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The Choices We Make

Which part is choice? Which part is destiny? 

Which part is inevitable? 

What do we own? What do we deny?

The cock crows three times.

Somewhere right now my sister is blaming me for everything that ever went wrong in her life.

Somewhere my fiancee’s ex is spreading lies.

there are no angels; there are devils in many ways

Take it like a woman. A mother with an almost good as new heart.

Except for the cracks, where she oozes onto the floor.

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On Working

Normally, I err on the side of women. I vote on the side of the most down trodden. I believe the oppressed over the oppressors reflexively. I look around at friends who are passionate about a subject and often will–if it is their area of expertise and not mine, default to their judgement on an issue.

My own life has not been without its adversaries. I’ve had assailants. Wicked stepfathers. Oppressive male coworkers. I could easily slip into the prejudices of men are evil, most women are good.

But that isn’t always so.

I know women who are #metoo-ing that have nothing to #metoo about. That’s infuriating. Like please, save space for actual victims of harassment. If you’re not in this sisterhood, good for you. But for heaven’s sake don’t undermine the credibility of those that have.

Perhaps nothing infuriates me more than a woman who uses womanhood as some sort of crutch. An excuse not to work. An excuse not to contribute to society in a positive way somehow. Recently a woman of that description came up in conversation. She was said to have wanted “a traditional life of a wife.” What is that? I wondered. She didn’t want to work outside the home and wanted everything handed to her. She didn’t want to work inside the home either. Oh she wanted to be a *traditional* wife.

Did that ever exist? Economically working class white women and all women of color have pretty much *had* to work despite marital status. Where is this fantasy land of non work?

What is this idea of using the word “had”? What is that supposed to imply. To live on this planet and survive most people regardless of gender “have” to work–what that work is changes depending on our geography, skill level, etc. But also implied here is that there are yet still some women who have this idea that marriage or living with (usually) a man is a ticket to sit on the couch.

I read this god awful whiney piece in the Washington Post this morning: Minority White Workers are upset because they had no gumption for learning skills or higher education so they are working factory line work where those around them are largely immigrant labor. Aye dios mio.

There is always something one can do to be a productive member of society. My inmate students often talk about their time fighting fires as inmate firefighters as some of the proudest moments of their lives–when they did for others –regardless of how shitty the pay is.

Work at each of our own paces. Work the work that suits us best. Work the work we have the opportunity to do whether its for cash, on our selves, our families. Work to make our world a better place.

Some of my jobs involve no pay at all. Some pay well. I don’t know what it’s like not to want to engage enough to provide myself with a reason for living. I’m programmed to want to work and pay my own way.

A good friend of mine was involved once with a woman who moved in with him, quit her job, and announced her desire to be a housewife. No kids were involved. No volunteer work. No housecleaning. Nothing you could think of that might take up space in a day productively. She’s still upset that she got called on her mooching and now that she has to fend for herself it’s the fault of illegals. (Yeah, I don’t see the jump in logic either).

I remember when my ex-husband and I first moved to the mountains. I worked online, but he didn’t have work yet, but he volunteered in the thrift store while he was busy putting in applications. First off it meant he got to meet people up here and get to know the cast of characters. I try and tell my kids that going to school is fine but what’s that other piece going to be each semester? What will they volunteer for? What will be their job? How do we acquire empathy for others if we don’t leave the couch?

That’s my rant today. Now I have to jump in the shower, haul kids to their respective activities and their work, and then get to my work as well.

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That Weekend In Indiana…

You’re looking at four photographs from the film Kill Dolly Kill by Director Heidi Moore (a musical sequel to her film Dolly Deadly, 2016) by Wretched Productions and HM&M Films and TROMA. Yes, back in May I got to live out my trashy campy John Waters-esque dreams of playing up the camp in faded 80s goth girl glory. My character? Rigamorta. BEST NAME FOR A CAMPY/HORROR MOVIE CHARACTER EVER. ALSO I GOT TO SING!

I’ve been a closet fan of TROMA films with a special fondness for Tromeo and Juliet. So I’m all bucket list happy for having done this in a trailer park outside Wininiac (SP?) Indiana.

