Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Back to the Grind, Taking Back My Life

I took this picture in my parent's house. Isn't your desktop filled with statues of Mary, old photos, trinkets, and troll dolls?

It was less than a week after my dad's funeral and I was working remotely from the parental pad. I dialed into the bridge line, started listening to the awesome Chispa group, and as I looked up at this vignette I started laughing so hard. Suzanne, Linda, Carol, or Ruth said I should take a picture of it so here it is!

The house I grew up in is a wonderful montage of religious iconography, folk art, and modern day mementos. That troll doll you see wears a Tshirt saying "Aged to Perfection". Since La Virgencita is no spring chicken, I thought they made a great accidental pairing.

Getting Back to Work

It's been hard getting totally back into work. If I allow my attitude to get the best of me, I could sit here and cry and moan. Last night I went to a Comadrazo at Ana Nogale's house and it was just the medicine I needed.

We sat outside and talked and I got to share about my dad's death. There is no agenda at a Comadrazo, it just is what it is. Sometimes the conversation is about business, other times it's more personal, sometimes it's all about what we're passionate about.

Lo and behold about half the people there had been involved with Comadre Coaching in one way or another. One woman I had coached gave a heartfelt testimonial about how our work together got her out of burnout and more focused. Then Rocio, a director of a women's shelter and community activist, shared how attending one workshop I gave a few months ago sparked her to start a non profit to benefit the children of Chiapas, Mexico.

Rocio gave me a 30 minute testimonial, weaving in how passionate she has always been about the children in Mexico and how this one afternoon in February gave her the intiative to make it happen. She has a fundraiser coming up in August so you'll all be sure to learn about that.

Then a new Comadre, Karen, told us about herself and recognized me from the Orange Coast magazine article a few months ago. "I knew it was you the minute you said you had a daughter named Citlalli. I mean how many women named Nancy with daughters named Citlalli can there be?"

After talking and eating (tamales, picadillo, chicken, salad, dessert), Ana gave me a beautiful flowering plant. We ended the evening by each asking for something. When I was talking earlier I said how I have learned how to ask for help, so Ana suggested we each ask for something.

"What do you need, Nancy", she asked in her gentle voice.

"I just need people to call me and say hi. That would make my day."

Everyone else got the chance to ask for whatever help and support they needed.

We ended the night like that. It's always a special time to get together con las comadres.

(If you'd like to learn how to find a Comadrazo near you, get on the mailing list at www.lascomadres.org)


Thursday, July 21, 2005

Creativity and Grief

With the unexpected death of my father, one of my biggest fears was sinking into a dark depression void of any creative spark. Little did I realize that creativity can help you through times of grief the same way that talking with good friend can.

When my Uncle Larry died, I remember my dad giving the eulogy and saying, "I wish I had a deck of cards and a racing form to lay on your coffin."

Remembering that, I emailed my 5 siblings to begin work on designing a funeral program for Dad that would be like a racing form. It turned out great.

Each horse's name had a Dad connection: Flea Market Wedding (a brilliant publicity stunt he pulled back in 1981), Sykeston Boy (named after his hometown), and a few others. I believe we had 10 horses in the lineup.

Inside the program was a heartfelt letter from the family, milestones of his life, and the names of all his many businesses through the years, kids, grandkids, my mom, etc.

Making this was a healing, cathartic exercise that allowed us to laugh and remember the qualities of our dad that made him SO HIM.


The priest who said the funeral is new in town and barely knew my dad. Mind you, my dad was Mr. Active Parishioner at Our Lady of Grace, maybe more so in the past but a very prominent man in the local parish community. If it wasn't for him, our school wouldn't have had a basketball court, several groups, and TV for the nuns.

On the morning of the funeral, Fr. Newbie comes running out of the church towards my sister, Racing form/program in hand.
"You CAN'T give this out in church! This is NOT appropriate for church! This does NOT mention Jesus Christ and CANNOT be used".

"F*** you", she thinks to herself as she dials her cell phone to me.

