Wednesday, July 29, 2009

When I Saw the Light

The red light was blinking in the far distance through the clouds in the night sky. I could see the light was coming from a radio tower across the freeway. The wind was blowing, and I stood there hearing my children cry in the house, and at that second I had an epiphany. I said to myself, "I don't want this anymore." My parents did not raise me like this, and at that moment I could hear my mother's voice saying in Spanish "no seas pendeja, sigue tu felicidad" which translates into "don't be a dumbass, follow your happiness." My mother only speaks to me in those terms when it comes to making a statement. By that time, I was 25, unhappy and in a dysfunctional marriage. I had four children, one of which was still in training pants and two in diapers. Why so many kids? (It's a long story that involved different birth controls, being fertile, and my body being sensitive to certain medications.)

I kept thinking, "I don't know how my life ended this way." The voice in my head kept telling me, "It doesn't have to be this way, you still have a chance." How do I have a chance? The statistics were all against me, pregnant teen at 17, getting divorced would mean being a single parent, a minority, a woman, with no college education. I hated my life and remembered clearly my husband's words, "No one is going to want you! You're ugly, fat, and have a bunch of kids!" Tony was very manipulative in convincing me that I was no good and lucky to be with him. Somehow, everything seemed to be my fault, and he used that as an excuse to be unfaithful. He would go missing for days and come home when he had no more money, expecting me to bail him out financially, and then he was off again when payday came around. That's pretty much how our marriage ran.

My mind in a frenzy, I was brought back to a late night when I was pregnant with my second child. I remember suddenly losing my breath. I opened my eyes to see my husband choking me in a drunken rage, saying how much he hated me. I broke away and locked myself in the bathroom to wait out his tantrum long enough for him to pass out in bed. "Where were the police?" you ask. Oh yes, the police; I called them when I could get away, and by the time they appeared, his personality would change. One time they even threatened to arrest me, as there was nothing wrong from their perspective and I needed to calm down. He was such a great actor! I would have given him the Academy Award, almost like the man from Sleeping with the Enemy with Julia Roberts. Tony's demeanor would change in an instant; I can attest the man can say his ABC's backwards if the situation called for it.

My mind again fast-forwarded, and I saw myself coming back to our apartment from a weekend at my parent's home. He would disappear on payday, and in order to feed my children I would visit my parents to get food after using up what I was given at the local food pantry. I looked in my closet to change clothes, and I found that most of my clothes had been sliced with a knife. There was a note attached from his current girlfriend, informing me to stear clear of him. I thought, "Does this stupid girl not understand that he keeps coming home after a couple of days with her?" "If I had my way, I would put a big red ribbon around his neck and personally deliver him to whoever wants him." My problem at that time is that he kept coming back. God forgive me, but I spent many nights praying he would lose his way or go to jail. He did go to jail, but he would always get out eventually. I felt like I was being punished for something I did.

"Why didn't you leave?" you ask. I did, several times, and many times I was forced back from friends' and relatives' homes. If I refused to go with Tony willingly, he would knock down doors or break windows until I would finally agree, just to stop all the chaos and embarassment. Many times I think being Catholic or Hispanic convinced me that I had to go through the best and worst moments to gain my rewards as a good wife. At one time, I even thought I had to change the way I looked or what I was doing in order to make him pay attention to me. In the end, I was physically and emotionally abused. Every one of these ideas was clearly stupid. Love should not hurt! Love should always be reciprocated and be mutual. Communication is key and respecting each other is a given. Yes, obviously there will be misunderstandings and arguments but talking through things will always bring forth amicable solutions.

Again my mind went back to the blinking light and I said, "This is it! I'm clearly going to walk out of this house with my children or leave in a bodybag." Tony had just left an hour before, after finding my stash of money and taking $100.00 for a drinking binge. That was all the money I had left for the month! Before he walked out the door, I had told him "Walk out and don't count on me to help you ever again." He turned around and laughed and said, "F*** You, Margie, you'll always be there."

The next morning arrived, and I heard a knock on the door. It was my mother-n-law. As I opened the door, the sunlight shone through blinding me, and I heard her say, "They caught him drinking and driving again. He called me and asked me to get you to get him out." I thought I was dreaming, but immediately regained my thoughts and answered, "I'm sorry, I can't do this anymore. You're going to have to do it from now on; I'm leaving." She left probably thinking that I may be upset for the moment but eventually would turn around and take him out. But she was wrong! That was the re-birth of my life. I pushed my furniture out to the curb, along with everything that reminded me of my marriage. I took my kids to my parents' house and whatever I could fit in my Ford Taurus and left. I filed for divorce and a restraining order, which involved confrontations and hiding out on my part. It took several years, but eventually Tony got the message to steer clear and that I no longer wanted to be with him. He eventually found several poor souls to wipe his feet on and manipulate, and he kept away from me.

