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My first born and only son turned 18 today. It feels like such a historical moment as he officially transitions from a teenager to an adult. It feels like just yesterday I witnessed him take in the world for the very first time, walk for the first time, talk for the first time and….RUN for the first time. #Yogirunnerboy
As I sit back and observe him taking his right of passage into manhood, my heart swells with pride. He is a perfect example of a man our world so desperately needs. And although I cannot take all of the credit for who he has become, I can reflect on how I chose to raise him. As I continue to embark on my quest for female empowerment, I find an urge to share the top 5, less than traditional, things I sought to teach my boy:
- Don’t hold the door for women, hold the door for people. Women are not feeble beings you need to inauthentically “respect” through a simple gesture like holding the door. Holding the door is a courteous gesture to do for all human beings.
- Respect women by treating them as your intellectual and emotional equal. Never show respect to a woman through a condescending “traditional” act just because you think you are supposed to. If it doesn’t mean anything to you AND to them, it doesn’t matter. Rather, find ways to embark in meaningful conversation so that you understand how to best connect with and truly respect your female counterparts.
- Rather than be quick to judge others who think, act, or represent differently than you – seek to understand and realize you have so much to learn from them! Become their friends. Hang out with the underdogs. These are the people you will learn the most from.
- Question everything. That’s right….EVERYTHING. Don’t believe something just because I or anyone else believes it…research and learn enough to find your own truth. Your beliefs will mean nothing unless they come from deep within you.
- Be comfortable with exactly who you are. Never try to adjust yourself in an attempt to seek others’ approval. Approve of yourself and you will be content forever.
I think differently than many. I see the world through my own lens. I don’t expect or even desire my son to see things as I see them, but my hope has always been that he has a genuine respect for all living beings. Little did I know, he would grow up and far surpass me with open mindedness and respect for others. And so I’m left with the question I may not every truly be able to unravel. Did I teach him, or did he teach me?
I think I will settle on the idea that the answer lies somewhere in the middle. I am confident, however, that in my son, we have a man this world so desperately needs.
Every time Mariachis would play, or a Mexican song would come on, my dad would get that distant look in his eyes as though he were being taken to a far-away place where he had not a worry in the world. I never thought about it until this very moment, when I walked into Arriba Mexican Grill after a long, busy week. Walking in was like entering a time machine, back to a place with fond memories. And for the first time, I understood. I realized how very important my heritage is. The moment I heard the music playing and saw the Mariachi statues surrounded by bright colors with the smell of green chile permeating the air – I too, even if only momentarily, got that distant look in my eyes. I was, for a brief moment, taken to a far-away place, where not a worry in the world existed.
I was briefly reminded of the culture of my upbringing. A place in my past place where people gathered to celebrate – just because. Whether it was the burning of Zozobra at the Santa Fe Fiestas, or to meet up with friends on a Friday night at the Plaza de Santa Fe, or to just be with family – we always seemed to find a way to use food, music and fellowship to bring joy.
I grew up with extremely large extended families, my Mom and Dad both having 7 siblings each. Most of us lived in Santa Fe or northern NM, so it was common to partake in large family gatherings where beans, chile and sopapillas flowed like milk and honey.
As an introvert, you would think these large family gatherings would have been uncomfortable for me, but it was quite the opposite. I looked forward to this time of community. I’m not sure I was aware then of the love and support that constantly enveloped me. I had my tribe. I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that every person in my family had my back. Castellano’s Vivir!
My High School experience became more diverse. I started meeting more non-natives and started realizing the tourist appeal of Santa Fe. But I was still immersed. I still frequented The Plaza and Santa Fe staples like Tomasitas. I maintained close ties with my prima, DeAnna, who to this day, remains my “no matter what” person. That one I can always call, no matter what.
Although I stayed in Nuevo Mexico for college to attend the University of New Mexico, I strayed a bit further from my roots. Teaching summer cheer camps across the western U.S. afforded me the opportunity to meet all kinds of people outside of my native Hispanic heritage. And even in college, my closest relationships tended to be with people from other States. I was eager and curious to learn about different cultures.
As an adult, I’ve spent the last 15 years in Phoenix which is somewhat a melting pot of many cultures. Although I am not fully immersed in my native demographic any longer, I find little pockets of familiarity and comfort when I enter a place like Arriba Mexican Grill.
And as I sit here eating my tamale smothered in green chile, I find myself in a moment of bliss. A moment where I am taken back to a simpler time where my tribe was defined for me. I didn’t have to choose or wonder if they would accept me or if I was making the right choice. And although I’m grateful for the life experiences I’ve had and the opportunity to actually choose my tribe, I find brief moments, when I enter a New Mexican stratosphere, that I am content. I feel at home and am able to savor every bite of green chile and simply enjoy the ambiance. I have not a worry in the world because I feel like I am with my people.
And I now fully understand that distant look in my Father’s eyes. He was at home…..with our people.
Te amo, papá.
Viva Nuevo Mexico!
It is Sunday, November 8, the day after it was announced that Joe Biden & Kamala Harris have been elected into the Presidential office. In my 47 years of life, I have never seen a more emotionally charged election than this one. I will admit that I’ve never been an overly political person myself, but this one mattered to me and so I felt it deeply.
It’s very rare that I plop down in front of the TV on a Saturday morning, but for some reason I did yesterday. I was fortunate enough to be watching the news when the banner swept across the screen saying, “Breaking News – Election Update.” When it was announced that Joe Biden was the 2020 President Elect, I sobbed. I am someone who celebrated yesterday.
Up to this point, I’ve been somewhat afraid to admit how strongly I felt about this election. I’m surrounded by a very strong red community in all aspects of my life and so in some ways, I felt like that kid in high school who was a shade of color that just didn’t fit in. I had my few select friends who knew how I felt, and my public respect for the late RBG may have been a strong indicator that I was “blue”. But for the most part, I felt like I was hiding and even holding my breath, just waiting for it to end.
