Monday, June 27, 2016

Wound Care

"I've started dreaming in Spanish, which has never happened before. I wake up feeling different, like something inside me is changing, something chemical and irreversible. There's a magic here working its way through my veins. There's something about the vegetation too, that I respond to instinctively-- the stunning bougainvillea, the flamboyants and jacarandas, the orchids growing from the trunks of mysterious ceiba trees..." -Cristina Garcia
My VONA Fam

Wound care, I've been doing it all wrong these last few years. I've been treating infected cuticles, bones and finger tips with saline solution, bandages, surgeries, pain killers and warm gloves. But this past week, I realized that wound care begins on the inside.

I knew this. But I didn't really know it. Because the thing is, how can you care for a wound you didn't even know existed? This past week at VONA I became woke to the wounds I had buried so deep I had convinced myself they didn't hurt. But the reason they were buried was because they hurt the most.

I am an open book to anyone who knows me. I will tell you everything about my chronic illness and pain, my miscarriage, my surgeries, the pills I take, how brown and black I feel, how alone I feel as an Afro-Latina in Texas, how much I love my parents and my sister. I laugh off my relationship with my brother. And we laugh when things are uncomfortable. This past week, I was made to confront that discomfort. (And that's all I have to say about that)

A few weeks ago...
And because of that, something truly wonderful happened (aside from the internal healing that began when I wrote the "real hard poem")...my finger (the one I've been trying really hard to save from amputation)...started to scab. I'm not kidding.

Just the week before, while in the DR I was really concerned that the finger was headed back down the ugly rabbit hole of infection and amputation, I just couldn't stay positive when progress wasn't being made. However, when I woke up Saturday morning (I slept for an hour before getting up to catch a 6am flight) the wound actually started to look and feel like a scab that was healing.

That is no coincidence. The poets in my VONA workshop
helped me care for a wound I didn't even know I had self-inflicted. They treated that wound with love, and compassion and understanding and care. And in doing so, the physical wound on my finger has finally decided to heal.

Now
We are only as sick as our secrets. I finally shared one of mine with others. And in that sharing, these people these poets became my family and that space, wherever we all are, became another home.

I am not ready to write about the full extent of my VONA experience, and I don't know that I ever will. But I know that I have been changed. As a writer, a poet, a woman of color, and a survivor. I know now how to care for wounds both big and small and I have a team of caretakers willing to help me through it.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Write to Heal Series

It's been almost a month since my last post! So sorry..but you know...life. So instead of dropping bombs or getting all heavy I thought I'd share what's been keeping me from blogging...my extremely busy writing life! Here's a recap of all that's gone on since the last Write to Heal Series.

1. Residency & Workshop Acceptances: I have the great pleasure of announcing that I was accepted into BOTH the VONA/Voices Workshop for Writers of Color at the University of Miami AND the Macondo Writer's Workshop for Latino Authors!!!

I am thrilled, scared, nervous, intimidated and just ready to be surrounded by mi gente. I am really looking forward to getting feedback on my work and just being in community with inspiring writers. It definitely means that I will be very busy this summer, so blogging may be put on hold, but as soon as I can get back to this page and share with you all that I learned and experienced, I definitely will.  

2. Publications:  If you've been keeping up with my sporadic posts, then you know by now that my creative non-fiction piece Shades of Red was recently published by the University of Edinburgh's Dangerous Woman Project. (I just thought I'd plug it one more time) It was great to be included in this project and hey they even paid me a small honorarium...so...WINNING!

Trevor, Me, Lupe, Kayla & Alvaro @ NP Showcase
3. Performances: As you probably remember, April was National Poetry Month so I was very busy. To wrap up the month I read and sold over 19 copies Island of Dreams at the Nuestra Palabra 18th Anniversary Showcase. It was a long night but it was amazing. All the old and new NP folks gathered for a night of literature, film, art and fun. It was great to see old friends and to be able to make new ones.


Also, I had the privilege and honor of being asked to read at HCC central for the student creative writing group. It was a great experience because the students asked really great questions about what it's like to be a professional writer...and I just kept thinking to myself "I'm still trying to figure it out too!" Everyone was very gracious and I always love reading on college campuses because the students are like sponges and really enjoy my work.  There were even a few Afro-Latinas in the audience who approached me afterwards and thanked me for writing the work that I do.