My rebirth has taken a lot of work that still continues today. There are many more things that were left unmentioned, and this small glimpse into the abuse I endured is the tip of the iceberg. I'm happy now; my kids are with me; my ex has been in jail many, many times and I have not seen him anymore after our divorce; I have never been on drugs or on welfare and I refused foodstamps; and I now have my Bachelors degree. To this day, I have never received child support, and don't plan on asking for it. I think I've done well, regardless.

My advice to a woman in an abusive relationship would be: leave, don't look back, and don't be afraid. Confide in friends, family or your community; they are your rock. Make sure you get an attorney that is willing to listen to you and who won't sell you out with your child support or custody. Get a restrainig order if necessary, and ask a lot of questions. Don't be timid; that's what kept us in our abusive relationship in the first place. It's time to speak up, not shut up.

My life is still a roller coaster with moments of hair pulling and problem solving at home, but as long as I still see the light, there is still hope for a better tomorrow.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mauricia Comes of Age (2)

Throughout the years, Mauricia worked around her aunt Gertrudes's house. As a child, she slept in the kitchen by the fireplace, with the dog. That was her place to sleep and eat. She never attended school, and she played around the house when Gertrudes took her naps. As Mauricia grew into a young woman, Gertrudes ran out of excuses when visitors asked why she was in the corner. Rather than say she was her great-niece, Gertrudes told everyone Mauricia was a child with no family that she was providing food and shelter out of the goodness of her heart. Gertrudes figured out a solution, put an apron on Mauricia, and said she was the hired help. She slept in the servants quarters, as hired help would. The other aunt that had taken Carlos moved away to another state immediately after Bernadette's death as mining in that area had become scarce and many families moved to find their luck elsewhere.

Suitors would come to the house for Mauricia, as she was now a young lady, but Gertrudes paid no attention and neither did Mauricia. If Mauricia was harassed in the street by perverts or suitors, she simply took shortcuts to avoid them. She had seen her mother suffer because of men and love, and she felt she did not need that distraction in her life at the moment. Mauricia could hear Gertrudes's voice reminding her that she would end up like her mother, as if she carried a label due to her mother's life decisions. Mauricia didn't believe this; she confided in God, and knew she was not a bad person and good things were to come.

Since Gertrudes was an old woman by now, she demanded less of Mauricia, and even let Mauricia teach Sunday lectures to children and participate in the theater. Sunday lectures and the theater meant everything to Mauricia, as those were a mental escape for her. There were many nights that she dreamt of her parents, and she wondered where her brother was and what he looked like. She prayed for the day when she could find him and be with him again. She felt in her heart that she would find her brother, and promised her parents she would do whatever she could to find him, no matter how long it took.

Mauricia felt closer to her parents when she was involved in the church or in prayer. She felt her closeness to God translated in closeness to her parents, even if only for a moment. Mauricia's spirituality and her dreams were all that she had in the world. She dreamt of traveling and singing with the theater. She thought that if she focused on that goal, she could escape the town that reminded her of so much pain.

One day after a late music lesson, Mauricia noticed it was very dark and she needed to run back home. She excused herself and began to race outside the building, hoping to get back before Gertrudes could catch her and possibly prohibit her from leaving the house for weeks. Mauricia frantically thought, "I need to get there without her noticing! Which way will be best?" She decided to take a short cut by running through the alley. While in mid-run, Mauricia could hear footsteps behind her and she turned around to see who it could be. The only thing she noticed was a shadow. Her gut feeling was not good, and she decided she needed to act quickly to get away from this person. Seeing the alley up ahead, she ran passed the cemetary and started to turn the corner. In an instant, she felt someone grab her and throw her body down with such force it caused her to pass out. She woke up bruised and bleeding from the back of her head; she had been beaten and raped. As she came to, she saw the man's face. He was one of the suitors she had previously declined many times. "You can't expect to run around at night and not get hurt!" he said. "If I was you, I wouldn't say a word of this to anyone. I know where you and your aunt live." Mauricia hobbled to her feet, picked up what she could, and made her way back home.