"Nancy, I'm here with Father G and he feels that our program is inappropriate because it doesn't mention Jesus Christ."
Her voice was filled with sarcasm and anger. (the priest was standing right next to her)

"Oh, f*** him!", I shout. I could barely breathe, I was so livid. I felt like someone just slammed the doors in our faces. Don't even think of messing with my dad's memory, I kept thinking.

"Yeah, I know, I thought the same thing", she replied, with him still standing right there.

He didn't know my dad. He didn't know how much he contributed to this church, he didn't know jack! I've never told a clergy member to go eff himself, but I was very close to it.

My other sister got into the heat of it and we were like lock and load hillbilly sisters ready to even a score.

FORTUNATELY my brother showed up at the church with inserts for the programs that listed the readings, songs, etc (ie all the religious stuff) and the priest, realizing what an ass he had been, relented and allowed our program in.

If this priest were in charge of recruiting and retaining practicing Catholics, I think we'd have a whole lot of conversion OUT of the church by this point.

EVERYONE at the funeral LOVED the programs. My dad, rest his soul, loves it. I'm sure he would've told us that the priest was a dipshit, one of his affectionate terms for people who bugged him.


In all this regime changing at my parent's church, another baffling edict was cast down by the Diocese of Oakland. No more alcohol served at the Parish Hall.

"OK wait, there has got to be a loophole here", I protested.

Me, the non-drinker for the past 9 years.

"Sorry, orders from the Bishop."

Once again, bad management decisions in the Catholic Church.

My dad liked his libation. He bonded with people over drinks. The thought of his funeral being a dry event almost brought tears to my eyes. So instantly my sister and I had to make plans on spiking the punch. Dad would've been so proud!

She hid a bottle of Skyy vodka under the table and whoever needed that fortification had it. I'm not one to dictate how people should grieve.

A Great Sendoff

Despite all the drama and clandestine spiking of punch, my dad's funeral was AWESOME. The church was jam packed, we saw people we hadn't seen since we were little kids. People flew in from all over the country just for the day so they could be there.

My sister, my brothers, and I all gave touching and humorous eulogies.

(My dad knows I want to do more speaking gigs so ha ha ha dad).

In the end, it all came out beautifully. Father Newbie actually had a bit of an awakening after the funeral and softened up. My family came together yet again to put on a helluva party.

I'm feeling joyful when I think of my dad and can feel his presence all around us. He's up there in a good place dealing a game of Pinochle with his brothers, stinkin' up some angel's den with a Cuban cigar, and enjoying a cool beverage on the rocks.


Saturday, July 16, 2005

My Dad

I had posted last week updating people on my dad's surgery, but I just deleted that post, the first time I've ever done that. It didn't seem the right thing to have.

On July 8 my dad passed away.

I'm going to have to return to this topic and expand upon how we honored him, but I want to let people know that creativity still comes alive while grieving.

My dad was an avid sports fan and loved horse racing. So in honor of him, we designed the funeral program to look like a racing form. Each horse's name on the racing form was based on something that had to do with him. It was an inside joke that everyone present got.

I will get more out on this topic but right now I need rest. It's been nonstop since I got back to the Bay Area to help my family through all this.

My dad was a wonderful man and i miss him so much. He taught me everything I know about being independent and going after what I want. We used to butt heads a lot, but they say you always butt heads w/ those you resemble most. As we both got older, a friendship grew and mutual respect. He was one of my biggest supporters to the day he died.

Rest in peace dad. I love you.


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

New Crafty Chica Website

My comadre Kathy Cano Murillo just launched the latest manifestation of her nalga kickin' website, Crafty Chica

I love the fonts, the colors, all the great content that she's added! Kathy is one of my sheroes, always inspiring me with her wondrous creativity.

All that plus she's a total sweetie, and very humble.

Her links page continues to be my favorite anywhere with everything for the creative chica (or chico).

Another very cool place to visit: http://www.latinalista.blogspot.com/

LatinaLista blog is nonstop info on everything from immigration to the dismal world of ethnic representation on network TV. Maria Trevino, I don't know you but I love you!