One thing I learned on my first ever trip to Indiana was that there are people resisting TRUMP everywhere. I couldn’t find a single person in Indiana happy with Pence or Trump. It was refreshing and taught me not to immediately suspect and write off the midwest. I met so many cool people! I wanted to take them all back with me to California (or at least feed them California style). It was actually hard to leave at the end. We were such a little family of misfits and I’m hoping to do a film with them again sometime.

It will be out sometime in the fall. Stay tuned…

 

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On Mothering, On Lovering

ON MOTHERING

There are only two things you can do when someone misrepresents/defames you. You can either go inward and try and ignore it and hope one day that truth wins out and that all slanderers tongues go silent as if cursed and all listeners of such things become keenly aware that they’ve been had–or you confront the lies and misrepresentations of your character head on.

That’s where I’m at. I’m too scared to throw chanclas these days; I fear they will boomerang back and hit me in the face.

On the micro level, I’m one day away from my divorce being final. I will be unmarried and 49 with two children who I thought I was doing a great job raising because of course I would because I gave it my all and all would be perfect.

I’m just as clueless as the next parent.

Sometimes I feel like I’m in a science experiment. I fed my kid organic food I couldn’t afford and was overly involved in so many aspects of their lives and they are fairing no better or worse than the controlled experiment group that subsisted on kraft mac n cheese and the tv for a babysitter.

I raised them to think for themselves. I raised them to be aware of social conditioning, consumerism, and patriarchal expectations. So naturally my daughter hates feminism and my son’s bedroom looks like a Hot Topic tornado hit it.

I wonder sometimes if I took the job of mothering too seriously, too purposefully. The kids go to other people’s houses —houses without books, houses without political opinions, houses without the dire impending doom fight of me. They seek respite there. Banality. Less overt battles. A place they don’t have to think. I wonder about these other places too. Wonder if I was too much for them. Did I have kids too late in my 30s? Was it all too purposeful?

There is no winning here. It’s a matter of waiting and hoping that somewhere you instilled something that might trigger something called responsibility. Something called curiosity. Something called living. Something about giving back to the world around you.

I mother singularly now. Not a single parent–their father still very much here. Checking in with the other parent in the hopes that we will be on the same page every day. Most times we are. But there’s some fundamental differences in what we see as happiness and success. I want my kids thoughtful and engaged and self-sufficient. He wants the latter true, but measures the other part differently.

I see glimmers of hope. I have to hold on to that. I didn’t hold my end of the bargain. I didn’t stay with their dad till the end of the line. My fault. His fault. The fault of time and distance and the chasm between.

I have to remind myself not to look at my kids instagrams if I know what’s good for me.

ON WIFING

I was reading a vague booked reference to me and didn’t of course recognize the hated person as myself right away. Hussy. Psycho.  A woman who does not know me’s use of those words on me. Got me thinking of the nature of our own realities.

In 1996, on my honeymoon with my first husband in a hotel room we’d spent all night getting to in Bratislava, I knew my relationship had ended and that we’d be getting divorced. I knew it wouldn’t last. Traveling internationally with those ill-equipped to go with the flow brings on these denouement moments. I didn’t tell my first husband that it was over; I barely told myself. But that moment in Bratislava never left me and I always knew that was the beginning of the end.

It wasn’t that I didn’t try to keep us together for the next 3 years (our divorce was final in 2001 but I left to go to work in Japan in 2000 by myself–and the year before was spent on friend’s couches).  We did many things to get away from each other. He went to seminary to become a priest and all of a sudden god was with us and I felt like a third wheel. I went deep into graduate school thesis project and an ex-lover.

I’m sure he would tell it differently. Most times, I don’t think it appropriate to tell it at all.

Likewise my second husband–our divorce final tomorrow–I feel the same way about. We got together when I was already writing. I try to keep him out of things. I only answer questions when asked about it. Every once in awhile I have that snap moment where he’s pushed my buttons and I vent–but it’s rare. I try to put it down to a sentence now. We got together when both of us really wanted to have children. That coupled desire works for a good long stretch but doesn’t work when you don’t have anything else (duh). So at least we will always be a family. And we can move on–he back to his lone wolf & cub ways. Me to being an artist without having to be chastised for it. It would have been sixteen years next week. That’s some sort of California longevity miracle. But a failure none the less–we were planning to break up after the kids graduated. We fell four years short. But really I knew we were breaking up 10 years a go. I’m just a chickenshit for facing failure. I didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t keep it together, that the differences between us really are irreconcilable. I broke in mind in 2016. I broke in body in 2017. I break in paper now.