She walked into her aunt's house in a daze, as her aunt yelled at her. "Where have you been?" Gertrudes screamed at the top of her lungs. Have you been tramping around like her mother?" Mauricia didn't say a word. As Gertrudes got closer and the candlelight shone more brightly on Mauricia's face, Gertrudes stood still in silence, finally noticing what had happened to Mauricia. She quietly said, "Go get the washtub and clean yourself up. Put on some clean clothes and go to bed. I'll call the priest in the morning so he can give you a confession."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Top Two Embarassing Parenting Moments

Today I was reflecting on two moments in my children's lives that I will never live down with my family and friends. I can live with one but the other incident I fear will cost me. We'll see...

My first experience as a young parent was Miranda's year in 1st grade. At that time my children would go home to my parents house down the street and wait until I picked them up after work. A family member recently moved out and my mother decided to make that area a playroom for the kids. Several days after this takes place I get a call at work from my daughter's teacher requesting an immediate parent/teacher conference. I had to rush over that very moment. I pick up my purse and run out with the understanding from the teacher that it was not an emergency regarding my childs well-being but it did involve her. My mind starts racing and knowing Miranda I start to think did she bite, kick, or scratch another little kid? Yes, that's my daughter, but let's move on.

I get to the school and several parents are standing there with her teacher looking at me as if I had committed this heinous crime, even one had her arms crossed in disgust. Oh, I was ready, I felt I was about to have a fight. The teacher starts explaining to me Miranda was guilty of handing out balloons to her little friends and parents have found their children playing with them. One mother exclaimed in Spanish that I need to put my personal items away and out of the reach of my children. I asked "what balloons?" "Condoms!" yells another parent. The Spanish speaking mother proceeds to tell me while driving her son back home, she looks through her review mirror to see this red balloon but when it accidently deflates and flies to the front seat she almost wrecks seeing it's a condom. She makes a quick U-turn and calls for the teacher and at the same time other parents marched their way back in naming my child the culprit. Beautiful! I can see this in her scrapbook: First grade, The Time Miranda Promoted Safe Sex. The teacher came up with a gameplan for the next day. She said she would ask the students to return the balloons Miranda gave them as she found them outside and they may have cooties. Okay, cooties was not my choice of an answer but who cares at this point.

I apologized again for any inconvenience, even though no one believed me, I hurried my child out of there and ran! I immediately drove to my parents house and explained the situation and my father gives my mother a deathly glare and said "I thought you said you cleaned that room woman!" My mother said, "I did, I did!" She ran back into the room to look at what she may have overlooked. Needless to say there was a stash hidden in the closet underneath the floor carpeting and somehow Miranda found it. I asked her, why she gave her friends balloons and of course in sweet childlike fashion she responded "cuz I wanted to share." Now how can you argue with that?

My second and most shocking experience would have to be my daughter Marissa's second grade first communion. First Communion? Not difficult at all you would say, I thought the same thing. For weeks we worked to get her the dress she wanted, the shoes, and her tiara. She wanted little white flowers on her skirt so I went to a fabric store and bought the darn things and hand sewed them on. I fixed her tiara where I had sewed the veil and we were set! I was impressed with my work and excited about my daughter's enthusiasm about her big day. You see, Marissa is an introvert and at that time it took a lot for my child to get excited about anything.

The day arrives, I make pancakes, and made sure she bathed early and everything. We get ready, camera in hand, all my other children are dressed and ready to go. I drive up to the church and as we are walking up to the entrance her second grade teacher walks out wailing her arms asking "Where have you been?" I answered "Are we supposed to be somewhere else?" She answered "Mass just ended, and communion rites have been given, you missed it." All I could see was my daughter's mouth open in shock. I had the wrong time written on my agenda for her communion! Instead of arriving at 9:00 like all her classmates and their families, we pranced up there at 10:00! I don't know how many times I apologized for what happened, she didn't even cry. Luckily her teacher said, there will be another communion ceremony next weekend and she can do it with the Sunday school students. Marissa's face lit up and said, "that's okay mommy, I can do it next weekend." As I walked back to my car to go home all I could think about was "How much therapy is this going to cost me in the future?"

