Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Indomitable Grandma

Last Tuesday 

I could tell by the look on my mom's face
that something was wrong.

"Grandma's in the ER.
She was there last night
and they released her,
but she had to go back.
I'm driving up tomorrow."

She had felt like she couldn't breathe
and had called her brother for help.

By the time he'd arrived at her house
the paramedics were loading her
into the ambulance.

The 15 minutes it took him
to get to her house had seemed too long,
so she'd called 911.

I was sitting on the couch
when my phone buzzed.

"They're intubating Grandma.
I'm leaving now."

Paul works nights in the ER
and there are days when I have to be at work
by 6am,
so a few times a week we spend the night
at Nana's house.

Luckily it was one of those nights
and I was able to jump in the car with my mom.


We had done this drive 10 years ago
almost to the day.

My uncle had called with the same news.
She had had trouble breathing and called the ambulance.

They had her in the ER but everything was going to be ok.
By the time we got there
it was bad.


Congestive heart failure
and fluid in her lungs.

I was 5 months pregnant with Lucas
when they told me that she was probably
going to die.

Her heart and lungs were failing
and they were doing everything they could
but she had a 10% chance of surviving.

We slept on the floor of the ICU,
watched her vitals dip and rise,
and searched the eyes and words
of the doctors and nurses for help and hope.

Machines were breathing for her,
medications were keeping her heart
from stopping.

On the 2nd day they told us to call for  a priest
if we were so inclined.

We went to her home and tore apart
closets and desks
for any guidance she may have had in place
for a situation like this,
there wasn't any.

We met the priest at the hospital
with the rest of the family in tow.

We stood around her bed,
holding her hand,
tears streaming down our faces,
but as he began to read,
my grandmother,
with paralytics and painkillers
coursing through her body,
began to shake her head 
as if to say "No!"
to the holy water being sprinkled on her.

And we began to cry harder
and to laugh.

No one was giving her
her last rites 
if she had anything
to say about it.

She began to improve after that.

It was a long road,
but she eventually got out of the ICU,
the hospital,
the rehab.

Her cardiologist told my mom,
"Your mother is the kind of woman
you can't even kill with a rusty nail."

Back home she went
to her life,
to her homes and car,
to her plants and dog.

Forever 4'11" 
(although she'll say 5')
of vim and vigor.

My great-aunt's 90th birthday

My grandmother
is one of 3 girls
in a family of 9.

She is not the oldest,
but my great-aunt had polio
as a child
and so my Grandma
became the leader.

She came to the States
in her 20s.

Worked as a nanny 
and housekeeper,
then a seamstress.

She would make bathing suits
and sell them out of the back
of her car.

She taught herself how to
speak English,
invest in the stock market,
navigate a city and a world
that is not always friendly
to young, immigrant women.

Some of my first memories are of being
at my Grandma's house.

Of her fruit trees.

Of novelas
(Mexican soap operas).

Of my Popeye record player.

Of her picking me up from school
in her blue station wagon.

Of standing on a foot stool
at her kitchen island
baking Christmas cookies.

Of watching her make chile rellenos
for my Grandpa Dwight
and delivering them to his office.

She did that even
after they were divorced
because they were his favorite,
and that is where I learned
that sometimes when words fail,
food and kind actions
will suffice.

She is the one
who taught me to bake,
to garden,
to sew.

I am the oldest grandchild
and those early years
of just the two of us 
are so precious to me.

Twenty years later
I called to tell my Grandma
that I was pregnant again.

I apologized
for being unmarried 
and I told her I felt ashamed,
that I knew I had not been
raised this way.

And then she told me her story.

Of her mistakes,
her heartbreaks,
the night she sobbed 
on the floor
over a betrayal.

This woman I had always loved
told me about her humaness
and in turn gifted me
with the secrets to her
strength and grace.

"Mijita (my little girl)
you are beautiful
and strong
and there is nothing you can't do.
You bring me nothing but pride
every single day,
even in your mistakes.
We all must fall,
but it is in the getting up
that we see what someone is really made of.
I love you.
And I'll always love you.
No matter what."

That phone conversation
changed my life.

And where I knew I couldn't love
my grandmother any more than I already did,
I fell in love with the woman.