Here’s the thing I want you to know. There are many shades of blue. I’m not sure when the idea came about that if you support a particular candidate that you most certainly support everything that political party stands for. I don’t claim to know everything there is to know about politics, but I do know about human decency and that is what I chose to vote for.
I am a woman who was raised Catholic in a strong Hispanic community. I have deep roots that guide me to follow the Ten Commandments. “Thou Shalt Not Kill” is something I believe in whole heartedly, so the Pro-Life concept is very important to me. Much of my family voted Republican for this reason, and this reason alone. I respect this decision, but I personally question the logic because the very person they voted for also advocates for the death penalty. I’m not sure what part of “Thou Shalt Not Kill” means, “unless you deem it’s ok to kill.” I’m sure there are plenty of people on death row who are either innocent or extremely mentally ill. Because there is some hypocrisy in using the commandment as the sole purpose of voting this way, the logic just isn’t there to use the commandment as the backbone for the decision. If we are going to use the commandment or any moral belief otherwise as the backbone to not killing, should that not stay consistent for us from refraining from taking ANY human life?
I saw a post yesterday where someone (who I love dearly) was absolving themselves from voting for the platform that kills babies. It broke my heart to think that there is a belief that in voting for Biden we are automatically baby killers. It’s simply not true. I am Pro-Life and I voted blue.
And for the record, I don’t believe the Pro-Choice movement is about going around trying to kill unborn babies. They simply advocate for creating choice.
The act of abortion has been going on for a very long time and whether legal or not, some woman would still choose to do it, only in an unsafe manner. I may not agree with it, but I can understand it. Gun control is another example. My belief is that guns themselves highly contribute to the number of gun deaths in this country, but guns would still exist even if we outlawed them, just in an underground manner. Think prohibition.
I have personal experience with discrimination as a Hispanic woman, but I have seen such progress for women and Hispanics in my lifetime. We are finally getting to a place of equality. We are finally getting to a place where our voices are heard. Same goes for every group that has historically been discriminated against. We are progressing as humans and that is a beautiful thing! The fear of clinging to how things were and the fear that things are getting “out of control” because people can actually be who they are – is a great contributor to the division we experience today. I will be the first to admit that I would love for many aspects of our lives to be like they were in the 80’s, but it simply cannot happen. We are evolving just like we always have throughout history. We are now in a digital age and everything has changed. We can either fight it and try to hold on to the traditions and ways we are comfortable with, or we can embrace the inevitable new world we live in and make the best of it.
The one thing that we most certainly have complete control over, is our own behavior. We can love and respect others even when they are different than us. We can treat others with kindness and find common ground rather than division. We can acknowledge our words as the powerful tools they are and refrain from name calling and statements that initiate violence.
I write this post because I realized yesterday, that more than half the country feels the same as I do about who our President should be and to me, it’s more about who WE should be as a society. And yet I still have people that I love dearly who see me as a shade of blue they don’t like. There are so many shades of blue just as there are so many shades of red, and if we open our minds enough to merge them, we may just find the most magnificent purple we can imagine.
If you are upset by the election results, I am sending you a hand of unity. I am sending you love. Just because we voted differently, does not mean we are THAT different. We are fellow Americans and in the big scheme of things, we are on the same team.
And in case you are wondering why I cried when I found out the election results? I cried mostly for my children. Because I felt a wave of relief that they will grow up in a world where they will experience unity and kindness again. They will live in a world where human decency matters and they will be encouraged to be exactly who they are – without fear of being a shade that doesn’t fit in.
“Be polite. Follow their lead. Don’t be argumentative. Look pretty. Always smile. Take care of everyone’s needs before your own. Challenging others is rude.”
These are many of the subtle lessons most Baby Boomer & Gen X girls were taught. Some of them are great, some of them seem to be common sense. Of course we should be polite. There is nothing wrong with smiling. What always feels a bit uncomfortable is the question of, “why do these rules seem to apply to just us?” Why are some of our male counterparts actually encouraged to challenge others? Why is being argumentative (just another form of challenging others) actually seen as a strength for the boys, yet a weakness for the girls?
These are questions that not every little (or big) girl asks and that is absolutely ok. Some would argue that nature designs us to behave in these ways and I’m not really going to try to argue or counter that. Perhaps it is the natural design. Perhaps there is an order to humanity that requires males to act in one manner and females to act in another.
But what about the alpha female?
Let’s first define alpha female. It seems this description can invoke all kinds of emotions in people (and absolutely none in others), but for the purposes of this blog, I am referring to:
A woman who has embraced her leadership ambitions. She is highly motivated and self-confident.
While I wouldn’t change being an alpha female for anything, there are some serious negative side effect that quite frankly, can be exhausting. The research participants in a study in the Journal of Leadership Education expressed having to pay a price for their status and strong alpha female identity. They felt they were often negatively labeled and stereotyped and could frequently feel disliked by others. They also reported feeling pressure to live up to very high expectations not only by themselves, but by others as well.
Can anyone relate?
Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Kamala Harris, Savannah Gunthrie, Megyn Kelly, Oprah Winfrey and Amy Schumer – all powerful women who swarm in controversy. Aside from the fact that each of these women stands up for matters that most are unwilling to even talk about, could there also be an element of them “behaving” in a manner that society hasn’t yet embraced? If we dug deep, would we find that some of the backlash around these forces of nature stems from them simply acting in a way that many feel is “out of line?”
I will be the first to say that my point of reference may be a bit on the extreme side based on personal experience.