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Stop living in rewind and push "PLAY". - Margarita Sanchez

Friday, July 24, 2009

Welcome to Your New World (1)

This is a short story based on the real life of my maternal grandmother, Mauricia. Unfortunately, she is no longer with us, but her story inspires me to give her a voice which provided me strength. Without her inspiration, I would not be able to confront many of life's situations that I felt would knock me down or nearly kill me. I hope this also opens many eyes to the importance of adoption. There are many children that are caught in similar, real life situations, and yearn for the warmth of a family.

Nine-year old Mauricia paced back and forth, clutching her one-year old baby brother, Carlos, in her arms while trying to comprehend the words that came out of the doctor's mouth. "I'm sorry, there is nothing else we can do," the doctor said. "We have to wait for the baby to die and then she will go too". "How? Why? Who did this?" Mauricia asked. Fear rushed through her as she tried to put everything into perspective. While her pregnant mother, Bernadette, was writhing in pain, the doctor and priest asked her questions as to what she ate or if she had been sick. The only response Bernadette could give was that she was given food by one of her neighbors, Anabel, which she consumed without hesitation. Bernadette screamed for her fiance', Alejandro, to come immediately as she needed to talk to him. It seems the neighbor,Anabel, who made her food, was an ex-girlfriend that was not happy about their upcoming marital arrangement. They ran out to find him with no guarantee they could find him in time, as he worked in the fields outside of town.

Mauricia was in complete disarray, trying to calm her crying brother, and holding back tears as her mother screamed. She did her best to console her brother, but who was there to console her? Mauricia could not help relate her feelings to another similar experience that happened several years ago. Mauricia and her father, Manuel, went out of town to the mines so he could finish up a job that was almost completed. Her father told her "wait out here and play, I won't take long, and behave!" She agreed as he vanished into the dark hole leading into the mine. As Mauricia picked up rocks to skip in the water puddles nearby, she heard a loud crash. Smoke was everywhere, and the hole that led into the mine erupted clouds of dust. Men that were working nearby rushed in and pulled her father out, but he was already dead. She watched as they covered his mangled, lifeless body with a tarp and called for help. Mauricia had to wait until she and her father's body were taken back into town to her mother. All she could think was "Why am I losing someone that I love?"

Darkness crept in, and still no Alejandro. Bernadette's screams had lessened, and now Mauricia sat in the corner watching over her sleeping brother on the floor. She sat there staring at her mother, listening to her words of advice in between moments of pain. Moment's later, all is still, almost calm. The doctor turns around and simply says, "She's gone". Mauricia doesn't know what else to do but lay down next to her brother and fall asleep. Eventually Alejandro came and went; he did not wait to talk to the children about anything. He only stayed long enough to talk to the doctor and pastor about Bernadette's death and accusation. He stared at Mauricia and her brother long enough for him to see that Mauricia caught his glimpse. He immediately turned away in shame, knowing he could not care for two children that were not his, and with no motherly figure. He picked up his belongings and left.

By the morning, word of Bernadette's death circulated and her family members came around to talk about burial preparations. As Bernadette was previously widowed, and then became pregnant before remarrying, she was shunned by her family. The relationship between her family and her children was minimal, as she tried to protect her children from their harsh criticism and bad treatment. As these strangers or so-called family began to walk into Mauricia's home, she noticed it was almost procession-like, as if they were shopping. Little by little they began picking up items, such as plants, furniture, dishes, etc. Bernadette's family was more involved in picking out what they wanted to take home than making preparations. Mauricia's blood boiled as she watched this. Before everything was over, the only two things left in the house were her brother and herself. She heard whispers amongst the women, and overheard, "I can only take one, you take the other". A large woman picked up Carlos and smiled saying, "your coming home with me". As she walked away, Mauricia did not realize that would be the last time she would see her brother for years. "Come on! Grab what you have and let's go," her aunt, Gertrudes exclaimed. "I need someone to help me clean the house!"

Welcome to Your New World Mauricia Delgado, for this is only the beginning...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Texas Adventures

With Summer vacation almost over many families have had wonderful experiences venturing to different cities, states, and countries. Our shrinking economy and dwindling wallets do not enable a large majority to enjoy the luxuries of yesterday. Rather than making plans for an expensive and long trip, save some money and explore Texas. Yes, Texas is a large state and can provide many opportunities for fun and adventure in Hill Country, Camping out in Big Bend National Park, or visiting the coastal areas such as South Padre or Corpus Christi.