ON LOVERING

But then there’s also this question of happiness. While wandering around in the PTSD of relationship malaise whose details I will not go into because KIDS, I started questioning the perceptions we guide ourselves by. I started wondering like all mothers who are still women and humans whether self sacrifice is always necessary. Why do we do this thing of making other people happy and leaving nothing left for ourselves? What does that teach our children?

My grandmother turned 96 last year and I turned 48 and I thought for a moment–what if I have another 48 years? How should I live them? Should I dare to be happy in that time? Should I be okay with being who I am rather than who I’m expected to be? Do I dare steal away a moment for myself? Is it okay to email a man I interviewed back to tell him how speaking with him made me come alive?

Last September I started seeing a man–but more than that–my twin. Anything I say after that sentence will seem completely corny and insipid and groanfully geeky. I now understand what all the fuss about love is about. I get it now. When you meet the person who gets you, who you can have conversations with instead of staring at the wall or having them in your diary, it’s like nothing else. When no one is putting up with the other but instead fully and totally in love and embracing the other…that’s a whole different type of love. People call it true love. I’m not sure what to call it yet. It’s different. It’s inspiring. And at this middle age of 49 it came entirely unexpected.

My man has suffered more years of vacant love than I have.

My ex goes inward–says little about us to people save for a few of his buddies and family who of course are feeding at a feast of a one-sided story. My friends and family have my own brunch I’ve thrown.

His ex lashes outward–gives women a bad name. She is a reminder that you can never help someone who doesn’t want to get better. Someone who has no self realization.

He spent years trying to conform to an identity placed upon him rather than one that was actually his. How well I know that feature of dysfunctional relationship. When someone demands your inauthenticity and you oblige–and then they call you a liar–and you are–because it’s what the role demanded. Because you didn’t have the guts to move on properly. I know this territory well. I am that territory. Sometimes self imposed–which is far worse.

Where do we go from here?

I take stock in my mothering, lovering. There are so many transferable skills. So much goodness I wish for them all. Even the exes.  Is it enough to just be who you are as a mother? Is it enough to just want to be present? There? Experience the moment and be grateful, appreciative, savoring and to give it all back in return? I think so.

And I’m hoping this thing called mothering and this thing of lovering will give me the strength and fortitude to help sustain the country from its self-propelled apocalypses.

But for this morning. I’m just breathing. Thankful and okay with myself. Even if I’m categorized as some psycho hussy by his ex. Even if my mothering is somewhat avant garde. Even if not everyone understands that my reality and theirs is not the same.

 

 

 

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Old School 4th Estate

I’ll admit it. I’ve been down. It’s hard to write a book or even a short story and escape into another world when all around you you can’t turn off the daily voices of Trump’s America designed to make everyone go to bed fearful, depressed, and anxiety ridden. I remember not liking W and Rumsfeld and Cheney. I remember freaking out over Reagan and suspicious all the time over Bush 1, but I don’t remember feeling like the world was going apart. My apocalypse came with an eyeroll.

Now I go through the day feeling like I’m going to throw up all the time. I go to bed thinking of people ripping kids away from their parents–and apparently being perfectly okay with that. I go to bed thinking of WH people persecuting brown people then dining in Mexican restaurants. I’m going to bed thinking this is not the world I wanted my kids to come of age in.

I realize in times like these is when people either rise up and become real men or and women and heroic or they continue on the path to selfishness and self-righteousness.

When I first was drawn to working for newspapers it felt quaint. I often seem to run towards things that are almost over, things that have no place in the contemporary world, and newspapers fit in well with that.