When we arrived at the hospital
she was still in the ER.

There were no beds available in the ICU,
so we pulled up 2 chairs
and spent the night next to her.

At one point she regained consciousness
and panicked momentarily.
I stood up and put my face
next to her wide open eyes.

I stroked her hand
and kept telling her in Spanish,
"Grandma you're ok.
We're here.
You're in the hospital
but you're going to be ok.
I love you.
I love you.
I love you."

And then
she squeezed our hands
and smiled.

She began showing improvement
the next day,
and the nurses were telling us
how even intubated,
she would try and help them
as they adjusted her position.

Because if there were ever a time
to just lay back and let someone help you,
it would be when you're in the ICU.

Unless of course,
you are my grandmother.

And to that I say,
I never stood a chance
to not be the way I am.

Self-sufficiency runs deep in my veins.

She was released from the ICU
this past week
and will be home Monday
in time for Christmas.

She'll be staying with my mom
I hope forever,
but probably just a few weeks.

Because she's stubborn
and feisty
and that's why she's lived 10 years
passed a 10% chance of survival.

My Grandma,
my Queen,
she is a force
whose wake I will
gratefully stand in 
for as long as I can.

Mother's Day 2013

Saturday, September 7, 2013


10 and a half years ago I tried to kill myself.

I had a number of chemicals
coursing through my body
and I was
 sad and scared
and I meant it.

The details of that night are some
of the scariest skeletons
in my closet.

My most shameful.

Because I am a mother now
and I still haven't forgiven myself
for what I did
to mine
that night.

I spent three days
in a mental hospital
after that.

I know what it is like
to have your shoelaces taken away.

All plastic mirrors
and group therapy.

What it is to feel
utterly shell-shocked,
wholly regretful,
and vulnerable.

Those days
were some of the darkest of my life.

And they were also the beginning.

The beginning of my journey
with a bunch of strangers
who knew exactly who I was
and what I needed.

I left the hospital and landed in
coffee-filled rooms
and smoke-filled hallways,
listened to
speakers of a language I didn't know
but fully understood.

Men and women
from completely
different walks of life
that have led me
and followed me.

Have watched
as I continually fell to pieces
and never tired of
collecting the jagged shards of me
or glueing them back together.

They saved my life.

And then they helped me grow up.

I am not ashamed of my past,
who I was and what I did,
because we all have a story
and this one is mine.

That girl still lives within me
but her demons are quiet now.

10 and a half years ago
I put my head down and
put one foot in front of the other
and it has not been perfect
and I have made so many mistakes,
but today marks 5 years.

5 years
of a totally present
and sober mind.

5 years
of ups and downs
and lessons and life
and I didn't have to check out
not even for 1 second.

The disease of alcoholism and drug addiction
runs rampant through my family.

It affects people from all walks of life and
it tore through mine
when I was just 19 years old.

10 and a half years later,
5 years under my belt,
2 beautiful boys,
a man I adore,
parents that are proud of me,
the best of friends,
a career
and a home
and most importantly
a quiet head
and a joyful heart.

Dear 19 year old Christina
sitting in the mental ward
crying into her pillow,

It's gonna be so good one day sweetheart.
It's gonna be so good you won't even believe it.
Be gentle with yourself.

30 year old Christina

Friday, August 9, 2013

Real Life

A few weeks ago
Paul and I packed up the boys
and hit the highway
for a family road trip
through Arizona.

1,500 miles.

6 days.


We floated through days;
laughing, hiking, catching fish.
The boys swam in a creek,
played in a summer storm
and fed their great-grandfather's horses.
We sat on a country backporch
and watched lightening fill the night sky.

We saw miles and miles
of desert and forest,
red rock and sunsets,
with a Grand Canyon
exclamation point.

Total sighheartburstmagicpeacejoyfest.

I fell in love with my children
and Paul
all over again
and floated home
on a game of ABC Band Names
(I still hold strong to the belief that
Ziggy Stardust counts for Z).

That was Monday.

The high lasted
about 2 days
and then like a plane
whose engines suddenly seized;
I plummeted to earth.
By Thursday I found myself irritated
by laundry and dishes
and work
and just the god damn

I know living with me
can be a nightmare.