I grew up as the youngest and only girl in a strong Catholic, Hispanic family. My early memories include the women working in the kitchen while the men sat around drinking beer. I didn’t witness any sort of appreciation for the womens’ efforts and certainly could not understand why the responsibilities were not being shared equally. I grew up in the 80’s and so women were active in the work force, including most women in my family. Why was it then, that the women worked all day, but then continued to work just as hard through the weekend, while the men relaxed? It perplexed me as a young girl, but it just seemed to be part of my culture. That’s just the way things were.
I remember wanting to ask about it. I remember wanting to speak up. But I also understood that if I did, I would be demonstrating an argumentative nature. I would be challenging the entire situation and that was something little me just didn’t have the strength to do, especially not feeling like there was anyone in my corner who could relate, let alone understand.
And so I watched and with time, I made a solemn oath that I would not be the woman in the kitchen serving my man while he’s drinking his beer.
And for any woman who chooses to do that, no judgement here. It just wasn’t’ for me as it made zero logical sense.
As time went on, I grew stronger and stronger in my beliefs and convictions and thankfully, society grew with me. Thanks to the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg, women’s rights were becoming a real focus and the gap in equality was slowly closing.
Since my childhood, we have seen an emergence of alpha females and for every one out there that exists, I thank you.
We are needed. We are part of the change that is still happening for our daughters and grand daughters. Whether we like it or not, we are evolving as a human species and so the alpha female is becoming a necessity.
But I can’t kick the feeling that we are still slightly revered as problematic.
I observe conversations with males and females and still witness the females smiling and nodding, providing reassurance as though it is our responsibility to ensure everyone is ok with what we and others are saying, or to somehow repair conflict. As recent as last week, I watched an interaction where a strong, powerful woman questioned the President of the United States and was called “cute” mid sentence because he seemingly didn’t like her questions.
I personally am still repeatedly called, “honey or sweetie” when someone is trying to dampen my alpha. And the worst part of it all, is that I feel some of my female counterparts alienate me because I am “dominant or too much.”
And so for anyone else who is “too much” I say, BE MORE. The last thing we need to do is back down and undo all the work our incredible trail blazers have done before us.
Be strong. Be confident. Be the one to make a change. If you are an alpha female, YOU are necessary for the future. Your spark can become the flame and change everything.
To Thine Own Self Be True. I remember the first time I heard that statement, I wondered what it really meant and where it came from. How can someone be true to themselves when in all reality, our existence revolves around others, making life such a complex journey. I’ve learned that this statement, first said by Polonius in Hamlet, is rooted in irony because Polonius was the complete opposite of what he claimed to be. Although he counseled his son Laertes, To Thine Own Self Be True, he did not follow his own advice, nor did anyone else in the play. Is that because it’s not really possible in such a complex world? I think not. And so Polonius, I thank you for the sentiment, but I have chosen to utilize this concept in a completely opposite manner than you did.
My kids are my everything. I’ve always been cognizant that they watch my every move. It’s one thing to tell them not to do something, but if we are doing it – it will likely fall on deaf ears. Think drinking, texting and driving, swearing…the list goes on and on of things we tell our children not to do, but can often do ourselves, with justification. And then there is the other side of the coin – telling our kids to be decent human beings by being kind to others, taking care of ourselves (physically and mentally), and most importantly, loving ourselves and others. I’m not perfect at this by any means but let’s just say that I’m incredibly aware and do everything I can to not be a hypocrite to my children, even if it goes against social norms.
My daughter has always loved the spotlight. We have video of her at 2 years old, singing Katy Perry songs with more fervor than one might think humanly possible for a toddler. Charlee Bria is a firework. Every morning she wakes up to see these words stenciled over her bed, “Cause Baby You’re a Firework, Come On Show Them What You’re Worth!”Like most Moms, I believe my daughter is destined for great things.
I have an older son and I feel the same about him. They are two different human beings. He is full of natural wisdom, depth and grit. When the boy has interest in something, there is no stopping him from pursuing it to the fullest extent. But that fire in his belly is reserved for things that highly interest him. Aside from that, he is a gentle and kind soul.
Charlee – well, she is full of fire and passion, about all things. Quick witted, intelligent and curious, she is a force to be reckoned with as her relentless determination will most certainly lead to greatness.
I’m all for gender equality. In in our home, man and woman are equal and we cross those traditional parenting lines every day. My husband is very involved with the kids, we share responsibilities of drop off, pick up, homework, grocery shopping, etc. We are a 21st century family and I’m so grateful that my kids are witness to how far women have come. They have a career mom – a mom who works hard but is still extremely involved in their lives. A mom who pursued higher education and utilizes her MBA every day in running her own business. They have a mom who not only believes that a woman can do and be anything she wants, but also lives it out entirely. They have an Alpha mom who tends to take the reigns on most things (some call it a control freak, but I will stick with Alpha mom).
For my son, I have high hopes that he will respect women and never treat them as less than equal. He has always treated me with utmost respect and so I’m 100% confident that he will treat other women with the same respect, so long as they deserve it. He and I both believe that a woman (or anyone for that matter) who expects equality should not simultaneously expect to be treated like a gentle little flower. Asking to sit at the executive table with equal pay and expecting that man you are sitting with to hold the door for you, is a bit hypocritical.
As for Charlee, my greatest hope is that she respects herself first and foremost. I hope that she recognizes and utilizes all the amazing gifts she possesses to do great things. And those great things? Well, they certainly don’t need to be what I consider great or what I have chosen to do, but they need to be great to her. I want Charlee Bria to seize every opportunity she can to garnish self-respect and achieve true happiness.
Ok, so you have some background now on how I think, who I am and how I view parenting.
Let’s talk about our experience with All Star Cheer.