When my children were younger and I was newly divorced, I received a book called Exploring Texas with Children as a gift. This is one of the best gifts I ever received. The book is written by Sharry Buckner and details many larger cities and smaller towns that can provide entertainment, historical sites, or just a scenic drive. The table of contents is divided into different areas of Texas such as the Panhandle, West Texas, South Central, and South & Gulf Coast to name a few. The information is so detailed it provides bed and breakfast information, phone numbers, websites, locations and even business hours. Some of the places mentioned are Palo Duro Canyon in the Panhandle, Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, the Dr. Pepper Museum in Waco, Blue Bell Creameries in Brenham, and the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi. Buy the book new or used at Amazon or any other vendor

This book provides interesting facts and gives ideas for a weekend getaway or route a Texas adventure. Make sure to contact the locations before visiting and check if they are seasonal, closed for repairs or any other reason. Happy Traveling!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I'm Tired of Being Better!!

As the eldest in my family, I always felt more like a walking rough draft in which my parents kept erasing the errors and pasting the torn pieces of paper back together. It may be a bit harsh to explain it in that manner but like any other family they did not have an instruction manual in raising a child, let alone in a different country away from their culture and origins. My parents came from Mexico, even though my mother was born in Texas but as an infant the family was deported back after the season of picking vegetation was over. As my parents did not speak English there were many moments I had to interpret letters or conversations by phone in order to make household decisions or take care of pending matters.

I love my parents dearly and understand they did the best they could with the little education but much life knowledge they possess. My parents raised my brother and I with much love and discipline, paid for private school, and bought us whatever we needed. As of the age of 9 my brother, who is five years younger, and I spent years as latch key kids and had to take care of each other after many bad experiences with outside babysitters. The summers were sometimes spent in Mexico in order to understand our culture and keep in touch with relatives. During the school year we walked home and immediately locked ourselves up. We didn't have video games, or a computer, until we were in high school, somehow we entertained ourselves by watching television or conjuring up games with our imaginations. When our parents called home there was a code they used, "ring twice and hang up" that's when we knew it was okay to pick up. I think all that responsibility for a child was too stressful and understanding that led me to grow into an independent individual. I remember watching spanish television on Saturdays and there was only one station on the radio at that time. There were no "Fiestas or Mexican meat markets" to cater to us, only the Hernandez Family Store, Luna's Tortilla Factory and El Fenix to name a few. We grew up with the understanding that mediocre was not accepted and working hard paid off for everything. My brother and I had to understand that we had to be better than our Hispanic brothers and sisters only because they were many of them making us look bad, and we had to be the other side of the statistics grid that did not include us in poverty or prison.

Being bilingual has its benefits but growing up bi-cultural was difficult. It's best explained in the Selena movie where her father says "you have to be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans both at the same time, exhausting!!" I couldn't explain it better than that. I loved my neighborhood in Oak Cliff on Oak Cliff Street. We were the first Hispanic family to move there amongst retired white couples. I know they didn't know what to expect with us, but we spent many wonderful years there and learned so much from each other that I cannot express it better than say it truly does take a village to raise a child. Many times when my parents were home from work, we played all over the neighborhood with our friends and our neighbors kept an eye on us and warned us if we misbehaved our parents would know. They did not treat us like delinquents, instead they educated us, talked to us about history, and how it was growing up as a child in their era. I learned not to walk on my neighbors grass and the yes ma'am, no ma'am rule. Respect and a person's word meant a lot at that time.

When we went to Mexico I was always made fun of as I'm fair skinned and some Mexican children are tan. Oh yeah, there were plenty of arguments when we played outside with the other kids so I just stayed indoors with the family. Let's just cut to the chase, in the U.S. my name was a dead giveaway for being Hispanic and looked down upon in certain circumstances and then my appearance held me back from being accepted when I visited in Mexico. As far back as when the Spanish invaded Mexico being fair skinned is a sign of beauty or power but many young Mexicans didn't like what that represented and resented the fact that you "are what you are". I didn't see what the problem was but only had to respect that they had their own sub-cultural battles or demons they were facing and I had my own back home.


Sometimes life introduces many obstacles and victories in which I have had my fair share of both. At times, I think I've seen more hurdles but of course that's my interpretation. I am 35 years old and the mother of four rambunctious kids, ages ranging from 18, 15, 14, & 12. I have remarried and work full time. My family consists of one brother, his lovely wife and children, and my ever supportive parents. I'll provide more personal information as time goes on. Generally, I am a private person but I've yearned to put my thoughts on paper. I feel like the closet in my brain is full and it's time for spring cleaning!