Sunday, May 26, 2013

The time to DO is now!

Oh Captain, my captain!

That is by far one of the best lines from one of the best movies ever made, about the impact a teacher can have in his/her students. From Dead Poets Society to my Religion and Literature course team-taught by two brilliant professors, who secretly hated each other, but somehow made us journey into a crazy, mixed up mindset of curriculum development, where scripture can be compared page by page to works of classical fiction. I mean, don't you know that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is clearly the story of Creation and the exploration of the challenges in the relationship between a father and son? You knew that, right? :) Nerd moment, sorry! ;)

What does Dead Poets Society and my Rel/Lit class have to do with each other? Well, during class, our Prof quoted the famous line "Oh Captain, my captain" and you can be sure he continued to explain the essence of Carpe Diem, seize the day. No, he didn't climb on top of the desk (I did when I taught at Colegio San Jose and did make some of my students do the same!! Shhh, don't tell you know who!;))

What our professor did made even more sense, although we didn't think so at the time. He told us  NOT to get all enthralled in the whole seize the day thing, life is too short, or the current vernacular much embraced by millennials, including (Lord, help me) my 10 year old, YOLO: you only live once. PAUSE for dramatic effect. Wait, what? Right, he said DON'T make a decision because simply it feels good, or do something because you might think it's the last time you will get that chance.

I know, I know, don't like this Prof much. He continued... Think about it, he said to us. Sometimes we make stupid decisions simply because we don't think about either the consequences, or we just don't think. You gotta think. Thinking is good, absolutely, and at the moment you are faced with a decision, or at a crossroads, think before you act. CAVEAT--- from the professor and from my own personal experience, can we find a balance???

Light bulb! The balance between thinking on our feet and making a decision at a moment that may change our lives or allow us to experience own very own life and make memories.That is the main lesson here boys and girls. I think what I learned is not that life is too short, but that we only have ONE life to live. Applause for the unintended soap opera pun! ;)

My intent is definitely to keep this post light and not go into an existentialistic -over-my-head rant, but more so to say that today and lately, I have realized that for a long time I thought, and planned, and kept thinking, and thought some more, when opportunities to experience certain things in life, take chances, risk embarrassment, all in all, live, came up, I did nothing. I didn't seize the moment. I didn't live my only life to live.  Now, of course, I am still here and I get the whole seize the moment thing, but I make sure it's for the best. I do live my live, in a good, positive, respectful way.

And so, at a time where all things life-related seem to be falling into unexpectedly fitting places, I am better prepared and ready to seize the day, yell out my very own YOLO and climb on top of the desk and scream "Oh Captain, my captain!"

Now, my prayer or wish for all today is, think. Sure, think because you have to. BUT LIVE, and DO. Think and plan as much as you need to, but don't let life pass you by while you are caught up in the thinking. Personally, after thinking and thinking and overly thinking about taking a trip to see my family, I DID it! It will be short, but quality beats quantity ANY day!

Don't get me wrong, thinking and planning about what to do is OK- this is coming from an obsessive, compulsive, planner- but some times you just have to say "enough with the thinking, it's TIME FOR DOING!" The time to DO is now! :)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The vine, the wine of friendship...

Haven't we heard the following statement many times: "Friends are the family that you choose"?  Well, these words could not have been uttered in a more honest, completely truthful and heart-pounding way.

One of our "kid" brothers, member of our spiritual family, made a life choice this weekend and committed to living in community. He is from Ohio, but friends and "family members" came from Hawaii, Texas, New York. Blessings and congratulations were sent virtually from Africa, Italy, Ireland, Korea, India...  From all over the world, family members sent their love.

Like many conferences, even special family milestone occasions, like a wedding, have a prep day of sorts. Relatives and out of towners are arriving all throughout the day- and night! After the prep day, there's a pre-party of sorts, then of course, THE party and duh, the after party.

My friends and I, my local family by choice, are no exception. I am blessed to be part of a global, extended spiritual family that has been by my side, for better or worse... most visibly, for worse. I love them for it.

The pre-party took some of us, after a long, very long, day of work to impatiently gather awaiting for the arrival of more brothers and sisters in friendship. Yes, a space to gather can be a kitchen, a dining room, a porch. Our place of gathering, this time around is our own version of Cheers! A place where when you walk in, everybody knows your name. We move from a small table to an even bigger table, as more friends' arrival times begin to fall one on top of the other. Do an about face and the tenth person has walked in. YEAH! Smiles, cheers, claps, pure joy!  We all came together to celebrate our brother, our mission, our friendships and commitments to our community. BIG smile :-D

New faces, old faces, new friendships were born this weekend, old friendships were strengthened. All with the power and faith to last forever.

