. This reflects a lot on our, “Equal” country.

As a feminist, I see as my duty to fight against this and demand for equal pay. Heck, it’s my duty as a woman to fight for my hardworking sisters out there (especially our single mothers.) We have to make equality in this country a reality (this doesn’t even include the racial/ethnic pay gaps, but that’s a completely different tangent that deserves its own post.)

Moving on to Civic society:

You see, we have 2 inequalities/injustices in Civic Society:

  1. A 17 year-old girl is walking down the street with a couple of her girlfriends, and a 20 something year-old man eyes her, like a hawk on his prey and starts whistling. Cat Calling. There are men out there (not all) that see women as toys. A toy for them to stare at lustfully, to touch without consent, and to think about in vulgar ways. We need to learn to not be silent or naïve to these behaviors. We need to stand up and be strong, independent women, who will not be fearful or naïve, but strive to make a change.

“Feminism isn’t about making women stronger. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength” –G.D Anderson

  1. We have all heard the word “sexist”, or “sexism.” But, I want to throw in a better, more meaningful word: Misogyny. Misogyny is the hatred or mistrust of women because of gender. A woman not getting a job because she is seen as “incompetent” or “weak” is misogynistic. People try to use this construct to undermine the power and strength of women. So they might tell us to stay home, have babies, serve a man’s cevery beck and call, and stay out of politics. Being a stay at home mom isn’t wrong, by any means, it’s just they leave us with this only option. During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, a bunch of beautiful, strong women fought for our right to vote. During World War 2, another bunch of beautiful, strong women decided to have jobs that only men were suppose to have, in order to help our country during their time of need. During the early 1960’s, another bunch of beautiful, strong women fought for the Equal Pay Act, but since it was during the Vietnam War, some women didn’t want it to go through, because they could be drafted. So it never happened. All of these women who fought for us, were fighting against Misogyny, and were feminists.

“Feminism is the radical notions that women are human beings.” –Cheris Krameare

Now let’s bring it on Home (literally):

“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:”

Proverbs 31:25-28 NIV

In the bible, it says that the man is the head of the household. But, hold on, wait a second, don’t get ahead of yourselves, this does not mean by any circumstance, that the woman is the servant, or slave to the man. Men are the protecters and head of the house, but women still have rights and a voice. Women can “share the pants”, too.

As for daughters, you can not raise your daughters in fear of the world. I believe, mothers should show their daughters, not solely how to clean or cook, but how to be strong, independent, and capable of being on their own. You can’t expect to keep your daughter in a bubble and wait for Prince Charming to knock on your door with a glass slipper, ready to carry her off into the sunset. What type of self-worth are you teaching them?

“A women with out a man is like a fish with out a bicycle” –Gloria Steinem

A fish does not need a bicycle to survive, nor does a women need a man to survive. Therefore, your daughters should know how to survive without one. Before you can survive with a man, you need to learn how to survive without one.

For the men out there:

Please respect the women out there, see them not only for their outer appearance, but as the precious jewels God created them to be. Respect their wishes and dreams. Respect their ideas, because trust me, they can be the future Esthers, Eleanor Roosevelts,and Susan B. Anthonys. Women have the Power to change the world. Trust your daughters and teach them what a real man should really act and be like. Love your sisters and protect them, from those who are against them. Care for your female friends and respect them. And lastly, shower your wives with praise for all that they do.

“If you stand for equality, then you’re a feminist. Sorry to tell you, You’re a Feminist.” –Emma Watson

College: Essays by my Daughters

by Bianca and Naomi Sanchez

Recently, in the small population that is our mother’s Facebook, college has been a controversial topic. My sister and I thought, as a current and future college student, it was time our voices were added to the conversation. As a disclaimer, these are our individual experiences and opinions, supported by some statistics. We are not trying to change people’s opinion, or judge people for their decisions. We know that college is not meant for everyone, but we do think it is meant for us!



I have only lived about 6,783 days, give or take a couple for the leap years, but either way December 15, 2014 was great.

I had been anxiously awaiting an email from my top school choice, Northwestern University. At 5:29 PM, I was sent that email. My parents and sister knew I was expecting it, but I wanted this moment to myself.

So I took a cookie, I think it was a Samoa, and walked to my room. I took a moment to




and went through a series of webpages, until I read the one word I had been waiting for Congratulations!

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 6.54.41 PM 1You know in The Breakfast Club, when Bender is caught in the freeze frame with his arm in the air? When the music swells, and everyone in the audience feels triumphant?

Well, I was Bender.

Then over the summer I began applying for student loans.

***Cue end of Bender freeze frame. Bender falls flat on face, in pile of debt.***

At Northwestern tuition is mad steep. You can go ahead and look it up. Even after receiving more than half in scholarships and grants I was still left with a sum to pay. I remember what my Dad told me when we sat down to make the first payment.

“This is an investment in your future”, he said.

People should invest in whatever future they see for themselves.

For myself, I envision a future as a writer. I feel like God has given me this gift. And, has prepared me for a profession where I can illuminate the stories of people almost never seen. I know that my best chance at succeeding in this field involves me getting a degree. And, Northwestern has the top journalism school in the country – Medill.

Attending University also allows me to learn and hear from people who have different opinions than my own. It allows me to find and develop my own voice, by rooting out the best chunks of the slew of voices, I am exposed to. I would never want to be locked in a homogenous bubble of same opinions, same beliefs, and same identities.

It helps that Northwestern is working to reduce the amount of loans student take out to a maximum of $20,000 over the four years, which is showing of real progress in making education less of a burden.

However, I still know for some people college may not be a part of their future. They may not envision it, and that is completely okay.

If you want to pursue a career at home? Great, best of luck! Want to make sure you are home to bake cookies for your kids? Huzzah, I can’t cook whatsoever, I applaud you! If you want to go to school part-time and raise you kids! All power to you! Do your kids have to pop a frozen pizza in the oven? Better make sure it’s Home Run Inn, that’s the best!

As Shailene Woodly says, “you do you. Let she, do she. And let me, do me.” Don’t get down on other people for their choices.

I am aware I will be paying off these loans for a while, man – I already started. But I also know in the end this is a small cog in a giant grandfather clock. It will all work in time.



“Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world”

-Nelson Mandela

As an ordinary student, on an ordinary day, in an ordinary classroom, in an ordinary high school, in an ordinary city, in an ordinary country, and in an extraordinary world, I saw this quote on the mucky white board in my 3rd Period English Class.

As usual, my classmates and I (Including my very congenial teacher, Mr. Bertenshaw) had a discussion regarding it. All my classmates had a distinct definition of what education is. After much deliberation, we all came to one concurred thought; Mandela couldn’t be more right.

I want to take advantage of the weapon that was given to me and carve out a changed future. College is a way for me to do so. Although this path may not be for everyone, it is the path for a lot of people.

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 6.56.58 PMI want to be a veterinarian someday, to treat all God’s awesome creatures. To do this I want to go to UCD (University College Dublin), one of the top undergraduate veterinary schools in the world, and couldn’t be more excited about it. In 5 years and at $46,150 a year (not including money from scholarships), I will get my MVB –Veterinary Medicine Bachelors Degree. “How will you pay off your future loans?” you may ask, well I plan on doing so with the $87,590 I’ll be making a year (United States Department of Labor).

We need people to go to college. With out them who will be our doctors, our lawyers, our politicians, our dentists, our policemen, our entrepreneurs, our journalists, our veterinarians and most importantly our teachers? All these careers require some sort of college level degree.

Both my parents went to college. They also didn’t grow up with the sunnier side of money. Yet, they still knew that college was the way for them to do what they want and to succeed at it. My parents both graduated with a masters in education degree (actually my mom has two), which usually cost a ton of money. But, thankfully, they both practically received full rides for their Masters Degrees. But because of their college choices, they are able to pay of their loans by getting a great paycheck every 2 weeks. (Fact: the median Chicago teacher makes $71,017 a year compared to the median household income which is $46,877, Washington Post, 2012.)

Others will put words in my mouth and say that I’m probably neglected and get no attention from my parents, but I beg to differ. I love my parent’s more than anything in the entire universe (that includes my Starbucks cotton candy Frappuccino.)

Every morning I get the extreme pleasure of spending an hour driving to and from school with my mom and sister. In the car we listen to worship music, but we also jam to some old hits like Pearl Jam or new hits like Justin Bieber. We also engage in serious conversions about random topics, inevitably, we argue and get into it every so often, but because of the close relationship with my mom, we can get over it and laugh about it later. Then, I get home and hang out with my daddy-o, we talk about crazy philosophical theories and catch up on hilarious jokes. Then after dinner, we enjoy a great sports game or Wheel of Fortune (where my brother Nate-Dog is cheering on the soccer team Arsenal or my mom is yelling at Pat Sajak.) I then do some homework and watch some new episodes of some shows. Then, before we go to sleep-every single night, we all come together in the living room (including my doggy) and pray for another beautiful day together.

I might not spend every second with my parents, but I won’t lie, I love having alone time and love getting a rigorous education at school. I also love that my parents made the choice to go to college and aspired to do what makes them happy. Education is a weapon and they are using it. They are not a Devastation. They are an Inspiration.

The Juggling Act

“I am tired.”

Lately, I’ve been confessing this, way too often.  And that really irks me. It makes me feel weak. As if I can’t handle things, or worse, I am failing in being me.

You see, as a bonafide self-acclaimed type A, get it done, multitasker, overachiever, pretty much wannabe Wonder Woman- weakness isn’t something, I so easily embrace, or accept.

If anything, my tenacity provokes a kick butt approach to life – pressing through, moving forward, getting back up, is the way I prefer to do things.

By no means, am I proclaiming to have it all together, because I don’t.  But, I do admit that I am a teeny (just an iota) bit prideful, and I am sure many of you can relate.

The problem with this way of thinking is that at times, I don’t know my limits, or that I am about to jump off the deep end. I have gotten better at this, but then again, I still have my seasons.