I was a cheerleader for 13 years. I started in 4th grade. The year was 1984 – let me save you the math, I am 46 today. I remember actually wanting to play basketball, but I wasn’t great at it (or any other sports for that matter) so, I decided to try out for cheer. It wasn’t a likely choice for an extremely shy, introverted, unpopular book geek – but it felt like the only choice in front of me. In 1984 very few girls crossed over to sports like basketball, except for the exceptional Mikki Padilla – thanks for leading the may Mikki!
And so it went. I tried out for cheerleading in 4th grade and made the team. I had fun and was coming out of my shell, so I kept trying out and kept making the team. Like my son, I have a lot of grit. I’m an extremely hard worker (to a fault) and so once I found that sport that I could be half decent at, I worked hard at it and eventually became captain and was chosen as the single All Star in the state of NM in 1992 (my senior year). This gave me the opportunity to cheer at the Aloha Bowl in Hawaii and try out for the USA (United Spirit Association) staff. Here I was, the shy little girl from NM, going up against many beautiful, gregarious, well trained cheerleaders from across the country for 1 of 12 spots on the USA staff. I will admit, I thought my chances were slim, but I gave it my all anyway.
I made it. I was selected out of hundreds for one of the coveted spots. This brush with victory not only fed my need for significance, but also guaranteed me a summer job all through college (teaching cheer camps across the country). The next year I tried out at UNM and made that team too. Although my time on that team was short lived, I garnished some great memories.
Teaching for USA was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Back in the early-mid 90’s, cheer was teaching girls to be strong, confident, athletic and outgoing, all great lessons for shy girls like me.
I would not trade my experience for the world. The grown up me loves public speaking, doesn’t have a shy bone in her body, is completely confident and knows the value of a smile. I owe so much of this to cheer.
There were, however, some sides of cheer that were ugly. There are the stereotypical things like, cheer girls are mean (some are, some are not), cheer girls are superficial, (some are, some are not) or cheer girls sleep around (I never knew this to be true). I definitely found some meanness across the cheer teams in high school and college, but that existed outside of cheer too. Teenage girls can be mean. Teenage boys can be mean. People can be mean. That’s life.
It was mainly my experience cheering at UNM that put a real sour taste in my mouth about the future of the sport. Our coach was a medical resident and was simply mean, at least to me. He too worked for USA and as the only other fellow New Mexican, he seemed to have different expectations of me since we overlapped the USA/UNM worlds of cheer. I always felt like he was embarrassed of me. Like he had others on the UNM team that he would have preferred to be on USA with him, and in all fairness, there were some far more talented than me on the team. He treated me like an ant that he wanted to squash and although I wasn’t the confident woman then that I am today, I was growing into that person and learning to respect myself so his actions towards me made me extremely uncomfortable.
He had weight requirements for us. My weight requirement was 93 lbs. I’m a pretty small person, but I will tell you right now that I probably have not weighed 93 lbs. since I was a child.
He would constantly threaten me that I couldn’t cheer if I didn’t make weight. I used to think to myself, “what is this, wrestling?” We shouldn’t have to make weight to cheer. Ridiculous. One Friday, I got on the scale and it tipped over 100 lbs. He said, “I don’t care what you have to do, but you need to drop that weight. Just go throw up with the rest of them.” We had a girl on the team who was bulemic. I, and the rest of the team worried about her constantly and you would think, as a medical resident, he would have too. But that single statement showed me that he didn’t care one bit about anything other than control. I quit the next day.
I had never been a quitter, but it was more important to me to walk away from a toxic environment that it was to not be a quitter. I never regretted the decision and I never looked back. I walked away from cheer forever. Or so I thought…
Since that pivotal moment where I found freedom in removing myself from an environment that does not serve my greater good, I’ve gained more practice in having courage to do what’s best to keep myself protected from potentially harmful situations. I’ve walked away from relationships, friendships, jobs and even a marriage – all in the name of fostering a healthy world for myself. It hasn’t been easy. I’m sure damage has been done along the way and I remain eternally sorry for any that have been hurt as a biproduct of me taking care of me. But here’s the deal, if I cannot muster the strength to remove myself from environments, thoughts, activities or people that have the potential to bring me down, how on earth can I love others? Because if I stay in a place that hurts me, I’m not loving myself. And if I want to show others how to love themselves (mainly my children), I have to SHOW them how to do it. If you really want to know somebody, don’t listen to what they say, but WATCH what they do. Yeah, I’m talking to you Polonius! We as parents need to set the example, always.
Charlee Bria started expressing an interest in cheer about 5 years ago. She knew I had done it and she thought the girls in their sparkly outfits, big bows and bright red lips were oh so glamorous. Unlike me, Charlee didn’t need cheer to help her come out of her shell. Quite frankly, the last thing I wanted to do to my 5-year old was put make up on her and parade her on a stage, so, I steered her towards gymnastics instead. I know how important tumbling is for cheer so I figured we could get her feet wet with gymnastics and if she still wanted to try cheer when she was older, then at least she’d have some tumbling skills under her belt. She exceled in gymnastics and loved it. I saw her confidence rise and a sense of discipline started to emerge. As far as I could tell, it was a healthy sport. Practice times were reasonable, competitions were friendly, attire and presentation were age appropriate.
A couple years in, she started to ask about cheer again. I still felt she was too young to parade around in tight little outfits all made up like an adult, but she was adamant about wanting to experience it so I signed her up for an All-Star Cheer team.
Now let me preface by saying that I have no ill will towards the gym she went to or anyone involved. They do what they love and believe in. For that I commend them.