When I was much younger I worked at the LA Times, then the SF Chronicle…and now Feather River Publishing. Working for the print newspaper can make you feel antiquated and a sucker. But I really am beginning to appreciate my choices. Especially now. Now when so much is consolidated. Now when an administration shrugs off facts and gives us lies by the minute. It feels good to be working the underdog life at a community paper. I only work for them part time (I can’t afford to work for a newspaper full time). But instead of seeking out less of this work, I’m doing more.

I also like the machinery. I love the machinery actually. The big print machine turned on on  Tuesdays and produces a beautiful back beat.  A hum like no other. I can drown out my sorrows in that sound.  The sound of our democracy falling is temporarily drowned out by big loud sounds of truths. However small. A community paper doesn’t really touch on national issues but sometimes the outside world intervenes.

Wolf sightings. Water rights. Meth addict crimes. Commercial cannabis growing. The stuff of northern California. What I love about both living here and about small town independent papers is just that. The live and let live independence of it all.

It’s with that small town. Small press sensibility that I find solace and strength these days. Analog when needed. And it is so very needed.

Last Tuesday we had an editorial staff meeting that ended with a tour of the wonderful monolith of a machine. Here’s some photos that help keep me happy. A reminder that our words are important–no matter how small and trivial. It’s all still part of the 4th Estate. We’re here to keep tabs on the powers that be. We’re here to inform. And sometimes to celebrate.  Truth is important. Even still.

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Santa Cruz Noir is Here

This is such an exquisitely fun (and dark) book to be in. My story “Monarchs and Maidens” is in here as well as many truly inspired stories taking place in Santa Cruz County.

We just did a reading at SkyLight Books for it in Los Angeles. I always wanted to read at SkyLight and now I have!

 I am a big Naomi Hirahara fan so I’m overly geeky fan girl excited about being in a book with her. But also? Susie Bright! I’ve been reading her for years. She picked some great stories to be included here. I got to hear those in the photo read 300 words each of their stories. I wanted more.

I heard Lou Matthews, John Bailiff, Thomas O. Moore, Seana Graham, and Liza Warehouse as well.

I’ve been in many anthologies before but this one really feels special to me.

There’s a reading this Thursday at the Santa Cruz Bookshop that I wish I could make but I can’t. 😦 Have to finish getting divorced instead–that has its own noirish, implications, doesn’t it?

Here’s a link. Check us out:

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Calling on all California State Politicians to Respond

“Nüremberg Principal IV states that “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him”

We are in a moral crisis and none of us should be sleeping at night. California, I have given up on the other 49. I have always felt more allegiance to state than country. To the geography of the West–the open air beyond the great divide.

I heard about the border and I wanted to run down there despite the idiocy and spectacle and unwise planning a lone American latina on the border trying to rush facilities incarcerating babies and children would be. I didn’t know what I’d do when I got there. I’m a mother. I wanted to pull children on my lap and give them hugs and feed them and tell them it’ll be okay.

But it’s not going to be –childhood trauma runs deep. Whatever happens those kids will never forget. Best case scenario is children reunited with their parents will forever jump and panic the moment they are out of sight–to the bathroom, to another bed to sleep.

I can just manage feeding myself and my own kids. I feel helpless and as an article in Slate mentioned, slightly numb. Somewhere I’m convinced a meeting took place where Trump and his cabinet of evil decided to just inundate the good people of this land with stuff daily to break us down.

We will all go off social media for self-care and then they’ll sneak up on us and make life worse for everyone.

I digress but I used to think of Republicans as the nation’s grandfathers with a well-balanced if heartless check book.  We came up with ideas. They’d tell us no. Relent slightly. And sometimes one of those white supremacist roaches would crawl out of a crack in the foundation and we’d slap it with a newspaper and throw the whole thing away. Republicans had a roach problem but they weren’t themselves roaches.

I can’t even wrap my head anymore around dissecting this on a tray and finding out where it all went wrong. I only have a world where breastfeeding children are ripped from their mother’s bodies by the same people who want to force poor American women to have babies whether they want them or not. We live in a world now where the worst of everything is possible and no one acknowledges their own ironies.

Like a mass of evangelicals standing behind heartbreak and destruction with smiling happy wal mart faces.