I'm a neat freak
I'm controlling
I'm pretty sure
if everyone cooperated,
our home would possibly
look like a museum,
but instead it looks
like people actually live there
and sometimes that makes me crazy.

When James was a baby
I'd have to literally pep talk myself
into leaving the dinner dishes in the sink
until after the boys were in bed.

I still struggle with this.

Busy, busy, busy...always doing
nonstop...go, go, go.

And since I am like this
I unintentionally expect my partner
to be the same,
and because he is not,
bing! Bang! BOOM!
HELP ME!!!!!!

So that's a point of contention for us.

Which please don't even think
for a moment that I am alone
in the managment of our home.

This is the guy who goes grocery shopping
every week,
makes marinara and hummus from scratch
because he knows I love it,
cooks dinner half of the time,
schleps our boys around,
works overtime hours
and then spends his days off
designing furniture for our home
that he then builds.

Great man?
Yeah I'd say so.


Me neither.
In addition to my neurosis
in all things housework,
I also battle my head.

30 plus years of rolling stages
of depression, anxiety.
A life lived sober now
but not in the past
and the work
that goes with that.
The struggle that still exists
behind that.

Sometimes things are very...




It's been shocking to me
how much work is involved
in the care and maintenance
and survival of a partnership.

With kids and a home to spare.

I spoke with one of my best friends
Sunday morning as I cried into my coffee.
I was super angry with my beloved
"I know relationships are full of highs and lows 
but the lows suck."


And she let me cry
and she heard me out
and then she delivered
some hard earned gems of marriage advice:

"It's just one day.
It'll get better.
It always does."


"Yes the lows suck,
but they'll make you
into a better, healthier person
if you stick it out."

And it wasn't better right away.

But it's better now.

And we spent last night watching
a documentary with Lucas
and then snuggled on the couch
eating blueberry pie.

And every day I learn more
about what it is to love someone
and keep a relationship alive.

To decide every day,
yes I want to be here
with you,
doing this.

Because I don't know
what everyone else's partnership is like
but I can tell you mine is 
full of love
and joy
and laughter
and WORK.

It takes work.

Wayyyyy more work
than I had ever imagined.

Work that is worth it to me
because these boys
and this man
are my greatest loves.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Push and Pull

The weather's been so weird

Blazing hot
turned to
turned to
turned to

The air feels
still and heavy.

Paul's been working a lot
and so have I.

And we kind of just pass one another
in the halls of our home
and the halls of our life
and we're working to pay bills
from the past
and build dreams
for the future;
working to keep the train moving,
all housekeeping
and play dates,
basketball schedules
and school applications.

And everything is safe
and calm
and very sane.

It's all

I meant sane.

I meant same.

I'm not used to either.

What do you do
when you've
spent your whole life
telling yourself
you're a seeker
and a wild child
and everything you've sought
is here in your hand
and all the wild
is anchored,
to dreams
that have actually come true?

That question
flaps its wings inside of me
I don't know the answer.

Probably because
the neurosis in me
can't comprehend
the simplicity of
enjoy it.

My friends are all having babies.

Instagram feeds
a mile long
filled to the brim
with wrinkly newborn skin
and soft downy hair.

My babies are 9 and 5.

I don't have babies,
I have boys.

I can't remember
the weight of them in my arms,
and I so long to.

Presently I exist
with an ever lingering
sentimental craving
for another baby.

This desire to remember,
and be,
to plan and make
to soak it all in
because I didn't do that with
my other pregnancies.

I was propelled through the experience;
holding onto my sanity as best I could,
pretending to not be afraid,
just trying to survive man
and now they sleep through the night
and they smell like sweat
and they dress themselves
I want back into Babyland.

Ticket please.

I had a meltdown yesterday.

There was traffic
I was hot
I was tired
James had basketball in an hour
I couldn't find Lucas' basketball shorts
my job is exhausting and unfulfilling
we struggle to make ends meet
I kept thinking about all of this
then Paul found me in the boys' room
wrestling with the hamper
the dam burst.

Because I'm still
just trying to survive man.

But also trying to hang onto
every morsel of this life
because it's flying by.

Days and weeks and months
and grades
and please don't let go of my hand
and please let me be here
without being concerned with there
and tomorrow
and shopping lists
and laundry
and food menus.

