Sunday, March 27, 2016

I'm Having A Moment

Here are a few things I don't understand right now. No introspection. No reflection. I just don't fucking get it.

1. Conception. Ovulation. Infertility. How or why some can have babies and others can't.
2. Women who have no business being mothers. Not the first time. Not the second, third or fourth.
3. White women who are completely unaware of their white privilege.
4. Why there are no panels at AWP on the Afro-Latino writing experience.
5. Why there is no Latino theatre group in Houston.
6. Why I know approximately only ONE other Afro-Latina writer in the ENTIRE city of Houston.
7. Why my finger is refusing to heal.
8. What the hell the doctor intends to do with this new fangled "amniotic stem cell" procedure.
9. Why I wasn't chosen for Canto Mundo.
10. Why people say: "You can't have your cake and it too." I bought it! Imma eat it!
11. How to convert my manuscript in Scrivener back into a readable well formatted Word document to send to publishers.
12. Why, if I'm submitting to a creative non-fiction/memoir contest they ask that your name not be found anywhere in the manuscript?! Um,'s about ME! This is impossible.
13. Why my white friends are more supportive of my writing career than some of my own family.
14. Why my aunt is still detained in an immigration/deportation center in Laredo.
15. Why my husband insists on keeping this house so cold.
16. Where have all the cowboys gone?
17. People who refuse to understand why I don't want to meet their newborn babies.
18. Kale.
19. Why there are so many stories of white women who get divorced, become alcoholics, drug addicts, suffer depression, anxiety, feel like bad mothers, and ultimately "find their way"...but when a colored woman experiences these things or worse she's criticized and not celebrated aka published.
20. Potholes. Everywhere. Just. Potholes.

There. Rant over. Be about your business. Next week, after AWP I will have something better to share.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Write to Heal Series

The last two weeks I've taken some time to be by the water and let nature rejuvenate and restore my busy mind. Last Sunday I went to Surfside Beach with my sis and my gorgeous niece Brooklyn. I will admit, I spent more time taking pictures of my niece's first time in the sand and near the ocean than I did relaxing and enjoying the sound of the water. But since those moments happen only once in a lifetime, I'm ok with it. And dammit, if she just isn't the cutest little thing in a swimsuit!!!

Then, on a whim, the hubs and I decided to take a day trip to a nice little bed and breakfast along the coast in the little town of Palacios, TX. This time, I was able to enjoy the water, the sounds, the wind and even a little late night rain and thunder. It was a great time for self-reflection, meditation and even some writing.

So, today I will leave you with a couple of poems based on my last few experiences with nature. The first piece I wrote while in the mountains of Mexico this past Christmas, and the second piece I wrote this weekend while sitting by the water. Read. Share. Enjoy. And take some time to go be with nature even if only in your's more healing than you think.

Atotonilco, December 2015

El sol me cala
My fingertips smell of orange groves and limes
I am surrounded by flowers I cannot name
And I've spent the morning trying to trap a butterfly with my photo lens
But she flies merrily across the barbed wire fence
Into a tree and around the hydrangeas
La mariposa se me escapa
Vermillion roses dance to the music of the wind and cantaloupe colored amapolas soak up the sun
In them I hear the silence i so desperately seek
Que quieres de mi me pregunta la tierra?
The Mexican hills stake their claim and stand motionless amidst the swinging and swaying the spinning and sauntering of blue orchids, fertile cacti, and brawny corn husks.
Los cerros se paran como guardeslpaldas sobre
El magay que se abre listo/Agri dulce/sprawls open ready to burst with the bitter sweet
Every inch of this place soaked with sudor y sangre que no se ve Pero se huele
There is more life in this earth than lives inside me
Me siento vacia
sinking my feet into 100 year old dirt
History tickles my toes and as I
stroke the edge of a petal the ground beneath me
shakes/ y debajo de mis pies
la Tierra tiembla
Military Brat

I wish I knew well
One kind of life
Small town country
City living
Pueblos by the sea
Rancho in the mountainside