From day one, something didn’t feel right. I was doing things that went against my motherly instincts. Charlee was 10 and I was spending loads of money to doll her up and parade her on stage every weekend. Practices were 3+ hours, 2 nights a week with a night of mandatory tumbling. Girls were required to attend practice even if they were sick and competitions were every weekend, sometimes both days (all day), sometimes out of town (at a casino in Las Vegas, nonetheless). I’m not sure what brilliant mind thought it was a good idea to hold a youth cheer competition at a smoky, ridiculously inappropriate casino in Vegas. And on what planet do we pay money and sacrifice our lives to take girls 10 and under across another state to watch them compete on stage for 2 minutes in a CASINO? I get that this makes sense to some people (as the place was packed with cheerleaders from all across the country) but for me, this felt like I was part of some alternate universe. The energy was intense. Moms on the edge of their seats hoping for a bid to Florida, the girls loading up on Gatorade, donuts and all kinds of junk for their 2-MINUTE performance (a banana and water would have been plenty) and young girls crying whether they got first place or 6th place, because to them, these competitions mean everything. You would have thought we were at the Olympics based on the intensity in the room.
No matter how hard I tried, I could not grasp this cheer world. I couldn’t connect with the other moms and I most certainly was not seeing any valuable lessons for Charlee. In fact, it was the opposite. I was cringing at all she was being exposed to. Girls finding their value through make-up, skimpy outfits and fake smiles – all before the age of 10. It felt like we were taking 100 steps backwards as females.
But, Charlee was co-captain of her team, and I wanted her to understand that it is important to not let your team down so we decided to stick out the season. She was miserable. She cried weekly about going to practice and even faked being injured just so she could miss. We kept on, become more and more miserable as time went on.
As we were preparing for the second competition in Vegas, she had a complete melt-down. She hated the way she looked in the uniform and sobbed, “Mom I can’t do this. I can’t do it anymore.” Practically in tears myself, I hugged her and told her, “Then you won’t. It’s time to walk away.” She was devastated at the thought of letting her team down. “But Mom, I’m Co-Captain. I can’t do that to them. I can’t let them down.” As I hugged her tighter I said, “I love that you care so much, Charlee. You know the value of working as a team and understand that we don’t just quit without reason. Your father and I have kept you in cheer this whole time because we wanted you to learn the important lesson of seeing something through, and not quitting. But I can see you’ve learned that lesson, and so it’s time for you to learn another, even more important one. When you are in a toxic environment or situation, you walk away.”
She looked at me with the first glimmer of hope I had seen in awhile and said, “So, I can walk away if this is toxic for me?”
We both smiled through the tears as I said, “Absolutely, baby, absolutely.”
She went on to finish the competition that day and had a new bounce in her step. Although she was sad about leaving her team, she felt a sense of freedom and maybe even more importantly, support from her parents to take care of her own needs.
We started driving back to Phoenix that night but I realized how exhausted we both were, so decided to stay another night. We found a hotel, checked in, and retired to the room. On our way to the room, we encountered a few drunk gamblers and what looked like a drug shakedown. We got in the room, quickly locked the door, looked at the beds and realized we were in a real shady place. I wasn’t sure what to do. It was almost 9p, I had already paid for the room and quite frankly, I wasn’t sure where to go. Charlee turned to me and said, “Mom, I don’t feel safe here.” I said, “I understand. I’m not sure I do either, but we will keep the door locked, just sleep and leave first thing in the morning.” She said, “But if we are in a toxic environment, we should walk away, right?” Touche!
We marched back to the check in desk, asked for a refund and found another hotel.
The cheer school was amazingly understanding about her resignation. Charlee is back to being her free, fun-loving self and I am back to feeling like I’m doing things in favor of my motherly instinct, rather than against it.
I will forever remember our cheer experience because it was the one that came with the greatest lesson for my girl and reminded me that just because Polonius didn’t do as he said, I still can. And so I continue to strive to set the example in teaching my children; To Thine Own Self Be True.
Today I’m 46. Life is somewhat what I expected, but also very different than I could have ever imagined.
I always knew I was destined to be a Mom, but I had NO IDEA what amazing kids I would be blessed with. I thought it would be cool to bring little souls into the world and teach them a thing or two. Little did I know they would be the greatest teachers of all for me. I learn every day from their unique perspectives, wisdom, unjaded view points and child-like spirits. More importantly, I understand unconditional love in a way I never dreamed.
Being married was definitely in the life picture for me but I never thought it would happen twice. And when divorce hit and I climbed the greatest mountain of my life, I had no idea how much compassion and healing would come out of that situation. And finding my soulmate? I thought it would just be someone I could hang out with for life. I never realized it would be the person that embodies that part of my soul that was always missing. I found that in my best friend, my husband, Brien.
I’ve always been driven, no doubt about it. When I do something, it’s with 100% effort and a relentless spirit. This quality helped me succeed in many ways throughout life (make no mistake this quality has also been the cross I bear) but I had no idea that drive and relentless nature would land me running a successful business with an incredible organization. And I definitely never dreamed I would be running neighborhood publications, that’s for sure. Who knew?
I clearly remember when I realized that I’m an introverted empath (I was 16). Up to that point, I just thought I was weird. I knew I was different. I longed to “connect” deeply with people, rather than dabble in surface relationships, but not many seemed to want the same so I was left feeling isolated and even sad. On top of that, I could literally FEEL others in a way they couldn’t feel me. It was an odd phenomenon for me to come to grips with, but when I did – I felt a sense of freedom. Since that day in my 16thyear (deeply etched in my memory), I have grown to not only accept, but truly value this difference I embody. I’ve found a few others along the way (my son being one of them) so when I find them, I hold on tightly. I value my soul connections as I know they are rare and real.
And that solitutde I’ve always found comfort in? Talk about feeling weird! I used to come home from a long day at school and see all the other kids going out to play when all I wanted to do was snuggle in my room and read a good book (Little House on the Prairie and Judy Blum were among my favorites). This desire only contributed to my alienation from others, so I fought it tooth and nail. Until I didn’t. And when I didn’t, I was once again, free.