I retreat to California. My state that stands in defiance to the Trump Administration. My  state’s politicians take this further. Each and every one of us needs to stand up. You need to stand up. Sign on. There is no sleeping for this state is a sanctuary for no one now.

Let’s go to the border of our great state together. Let’s demand to see the children. Let’s demand they are released to their parents immediately. Let’s verify they are safely together. Let’s welcome these families and feed them. Dear god, we owe them now at least that much.

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Daughter Lands Borders

I’m from the land of no apologies

of no forgiveness

of something you did when you were seven being held against you

from set bed times and daily chores:

that one load of laundry, empty the trash, sweep the floor

nothing in the sink; nothing on the floor perfection

A family of Latinas who call each other deep die cut names

imprinted and wrong on our light and dark skin equally

white girl.  brown girl. both.

I’m from households without tv or  Spanish

with loud Mexican music on a Saturday morning

to accompany cleaning

playing on an exquisite stereo

I’m from you don’t retire

you work until you die

from you aren’t supposed to have bills; pay cash

i’m from trust no one

i’m from generosity doesn’t call attention to itself

pristine vehicles and manicured lawns

because no one is going to call us out

i’m letter writing

taking it to the streets

making sure the powers that be

change their minds

whether they want to or not

I am dark lipstick

and hoop earrings

of never going outside in sweatpants

I’m on the altar of Our Lady of Guadalupe

and she watches over us all

standing up to the darkness

blue robed; gold starred

a force field of prayers

both answered and still asking for more

(with apologies to George Ella Lyon’s I’m From)

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Blue Sky Freedom–Rabble Lit

Blue Sky Freedom/ Margaret Elysia Garcia

is my newest personal essay up on Rabble Lit. I love this journal and the work they publish. It continually makes me feel like my perspective–my own working class background now has a voice and I appreciate that. I’m glad they wanted a piece on teaching in prison.

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A Chancla Thrown at School District Nonsense

Not long ago, my kids’ school,  was–when you get right down to it–bullied by the local school district. Almost since its inception, our school has been accused of ‘recruiting’ students to its programming–though most arrive on the doorstep of our charter severely exhausted at what amounts to beating one’s head against a wall advocacy of one’s kid in the traditional school setting. Our kids wound up in charter not because we’re religious fanatics, our mountain crazed hippies, but because the school district refused to meet the needs and goals of our children. Plain. Simple.

Earlier this year, the school district began a campaign against our school which I deem to be one of those last straws kind of arguments. They accused our school of racism saying our school didn’t have enough people of color and therefore we were effectively, an elite and racist school. Come again?

Dude, we live in a county that’s pretty damn white. How white? According to the Census Bureau we clock in at 90.5% white. Asian American, African American, and Pacific Islander ethnicities alone COMBINED don’t add up to 4%. Latinos and Native Americans make up the rest at staggeringly small numbers. But the school district says our school is racist because we don’t have non white students.

And this is where I, the mother, need to throw a chancla at someone’s head. Because we DO have Mexican American, Latinx children at our school. We DO have children who have Native American blood running in them. What is being said without being said is that our children, my children (Mexican American_, don’t count. My son’s girlfriend’s family (El Salvadoran) doesn’t count. Along with many other kids whose families are bicultural.

My kids are invisible and do not count the way successful ethnic minorities never get counted. You only see us in the negative. You don’t see us when it’s positive.

I’ve been asked if my kids had the same father (they do) because of the melatonin variation in their skin. Ummm…have you seen large Mexican families?!

I’ve had a lifetime–as has my mother–of people making ass backwards comments that go along the lines of “Wow. You guys are Mexican? But you’re so educated…” Heh. The department chair of my old department said as much to me. Somehow in her eyes, I wasn’t allowed to be Chicana because no one in my family had picked vegetables.

My kids speak English. They go to school. They are by and large successful students. One holds down an after school job. One does gymnastics and dance and both are in musical theater. But the vibe I’m getting from the school district is that since neither one of them is in a gang, sells drugs, or is pregnant, they somehow aren’t brown enough. Trump logic. Pendejos.

So, PUSD, come after us. Go ahead. My chanclas are ready to thwack that nonsense right out of your two-bit heads.