I wish I could tell you
About fishermen and piers
The way they cast their nets
And the salt water glistens 'neath
A moonlit sky

I wish I knew the sound of the A train
Rustling past my window
Shaking me to sleep every night
Or the groans of a homeless man
To greet me every morning

I wish I knew more about
Jam making and milking cows
Hanging sheets in the wind or riding a horse into the cerros and
How do ya do and bless your heart and traime tequila y come cana
I wish I knew what the waves sounded like
Before a Katrina came a knocking
I'd like to know the difference between the cry of a pelican
And the gawk of a sparrow.
Between the peaceful silence of the sea and the calm before the storm.

I wish I knew how to take a bus
Or shout for a taxi
Maneuver through crowds
And walk 16 blocks on the daily
Avoid a pick pocket and order my cold cuts from a Jewish deli

I wish I was from some place
I could put my finger on a map
And geographically locate
Where my crazy came from

UPCOMING WRITING EVENTS: (Check out my redesigned WEBSITE for more details!)

Good Friday Poetry Reading
The Loft Worship Community
Woodlands, TX

Association of Writing Programs & Publishers (AWP Conference)
Los Angeles, California
March 30-April 2, 2016

College Language Association Convention
Black Lives Matter Panel
Dialogues between Africa and African Diaspora in Languages, Literatures and Films.
Houston, TX
April 8th, 2016

Youth Writing Workshop and Public Reading
MECA, Houston, TX
April 7th
Time: 6-8pm

Houston's Favorite Poetry Celebration
Houston Public Library
April 12th
Time: 6pm

Nuestra Palabra 18th Anniversary Showcase
Talento Bilingue De Houston
April 27th
Time: 6pm

Monday, March 14, 2016

Alternative Medicine

"Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity." - Hippocrates

Lupe trying to understand the organic
juices at Whole Foods
If you've been following my blog for awhile now, you probably know that I've written about this before. "Alternative" medicine is always a hot topic in the chronic illness world, and it's come up in a few conversations the last couple of days, so I decided to return to it today and provide my most recent opinions on it. (I often sway back and forth on what's best, but I think I've finally reached a clear position on the subject for where my health is now). 

First off, what is alternative medicine? As defined by Wikepedia (don't question my reliability here lol) "Alternative medicine is any practice that is put forward as having the healing effects of medicine, but does not originate from evidence gathered using the scientific not part of biomedicine... or is contradicted by scientific evidence or established science. It consists of a wide range of health care practices, products and therapies, ranging from being biologically plausible but not well tested, to being directly contradicted by evidence and science, or even harmful or toxic." 

It goes on to list everything from traditional Chinese medicine, to acupuncture and even chiropractic therapies (WTF?!). Basically, alternative can constitute anything not prescribed by a certified M.D. at your local American hospital or clinic. 

In the last 8 years, I have tried a number of these alternative therapies. Some with great success, others...not so much. 

1. Acupuncture- wonderful and amazing for my heartburn, GERD, joint pain, lowered my blood pressure and helped with insomnia. Did nothing for my Raynaud's or fertility issues. 
2. Homeopathy/Naturopathy- Seemed to help with general fatigue..but had to get off of all the pills and tonics because they made me physically sick to my not on it long enough to reap the benefits. 
Silent Yoga Retreat 2015
3. Teas and Smoothies- Helped with digestion, increase some vitamin levels and helped with energy at times. 
4. Yoga- excellent for joint pain, swelling, insomnia, fatigue, and stress relief.

Some of these I continue to rely on for my general well-being, but I would never again, and I repeat...NEVER again discontinue use of my western "toxic"(as some people call them) meds in favor of one of these. NEVER. 

The one time I tried that....I literally almost died (the pericarditis...remember that?). My body is literally attacking itself. My body is chronically inflamed. The only thing that my body responds to is anti-inflammatory drugs. (I cannot speak for others, I speak only for what I know of MY body).