This is my mom's life.

I have my mom's life.

And I feel like an imposter sometimes.

And then I feel trapped.

And then I feel guilty for feeling trapped
because this is all I ever wanted.

"And you want another one",
Paul will say
as he holds my tear-streaked face
and keeps kissing my nose while I sob.

And I do not undervalue
the man who loves me in such a way
that I can fall apart like that,
he who keeps a straight face
while I cry over my perceived ineptitude.

Holds me silently
as I stand in the middle of the chaos
that is every day living
for a family of four,
because this is some real shit you guys,
no Instagram filter here.

I've fallen from Neverland.

I used to be a Lost Boy
but now I am a pirate.

Plus side:
I get to ride the coattails
of my two Pans.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Marry Who You Love

James' expression =
how I feel about the Supreme Court today

Four and half years ago
Prop. 8 passed
and I was

How could this happen?
Why don't people understand?

I knew we had
to head to
West Hollywood.

Onward to the safe house,
to Santa Monica Blvd.,
to light candles
hold hands
and make noise
because that's all
you can really do
when you feel
like you're not being listened to.

I stood there 
lit candles in hand
with my baby brother.

The 18 year old young man
who had come out officially
just months before.

The one who broke my heart
when he told me that
he had endured
being bullied in high school.

Had been teased,
called a faggot.

He had just voted
in his first election
and the election
did not go his way.

How could this happen?
Why don't people understand?

I have cried
over knowing
that some of my best friends
have faced
the same battle.

I have cried over
the taunts
not holding the hands
or kissing the lips
of their partner
in public
because they're afraid.

I have cried
over every story
of every kid
bullied to the point
where they have
taken their own life.

How could this happen?
Why don't people understand?

Today's Supreme Court ruling
lifted my soul.

The existing wedding rings
(and the ones to come!)
on the fingers
of my friends
meant more today.

They always meant everything,
but today they meant more.

Because these marriages
and families
always existed
to the people in them,
but now they exist
in a way that says,
you are real!

Even to the people
that haven't wanted
to acknowledge that.

You are real!
And safe!
And we're not going to let this happen!
We understand!

I have never been raised
to see sexuality,
or color,
or gender.
Thanks to my mama
we love everyone.

All are welcome.

Please come in,
there is room at the table
for all of us.

Endless thank yous
to the Human Rights Campaign
and Equality Now
for their tireless efforts
in rectifying a wrong,
to the plaintiffs
who fought for their love
and for the love of those who couldn't,
and to the Justices
that voted yes to the strike down.

My two little boys
and their mother
are eternally grateful.

We have hope today Harvey.
They gave us a whole lotta hope.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013


My intent was to write about
our weekend camping trip.

The fishing and sunshine
and stolen moments
with my guys.

Our first trip
as a foursome.

And while it is
something to be shared,
if you follow me on Instagram
you pretty much saw it,
and what's really on my mind
is this:

I want to talk about fear culture
and how it can dominate
us moms.

Heavy huh?


But I think it's important,
because by the end of 2013
10 women I know
in varying degrees of closeness
will have become moms.

Some for the first time,
some for the second
and some for the 4th.

And I want to talk about it,


As a mom of two boys
and a woman feverish for a third,
I can tell you that after 9 years
of being a mom
the only thing I know for certain
is that mothering is not by the book.
Like ever.

Like you can
eat all of your veggies
and take all of your prenatals
and exercise every day
they say to do
and still end up
gaining 65 lbs.
with a kid with asthma
(Hi James!)
or 85 lbs.
with a kid with epilepsy
(Hi Lucas!).

Because one kid will
refuse to be potty trained
and poop his pants
until he's three
and the other
will climb onto the toilet
at two years old
and pretty much train himself.

One will walk at 8 months
and the other at 1 year
and they will
speak, sleep and lose their teeth
whenever the hell they want.

When I was pregnant with Lucas
I spent hours in Barnes & Noble
trying to find the directions
on how to be an unwed and single
20 year old new mom.

There weren't any.

And hey someone please write a book
that isn't filled with advice and suggestions
for the "husband" or "dad-to-be"
because FYI publishers,
sometimes there isn't one.

I'm a bit rant-y today.
No sleep.