I am not saying it is wrong to be tired, or share how you are. We are human, of course we get tired.

But, for some reason, being tired has affected my family and me. It has gotten to my emotions and I was feeling unbelievably defeated, and I didn’t have the energy I needed to be a good wife and mom.

So, what was this girl to do?


The tears were falling like a waterfall. But I couldn’t pinpoint the reason for my tears.

Have you cried tired tears, I feel sorry for myself tears, or the life is not fair tears, you know,  the “why do so and so have it easier than me- tears.” How about the guilty tears- “I am failing as a mommy or wifey?”

I think my tears are a combination of all of the above.

It’s imperative for me to mention that my tiredness isn’t about a lack of sleep, it has to do with juggling all the roles in my life- wife, mom, family, ministry, work, and making sure I don’t drop them.

Like I wrote above, I do have my seasons when I don’t know my limits. And recently, I did it again. I over scheduled myself for two consecutive weeks at work and home. I can bore you with the details, but I won’t.

Let’s just say, instead of enjoying a much needed three day weekend, I managed to take it away  from myself, and worked for 12 days straight.

As I was managing, or should I say, juggling my work responsibilities, it became too heavy.

But, I didn’t want to drop the other things, especially the mommy role. So, the inevitable happened I put down the wife ball. Not because I don’t value it, but it had more to do with the fact, that I have a loving, understanding husband.

How unfair for him, or more like, how unfair for our marriage. But, isn’t this is what happens (like really!).

Afterwards, I sat down and reflected. And all the could’ves, should’ves, and would’ves that somehow could have made things better, started to surface in my mind. If only, I would have taken the time to think things though from the beginning.

What I am learning is that balance isn’t something I desire, it has become a necessity.

Shoot, I need to it.

I can’t practice balance for a few weeks, or for a month long streak, and then fall off the wagon for a couple of weeks, and think everything is okay.

I know that there are going to be unexpected seasons, but even then, as soon as possible, we need to immediately get back to our priorities.  For me, that is my walk with God, family, ministry and work, and yes- that is the order.

Recently, I heard a message on balance, and the quotes below ministered to me.

“I don’t juggle, I cradle.” Mercy Lokulutu

“What you say “no” to determines what you can say “yes” to.”   Ali Worthington

I want and need to apply these principals into my day-to-day living. I don’t want to juggle my roles/priorities anymore. I want to cradle them. I want to hold them close to my heart, and let them know that they mean more to me than any to do list, or accomplishment.

I want to give them my first fruits, not my leftovers. I don’t want to give all my energy to my job or my ministry, and then end up too tired to pour into my first ministry- my husband and children.

“I am tired” is not what I want to be saying when I am home. I want to experience an abundant life with my family.

But in order to do this, God has to be first. Like the scripture says of the person “…whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.”

A couple of scriptures to meditate on…

Matthew 11:28-30

Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Isaiah 40:31

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew [their] strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; [and] they shall walk, and not faint.

Good Friend…

A couple of weeks ago, I sat across from a good friend.

We were in McDonalds.

And we were fasting.

Fortunately, I find nothing on the menu appealing, well, not anymore. A few years ago, I was addicted to their Coca Cola. While others in the morning walked into work with a coffee in their hands, I had my medium Coca Cola. I’m convinced they add extra sugar to their mix.

This was an issue until  four years ago when a fast stopped that horrible habit. Tear, tear!

So, there we were, in a booth, sitting across from each other, with our small coffee (which is a must during our talks) and dried oatmeal topped with some want-to-be fresh fruits. We definitely weren’t there for the gourmet cuisine, or the ambiance for that matter, rather, we were there to empty our hearts, to listen, and to love one another unconditionally.

Neither of us put on masks, or speak with religious lingo- “all is well” and  “blessed and highly favored”.

There is no religious superstition, such as, being careful to not speak bad things or death into our lives, or “calling things that be not as though they were”.

On the contrary, we prefer to let our guards down, and speak without any filter. So, we can be real and raw.  There is plenty of venting and releasing of the things that are heavy on our souls, and yes, at times it can be scary.

But, you see, we are spirt-led women, of God, that have the capability to tap into our spirits, so we can help guide one another with sensitivity, understanding, and wisdom.

When we share the dark areas of our lives- the hot messes, the dirty laundry, the things the enemy wants for us to keep tucked away in our closets- with frustration and anger, and the shaking of our fist, we tell the enemy “not here buddy!”

We know that darkness flees from light, so we share and keep each other in prayer.

We share the good that God is doing in our lives, and we are quick to rejoice for each other. There is no competition or jealousy, just pure joy for one another.

We also share the funny, out there kind of stories, and we are able to laugh uncontrollably at- the simple, yet silly things.

We weren’t always like this with each other. It took some unfortunate circumstances to bring us together.

Almost 4 years ago, grief brought us together. For me, it was my very sick mother, and for her, it was the loss of her husband.

He was her best friend, her soulmate, and the father of her four children.

Over the years, my friend and I have built a friendship based on trust, honesty, transparency, and vulnerability.

She has been God’s image of love to me. She accepts me and she also challenges me to grow in the areas I need to. She tells me what I need to hear, not what my flesh desires to hear.

Many times, God has used her as a light house and a whisper of hope for me. Speaking to me with unearthly wisdom and compassion.

Through her life’s journey I have witnessed God’s faithfulness. How He hears us, how He see us, and how He is well able to hold us, and deliver us.

God has sustained her, even during the bad days, when she wanted to give up. He is faithful to give her an extra portion of grace, strength and courage to carry on.

There have been complaints through out the modern church, about the lack of the older, mature and “seasoned” women (Titus 2) present in our congregations today. I understand the concern, and I myself have witnessed it.

Instead of sitting on the sidelines complaining or griping, my friend and I have chosen to be this to one another. Though, we are the same age, we have mastered the art of being a mentor and mentee at a flip of a sentence.

I just know that our friendship brings God such joy. When I minister to her, and when she ministers to me, I know that our friendship is honoring Him. He is truly at the center of it.

It is important to mention that God has blessed me with other friendships just like this one. And ladies, you know who you are, and I want you to know, that my heart swells with gratitude and joy to God for having criss-crossed our lives and I count it a blessing, to sojourn through this life with you also.

To my dear friend,

It has been such an honor to love you through this season. If I can’t take the pain away, I would’ve by now, if possible. But for now, I want you to know, that I am always available for a cup a coffee, so I can sit across from you, listen to you, and at times cry with you. I will never rush your grieving process, because my heart’s desire is to be a good friend to you. I pray that the Lord continues to use our friendship for His glory, and that He will continue giving you glimpses of your husband’s love for you, like the random hearts you come across.

A few scriptures about friendships…

“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Proverbs 27:5-6

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Proverbs 17:17

“Love one another with brotherly affection. Out do one another in showing honor.” Roman 12:10

“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14

Working Mom

Working mom,

I know your day, oh so well.

From the wee hours in the morning to those late evening hours.

In the morning, the alarm goes off, you roll out of bed, your feet hit the floor, and you’re off to another day. But, first, a cup of coffee is a must (at least for me), so you turn on the coffeemaker. The kitchen is dark and quiet, just like you left it the night before. If you are lucky, you have a few minutes to actually sit and enjoy the coffee, as you read a devotional or something to your likening.

Usually, before you get to the last sip of the coffee, you are reminded of something that needs to get done before you wake everyone up. 

The load of clothes that needs to be switched, the dinner that needs to be placed in the slow cooker, or the lunch that needs to be warmed and placed in the thermos. And sometimes, it is all three of these.

With a second cup of coffee in your hands, you make your rounds waking the children, and yes, the sleeping husband.

As you are getting yourself ready, you are reminding everyone of what they need to get done.

“Are you dressed?”

“Did you put your shoes on?”

“Is your book bag ready?”

“Don’t forget to walk the dog.”

“Did you brush your teeth?”

It is the morning song, that plays out of your mouth, over and over again.

And throughout all of this, you are trying to maintain patience. You want everyone to start their day off, the right way. You head out the door with bags in tow, children lagging slowly behind you, it is time to switch roles, from morning drill sergeant, to the chauffeur.

You use your lunch breaks to pay bills, make phone calls, and schedule appointments- check- ups, dentist visits, and teacher conferences.

After work you make your rounds like a taxi driver, all before coming home. On a good day a meal is waiting for you in the slow cooker. If not, you quickly fix up a meal, or you settle for the best nutritious meal you can pick-up.

After dinner you make it a priority to spend time with the children before bedtime.

And once the lights are out for them, your on the clock again- washing dishes, preparing lunches, laying out the school clothes, and prepping for tomorrow’s dinner.

And then finally you can turn in.

Working mom, I know I missed a few things. I know some of you have babies and you spend your lunch break pumping. I know the sleepless nights, with sick children and still having to wake up and go to work.

I also know that some of us are fortunate to have an amazing husband (like I do) and older children to assist in making things flow better.  But, I know that everyone’s well-being, the up-keeping of the house, and the family calendar are your responsibility.

I also know that you have very little time for yourself. You aren’t familiar with the new TV shows everyone’s raving about.

Shoot! You are still watching “How I Met Your Mother” on Netflix.

There are times you feel unappreciated. You give and give of yourself, and you wonder if anyone notices.

There are days you feel judged by others, for being a working mom.

There are some church people that blatantly, yet wrongly claim that a mom’s only place is staying at, and tending to the home, often using a couple of scriptures to support their claim.

But, they fail to mention the Proverbs 31 woman, Deborah the military commander, or Lydia- a business woman who sold purple cloth. (Below you will find a link to a website that touches on this matter.)

It is necessary to point out that as a working mom, we are not to prioritize our job before our families. The bible does call us to manage our homes, and to be busy at home. (Timothy 5:14 and Titus 2:4-5)

I don’t know why you are a working mom. It maybe by choice or necessity. I just want you to know, that I get you.