The celebration and AFTER party: an opportunity to witness over 100 people who love, who believe and who have hope. Friends of friends who know us better than we think we know ourselves.  At times friends, with a wink of an eye, share a moment, an inside joke, a memory, deliciously savored just by them, because it was their moment; their memory.  Don't you love those??  Like your own set of clues to a hidden treasure only you two, or three, or twelve, know how to figure out. Off you go, together, on a treasure hunt. How cool are those friendships!

Now of course, we can't keep some of our closest friends to ourselves. That is the unfortunate selfish part of each of us that wants to keep our special friends to ourselves. Well, we can't some times. We must share our loves, our friends, our soul mates, with the world. What we are left with, is the joy of the memories and the friendships that live and will continue to live on as long as God allows it... or allows us to remember.

At the end of the weekend, much like Cinderella at the stroke of midnight, it's pumpkin time. Reality check. Reality bites. We must say goodbye. One more gathering, please. There has to be plenty of leftovers from the night before. Yes, there are!!  Let's stretch this celebration of friendship as long as we can. Wait, what? Oh yeah, you have a plane to catch. Tomorrow's Monday and some of us have to work. OK. I'll bite. I have to say good bye. Reality does bite and it bit hard.

While all of this took place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and I found myself driving back and forth from the church, retreat center, community and home, the "Les Miserables" soundtrack played in my car. One of the songs sums up the weekend for me and inspired the title of this entry. Some of you will recognize it right away and even though, my friends might think the title "Drink with me" is the reason why I think this song is perfect, you are wrong. This weekend is beautifully summed up in the following lines and with them I leave you and I dedicate them to my friends, my family!

"At the shrine of friendship, never say die. Let the wine of friendship never run dry. Here's to them and here's to you"

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Gotta do the dance...

There's an image in my mind since Saturday that I can't shake... I was at a funeral.
Now I am sure the first impression you get as you read this is "oh, that's so sad" or "who died?"  Well, yes, it was sad, but we were in fact celebrating a man whose life was bigger than him- literally!

This is not a eulogy or tribute to Fr. Joe, although he sure deserves more than I could ever express. I really didn't know him as well as others far better qualified. The image in my head was that of one of his brothers, sharing stories and memories shaking his hips, pretending to dance. "Joe loved to dance." Joe was big and tall and loved to dance. No matter what life brought him, everyone said he danced... to the beat of his own drum, his communities, his brothers and his vocation. He did the dance... and doing the dance, working for his vocation and mission in life, left this earth too soon.

As I look up and smile, fully knowing in my heart that all the angels I know up there are looking after us, I am at peace. However... I know that perhaps on not so good days, I may have to do the dance. Hmm? Stay with me. I have a point, promise. :)

I love to dance. Have I ever mentioned that? Probably not as much as I could. I don't cook often (my family will be first ones to point that out!), but when I do, the music is playing in the kitchen, and I dance. I dance in the morning while I am getting ready. I dance when I clean-ugh- and even in the car.

When things aren't going well, I dance in a different way. Life is complicated and people add to the complexity of the ins and outs, yings and yangs, ups and downs of our dear lives. We have to learn to do the dance. While you may not compare dancing in a musical, a ballet, a night club or in the kitchen, to "doing the dance of life", think about it. We all play different roles. We are daughters, mothers, fathers, sons, brothers, friends, co-workers, spouses. Each role has a job description of sorts, certain behaviors you may have to learn as you either change roles from daughter to mother, or from married to divorce. You learn to do the dance. The dance is the flow of things, the balancing act of personalities and expectations each member of your circle or community has. The dance is the pattern of daily tasks, jobs to complete meetings to attend. Projects to complete, calls to returns. Some people are very good dancers. ;)

Whether we like it or not, we gotta learn to do the dance. When a difficult divorce leaves one party in a place of hurt, intentional deceit and pain, you do the dance. You make it work. When an assignment is due within a small window and panic may strike, you do the dance. You make it work. If there's tension at work, but you have the best intentions to make things go smoothly for the benefit of the organization, you do the dance. You make it work.