Today, on my 46thturn of the planet, I sit ALONE at a local restaurant, feasting on my favorite food and beverage, writing this piece because solitude, expression and owning who I am are the things that bring me great joy.
So if you are reading this, THANK YOU for being part of my world. There is no doubt you influence me, there is no doubt that I feel you, and there is no doubt that I respect our connection.
Here’s to another year of connections, gratitude and growth!
I can’t believe I’ve been on this journey of life for 4 and half decades. Age 5 or 45, I’ve always been that introspective soul trying to find meaning.
What I know to be true at this juncture in life, is that although I’ve gained some insight throughout the years, the learning has only begun. I am confident that whatever I’m experiencing now is preparing me for what is still yet to come.
As I celebrate the big 45, almost half a century on this planet, I find nothing more cathartic than reflecting on what I’ve learned. And so here are my top 45 at 45:
- Reflecting is cathartic! Much growth comes from taking time to look back and simply realize.
- Living in gratitude keeps us humble. We all have more than we deserve.
- Saying thank you for the little things means more than the big ones.
- You don’t have to be the best. Just do your best and the rest will follow.
- Allow yourself to be weird and different. Fitting in is overrated.
- Avoid the path of least resistance, it typically doesn’t lead to greatness.
- Trust your instincts. We have them for a reason and they are always right.
- Take risks. Walk the road less traveled as often as possible.
- Run your own race. What others are doing simply doesn’t matter.
- Know who you are. This comes from consistent self reflection.
- Stay close to those who bring out the best in you.
- Steer clear of those who bring out that other side of you.
- Question your beliefs. It’s the only way for authentic conviction.
- Know your kids. Our time with them is short lived. Make it count.
- Honor your parents. They gave you life. They deserve respect.
- Have an open mind. It’s the only way we grow.
- Listen. There is always something to learn.
- Be wrong. It builds character.
- Appreciate your heritage. Honor your peeps.
- Have a voice. Stand up for what you believe.
- Don’t be afraid to disagree. But do it tactfully.
- Spend time in nature. It’s healing in every way.
- Stay teachable. No matter what we achieve, there is more to learn.
- Don’t jab. Refrain from making those mean, childish comments.
- Forgive. No one is perfect.
- Be playful. It’s good for the soul.
- Find time for you. Recharge in whatever way you need to on a daily basis.
- Tell people you love them. You may never get another chance.
- Work hard. It’s the cornerstone for success.
- Rest. It’s also the cornerstone for success.
- Exercise daily. Endorphins are magic.
- Stay away from black and white thinking. There is gray in everything.
- Avoid passive aggressive behavior at all cost. No one wins.
- Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be impeccable with words.
- Read. Literature holds the key to knowledge.
- Encourage others. We get what we give.
- Spend time with those less fortunate. And help where you can.
- Avoid excessiveness. Too much of anything is a problem.
- Celebrate others’ wins. And celebrate yours. Keep vicious competition away.
- Remember that you can start over at any time. Life, a day, a minute.
- Take nothing for granted. Everything we have can be lost in a second.
- Breathe. It is the solution for everything.
- Pray or meditate. Find ways to connect with the source outside of self.
- Love. Everything. Everyone.
- BE YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF.
I am a 45 year old, introverted, left handed, feisty, competitive, obsessive, strong willed, determined woman who has struggled with self esteem and control my whole life.
I have a past that still haunts me, I have a present situation that often scares me, I have a future that I know nothing of.
I am extremely self aware and approach life with heart & soul.
I have two children that I love more than words can express. I have a husband who is my true partner in life and my very best friend. I have an incredible career where I’m surrounded by like minded, beautiful souls. I have friends who have stood by my side through every peak and valley. I have a family who would do anything for me. I have an understanding of God and the universe that may not be like anyone else’s understanding, but it is mine and it is real.
I know and respect who I am. Do I like every part? No! But do I think every part of who I am is necessary? Absolutely. Every dark side of Denise has light. Every battle scar produces new awareness. Every challenge creates growth.
And although turning 45 seems almost surreal, I realize that this journey is about so much more than myself. I am just scratching the surface of this quest for eternity that has only just begun.
Let me start by saying that this is going to be a very raw post. I have no intention of making this politically correct or perfect. What I desire right now is the opportunity to express my thoughts. Whether you agree with them or understand them is not my concern. My intention in sharing is never to convince you to see things the way I see them, nor to have you convince me to see things the way you see them. To put it simply, my posts are cathartic. These aren’t the type of discussions I would attempt to have in person because most people are incapable of having conversations about controversial matters that don’t become emotionally charged.
I am a strong woman and if you know me, you know that’s not an egotistical statement, it’s just a fact. Starting at a young age, I found it necessary to work really hard to be heard, understood and taken seriously. Being the youngest, the only girl, physically small, and growing up in Santa Fe, NM where there is a real machismo (strong or aggressive masculine pride) attitude, I had my work cut out for me to be seen as “equal” to my male counterparts.
I remember watching most of the women in my family congregate in the kitchen while the men drank beer and watched football. They seemed to spend most of their days cooking, cleaning and tending to the children – seemingly not caring for themselves much. It was revolting to me. I saw them as weak and slightly pathetic. I did have one woman in my life painting a different picture, and that was my mother. Although she was part of the kitchen/children bound females club, she was also working full time and diligent with self care (exercise, eating right, etc.). I never stopped and thought how hard this must have been for her, but I know I had a different kind of respect for her. She was on the forefront of the new world, where gender equality was becoming king (or queen).