Pills I take a day...
Yes, are there natural remedies like ginger and tumeric that are anti-inflammatories? Definitely. Do they actually work on the amount of inflammation raging through MY body? NO. (I would need pounds and pounds of tumeric and ginger to calm the inflammation attacking my lungs, joints, kidneys and heart). 

Here's the hard truth, my decision to choose predominantly western forms of medicine lies in two basic facts: 

1. Finances. Alternative medicine simply isn't covered by my insurance. Should it be? HELL YES. But it's not. So, spending money on alternative medicine has actually cost me MORE than my toxic pills/meds. I went to a homeopathic doctor for three months on the recommendation of my cardiologist. In those three months I spent: 

$150 per visit (x 3)
$300-350 for the vitamins and tonics a month (x 3)
Total: $1350 

My insurance deductible for the year is $1500. When I reach my deductible all my meds are covered. There is no way I could afford homeopathic medicine as a long term solution to my problems.

My acupuncturist was phenomenal. BUT, how much does she charge per visit? $60 a pop. Also NOT covered by insurance. To reap the true benefits of her therapies I would need to go once a week for the first three months. (you can do the math) 

My specialist visits cost me $55 a pop but those are once every 2-3 months, and again, once I reach my deductible...NO COST. 

Rituxan Infusions...saved my kidneys and my sanity
2. Life Saver. Western medicine has literally saved my life, on more than one occasion. Alternative medicine, while saving me from myself (mentally and emotionally), has never been what I turn to when something is seriously physically wrong. In other words, I don't start practicing yoga or drinking tea when my tachycardia feels like it might give me a heart attack. I go to the ER. 

Here's the thing, when you suffer from internal organ problems that are serious, alternative medicine doesn't work as quickly as modern medicine does. I do believe these other therapies CAN work, if you have that kind of time. For me, however, my body attacks itself so quickly and with such force that I would be dead before the herbs and vitamins and chakra balancing had time to work. (Literally, if I lower my prednisone dose from 7.5mg to 5mg, within 24hrs I will have at least 3 mouth ulcers and two swollen joints.) 

Also, here's a little secret...those three months I saw the homeopathic doctor..guess what? He told me to STAY on my regular meds. So, on top of taking the 20+ pills, juice, nasty oil and vitamins he gave to take three times a day, I STILL had to take my "regular" wonder I was sick to my stomach! (I literally threw up in my car one day while driving...didn't even have time to pull off to the side of the road...not fun)

So who really knows what was helping me..his concoctions, or my doctor's???

Do many people have a sour taste in their mouth when it comes to modern medicine, of course they do and they should. The insurance business in this country makes me sick to my stomach. Big pharma should be brought down and we all need to take a closer look at how these drugs are made and tested. If I could, I would never take another pill again. But I am not afforded that luxury. 

Know what luxury I AM afforded? The luxury of having been born and living in a first world country during the 20th and 21st century. 30-50 years ago, scleroderma was a death sentence. Thanks to modern medicine, it isn't anymore. I need my meds to survive, to thrive, to keep writing, inspiring and living my life. I'm not going to denounce and hate on one of the key factors that makes this all possible for me.
My meds...Walgreens makes a lot of $$ off me!

Trust me there have been plenty of times I don't follow my doctor's orders completely because I know how to listen to my body and my body tells me "F" this. (I currently take less of my meds than are prescribed and my doc and I have come to the understanding that that's ok) Not all doctors want to force meds on you, but you have to find the right ones. The ones that care about YOU as a patient and will listen to you and try to work with you. It took me awhile to get there with my team of docs, but we're finally at a place where if I don't feel good about a certain med, we try to ALTERNATIVE. Sometimes it simply means taking a lower dose, trying a new drug in the same family, or doing nothing at all and waiting to "see" how my body responds and what the blood results show. It's been empowering and life changing to be working with docs who care about me as a human being and who they themselves hate insurance companies and big pharma. I know not everyone has had that experience, but don't be discouraged. Keep looking for that doctor that will listen to you and work with you. And...if you can't ever get off the meds and just drink tea...don't feel bad about that either! We all have to listen to our own bodies and do what's best for each of us. 
At the Silent Yoga Retreat 2015
I have no shame in my game. I will pop my pills and be on my merry way. 