I hope by now you see the connection. At least for me, while Joe loved to dance and did it well, he also "did the dance" and made his life work. He danced with joy! When I dance, I relax and regress to my home culture and joy de vivre outlook on life, no matter how often or focused I also HAD to do the dance... Yes, I do the dance now. We all do, to a degree. The cool thing is that some of us now do the dance naturally and gracefully, while others may need our help. Practice makes perfect and some of us have been dancing and dancing for a number of years... No one said it was easy, but why not try to look at things from that perspective. It may help.

Thanks Joe, for the inspiration. Life and experiences teach you many different ways to apply your dance skills... some for fun, others to have fun while balancing awkward relationships, job demands and kids' schedules. Even if you don't realize it, you do the dance... and I am sure you do it well!  The moral of the story, at least in my opinion and based on my many opportunities to dance and to DO the dance, is that we gotta do it. You gotta do the dance to make it work, to make life work, even if things don't necessarily have anything to do with dancing. ;)

Monday, May 6, 2013

I see good people...

Nobody is perfect. Nobody should judge others either. I mean, let's look in the mirror. Child, please. I do it too, mind you. At least I do my best to stop, think and DECIDE what comes out of my mouth before I say---peep---, especially if it's about another person. Then I stop myself. I am getting better at it with age.. LORD, I am getting old. ;)

People's quirkinesses make them unique. Those same nuances can be annoying... Ha, I have some myself. I need to pour sugar BEFORE I pour the coffee into my steamed milk. Duh, don't you know that will keep the milk from curdling. When I go to an amusement park, specifically to the Disney parks, I start clockwise versus counter-clockwise. Don't ask.., I just know that Magic Kingdom always started with Fantasy Land, then Adventure Land and that is clockwise. Weird, I know.

So, distinctive personality traits in others can drive people crazy. But isn't that what makes individuals a little wacky, and quite lovable at times? To be imperfectly perfect. I have used that phrase to even describe relationships. Who wants perfect... Perfect is boring. Imperfectly perfect in all its chaos. That I have embraced in others, perhaps in me.

One of my best friends is always and I mean ALWAYS late for everything. Being late is something that drives ME loca! I will forever challenge my very own cultural stereotype: Latinos are late for everything. Not me, NO sir! I rather arrive some place early and wait it out; gives me a chance to check out my surroundings. Yes, I am spying. LOL!

I decided to title this post "I see good people" because the line (spoken in a creepy "I see dead people" mental whisper--come on, admit it, you thought the same thing!) really spoke to me.

Two weekends ago a group of about 35 people came and painted my neighbor's house and did their landscape. It was a service group project, very Habitat for Humanity-like. The same weekend, I spent time with people who were on retreat learning about building Christian communities. Basically, intentional communities who share faith, prayer and a common goal of making the world a better place, looking through Marianist lenses. CAVEAT- for new readers, and I know I have some new ones, refer to some of my old posts for Marianist lingo and definitions- That day I saw good people, doing good things, all for others.

Later that day I got to interact with students from at least 6 different countries that were celebrating their graduation from the university. Students that leave their homeland, family and friends, commit to earning a degree in a foreign country and become part of our community is commendable. Isn't that how many countries and cultures were born? We some times are afraid of those same qualities or quirkinesses that make "them" different than us. I am sucker for people... Even considering the fact that I have been burnt, that we have been burnt. I see good people and I give them the benefit of the doubt.

Last week I got to meet up with a friend and walk around one of the toughest, or historically known, toughest neighborhoods in Cincinnati. I learned about homeless care, job training "second chances" and a conscious effort to help a community stay together. In its challenging days and times, there are good people there. I saw good people.

The news and the media focus so much on the negative. Sure, it sells. Scandal, gossip, war, ugh... It sells, yeah. Whatever! I wish, wish, the segment on NBC Nightly News "Making a Difference" would start, as well as close the broadcast. I wish we would feature more of our students' successes on campus, instead of the rules being broken. I wish more people would know that our teachers are paying out of their own pockets so their students have the necessary materials to do their work. I see good people...

I see leaders who are dedicated, heart, body and soul, to their vocation. By vocation, I mean it holistically---and that's a separate blog post for later!---who face challenges every single day, but they "take it in the face" for the benefit of the organization. Leaders who face adversity with dignity and courage are the best.. .the present ones, the often quiet ones, who make us believe again. I see good people.

In the midst of chaos, war, poverty and individual whatevers that make us irk or cringe at the sight of the very things or those you know who's that annoy us, I see people who care, who work hard, who love, who go the extra mile, and extend a helping hand. I see those who hug when a friend is in pain, who offer to help without uttering a word, but with an honest look in the eyes of the person in need.

I see good people and I am thankful.