I know you have good days when everything is flowing beautifully, but then there are those days that the tears of frustration and exhaustion come flowing. Please don’t ignore that warning signal.

It is time to hit the pause button.

A wise, good friend of mine told me, “Before you can give oxygen to your family, you must first give it to yourself. That is why on the plane, they tell you to place the oxygen mask on you first before assisting someone else.”

It is okay to take time for yourself.

So, please have that coffee date with a friend, treat yourself to a pedicure or massage, go on a date with your husband, take a walk in the park, or take that nap your body so desperately needs.

At the end of my day, when the house is dark and quiet, I am usually sitting in my reading corner drinking tea, as I read or write.

I reflect on my day, and I feel extremely thankful. There is a sense of peace and fulfillment, because I know I am living the life I am supposed to live.

Sometimes before I turn off my night light, I visit my children’s bedroom. I watch them sleep, and I think to myself, how did I get so blessed?

The Junk Drawer

I like to believe that every household has a junk draw, and it is most likely in the kitchen, or at least that is where mine is located.

It’s the drawer where you put the miscellaneous things. The things that don’t have a designated place.

The drawer you shove things in when you want to do a quick cleaning, or when someone surprisingly stops by. It’s amazing what you can fit in the drawer during those moments.

The drawer you can barely close, you have to push things down in order for it to shut.

The drawer you want to avoid at all costs, and never open in front of your guests.

I inherited the junk drawer idea from my parents, and most likely those that have one can say the same or at least pass the blame.

When my husband and I bought our first home, I designated a drawer for my utensils, and without much thought or opposition, I also designated a drawer as the official junk drawer.

Every so often I conjure up the boldness and determination I need to clean the junk drawer.

I take a Jewels or Target (plastic) bag and I sift through the “junk”. 

As I move the things around, I tend to locate the bigger items first, so that I can eliminate them from the drawer.

This will make the drawer easier to open and close once I am done.

Next, I get fixated on the coins that are at the bottom of the drawer, and I start gathering them.

The junk drawer becomes a sort of treasure box, and I am digging for all the nickel and copper I can find.

At least I am getting some kind of payment for this tedious and not so exciting task.

On a good day, I accumulate enough money to buy a Chai Tea Latte from Starbucks. But usually, it is enough change to buy a coffee.

I also like finding those rare gems – a prayer pin that I received 15 years ago, my student ID from Erikson Institute, and the earring that I misplaced.

By the time I finished finding the rare gems, I am pretty exhausted and annoyed by the junk drawer. Although I have a bag filled with garbage to throw away, not much damage has been done to the drawer. 

It still manages to look full.

For some reason I never get to finish the drawer.  But, I tell myself, at least, you have those coins.

Last week, the unthinkable thing happened, our junk drawer broke. It finally gave out on us.

We have neglected it for too long.

I can’t remember the last time I sifted through it.

So, what’s a girl to do, I took out all of the junk from the drawer and placed them in plastic bags.

3 bags to be exact.

Now, before you judge me, I dare you to go empty your junk drawer and see how many bags you can fill.

And for those that don’t have a junk drawer, please do share your secret in the comment sections.

(On a side note, for those of you that have had the chance of visiting my little, cozy home, you are more than welcomed to vouch in the comment section about how well kept my home is.)

Back to the drawer.

Later that day, I started sifting through the three bags. I started with my usual ritual-eliminate the big things, locate the money (got to get paid!), and find any rare gems.

I threw away a significant amount of garbage, but once again I found myself giving up,

Who likes looking through junk drawers?

And you know what, the bags are still on my kitchen table.

So now, all of our junk is sitting on the counter, and I am not liking it,

Who likes having their junk exposed? 

The broken drawer, the garbage on my counter and my procrastination to sift through the bags, reminded me of our life’s junk.

I think many of us have a junk drawer in our minds or soul. It is filled with all kinds of junk- our mistakes, our flaws, our addictions, and our unforgiveness.

Some of us have sifted through this drawer and spent time eliminating some of the junk.

But unlike our kitchen junk drawer, we tend to avoid the big things- the unforgiveness, the sins we committed, and the hurt we caused.

Instead, we take it easy on ourselves and we get rid of the little things, like the little white lie we told or the minor mistakes we’ve made along life’s path.

Some of us keep adding to the drawer, without sifting through it.

So now, our junk is pouring out of us.

We are hot-tempered, overwhelmed, full of shame, filled with sadness, or just plain exhausted from all the baggage we are storing in our minds/souls.

One day I would like to have an organized kitchen junk drawer, but then it wouldn’t be a junk drawer, would it?

But then, I remind myself that I am not perfect and that I have this thing- the junk drawer, or at least I had a junk drawer.

And that is okay, but I must maintain it.

As far as the junk drawer in our mind/soul, If we don’t start cleaning it out, by tackling some of our bigger items, we are going to get to the breaking point, like my drawer.

I challenge you to take out one of the big items in your junk drawer, take it to the throne of God, and ask Him to help you designate a new drawer for it- the forgiveness drawer, the apology drawer, the letting go drawer, the confessing drawer.

And, if you have a junk drawer in your house, go ahead and take care of that tedious task, before it is too late, and it breaks.

Start Where You Are…

It was midnight. It was New Year’s Day.  You were hopefully surrounded by the people you love- friends and family members. You shouted Happy New Year. You made the rounds hugging and kissing everyone. If you are Hispanic, you may have ate all twelve grapes, swept the living room, or walked in circle with your suitcase. You were excitedly thinking-out with the old, and in with the new.

It was all good and dandy. Then, you wake up the next day.

And then, pressure to start anew becomes real. The “to do list” or better yet, our goal list for 2016 is running through our heads.

To commit to leaving the past where it belongs. 

To lose weight.

To get your finances in order.

To have better relationships with boundaries.

Pretty much, it all comes down to becoming a better you.

And there you are laying in bed thinking, “Oh my, this is too much for me to process right now. Oh well! Here’s to tomorrow, or even better there is always next year.”

Then, all the guilt and negativity about yourself builds up, because you really did want a fresh start.

But is that fair?

Did we really think we could have a complete fresh start when we haven’t taken any steps towards making changes within ourselves. 

I mean, aren’t we the same person we were yesterday? What makes us so different today?

Just because we make a new year’s resolution, or sets some goals; things are different?

You are probably reading this blog, thinking, wait this isn’t so encouraging.

But good friends are straight with each other. They know how to call each other out. We need to be good friends, by not telling people what they want to hear. There is plenty of this going on in the world. 

What I am learning more and more is that I don’t want to start anew.

Instead, I want to start were I am at. What does this mean?

I want to look in the mirror, and love what I see. I need to accept me. Not the future me that I am working to become, but the now me. I want to accept the good and the bad, and to know that my God is not done with me. To get to the place where I am content, but not stagnant.

The pressure to be better is real- a better person, a better spouse, a better mother, a better daughter, a better friend, a better leader, you fill in the blank.

But is that what life is about? Constantly pressuring ourselves to be better.

I don’t doubt our good intentions to want to be better. Self improvement is a good thing.

But are we setting unreasonable goals, and then a month later, we find that not much has changed.

And there goes all the negativity and disappointment resurfacing, because we failed once again.

I am not saying don’t shoot for the stars, or that the skies aren’t the limit.

What I am saying is that we need to have reasonable expectations and understand that there is a process for everything.

So, go ahead and set the goal.

But start where you are at, examine yourself, seek God’s guidance and wisdom, and then take the necessary steps.

“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:6

Parenting Without Fear…

If you are fortunate, life is filled with many memorable moments.  But the day you become a parent may be the most monumental moment of all. Every minute detail of that day will be stored in your heart of memories.

From the obscure details, like eating a McDonald’s big breakfast less than an hour after the baby is born, (yes, I did that) to the glorious moment of holding your precious baby for the very first time. 

And there it begins, all of the extraordinary baby’s first times: the first cheesy smile that you know isn’t due to gas, the first contagious giggle that you find yourself doing anything to keep going, the first sighting of the tooth barely cutting through the gums, the utterance of a first word “mama” or “dada”, and, of course the first toddling steps.

But, so much needs to happen – crawling, standing up, and cruising (or walking by holding furniture)- before the baby can let go of the furniture or your leg, and take those steps.

I think the process of learning to walk is related to parenting.

When the baby is learning to sit up on their own, a blanket, preferably a thick one, is placed under the child and pillows are placed strategically around him, so his head won’t abruptly make contact with the floor.

Once the baby learns to crawl, the house is baby- proofed with gates at every staircase, cabinets and drawers secured with special locks, and outlets outfitted with plastic covers.

When baby is wanting to pull itself up on it’s own two feet, he uses everything around him for support, such as, the furniture or your legs.

Once the baby is ready to practice his toddling steps, your finger is there to support him and the furniture is there for some cruising.

I can vividly recall my children’s small fingers holding on to my finger as they took one step at a time.

And then comes the moment when the baby lets go of the furniture or your leg, and takes their first independent steps. The steps are unbalanced and usually they fall right away, you are amazed with their progress and you cheer them on.

Before you know it, the baby becomes a toddler, and you wonder if they skipped the walking stage, or for that matter did they forget how to walk. They are running all over the place with arms pushed back as if flying, and you are running right behind.

Although, they have become an expert walker, they still need mommy, you.

It is certain that they will have their share of bumps, scrapes, bruises and scratches along the way. But, you are hoping for no broken bones or stitches.

Eventually, that becomes the least of your worries.

As they get older, especially during their teen years, you become more concerned with “where” their walking is going to take them. And you know that one bittersweet day, they are going to walk out of your house, and onto adulthood.

But until that day happens, fear wants to slither and squirm it’s way into our parenting.  It’s purpose; to influence and ultimately dictate the decisions we make when it comes to our children.

I think it is important to mention here that growing up, I was a fearful and worrisome child.

My biggest fear growing up was something horrible happening to my mom, and unfortunately, ten years ago, that fear came true.

When I became a parent, my fear compounded. My little, sweet Bianca was my everything, and I didn’t want anything to happen to her.