Saturday, July 02, 2005

You Bring Out the Mexican in Me

Lavish me with gorgeous jewelry.

That's your affirmation for the day. Actually, you may want to insert "I want to lavish Nancy with gorgeous jewelry", because deep down inside that's what I want you to do.

This web site has great items from around the world by expert artesans. You can start there.

If I were to go to my local barrio jewelry, I would definitely NOT find what I'm looking for. I want the muy Mexicano jewelry, pre-tourist mega resort Mexico, pre-NAFTA.

Necklaces and bracelets and earrings that my inner Frida cries for. Ancient designs that look just as amazing today as they did 1000 years ago.

Nowadays, if you go to a Mexican jeweler, you're going to find rows and rows of big gold stuff. Like big gold AK-47s, and big gold hand guns, and big gold crosses... what I call misguided creativity.

I'll take the big, make it silver instead of gold and go for the old school designs. Big and bold. Aztec, Olmec, Toltec to bring out the real Mexicana in me.

Here is one of my favorite poems in the whole wide world to help complete the picture,

You Bring Out the Mexican In Me by Chicana poet laureate Sandra Cisneros.
You bring out the Mexican in me.
The hunkered thick dark spiral.
The core of a heart howl.
The bitter bile.
The tequila lágrimas on Saturday all
through the next weekend Sunday.
You are the one I'd let go the other loves for,
surrender my one-woman house.
Allow you red wine in bed,
even with my vintage lace linens.
Maybe. Maybe

For you.

You bring out the Dolores del Río in me.
The Mexican spitfire in me.
The raw navajas, glint and passion in me.
The raise Cain and dance with the rooster-footed devil in me.
The spangled sequin in me.
The eagle and serpent in me.
The mariachi trumpets of the blood in me.
The Aztec love of war in me.
The fierce obsidian of the tongue in me.
The berrinchuda, bien-cabrona, in me.
The Pandora's curiosity in me.
The pre-Columbian death and destruction in me.
The rainforest disaster, nuclear threat in me.
The fear of fascists in me.
Yes, you do. Yes, you do.

You bring out the colonizer in me.
The holocaust of desire in me.
The Mexico City '85 earthquake in me.
The Popocatepetl/Ixtaccíhuatl in me.
The tidal wave of recession in me.
The Agustín Lara hopeless romantic in me.
The barbacoa taquitos on Sunday in me.
The cover the mirrors with cloth in me.

Sweet twin. My wicked other,
I am the memory that circles your bed nights,
that tugs you taut as moon tugs ocean.
I claim you all mine,
arrogant as Manifest Destiny.
I want to rattle and rent you in two.
I want to defile you and raise hell.
I want to pull out the kitchen knives,
dull and sharp, and whisk the air with crosses.
Me sacas lo mexicana en mi,
like it or not, honey.

You bring out the Uled-Nayl in me.
The stand-back-white-bitch in me.
The switchblade in the boot in me.
The Acapulco cliff diver in me.
The Flecha Roja mountain disaster in me.
The dengue fever in me.
The ¡Alarma! murderess in me.
I could kill in the name of you and think
it worth it. Brandish a fork and terrorize rivals,
female and male, who loiter and look at you,
languid in your light. Oh,

I am evil. I am the filth goddess Tlazoltéotl.
I am the swallower of sins.
The delicious debauchery. You bring out
the primoridal exquisiteness in me.
The nasty obsession in me.
The corporal and venial sin in me.
The original transgression in me.

Red ocher. Yellow ocher. Indigo. Cochineal.
Piñón. Copal. Sweetgrass. Myrrh.
All you saints, blessed and terrible.
Virgen de Guadalupe, diosa Coatlicue,
I invoke you.

Quiero se tuya. Only yours. Only you.
Quiero amarte. Atarte. Amarrate.
Love the way a Mexican woman loves.
Let me show you. Love the only way I know how.

Buy Sandra's book here