But I digress.

I read new books
and classics
Happiest Baby on the Block,
What to Expect When Your Expecting,
and whatever was the most well-rated text
(in 2004 and then 2008)
on Amazon and BabyCenter and Google.

I read and
I searched
I message boarded
for hours.

Because in today's digital age
the information is so accesible.


I read breastfeeding
would be a nightmare.
Chapter upon chapter
dedicated to how impossible it would be
and what to do with the impossibility.

"How will I feed my babyyyyyy?!?!?!"

"No formula everrrrrrrr or you're a terrible mom!!!!"

"Don't introduce the bottle!  Nipple confusion!

And while I do not doubt
that women everywhere
have a difficult time,
I made a decision for myself 
that humans had been nursing their young
for centuries,
I'll figure it out god dammit.

And yes
Lucas was improperly latched
for the first few days.

And yes it hurt like hell.

And yes
he lost a few ounces by his first check up,

The books said
not to let the baby
sleep on its stomach,
but mine wouldn't sleep otherwise
so I guiltily allowed
for that rule to be broken.

They said no blankets,
but one night at 3am
while I sobbed and changed
my pee soaked newborn
for the 3rd time,
my mom
made the executive decision
to cover the baby
and guess what?

He was finally warm enough
to sleep and not pee.


Going against the expert opinions
is such a pitfall
for moms new and old
because there are far greater forms
of fear and guilt
than the fear and guilt
of a new mother.

We want to do it right
and that desire
puts us up against ourselves
and often,
our fellow mamas.

For me
and for better
and for worse,
I've done it all.

ate Gerber
but I steamed and pureed
for James.

was nursed for 8 months,
my milk never really came in
for James.

Both were supplemented with formula.

loved the pacifier,
hated it,
and for the record,
the non-pacifier kid
is the one with
the crooked bottom teeth.

was in the Baby Bjorn,
I wore in a wrap,
both of them co-slept.

I staggered immunizations
even though some of the autism links
had been convincingly refuted
by the time James was born.

Last night whilst perusing Facebook
I came across a year old article
about our preferred brand
of baby/kid bath products.

Both of my boys have sensitive skin
to the point of forming scaly patches
on their arms and trunk.

A few years ago I worked
as the personal assistant
of one of the green
"mommy bloggers".

She was (and still is)
a lawyer and writer
and master of
detoxifying and greening
your home, life and self.

She is very active on Twitter,
calls out companies
for their shameful green washing,
and was responsible for a MASSIVE
recall on a glassware giveaway
from McDonalds.

This woman means business
and I trust her opinions.

So when Lucas' ped
suggested steroids for the eczema
I asked her what she thought,
and she told me to try the natural route,
which I gladly did,
and she also suggested
a line of bath products she stood behind,
a product I have trusted for years,
a product I recently gifted
to a new mom-to-be friend of mine.

A product that has
all but cured
the boys of any skin ailments,
and a product that has
apparently been under fire.

It appears that as they grew
(once online only, they are now at Target)
they may have begun
to compromise some of their values.

It sucks and I'm bummed
but I'm also going to do some research
before I turn my back on them completely.

Because nothing is cut and dry
in a straightforward forever sense
and all the articles and research
just can't compete with my instinct.

The information
becomes a mire
if you let it
so I try not to let it.

I try to sail by my instinct first
and always.

Because that's what mothering
has come down to for me.


And they've led me right and astray
and every dizzying direction.

But they're mine and I trust them.

And if there is any shard of advice
I'm willing to pass on
it's that.

Trust. Your. Instincts.

And let other women trust theirs.

Mom on ladies!

Mom. On.

Oh and here's a picture
of our preschool graduate:

Monday, May 13, 2013

Dream Makers

A few weeks ago
Lucas and I were driving home
when fun.'s "Carry On"
started playing on the radio.

He loves that song
so I turned it up
and we began to sing it
at the top of our lungs

"...If you're lost and alone.."

like a ghost from the past,
I remembered.

New Year's Eve night

6 months pregnant with James
5 days after I'd asked his father to leave.

"...Or you're sinking like a stone..."

I had gone to bed early
wanting to sleep through midnight.
I was so sad
and felt I had nothing to celebrate.