As Bianca grew older, my fear (an emotional feeling), eventually led to my body physically giving out on me.

In the middle of night, I would wake up with severe headaches, my face and mouth numb, my heart palpitating, my hands shaking, and feeling like I was going to loose control or pass out.

After visiting the emergency room a couple of times, and having to endure an unnecessary spinal tap (because they thought I had bleeding in my head), I was diagnosed with tension headaches and anxiety attacks.

A couple of weeks after the diagnosis, God used my best friend, Sheila to pray for me. That evening, on the bathroom floor with raindrop tears falling down my face, I prayed liked I never prayed before. I prayed for God to come into my life, and take over.

The next day, I woke up better and different. I still had fear, but something was different. My fear was being overtaken by my newfound faith in God.

A year later, I heard a sermon about a prostitute and her alabaster jar. (I highly recommend you read this story-  Luke, chapter 7:37- 50. The brief details below doesn’t give it justice.)

In the story, after the prostitute women uses her hair and tears to wipe Jesus’ feet, she takes the alabaster jar from around her neck. It was filled with expensive perfume, and pours it on Jesus’ feet.

It is important to note here, that this story wasn’t about the perfume. This was about her giving Jesus all that she had, knowing it belonged to Him, and not her.

After telling the story, the preacher asked the following profound questions: What is in your alabaster jar? What do you hold tightly around your neck, or close to your heart?

Of course, my response was my husband and children.

The preacher then proceeded to challenge us to take the alabaster jar off and break it on Jesus’s feet.

The preacher: “It never belonged to you.”

Me: My husband and children don’t belong to me.

I fell to my knees and cried. My tears were tears of joy. I felt relieved.

I was carrying this burden that God never intended for me to carry. I had allowed the enemy to hold my mind captive with fear of the unknown. The “what ifs” had a hold of me.

What if my husband or child became ill?

What if my husband or child gets into an accident?

What if my child gets influences from so and so, and starts making all the wrong decisions?

The day I heard that sermon, I started the process of releasing my children to God.

It has been nearly 16 years since I heard that message. I would be lying if I said that I don’t worry about my family, or that I don’t wrestle with the idea of taking back my alabaster jar, and placing it around my neck.

Like most of you, I would love to keep my children in a bubble, especially with how things are in this day and age.

But then, I am reminded that they are God’s children.  And, he has an individualized plan for each one of them.

And I sure don’t want my fear to get in the way.

Over the years, I’ve had to make some major decisions when it comes to parenting my children.

When making those decisions, I am reminded that I need to support and guide them through this process, like I did when they were learning to walk.

I didn’t stop them from the process of walking, because they may fall and hurt themselves. 

Instead, I wanted to scaffold the walking process for them, so they would be successful.

When they needed the pillows for support, the house to be baby-proofed, and a leg or finger to hold on to, I provided those things.

But most importantly, I was there to cheer them on, and I believed in their inner- abilities. 

When I think about supporting and guiding my children through their path in life. I am well aware of the fact that they are all different.

My oldest daughter is cautious. She wants my guidance and opinions about things. She doesn’t like to be pushed into things. In making a decision, she tends to crawl and scope things out, before getting up and walking. Today, she is learning to take risks in life, especially when it comes to her career.

My second daughter is a doer.  She prefers to walk before crawling, sometimes she runs. She loves learning from life experiences. She is extremely receptive of our guidance. But, she needs to know that we have full confidence in her. Today, she is learning to slow down, and seek guidance before walking, or running right into the wall.

I know I can’t raise them the same. One way of parenting isn’t going to work for them.

As their mom, I want to make sure I scaffolded the process of decision making with them.

I don’t want to make all the decisions for them, and I certainly don’t want them to make decisions they aren’t ready to make on their own.

I want to guide and support them through the process of becoming a level- headed adult that seeks God’s guidance before making decisions.

I must add that if I operate in fear, I may keep them from experiences they were meant to experience.

My fear will also plant seeds of fear in their life, and they may not live up to their full potential, because the fear has them in bondage. 

One day, most likely sooner than you want, they will have to walk out your door, but have comfort in knowing that God is always with them

As for you, mommy, rest assured that your babies know you love them, and that your door is always open for them, to come receive some guidance and support.

And I leave you with a quote from my favorite children’s book…

“I’ll love you forever,

I’ll like you for always,

As long as I’m living

my baby you’ll be.”  Robert Munich

H20 Series: Reeling in a Heart…

Those that know me well, know that I don’t participate much in outdoor recreational activities, the more adventurous the activity is, the less likely I am to do it.

Canoeing, kayaking, hiking, and rock climbing to name a few.

To speak quite candidly – I am perfectly okay with it.

For you outdoor enthusiasts, trust me when I say, it’s not a need or a desire of mine.

However, I do delight in an outdoor stroll in the park or sitting in my backyard taking in the fresh air. I’ll even go as far to say, if I had a bike, I am pretty sure I would be fond of an occasional bike ride, especially around the lake.

A little confession…

Sometimes, when I drive down Lakeshore Drive, I yearn to be out there. I get caught up in the scene – the bike riders, the swimmers, the runners, the walkers – all the fit people of Chicago in one destination doing their thing, as I sit in my car taking a french fry out of my fast food bag.

But seriously, I do desire to be a part of that scene, and not a spectator.

For the last four years, with our church family, we have gone glamour camping, or as its known in our parts- glamping. Our cabin is always equipped with plumbing, electricity, and heating. Meals are cooked and prepared in a dining hall.

I was not always like this.

One of my fondest memories growing up was fishing with my family. Oddly enough, I used to get a kick out of putting the worms on the fishing hook.

For those that know me pretty well, yes, you read that correctly.

The night before our fishing trip, my dad and his brother Tomas (Tom Tom, as my dad would say, endearingly) would go purchase the bait- worms, night crawlers, and minnows.

Before sunrise, with our truck packed with fishing rods, folding chairs, a cooler filled with cold ones (what my dad liked to refer to his beer), and food to grill, we would drive out to Fox River.

As a family, we would each pick our spot by the river. My dad, grandfather, and uncle would strategically place fishing rods among the rocks, but they would keep one rod for them to hold.

We would release the line of the fishing rods into the river, and wait and wait and wait… until there was tug from the bottom of the line, and immediately, we would spring into action.

We would slowly reel in the fish, as we pulled the fishing rod upwards, being cautious not to break the rod.

A couple of hours before sundown, we would head back home, so my grandmother can skin and clean the fish, for dinner that night.

I recall one particular time, my father, his brother, and dad rented a little boat. They went up the river to fish, while the ladies stood behind.

When the men returned, my grandfather got out of the boat, and started swimming towards the shore where I was waiting with my fishing rod.

As he got closer, it appeared that he was having a difficult time standing up. I knew his knees were bad, so I quickly started searching for a long stick to give him.

I found a long, thick, crooked stick.

On the count of having to get the stick to him, I proceeded to take off my shoes and socks, rolled up my pants, and walked towards the water.

Once I reached him, he thanked me in English, with his thick, strong Spanish accent.

The stick enabled him to stand up out of the water, and walk to shore.

As I recalled this childhood memory, I am once again reminded how simple things, like a family fishing trip, can be such a treat.

It can also teach you a lesson on patience. Nowadays, we live in an instant culture (instant messages, instant coffee, instant alerts and updates, even the ever popular Instagram).

There is nothing like trying to catch a fish for hours, to teach you a little something about patience.

Now that I think of it, I don’t recall catching a fish that day, but I know I caught my grandfather’s heart. He wasn’t much of an affectionate man, but for years, he loved to recount that story.

A Chair that is “Just Right” …

Experiencing the small, yet most meaningful, things in my life doesn’t come easy.

But, when I deliberately stop and set time aside to make it happen, it is, by far, the most natural and fulfilling experience. 

The world around us is moving at a faster rate every day. 

The demands of life are pulling us in all different directions.

From the never ending to-do list to the booked calendar, we are saying too many yes’s, and not enough no’s.

Our decisions are driven by the wrong motives, such as, guilt, approval and affirmation.

Instead, it should be aligned to our priorities.

For me, they are God, family and ministry.

These days, I am also finding that I need for things to slow down in my life more.

I just want to sit, and not in front of a screen.

I want to sit and watch my life with a heart filled with contentment.

Today, I did just that.

I sat in my backyard, looking at the fallen, crisp leaves move across the cement, as I read a book, and watched my two younger children create a road with chalk, so they can ride their scooters and bikes on.

That hour became a memorable, meaningful memory

As a wife and working mom of four children, there is no doubt about it, I am quite a busy lady.

But, I am learning more and more how to say “no,” so I can say “yes” to my first ministry- my family.

Living a balanced life doesn’t just happen, you have to FIGHT to make it happen. 

Or, is it just a simple “No?”

And then, finding the chair that is “just right” for you, so you can sit and simply embrace life’s sweetness.

H2O Series: Drowning in the Pool of Life

For me, Autumn is happiness.

It is…

taking a stroll in the neighborhood- my backdrop being the trees and grass covered with fall leaves.

indulging in warm pies: cherry, pumpkin, and apple. Listening to worship music. Spilling out my heart as I write about my life with no limits.

sitting in my comfy chair. Wearing a warm, fluffy sweater while drinking cinnamon apple tea and reading a good book that feeds my soul.

These simple moments slow me down, and bring me to a place of sweet contentment.

But ironically, Autumn is a season of things dying: grass, leaves, plants, insects.

Before we know it, the brisk Chicago Winter will envelop us, and a life of hibernation awaits us. Some of us will experience cabin fever, and once that first warm day in Spring embraces us with its presence, the world will seem a little smaller because everyone will be out and about.

There is no doubt that seasons come and go.

And, so does happiness.

It is inevitable that we will have days that bring about stress, anger, sadness, and even deep despair.

The unavoidable obligations, the untimely circumstances, and even the day to day responsibilities can bring about that drowning feeling.