At the age of 12, I vowed that I would not be that traditional woman who I had grown to detest. In no way was I going to be bound to the kitchen nor revolving my life around men and kids. Nope. I was on the wave of feminism, all the way. I even saw men as the enemy in some ways. No need to go into details about that, let’s just say I had my share of subversion.
It was with that vow that my grit kicked into full gear. I became focused and determined to “succeed.” At age 12 that meant straight A’s, becoming a leader in sports /activities and finding a job, were I could out perform. Later it meant going to college , getting my MBA, participating in collegiate sports and burning the candle at both ends – in order to pay for my entire education myself and prove my point that I need not rely on anyone.
My career life was no different. Everything I’ve done, I’ve gone big. I’ve never taken any job lightly. From pharmaceutical sales – to a VP position – to owning my own business, they’ve all been recipient of that grit I developed so long ago. That fire that ignited in my belly back when I was 12, carried me through life to prove that I am a strong, independent woman who is very much as equal and important as my male counterpart. And I feel pretty good about what I’ve done so far. No one stopped me.
But now that I am nearing 45, I’m taking a hard look at what this quest for equality really means and the sacrifices that have come along with it.
For me, it was always about knowing that I could. Knowing that I was capable of doing what all the men were doing, knowing that I could have the same voice they have, knowing that I could have the same jobs they have, knowing that being a petite, Hispanic woman wasn’t going to hold me back from doing anything I wanted to do.
And I’m the first to say, that I could.
Did I meet challenges that my male counterparts may not have met? Sure. Did I seemingly have to try a little bit hard. Definitely. Did I find the process frustrating as hell? Absolutely. But society didn’t stop me. I realized every dream I had. I achieved every goal I set my eyes on. And any challenges I came upon because I’m female, or Hispanic, or petite – only made me stronger.
So now, I own 4 publications, have 2 children and find myself utterly exhausted every second of the day. All of these efforts towards equality have come with a price, and a steep one at that.
When my attention is divided, everything suffers. I’m a big fan of focus and believe multi-tasking is the first ingredient in the recipe for disaster. My particular make-up is of the “all or nothing” type. When I do something, I do it 100%. In no way can I approach my business in a half ass way. If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right. I’m incapable of any other way. Same goes for parenting.
But wait, how can I do parenting and running a business 100% effectively? 100% to the business and 100% to parenting = 200% (thank you, MBA) – and this one person isn’t capable of giving 200%. It’s simple math, really.
So, when I really break it down, both my career and my family slightly suffer. I’m not saying I’m bombing at either, but I am keenly aware that if I had singular focus on either, that area would skyrocket into new heights.
My son made a statement yesterday that shook me to the core: ““I get that there are very capable women to take the big jobs, but what happens at home? No one will ever love and care for the children like a Mother. I’m not sure all can cross both worlds well like you, Mom.”
Although I was ridiculously proud of him for making this insightful observation at the ripe age of 14, I had to wonder if he was voicing a gap in his own world. I truly hope he thinks I’m crossing both worlds well, but I have to wonder – why is his perspective so different than mine was at his age? If I peel back this statement, I realize that he is saying, “A mom needs to be a mom. Noone else can do it like she can.” This is a far cry from my 14 year old female perspective of “a female can do it all…career, mom, SUPERWOMAN.”
Funny how a 14 year old boy can really open your eyes.
So today I sit in a precarious spot. Now that I’ve proven that I can, now that I’ve proven that the perceived obstacles in society are not roadblocks to a woman’s success, is it all really worth it when my top priority is my family?
I look back now on those women I watched as a child and I see a different picture. I see incredible women who were giving every ounce of their being to their families and children. They may not have been hitting the gym at 5a everyday or working endless hours to make it in the world of business, but they were ensuring their families were well fed, taken care of and happy. They spent their days focused on their family and finding a little joy in between. Maybe it was watching soap operas, maybe it was eating a few too many sopapillas – who am I to judge. They seemed happy.
And the children they produced? They’re more than ok, they are terrific men and women. They are still married, focused on the family and now, happily retired. I have to wonder where the majority of the power women from this era will land in the golden years. It’s yet to be seen and I can only hope that I won’t be a casualty.
I look at the way things are going in this new world, where women are doing it all – education, career, family – and I see a breakdown. The joy is diminishing, the family is destructing, the children are becoming more detached. Is it all worth it?
If a man posted this, he would be annihilated. There is no more room in this new world for a man to speak freely about this apparent breakdown that is occurring, so I will.
With right comes responsibility. Since I fought so hard for equality, I find it necessary to speak this reality from the woman’s seat. Are we really doing right by all in insisting that we do it all? Who wins in this scenario?
We’ve proven our point, or at least I have. Now it’s time to decide if it was worth the cost. No one can ever mother like a mother and if that’s the most important job out there, why are fighting so hard to make it the backseat job? Perhaps that original plan of the children growing in our bellies had meaning. Perhaps the tracks have been completely derailed because we (myself included) failed to see the TRUE value of the woman from the onset.
Being Mom is hard. In my case, being Mom also comes along with being Wife, which means that being Mom is not an autonomous journey. Making joint parenting decisions isn’t always the easiest task. I have a blended family so parenting my oldest involves 3 people. Some interesting dynamics come along with biologically sharing one child and not the other AND involving another person in the decisions of one and not the other. Holy smokes – the whole thing makes my head spin sometimes.
Today is Mother’s Day. I’m the first person to milk this day. I warn my family weeks ahead of time that I expect the day to be special. I want gifts, I want to be pampered, I want it all. I naturally have high expectations for just about everything, so today is no exception. I’ve learned that if I express my expectations, my chances of being let down are not as great and I am not above being a big fat baby about it if my Mother’s Day isn’t special. When I walked downstairs to get my coffee while everyone was still sleeping, I saw a big present and several cards so I’m pretty sure my sweet little family is going to deliver today.