It's been over a month since that reading and just last week, the young lady who booked me for the even sent me an email...(one of the few pieces of "fan mail" I've ever received and it almost made me cry!)...She wrote:

"I just wanna say that I just finished your book and it resonated so much in so many ways!! Even though I'm Mexican, there's so many things that I went through just like you said. I wanna thank you for writing this and for sharing your art with the world. I just came back from Barnes & Noble trying to find a new book to read after yours but I came back empty handed. I got that feeling you get when you just read a great book that nothing comes close after that. I seriously can't wait to read more from you! I loved your performance that day at HCC and your book!

Thank you thank you thank you!!!"

Aaah! How sweet! I was so excited to read this and it reassures me that my stories matter and that they resonate with the audience I hoped it would.

Lastly, the hubs and I had the wonderful and rare opportunity to share the stage as the featured poets at Inprint's First Friday Reading Series earlier this month. It was a truly rewarding and fun night. He and I took turns on the mic and even read a piece together (which never happens). I love what we do and I love when we can do it together.
First Friday Reading

4. Upcoming Gigs & Stuff: This summer is full of writing experiences and opportunities. I know I will be tired by the end but I know I will also be fulfilled. Aside from VONA and Macondo, I will also be attending my first summer residency at PLU for my MFA. I am currently working on editing my workshop submissions and am again very intimidated and nervous about the process and the experience. But I want to take it all in and just learn from it.
I have also been asked to be the keynote speaker at a Teen Summit for girls in Baytown at Lee College. I have never been a keynote speaker, but they are allowing me to perform some of my poetry and just talk to the girls. I will be working on preparing that later this month.

While I have a busy couple of months ahead, I will have some down time starting next week. Mom, sis and Baby B and I will be taking a trip to the DR to rest and relax for a few days and I simply can't wait! The beach, the sun, the food...I'M READY! I also think it will provide me with the space and quiet to get some reading and writing done before everything gets crazy.

Looking back at the last month and half I realize how truly lucky I am to live this life and to be able to move forward in order to do more. As many of you know I didn't always feel this way and my ailing health often makes it hard to see things in a positive light, but all in all I can say confidently that things are good...and truthfully...all is well.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Seeing Red Part III- Guest Posts

“My dad used to say makeup was a shallow girl's sport, but it's not. It's armor.” 
― Courtney Summers

There are so many updates I need to share: health, writing, plans, hopes, fears...life. But I'm going to take some time away from the over-indulgent navel gazing and share two more Finding my Red stories. I find that listening to and sharing other's stories is just as important as telling my own. So here are two stories from fellow bloggers:

Labios en Rojo-Lips in Red by Rosa Angelica Castaneda

Porque Me Dio La Gana 

I was encouraged to wear makeup since middle school, but I rebelled.  My grandma thought, “Un poquito de roodge mijita. Y los labios tan morenos. Ponte algo!”  Grandma felt that a woman with a little color was going places. Makeup marked her success in her home with her marido and in her life with being attractive enough to climb the ladder. I would have rather been a boy. Boys didn’t deal with makeup nor did they deal with the need to be attractive to go places.

The rest of my family warned about the consequences of makeup and the consequences of too much of it. “Necesita color esta muchacha!” My grandma insisted I needed color. I stopped wearing dresses and asked for my first pair of Red Wing boots.


Botas? Nomas los hombres usan botas!” Only men wore boots! My grandma was appalled. My mom snickered in the background. “Carolina, eres manflora?”

I don’t know what I was, but a girl who wore makeup I would not be.  I didn’t wear makeup for years. I felt it was oppressive. I felt makeup was the very disguise we hid behind so that we didn’t have to be ourselves. Because someone demanded it of us.

Each day over the years, I watched my grandma paint on her face and then grab a pencil to stab a fake mole onto her face. My grandma was beautiful. Her modos were elegant and her work ethic was fierce. She was a confident woman.

After I had both of my children, I started to wear makeup. Something to spruce me up and make me feel better about myself after post-partum depression. I only wore a bit of nude lipstick (mostly lip gloss) and eyeshadow the color of my skin.

I didn’t break any barriers until last year. My children are 16 and 10. My 16 year old is fabulous at wearing her makeup. Wings, and lips and eyebrows. Esta werca salio como la abuela! She wears it confidently.  Something I could never do when I was her age.

“Mom, just do it!!” My daughter’s enthusiasm was a great way to step into wearing makeup con ganas.  Last year, I wore red lipstick for the first time. Because mija gave me the confidence and the free pass to wear what I want. I was self-conscious the first time I wore it. Will people think I’m ofrecidaNo one said a word, but it made me feel rebellious in such a different way. I owned the time I chose to wear the lipstick. I chose how much and where I would wear it without any regard for submitting to someone’s demand of me wearing it. I wore it porque me dio la gana.