Have you ever witnessed someone drowning?

Someone frantically waving their arms in the water and screaming for help is how the movies’ depict a person drowning. 

As we all know, Hollywood is notorious for its inaccurate portrayals. Religions, illnesses, childbirth, love making: to name a few.

And now, you can add drowning to the list.

The most common indication that a person is drowning is that they don’t appear to be drowning. Silently the person can and will drown, if someone doesn’t notice and take action.

Some of you may be wondering… “How can someone drown silently?”

For starters, a drowning person can’t call for help.

To speak, one must breathe – exhaling and inhaling the air around them. The mouth of the drowning person is not above the water long enough to do so.

They cant wave for help either.

The drowning person is fighting under the water in order to stay above the water. Their arms are at the sides of the body pressing downwards in order to elevate themselves out of the water.

If a person is waving and screaming for help they are in aquatic distress. They are still able to assist in their own rescue.

When I was five years old, I experienced aquatic distress at a church outing.

Back then, my family and I attended the Spanish service at Visitation Church. We were, what I like call, Chreasters – folks that attend church twice a year, Christmas and Easter. 

There were times when we would get in a rhythm and attend a couple of months without missing, and for reasons unbeknownst to me, we would stay away until the next big holiday.

Occasionally, the Spanish congregation would provide family field trips. Since my grandma, Francesca, was a dedicated member of the church, and my two Tias (aunts) sang for the church choir, we were able to take advantage of these events.

The year was 1980. It was an excruciatingly hot summer day in Chicago. The field trip that fateful day was to a park district pool in a nearby (better- off) neighborhood.

The church provided two guaguas (buses).

Because, I am my father’s daughter. A Jibara to the core. I prefer guaguas a Spanish slang word used by Puerto Ricans, than autobus, the proper Spanish word.

Guaguas is also fitting for this particular story, because a majority of the riders were Puerto Ricans.

Two words can nicely describe that bus ride- LOUD and HOT.

I love my gente (people), but I am the first to admit, we can be loud, rambunctious, and at times unashamedly obnoxious.

The hot buses were jammed packed with with families- there were a few fathers, but mostly, there were grandmothers with their grandchildren, and mothers with their children.

One of those mothers was my mother. My father had to work that day.

With grandmothers and mothers flying solo with a lot of kids, one can safely assume that a few kids got the chancla (hit over the head with a flip flop).

When we finally arrived at the park district, everyone was dripping with sweat and they couldn’t wait to jump into the pool.

Undoubtedly, there were plenty of disappointed faces as we approached the pool that was already packed with people.

My sister and I didn’t know how to swim. If I recall correctly, I believe it was our first time at a pool.

My mom held me in the water while my little sister slept in the stroller.

When my mother needed to tend to my sister, I could only sit at the edge of the pool waving my feet back and forth in the water.

I remember leaning over to look at my feet in the water, and before I knew it, I fell into the water. I quickly went down to the bottom of the pool.

A man grabbed a hold of my arm, and pulled me out of the water and sat me back down at the edge of the pool.

My mom ran over with a panicked look on her face, asking the man what happened.

I remember gasping for air, squeezing my burning nose, and crying hysterically.

Thankfully, someone was there to rescue me. I know now that my God used that man to pull me out of the water.

Writing this blog, taught me about silently drowning.

One way to make sure that a person isn’t silently drowning in the water is to ask them, “Are you alright?” If they don’t respond, then most likely, they aren’t okay.

I would go as far to say that a person drowning in life can do so silently. It doesn’t have to be a loud cry for help. A person can appear to be okay, but in reality they are way over their head.

I think asking them if they are okay is a simple, yet an imperative question.

I have been pulled out of the drowning pool of life, because God has faithfully placed people around me to be His arms.

Hope 2 Overcome can be as simple as us pausing to inquire if someone is okay!

Hope 2 Overcome (H2O) Series…

Not long ago, I endured a season of loneliness and isolation.

Although, I was surrounded by people that loved me, plenty of places to visit, and tons of distracting things, I felt like I was on a deserted island.

Unfamiliar waters with frightening waves, generated by the fierce winds, surrounded me.

And, my goal was to not let this unpleasant, nonetheless, necessary season overtake me.

I didn’t want to stay on the island, and I, especially, didn’t want to become an island.

There are distinct differences between the two metaphors-  being on an island and becoming an island.

The former is acknowledging that your life situation has you in a temporary circumstance. While the latter is the aftermath of not understanding temporary situations and the victories that await you through enduring and growing from them.

I am the first to concede how easy it is to be derailed, defeated, and defined by a season.

I have the scars and wounds to prove it.  But, I also have the stories of restoration, redemption and rehabilitation that are a byproduct of them. I share my stories with others because they testify to mercy, grace, hope and unconditional love.

From the beginning of my deserted island season, my heart and mind knew that I was a visitor passing through, and like other unfortunate seasons, that this to would pass.

Sooner than later, I would have to enter into those uncharted waters that surrounded me.

But this time around, I would yield to the waves, and not wrestle with them. They would take me to my next destination, as well as, teach me a thing or two about life along the way.

I wondered then….about water. This element that is vital to our existence. It is so versatile, it can change its very state into three forms, it can nourish, yet destroy. It is essential to life, but too much can end it. Hmmm….water. I think we can take it for granted, after all it’s only…..water!

But lately, water has been making it’s presence very much known to me in subtle ways.

After watching a play, The Little Mermaid, at the Shakespeare Theatre, my daughters and I went down to the docks. The sound of undulating waves splashing against the walls of the piers was quite soothing to my soul.

While attending a school conference at the Sheraton Plaza, I walked out to the patio area during a break and to my pleasant surprise, there was the Chicago River and the ferries that traversed it. Such beautiful scenery, as the reflection of the surrounding architecture contorted in its waters. I savored it as much as my coffee and apple danish.

During a week in July, we endured a week of torrential downpours. It seemed like the rain would never stop. I would gaze out my bay window, as the rain, coming down in waves, nourished my very green, very long grass. I started to wonder, if I was literally going to be surrounded by water

Then after the heavenly faucet was closed, the dryness hit. Arid and hot, with no relief.  My wilted plants badly needed help from the garden hose. As I watered the plants, they immediately took in the water, the dirt soaked in as much of the water it could, before it drained out of bottom of the pot. 

That is when water is downright revitalizing, rejuvenating, and refreshing… ahh!

It makes up 71 percent of the Earth’s surface. The human body is approximately 60 percent water. A human can’t go over a week without it before dying, unlike food, which one can go without for much longer periods of time.

It’s significance can’t be disclaimed.

During my season, I entered the water, and it immediately consumed me. 

I was in over my head. But, I was breathing just fine.

If anything, I wanted the waves to take me farther into the unknown deep.

Oddly enough,the more I yielded to the waves, the safer and more secure I felt. The waves became my shelter and my faith became my shield.

During this season, I discovered a treasure chest filled with my memories of where water played a key role.  From these moments I have gained priceless nuggets of wisdom that I will intend to share through my next series of posts.

As I recalled and reflected on these childhood and adolescent memories, I learned in unique ways how water gave me the Hope 2 Overcome…

Forty and Flourishing…

A woman turning 40 is not viewed in a positive light. For many, it is downhill from here.

Literally, gravity is steadily pulling parts of their body down.

Three days after my 40th birthday, my youngest daughter celebrated her 7th birthday with a garden theme party in our backyard.

Unfortunately, our backyard lacked a garden.

The cement backyard had a designated garden area, somewhat like a garden bed.

But, there weren’t many flowers blooming.

On the right side stood a slanted peach tree full of life – covered with tons of unripened peaches. There sweet aroma filled the backyard.

In the center of the garden was a wild raspberry bush whose branches spread like uncontrollable tentacles. It was blooming with raspberry buds.

And, then there was the pink rosebush on the left side of the garden. It only had one branch that had blossomed. The other branches were bare and appeared to be dead.

Due to my unattractive raspberry bush and dying rosebush, I knew without a doubt I had to incorporate some vibrant, colorful flowers for this garden theme party.

I purchased yellow chiffon superbells, white phlox intensia, and petunia hybrida fanfare flowers for the three large ceramic flower pots located along side of the white privacy fence.

I also purchased a couple of Lowes’ finest flower arrangements for two plastic, mint green pots that I so strategically placed on each side of the gloomy, garden bed.

Lastly, I made flower arrangements for the tables – yellow chrysanthemums and white daisies in clear glass milk jugs and large mason jars.

All of these little touches brought liveliness to this once destitute area.

The birthday girl was the necessary last touch to the garden theme party. She wore a colorful, flower print dress and a crown made out of plastic flowers.

She was a flower princess.

My most treasured memory from the birthday party was her blowing out the number 7 candle that was placed on the top of her cupcake tower.

She was filled with joy, because the day finally arrived.

You see, approximately three months before her birthday, she started a birthday countdown. She had a paper that was numbered 1 to 58, and every day she would scratch a number off the sheet. 

I, on the other hand, I wasn’t anxiously, anticipating my birthday. I was trying to process the fact that I was turning 40.

My oldest was graduating from high school and attending college in the fall. It may sound cliche, but “where had all the time gone?”

The day before my birthday was Father’s Day.

Before Sunday church service commenced, my church family sang Happy Birthday to me. My sweet friend baked me a beautiful lavender, tres leche cake.

That afternoon, my husband’s family also sang Happy Birthday to me. They had purchased a  neapolitan cake filled with bananas and strawberries from Weber’s; which, unbeknownst to them, was the type of cake my mother always bought me. It was her favorite.

For both occasions, there were no candles. And, vainly speaking, I was immensely thankful!

For the first time in years, I had to go to work on my birthday. The word quickly spread that I was the “BIG FOUR O”!

The overall census among my coworkers was that there was no way I could be 40.

“Oh wow! You don’t look 40!”

I wanted to take this as a compliment, but at the same time, I was 40.  And, it seemed like being 40 years old was getting up there in age.