But, I also truly believe in a holistic approach to health. What does that mean? That I will take my meds, do yoga, eat as well as I can, go to acupuncture when I can afford it, smile often, laugh hard, meditate, pray, love and follow my dreams. The mind and body connection cannot be denied, and I know that when all the pieces of my life are working in harmony I feel better overall. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sorry Not Sorry

This weekend I was part of really fun and engaging reading at Brazos Bookstore in Houston. I was invited by Stephen Gros and Winston Derden to read some of my work and sell copies of Island of Dreams for the quarterly event Speak!Poet. It was a reading followed by a moderated Q & A. I loved this format and it was great to see so many people come out to support, listen and yes, even ask questions. I love being challenged by individuals and challenged I was.

The audience had the chance to ask questions, and one individual asked a series of questions about my craft and asthetics that got me...a little heated. In retrospect, I don't think he really understood what he was asking, BUT it still made me angry. His questions went something like this:
Because Brooklyn's face says it all..WTF?!
1. Since you call yourself a performance poet, at what point in the writing process do you write poetry? In other words, when you write for performance, what about your work is poetic?
2. You mentioned that your inspirations are other performance poets like the Nuyorican Poets etc, do you ever read academic poets and find inspiration in academic poetry as well?
3. Since you write for "the stage" as you say, do you think your work translates to the page?
4. So, what exactly makes YOU a "spoken word" poet?

FIRST. OF. ALL. He wasn't listening to a thing I had said during the first half of the interview facilitated by Winston. SECONDLY...WHAT. THE. FUCK?!

I do not have the energy or space to go into detail or write everything I said to him but basically I squashed his notions and assumptions about what performance poetry is vs. academic poetry. That it infuriates me that there even IS such a distinction and that he would make it. That the poets I CHOOSE to read and the way I CHOOSE to write is just as academic as the "cannon" of literature I was REQUIRED to read for over 15 years in formal education. That I choose NOT to read those folks because I know of them already, because their stories DON'T reflect my own and because regardless of how hard I try...those "academic" authors WILL FIND ME. I told him that the only difference between me and other "traditional" poets is that I chose to speak my poems out loud hence the term "spoken word." That I thought about the writing and form and craft without concern for performance and that I wrote things that would NEVER be read aloud or performed but that ALL of my work could be published and did have structure and craft on the page as well as on the stage.

People clapped. People snapped. People got up and moved around because they wanted to speak their minds too. It was pretty awesome.

But, I noticed what I did and how I felt immediately after the rush of passion and anger left me. I felt guilty. I apologized under my breath and then to the hosts. I said sorry for getting upset and speaking my truth, that perhaps he didn't mean it the way I took it, that I should have remained more calm and answered the question instead of getting on my soap box.

Everyone said NO, that I was right on target and it didn't seem obnoxious or rude. That this individual is known for being a bully on the writing scene and it was good for me to shut him down.

After I apologized, I thought to myself: Why should I feel bad? What am I apologizing for? Why am I so afraid of speaking my truth with conviction?

I have been apologizing for things for far too long. I apologize when I'm sick. I apologize when I'm tired. I apologize for speaking too loud or too often. I apologize for things I have nothing to do with. And I, we as women, as ill persons, as writers of color need to stop. STOP apologizing for who we are and things that are not our fault.

I didn't choose to be Afro-Latina so I will not apologize for it. I didn't choose to get sick, so I will not apologize for it. I didn't choose for you to ask an absurd, stupid question that belittled my work so I will not apologize for my honest answer.

In truth, I never want to give in to the stereotype of the angry black woman or the passionate loud Latina or the sick and tired patient...but in truth, I'm angry sometimes, in truth, I'm passionate sometimes, in truth I am sick and tired of A LOT of things in this world and in this body, so in truth... "I won't be sorry for none of it." -Ntozake Shange

With Hannah, a woman who doesn't apologize for a damn thing...