2008 was already breaking my heart.

At midnight
the cheers and fireworks
and welcoming of a new year
pulled me from my dreamless sleep.

I laid there,
one arm around Lucas
while the other held my belly
and I began to sob.

A deep, smothering sadness
pulled tears from my eyes
and forced my shoulders to shake.

When my mom came into to kiss us
she found me crying,
threw her arms around me
and whispered,
"It's going to be ok honey,
you're going to be ok."

But I didn't believe her.

"...Carry on..."

Every Mother's Day
since Lucas was born
has been bittersweet.

I've made it about my mom
and tried to enjoy my children,
but I'd be a liar
if I didn't admit that celebrating
without the boys' fathers
always hurt.

Holidays always made me feel
like I'd failed
at making a family.

"...May your past be the sound..."

As Lucas and I sang
down the 605 freeway
I began to cry.

Not out of sadness
but out of joy.

Because I remember
that New Years Eve
like it was yesterday.

I remember feeling
and hopeless
like I'd never get it right.

"...Of your feet upon the ground..."

Saturday night
as we kissed the boys goodnight,
me to Lucas,
Paul to James
and then a switch,
I heard Paul whispering to them about
Mother's Day.

I didn't know what they had planned,
but knew there was nothing I could want
that I don't already have.

"...carry on..."

I awoke yesterday
to bright faces
and breakfast in bed.

Opened crayon decorated packages
to paintings and drawings and handprints.

I got to sit in bed
with coffee and the paper
while Paul manned the kids
and the house.

We went to Ports O'Call
and ate seafood
and snowcones
and I'm just so love in love
with these guys
I could just melt
into a puddle.

We spent the rest of the day
with family
and ended at home
where I discovered
the newly erected planter
and freshly tilled soil
Paul gifted me.

Because I've been talking about
vegetables and snapdragons
and a zillion hopes
for that little corner on our patio
and he made it happen.

Nothing could make my life sweeter.

This life with my three guys
is beyond
my dreams.

"Not me," I thought for so many years.

Girls like me
don't get the happy ending.
But sometimes,
we do.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

You Are Nine

You are tall and lanky.

Eyes the color of chocolate
and permanently tousled hair.

You still crawl into my lap
to watch America's Funniest Home Videos
and your belly laugh
has a domino effect on me.

On Monday you asked if I had heard
about the tragedy in Boston
and then we talked about it.

You said it made you feel confused
and interested and scared
and I didn't know what to say
because it made me feel
all of those things too.

And I didn't have an answer to why
but I wanted you to know that
when terrible things happen
you will always see some good.

There will always be people
who run toward the madness
just so they can help.

There will always be light
and humanity
and for your gentle heart
as with mine
this will offer some peace.

It was our first conversation
about a worldly event
and I found your maturing insight
fascinating and a little sad
because my ability to shield you
lessens more every day.

You lie in bed reading chapter books
and lecture me on the perils of smoking
and I'm mourning the ticking clock
of the little boy years.

Where is my tree climbing
mud slinging rascal?

He's there in your lanky limbs
and broadening shoulders.

He's in your silly jokes
and comforting squeeze
on your little brother's
tantrum throwing shrug.

We have the life I've always wanted for us.

We share a home with your dad and brother
and I tell you all of the time
that I feel happiest
when we are all together.

Feel luckiest
piled on the couch
with my best guys.

The two boys
who handed me the map to joy
and the man
who loves us best.

It is a great life.

A magical life.

And it is all because of you.

I couldn't be me without you.

We couldn't be us.

The story began with you Lucas.

It started with you,
my first mate
and copilot.

You are my north star.

 In the rockiest of waters
you steered us
into the safe harbor.

And before anything else
there was you.

Grandma always said
her wishes
for Uncle Gregory and I
were to have strong roots in who we are
and the wings to fly.

Roots and wings.

Those are my wishes for you too.

My sweet Pan,

This life is frightening and exhilarating
frustrating and joyful.

You will feel and know
all of these things
and because
you are so much like me,
you will feel them deeply.

It is a blessing and curse,
this empathetic spirit of ours,
but it makes
for astounding love and beauty.

Kindred spirits you and I,
forever and ever.

Love that smile baby bird.

Happy nine.