At least, that is how I took it.

One coworker, a woman that had already experienced her 40th birthday a couple of years back, made sure to tell me how it was “all downhill” from here. She said, “I don’t even tell people my age anymore, and I don’t like celebrating my birthday”

Now don’t get me wrong, my assistant principal and coworker did celebrate with me. They did buy me Thai food and red velvet cupcakes for lunch. I also got plenty of hugs from my coworkers.

But, by the end of the work day I felt down.

As I was leaving work, a coworker shouted out to a 20 something year old, hipster coworker, “Did you know today is Rosa’s birthday? She is 40.”

In my head, I was thinking, here we go again!

To my surprise, the woman coworker looked at me and said, “Happy birthday, Rosa! 40! Man, that is sexy!”

I was taken aback by her response, but at the same time, pleased!

Her response went against the norm of this world’s thinking.

You see, this world is vain. Youth is valued, where as, growing old (at least for women) is frowned upon.

That night I read my devotional book, the scripture for the day was Psalm 139:4 “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

This scripture was a nice reminder of how my God sees me.

There is no doubt about it, I am getting old, and so are you. But, it is up to us to embrace all of the seasons in our lives, and walk it out in the fullness of what God has for us.

Remember my garden?

The rosebush had one branch that had roses blossoming. The rest of the branches were bare and appeared to be dying.

Before my birthday, I thought about uprooting that rosebush and planting a new one.

But now, I don’t want to.

That one branch that is blooming with the beautiful pink roses is a reminder that it is still alive.

Like me, it has flaws, but it still producing beautiful things.

Next Spring, I am going to give the rosebush some tender loving care by pruning it, and preparing it for the summer.

As for me, I am going to continue to allow my God to prune me, and trust his handiwork in my life.  

And so, when I am asked “how old are you?”

My response is, “I am a forty, flourishing, foxy woman (why not?!)” .

I Had A Bad Day, And It Was My Fault…

I am certain you’ve experienced a bad day (or two) that left you wishing you had the miraculous power to turn back the hands of time to the moment when your alarm clock rang that morning.

And instead of your feet hitting the floor to start the day, you would turn the alarm off, and your head would hit the pillow.

Bad days leave us wondering what could have been, if only we would have taken the day off and stayed in bed. For this reason, what usually comes to the forefront of your head are the things you love to indulge in.

If only I stayed home, I would have…

slept until 10 a.m. with the blanket over my head. Fooling my brain into believing it is still dark outside. My ceiling fan would be up and spinning, to draw out the noise from outside.

treated myself to breakfast in bed. Preferably, a traditional big breakfast- sunny side up eggs, hash browns, bacon, sausage, and toast with butter and jelly- with freshly brewed coffee. 

read a well written book, that drew me in with its dynamic characters whose thoughts, decisions and actions would pull on my heartstrings.

written a piece of writing that was raw, real, and ruthless. It would be interwoven with my mind, soul, and spirit. My fingers will type it into existence but, it would flourish into something beyond me, yet very much me.

And throughout the day, I would listen to worship music, pray without ceasing, and bask in His presence.

Thinking about this mythical, magical day of indulgences usually comforts my wounds that were created during the bad day.

Very recently, I had a bad day.  Nothing horrible happened.

It was a Wednesday.

I woke up. And, the world was on my shoulders.

I had a lengthy to do list and I felt like I, the so called Wonder Woman, was no match for it.

Unfortunately, as the day went on, the list got longer. I would mentally scratch something off it, and within minutes another task or two will be added.

I was getting it from every direction- emails from my boss and coworkers, my Google calendar alerts reminding me of my next meeting or task, and text messages from my hubby, daughters, and friends. 

Did you do _______? If not, when can you get it done?

Do you know the answer to _____________?

Can you take me to _______?

Can you buy me __________?

At around noon, I threw my hands up.

I waved my white flag.

I texted my husband: “I am not going to make it until the end of the school year. I think I need to take some time off of work”

After a few text messages back and forth, I opted to not make a hasty decision. I would hang in there, and give myself until Friday before making my move.

So, I said a tiny, teary-eyed, and tiresome prayer: “Lord I need you. I can’t do this without you!”

I forced myself to get through my work day, and teach my night class.

But that night, when my head hit the pillow, I had already made my decision. There was no point in waiting until Friday.

I was good… done! I was going to take the rest of the week off!

The next day, my alarm went off on my phone. I quickly turned it off, and laid on my bed.

To go, or not go, that was the question.

But, then it hit me, I had a dream. I quickly started to replay the dream in my head, so I can remember it and meditate on it while I fix my hair (I know weird, but explanation is forthcoming).

I opened my bible app on my phone, and my daily devotional scripture spoke to my situation.

I still had the lengthy to do list, but I felt encouraged.

My feet hit the ground, and I was moving forward.

As I did my hair, I meditated on the dream. For years now, I have felt that my hair and I had a spiritual connection. Somewhat, like the story of Samson in the bible.

The voice of God seems louder and clearer when I am fixing my kinky, nappy hair. To be honest, I think it has to do with the basic fact that I am alone and quiet.

In the dream, I was in a very old, rundown, yet exquisite house. The house was huge, equipped with chandeliers, long stair cases, and crown molding.

As I walked throughout the house, I would enter a room that was not easy on the eyes. Chipped paint, cracked walls, torn wallpaper served as design.

It was filthy. The decor was dust and spiderwebs.

But, I would close my eyes and instantly I would see the room’s endless potential.

I did this in each room in the house with a smile on my face.

After a few minutes of silence and mediating on the dream, I had an epiphany.

The house -metaphorically speaking- was my life. Areas of my life looked a little messy, especially my job.

But, God was telling me to “close your eyes, and see what I see – the blessings and the favor that are headed your way.”

I needed to embrace a different perspective. I needed to believe in God’s endless possibilities in my life.

The problem wasn’t my lengthy to do list, rather it was my negative attitude!

I had a discontented heart. 

Needless to say, when I walked out of house, things were the same, but I was different!

Throughout the day, God showered me with favor and sweet surprises – Starbucks coffee from a coworker, a thoughtful email from a coworker, purchasing a couple of organizers for my office (yes, I am a geek), sweet text messages from my husband.

I am glad I didn’t make a hasty decision.

I was the ONE getting in the way. I needed to turn my eyes on God- my deliver!

Motherhood: Beauty for Ashes

I have an appreciation for beautiful things: freshly cut flowers – preferably tulips- in an mason jar with crystal clear water, driving into the sunset on an open road that leads to home, a cup of cafe con leche and a good book, an elderly couple holding hands across a table as they gaze into each others eyes, as if for the first time.

Then, there are the beautiful memories of my mom’s loudness: her deep, strong, raspy voice, her contagious laughter that filled the air, her whistle – which she did with two fingers slightly spread apart and pressed against her mouth – the sound of her feet pounding against the hallway floor, as I tried to sleep in just a little longer.

For me, my mom depicted beauty inwards and outwards.

But the most beautiful things I love to observe are the interactions between a mother and child.

A newborn baby slowly turning his head towards the sound of his mother’s voice.

A mother wiping the tears of her child’s eyes as she gives the booboo a kiss. I can see my mom rubbing my knee as she says…

sana sana colito/culito de rana, si no dana hoy sanara mañana. (Heal, heal, froggie’s tail, if you don’t heal today, you will heal tomorrow).

A mother’s face of joy as she watches her child walk across the stage during a graduation ceremony.

A child walking down the aisle or standing at the front of the church, as the mother cries with joy and a bit of sadness because their baby is leaving them and cleaving to their spouse – the next chapter of their life.

Moments like the ones above are precious and truly what we hold close to our hearts.

And then, there are the other moments. The not too fond moments, the ones we would love to rush through, and keep at the back of our heads.

Recently, I experienced one of those moments.

It was a hectic and frenzied morning, I could easily blame the construction that seems to be occurring on every expressway, or busy intersections. However, a true Chicagoan like me should know better. There are actually two seasons in Chicago, winter and construction, so I should have left earlier.

My daughter, Bianca, needed to purchase a watch for her Advanced Placement (AP) test. As I was dropping Naomi (my other daughter) and her off at the Walgreens a block away from their school, I accidentally drove off with Bianca partly in the car. She made almost a complete 360, and landed awkwardly on her ankle.

We all have a child that has low threshold when it comes to pain- that is my Bianca.

To make a long story short – Bianca had to reschedule her AP test, and I ended up canceling my before school tutoring that I was originally rushing to get to, plus calling off from work.

Instead we spent the morning visiting two clinics and the hospital for X-rays. And everywhere  I went I had to repeat my no-so-mommy-of-the-year story.

The embarrassment.

Thankfully, nothing was broken, and she only had to wear a compressor for a couple of weeks.

There was a time in my life, where an incident remotely close to the one above would be reason enough for me to condemn myself for days.

You see, I used to feel underserving and unequipped to be called a mother.

I had a habitual tendency to focus on my shortcomings.

I thought I wasn’t good enough and my precious children deserved better.

A miscued tape would play in my head. I am sure some of you are familiar with this “stinking thinking”.

You aren’t affectionate enough…

You aren’t patient enough…

You aren’t creative enough…

Because, you aren’t like that mom…

Sometimes the guilt would leave me – discouraged, defeated and deflated.

I became useless to my husband, to my children, and to the Kingdom of God.

Until, the truth set me free- those corrupted thoughts weren’t from God.

On the contrary, God wants to take my ashes – my shortcomings, flaws, mistakes, sorrow- and turn them into a crown of beauty.

Isaiah 61:3

…and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes…

Ashes are meant to be worn for a season of mourning, or of shame.

However, like me, some of you can attest, you have struggled in washing off the ashes.  I’ll even go as far to say, we keep repeatedly smearing the same ashes all over us.

Unknowingly, when we do this, we are undermining Christ dying on the cross for us.

We are telling Him, what He did for us is not good enough to wash away our ashes.

To redeem us.