But here’s the real thing. Every Mother’s Day, for the past 14 years, I’ve woken up in tears. It’s kind of a blend of happy and sad tears. These tears are filled with gratitude as I think about my own Mother and also how much my kids mean to me. And then I get a pang of sadness when I think about loosing any of it.
So this morning, I started thinking….what does Motherhood really mean to me and I realized some important points.
I’m a pretty intense person. Every strength I have, can also be a weakness. I see a lot of these qualities in my daughter as well. I am constantly reminding her that all of her passion and energy can help her achieve greatness OR can really get her in trouble. It’s no different with me.
Before I was a Mom, the consequences to my decisions didn’t hold as much weight. I just didn’t care as much about the outcome of poor decisions. Getting reckless every now and then was pretty ok in my book. Invincible or not, I didn’t hesitate much to do some flat out stupid things.
And then Noah was born and suddenly every decision I made had him in the center of it. It took me a few years to really morph from that semi-responsible person to the uber responsible person I am today, but it started happening the day he was born.
And then I met the love of my life and suddenly every decision I made had 2 other people in the center. And so I morphed a bit more.
And then Charlee was born and now every decision I made had 3 other people in the center. And the mother butterfly fully came out of her cocoon.
Yes, now that I am Mom and Wife, I see myself as a butterfly because I am now the best version of me.
Having these 3 people in my life means that I no longer just think about me with every move I make.
If I want to get drunk or do something non-productive to just escape, I don’t because that’s not how I want them to handle escaping.
At work, I don’t give 50 or 75%, I give 100% because I know that it’s not just my financial needs at stake, its’ theirs too.
When I want to bite someone’s head off because I’m angry, I (usually) don’t. Instead, I try to respond with kindness because I know my kids are watching and that is how I want them to respond.
When I want to just give up – on anything – I don’t, because I want me kids to witness perseverance.
Anytime I want to be reckless, misbehave or just be a jerk – well, I have 3 big motivations now to just not.
I realize now that motherhood has catapulted me into being the best version of me, because I want nothing more in this world than for my children to be the best version of themselves, and I know, they are watching my moves every step of the way.
So all those hard things about being a Mom? I will take them and then some. I understand why I cry every Mother’s Day. In being a Mom, I got the greatest gifts of my life, my big 3 – two beautiful children and the best version of Me. Without the journey into motherhood, I have no idea who or what I would be.
International Women’s Day was a big deal in our house. Not necessarily because we were celebrating it, but because my 14-year-old son was challenging it.
My approach to parenting is to support individuality. My children are encouraged to be free thinkers and to challenge ideas and concepts. I believe it is my responsibility as a parent, to encourage authentic individuality and this doesn’t happen by forcing my beliefs or those of our society down their throats. As a result of this approach, my son Noah is wise beyond his years at age 14. And my 8-year old daughter Charlee, well, let’s just say she will likely be the most brilliant lawyer of all times.
But I have to say, this challenge of International Women’s Day from my son caught me off guard. Particularly because other adult forces in Noah’s life were expressing “disappointment” with his “disrespect” for the day. And well, let’s face it – I am a woman, so this one hit me on a personal level. So, I asked Noah to explain his thought process and here is what he said:
“You know, I mean I see all people equal, no matter what race, religion or gender. I just think that having days like these are separating us as a people even more so that is why I think it should be a day for all overcoming these kinds of struggles. I won’t respect you or disrespect you because you are a woman or a certain race. I will respect or disrespect you based on what kind of person you are. I don’t respect, or disrespect people based on their struggles, but rather on how they choose to handle them. That’s just how I think, Mom.”
I was speechless. It took me a moment to really absorb what he was saying and more importantly, to honor the free-spirited thinker he has become. And so, when I thought about how to respond, one very important truth was ringing in my mind; I AM not just a woman. I simply, AM.
- I’m not a pure descendent of any one race therefore I AM white, Hispanic, Italian, Mexican, Native American and probably a touch of many, many more.
- Although I choose Christianity, I apply many teachings of other religions to my life therefore I AM simply a child of God.
- As a woman, I also have a male leading energy (according to an assessment by Tony Robbins) and am a very logical thinker. Therefore I AM, simply a human being with female and male “qualities.”
- I run a business but also have children and a husband therefore, I AM a homemaker who also provides income.
- I have experienced sexual harassment, so I raise my hand for the “Me Too” movement. Yet, I am also experiencing the greatest business opportunity of a lifetime (in a business run by men) therefore, I AM NOT a victim to one person’s primitive existence but rather I AM a productive member of a gender neutral workforce.
The list goes on and on, solidifying that I don’t just fall into one bucket for anything. If you really think about it, do you?
The longer we continue with the black and white thinking, the longer the segregation will continue. What if we open our minds to the idea that WE are not all so different after all. Perhaps our level of respect would change for one another. Maybe Noah is right, maybe all of these concepts that separate us into buckets of human beings should be changed to an ongoing celebration of who we all are as humankind. Maybe, if we truly saw in everyone else what exists in ourselves, all this destruction would end. Because doesn’t the hate stem from separateness in the beginning? It all start with us against them, or you against me.
International Women’s Day is a beautiful celebration of what women have overcome and I don’t want to diminish that in any way, but is it another message to our youth of US against THEM? Every one of these movements over time have been with the intent to bring us together as one. At what point do we eliminate the separateness of these movements?
I’m not sure what the answer is, but I will say this – if I have a 14-year old thinking this way, seeing humans as humans without much regard for gender, religion, or color – our youth are moving in the right direction. My son just can’t grasp the concept of man vs woman or black vs white and trying to force him to see the separation is a step backwards. Perhaps our youth will show us the way with this evolved thinking, because isn’t that what the movements are all about anyways?