Now, don’t misconstrue the message or, take advantage of His mercy and grace. 

We still need to work on our flaws and shortcomings.

Our God wants to refine us through the fire, and make ashes by burning away those parts of us that aren’t like Him, or those areas in our lives that don’t glorify Him. As you can see below, it doesn’t end with ashes.

“… I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.” Zachariah 13:9

As a mother, I had to come to terms with the fact that I will never be a perfect mom. I will never be like that mom!

And that is okay.

I  am called and equipped to be the mother of my children.

And as for my children, they get to witness God’s work through me, how He will use my ashes – flaws, shortcomings, and mistakes – and turn them into a crown of beauty.

Mothers, delight in knowing our God is able to take our messes and make them into our message.

My Mom’s Sickness & My Sorrow…

About a year ago, I wrote a monologue script detailing my mom’s sickness that has left her in a vegetative state. 

Throughout the story, I alternated from the past to the present (bold print).

My God, He is my JOY!

I still remember the day like it was yesterday, but it’s been nine years.

It was an ordinary day. I was shopping in the toy section of Target for my two little girls, Bianca and Naomi.

Let’s see. I promised to buy them a little something. (Phone rings.)



Hello! Mom?!

Are you okay? Mom, please stop crying. I can’t understand you.

What did the doctor have to say?


But, you’re only 46 years old. How could this be?!

You may have had a stroke?! Nerve damage to your brain?!

Okay. But, what does all of this mean?

You are going to lose your memory.


How long do you have before you will no longer recognize us?

Two to three years?!  Oh my….

I’ll be there soon. Love you. Bye!

How can this be?!

(Dial’s a number).

My mom is not going to be okay!

As a family, we already knew something wasn’t right with mom. It was more than the common forgetfulness, like misplacing your car keys.

She would ask us the same questions over and over again.

She would be in a middle of something, and walk away forgetting what she was working on.

When she didn’t know the year we were in, I knew there was something terribly wrong with mom.

But dementia wasn’t what we were expecting to hear, and we weren’t prepared for what was coming.

For two years, we were in limbo as we stood by helpless watching mom’s sickness overtake her. The doctors attempted all kinds of medications to slow down the process of dementia. Unfortunately, every thing they tried made her worse. Mom spent most of her time being incoherent, delirious and psychotic.

One thing that calmed her down was dancing.

(Merengue music starts to play- La Duena Del Swing.)

Oye (hey) mommy, slow down. I don’t want you to fall. You know how easy it is for you to loose your balance. Okay, I think it is time to change the music.

(The music changes to worship music- Held.)

Oh! What I would give to see her dance again. Back then, dancing with Mom comforted me. As we danced, I would pray for her. I used to cry out to the Lord to please heal her.

Lord, things are getting worse and worse. Today, she left the house without anyone knowing and it took an hour to locate her. The simple things that she use to do – eat, dress and bathe, my dad now has to do for her. My dad and I think she needs to go to the psychiatric ward again. Every time my phone rings, my heart starts to beat faster. Lord, your word says that you are Jehovah Rafa, our healer. Please heal her. I want my mom back. I miss her terribly.

Mom’s situation didn’t get any better. Often, friends and family members would ask me about her situation , and it was getting harder and harder for me to respond. I wanted so badly to tell them that …

“You won’t believe it! It is a miracle. She is healed.”

But, that wasn’t the case.

All I could say was “She is still the same. She is still sick.”

(The phone rings. She picks it up.)

Hey dad! Is everything okay with mom?

Dad, I completely understand. I know taking care of mom has been hard on you emotionally and physically.

Please, don’t feel bad.

Perhaps it is best that she is placed in the nursing home.

I have to go. Can I call you later?

No, dad. I am not mad at you. I don’t want you getting sick on me. Bye, dad.

And that day was the beginning of my dark world. Before that day, I still had hope that she was going to be okay. I still believed that my God, my faithful God was going to heal her.

But, as mom’s condition worsen, I found it harder to be joyful, especially during the holidays.

I didn’t like celebrating my birthday. It pained me to celebrate the day my mom gave birth to me, the start of our relationship.

We didn’t have a perfect relationship. At times, it was a bit dysfunctional. But, she was my mom, and one thing I knew was that she always had my back. She was that overprotecting Puerto Rican mom that would snap if you dare messed with her kids.

Needless to say, my relationship with the Lord shifted. I lost my first love, because my sadness was unbearable and overcame me.

(Lying on the floor, weeping, she worships – Praise You In The Storm)

Lord, you feel so far away. I feel like I can’t breathe. The world is closing in on me. I need you! I need to know that you haven’t forsaken me. Everyone keeps telling me that you wouldn’t give me a cross that I couldn’t carry. I don’t want to hear that. I want my mom back. I hate seeing my dad so sad! He looks so depressed.

(Stands up, lifts up her arms)

Lord, I want to praise you in the storm. When I am weak you are strong.

And then it happened…

No, my mom wasn’t healed. However, my healing process began.

I allowed Jesus precious light to shine into the darkness of my hurt. To this day, I don’t know how the book “Just Enough Light for the Step I am on,” got in my hands.

God used that book to speak to my sadness.

I finally understood that through the bad, unfortunate seasons, we just need a little light – hope, encouragement, and faith – to carry us through the day.

I also knew that I needed to adjust my thinking when it came to my relationship with the Lord. 

I had a home church. But shortly afterwards, a coworker invited me to attend her church – NewLife Community Church.

(Sitting in NewLife Community Church park lot)

Lord, here I am. You said in your word, that if I draw near to you, you will draw near to me! Here I am.

(Enters church and worship music is playing- Back to the Heart of Worship)

Shortly after my first visit, the Pastor taught a series- Joy is a Choice. I truly believe that once I surrendered my hurt to God, He was able to orchestrate my process of healing.

Yes, I still experience moments of sadness because I am grieving the loss of my mother, but I am thankful that I can now trust and lean on my God. I can go through this storm with a smile on my face, because He is my Joy!

You know, I am still often asked about my mom!

But now, instead of just saying, “She is not doing well!” I also tell them- “But my God is keeping me through it and He is my JOY!”

Back In My Day: Part 4 – All Good Things…

In the early 80s, technology to us was the television (the console type, if you were fancy it came with a little box that let you change the channels!), the record player, rotary phone (with the extended cord), the two-dimensional pong game (bleep, bleep), and, if you were lucky, the latest and greatest video game- Atari (can you say…Space Invaders).

Back in my day, we didn’t have all of the current technology kids have now. But, we had plenty of face-to-face conversations with our neighbors.

But, since then, plenty of innovative inventions such as the cell phone, wireless internet, Google, Social Networks, and Cable TV, have been introduced. They have increased our ability to obtain things faster, and we have become more efficient. However, some of these inventions have hurt us more than we realized or would like to admit. These innovations have undoubtedly stolen precious, non-retractable time from our lives and our loved ones.

They have become time wasters. The very thing they were made to give us more of.

If we aren’t catching up on our favorite DVR’d reality shows. We are channel surfing for anything enticing. We are binge watching episode after episode of a commercial-less sitcom on Netflix.

If we aren’t playing mindless games on our convenient internet accessible cellphone, we are texting, facebooking, pinning, tweeting, or chatting.

We have taken these novelties, and to some extent, have made them our primary way to connect with others. 

We have allowed these gizmos and gadgets to minimize and redefine, the simple, yet humanistic aspect of relationships – the face-to-face interaction.

Consequently, we have become socially awkward to a point where we struggle with making new friends- or carrying a conversation.

We want to live in our bubble- with locked eyes on LED-lit touch screens . We want to simply stick to ourselves, to our family, and to our small circle of friends.

This overabundance of convenience has created a disturbing trend.

Many of us, don’t even know our neighbors, the people that live within feet from us. The African proverb that “It takes a village to raise a child” is becoming more and more extinct in our city.

As we have become more “connected”, we have become disconnected from ourselves.

Certainly, there are advantages to the new ways when we want to connect with friends and family members miles away from us.

Back in my day, long distance phone calls to Puerto Rico were costly and letters mailed would take approximately a week to arrive.

Refreshingly, many things still remain the same, as they once were.

Waking up to an alarm in the morning hasn’t changed. It may no longer be an alarm clock, but rather your phone alarm. We still need some type of device to wake you up.

And if you are a parent, you most likely have the agonizing task of waking up a child and getting them ready to go to school. I can attest, this hasn’t changed.

Like most children today, when I was a child, I would be kicking, screaming, and begging to stay asleep on school mornings.

But, Saturday mornings were different I, along with my little sister, would – with blankets in hand – jump off our beds, run to the wooden framed television, turn the knob, and there they were…

Saturday morning cartoons.

We watched and we watched! There was no pause button.

Back in my day, there was no Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, or Cartoon Network. Now-a-days, there is always something on TV, and if not there is always Netflix- “Kids” section – with it’s endless catalogue of cartoon classics from claymation to musicals – to fall back on. 

We had ….Channel 11 (PBS) and the Saturday morning cartoons.

During the weekday mornings PBS had long blocks of children programming. There were many shows, good shows. But, two- Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and Sesame Street were my highlights. They were the mainstays.

They were more than phenomenal educational shows. They were the example of the quintessential children shows that demonstrated how to be a good citizen in your neighborhood.

Mister Roger’s Neighborhood.

The theme song with a catchy 15 second tune played with a xylophone, as a red trolley rode through a neighborhood, and the camera honed in on a yellow house – Mister Roger’s house, and then quickly transitioned into a yellow traffic light located in his living room.

And then, Mister Roger would walk through the front door singing…

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you,

I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.

As Mister Roger sang his song, he would make himself comfortable by switching into a cardigan zipper sweater and his low top, blue Converse sneakers.

I loved how he and the jingle were in sync with each other. When he zipped his sweater and when he took off his right shoe, and tossed it towards his left hand the xylophone or piano will hit a high note.

Mister Roger’s goals was to educate his viewers, mostly 3-6 years olds. He would take them on tours of factories and they would learn how things – crayons, fortune cookies, sneakers- were made.

But, by far, the premise of the show was to encourage the viewers to love their neighborhood and their neighbors…

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say “It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.” Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”  Mister Rogers

Sesame Street

Come and play

Everything’s A-OK

Friendly neighbors there

That’s where we meet …

As the theme song played, children of different backgrounds ran-through fields of tall grass, parks, and dirt roads. Children rode on animals and fed them. Children slid down the slide and hung out on the monkey bars. Children played “Ring Around the Rosy” while others kids ran around playing tag.

Sesame Street had plenty of human characters as well as a galore of puppets, such as Bert & Ernie, Kermit the Frog, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, Count von Count, Grover, Mr. Snuffleupagus, and one can’t forget Big Bird who led the pack of characters.

There were recurring segments – Number of the Day, Letter of the Day, Sesame Street Pageants, Pinball Number Count (The 12 Song) , Sesame Street News Flash, and the the list goes on.

Sometimes the show had adorable Pre-k visitors, like John, John-, and a guest stars. The show also had a few famous songs- People In Your Neighborhood, Sing, Sing A Song, etc.

Sesame Street was more than an educational show for me.  It showed me how to share, and be kind to others. It encouraged acceptance of others, because it was completely racially integrated. It was a show definitely before it’s time.

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and Sesame Street taught me how to be a good neighbor in my neighborhood – Back of the Yards.

Back in my day, I played up and down my street- 53rd and Wood, and I knew my neighbors.

Until the unthinkable (to the mind of this 10 year-old girl) happened.

My family purchased a house in the Marquette Park neighborhood. We were movin’ on up, to the farther west side- Damen to Kedzie.  For my parents, they felt like they finally got a piece of the pie!

We were leaving our rat and cockroach infested two bedroom apartment, and moving to a four bedroom house with a big back yard that had a pool.

I, however, felt differently.

I was leaving my security blanket, my safety net, my familiar (friends, schools, my block) for the unknown.

I had a multitude of questions..

Would they know how to double dutch?

Would there be a playground close to my new house?

Would there be a corner store down the block?

Would the piraguero (snow cone man) in the brown station wagon come to my new neighborhood?

At the end of fifth grade, we did end up moving out of the Back of the Yards.

There was no playground or corner store near my house, the girls from the neighborhood didn’t know how to play double dutch, and the piraguero (snow cone man) didn’t come around.

But, to my pleasant surprise my new neighborhood was full of friendly children that loved to play up and down the block until the street lights came on, just like my “old” block.

Marquette Park was becoming my new neighborhood, but Back of the Yards would always be home. To many, my home may have looked run-down and just plain ugly.

But, we had the essential ingredients for making memories that would last a lifetime – love, loyalty and laughter.

My “Back In My Day” series has been about looking back to a time when things were simpler, and occasionally, much better. Yes, my family experienced some challenging times, but I wouldn’t change our humble beginnings.

I am who I am because of those days- a humble and kind, yet bold and confident woman.

Back In My Day: Part 3 – Improvised Cuisine With Conversation

Many of us are familiar with the saying “born with a silver spoon in your mouth”. In short, it is a saying to represent a person born into a wealthy family.

However, you may not know the history behind that saying.

In the 1700s, it was common for individuals to bring their own spoons to the table. Having a silver spoon conveyed your social class, and at times was a way to identify land- owners from slaves. Hence, silver spoons were linked to wealth.

In the mid 70s, I came into this world with a plastic spoon in my mouth.

My teenage, runaway parents were penniless, pinched for money, down-and-out, flat broke…

But according to my dad, my mom and him were poor, but proud. They were determined to make it, on their own.

Back in my day, we didn’t have much, but we were resourceful and appreciative with what we had.

We were so poor that when I was four years old and my sister was two years old, my mom moved most of our belongings in a groceries cart to the new apartment on 54th and Marshfield.

Picture a 20 year old woman with two toddlers walking down the street with a grocery cart filled to the top with their belongings.

Sounds kind of outlandish. But, this was our reality.

At the time, we had one junky car – a beater – that my dad used, to go to work. My mom being the woman she was – capable, strong, and tenacious – took matters into her own hands and commenced the moving process with the grocery cart.

We were so poor that I can vividly call to mind a destitute moment in our lives.

I was five years old at the time, my mom, 3 year old sister, and I just finished shopping at the grocery store on 54th and Ashland.

After walking three blocks, and up a flight of stairs with her arms filled with groceries purchased with food stamps, my mom was greeted to a paper on our door.

She put the groceries down, glanced at the sign – that most likely looked like gibberish to her,  since she was illiterate – and proceeded to unlock the door. The key wouldn’t work.

As I looked up at my mom, I can see the despair in her eyes.

She then clearly understood the circumstance – the letter was an eviction notice, and the landlord had changed the locks.

But, being an able-bodied woman, she brushed it off, and told us we were going to visit her parents.

She grabbed my sister and I, and proceeded to walk the five blocks with bags of groceries in hand.

We were so poor that a few days before the first of the month, (which was when the government sent the food stamps), the refrigerator and pantry were bare.

I can recollect many dishes my mom and/or abuela (grandmother) would concoct due to the empty pantry. It was improvised cuisine at its best.

At my grandma Maria’s house we ate a lot of harina de avena (oatmeal), almidon de maiz (corn starch), and arroz con leche (rice and milk).

The arroz con leche didn’t contain cinnamon sticks, carnation milk, and evaporated milk. It was a more simpler recipe- boil the rice with water, drain the water, add milk with a pinch of salt.

At my house…

For breakfast, we usually ate eggs or pancakes. My mom would cut a hotdog in four pieces and cook it on a skillet and that would be our side. Sometimes, we would have a slice of bacon or ham, or a sausage link.

Her sunny side of egg and slice of ham sandwich was such a treat!

For lunch, we ate a lot of sandwiches with salami or bologna. If we ran out of cold cuts, miracle whip with bread would have to do. Sometimes we ate Chef Boyardee and Campbell soups.

Her homemade cheeseburger and french fries were such a treat!

For dinner, we ate a lot of pork chops with arroz con gandules o habichuelas rojas (rice with pigeon peas or red beans), and if there weren’t any beans, my mom would supplement it with spam, weiners, chorizo, or plain old ketchup.

Her arroz con habichuelas guisadas y bistec con cebolla (rice with stew beans and steak with onions) was such a treat!

My mom usually took my grandma to do her groceries.

By far the best part of the first of the month was the yummy sweets my grandmother would purchase- Goya Maria cookies, Royal Dansk Danish Butter Cookies, and my all time favorite- Florecitas Iced Gems Cookies.

There was no doubt about it, that woman had a sweet tooth, which my mom, and I graciously inherited from her.

I couldn’t wait to get back to her house and have one of them with a cup of coffee. Of course, my coffee mostly had milk and sugar.

Back in my day, it didn’t matter what we ate, because we ate it around the table with a whole lot of conversation.

And that my friend is what life is all about…

Back In My Day: Part 2 – Pennies and Piraguas

A penny doesn’t buy you much these days.

In fact, legislators are recommending they stop making the penny. The cost of producing, handling, and counting penny coins is simply not worth it.

Back in my day, a penny was worth something.

The Penny Loafer’s opening in the strap was a good place to keep a penny or two for an emergency phone call. Pay-phones were once five cents.

The penny was also seen as good luck.

For brides it was  “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a lucky penny in the shoe.”

Back then, you wouldn’t walk by a penny and not pick it up.

Like the saying went, “Find a penny, pick it up. All day long, you’ll have good luck.”

Unless, of course, the penny was tails side up, then some people would turn it around for the the next person to find.  Some people believed that it was only good luck to pick up a penny if it was heads side up.

But for children back then all pennies were good luck. It meant a trip to the corner store.

Back in my day, there were two corner stores within a three block radius of my home.

The corner store supplied our neighborhood with everyday household groceries.

But, the most important thing it provided the neighborhood kids with was the variety and abundance of Penny Candy!

…swedish fishes, bazooka gum, tootsie rolls, Johnny appleseeds, lemon heads, wax candy, now and laters….

Sometimes, I was lucky, and I had a nickel or dime. That meant…

sunflower seeds, candy cigarettes, sour pickles…

Oh! How we ate some of those things…

I recall one particular time, I had to go to the corner store for my godmother Judy to purchase a can of beans, or something like that. She gave me a $1 food stamp.

It was a common thing to use food stamps in my neighborhood.

It was money.

And that day, the $1 food stamp paid for my 5 pieces of candy, which was my payoff for making the trip for her.

On those hot summer evenings, we sat on our porches waiting for the Piraguero (snow cone man).

He could be a block away, but he would make his presence known with the loud – occasionally Salsa – music.

Once he got closer, we can hear him yelling…

“Piraguas ,Piraguas, Piraguas, chupa, chupa, chupa (suck).”

He would double park his Brady Brunch looking station wagon in the middle of the street and open up the trunk, which contained a huge rectangular cooler that stored the block of ice, and five pump dispensers that had the best fruit flavored syrups- strawberries, cherry, coconut, tamarindo, and guayaba.

The neighborhood kids would crowd around with their quarters waiting to purchase the best treat our neighborhood provided.

The old man would take out his glorious gadget- the silver scraper- to make the shaved ice.

He would then take funnel shaped tool to create the cone-pyramid.

Lastly, he would pour the flavored syrup on top of the ice.

The name piraguas derived from the spanish words “piramide” (pyramid) and “agua” (water).

The piragua is sipped through a straw, unlike the American snow cone, which is usually eaten with a spoon.

Which explains the “chupa, chupa, chupa.”

Today, a penny wouldn’t buy you much. Heck, $1 wouldn’t get you much these days either.

Back in my day, you can make a child happy with a penny.

Those were simple times, with simple expectations, and a whole lot of sensational sloppy smiles due to all the outdoor playing and candy and piraguas indulgences.