Happy Birthday to My Blog

Today my blog celebrates its one-year birthday. This has to be some kind of record for me, because while I have started countless journals in my life, I have never written enough to keep them going for more than a couple of months before I abandon them to other pursuits.

But blogging has been different. I have posted something just about every month. Some months more than others, but baby steps, right? I  didn’t know it then, but when I started  this blog shortly before my birthday last year I thought I was checking something off my bucket list, and fulfilling this little writing fantasy of mine. It turns out this blog has been more than that to me. Besides finally being able to say that I “write,” blogging has taught me a few more things about myself:

1) I am creative.

When I was younger I would make doll clothes, do needlework, knit, and craft. I would write short stories, and poetry. Over the years I stopped being creative. Except for the occasional scrap booking party, or kid’s school project I stopped making things, I stopped creating. I also stopped writing. Maybe it was when I realized there was a lot of technical craft to it. As much perspiration as inspiration, perhaps? Maybe it was later when my writing was critiqued for poor grammar, and misplaced commas. Whatever. I stopped enjoying it, so I stopped doing it. Blogging has helped me remember of how much I enjoy being creative. And how a little perspiration isn’t such a bad thing after all.

2) I have something to say.

It may not be profound, or funny or amusing, or even interesting, but in my blog I get to say it. Enough said.

3) If you write it they will come.

Even though I had something to say, would anyone listen? I mean, besides my husband who has to listen to me. Based on some of your comments and my growing number of subscribers, someone out there is listening. Thank you.

3) I am (more) present.

My day flies by with work, kids, family, and chores. I am in a state of constant motion and I rarely stop to appreciate a moment, to capture a thought or preserve a memory.  Blogging has allowed me pause and take it all in. Sometimes my thoughts and ideas are fleeting and they leave my mind before I capture it in a post, but more often now I find myself jotting it down and taking time to preserve these thoughts and construct words and phrases about an experience or event in my life and the life of my family.

4) There is community in the blogosphere.

Sure, virtual contact is not the same as human contact but I have built some relationships with other bloggers just by reading and commenting on their blogs. Blogging also has given me a reason to attend blogger events and meet some of the bloggers whose blogs I’ve read, which leads me to my next point…

6) Its a small world after all.

The world is a lot smaller than we think. A few of the bloggers I’ve met ended up living only a few miles from me!

6) You can teach an old dog, new tricks.

Before I started blogging I was pretty good at navigating my way around MS Word and surfing the net, but launching my own blog? I did not know the first thing about it.  Well, it turns out am not as technologically challenged as I thought I was. I have actually had to learn two blogging platforms. I started out on Posterous and then moved to WordPress. Even though WordPress blogging platform is user friendly, it took me over a month from the time I decided to launch my blog and actually posting something. My husband teased that you would have thought I was launching a major website. In reality, I was working up my confidence and familiarizing myself with WordPress. Now that I have been doing this for a year I have learned just enough to be dangerous and throw out words like, URL, domain name, posts, tags, RSS feed.

So, that’s my year in review. I hope you’ve enjoyed something here at my blog. I know I have enjoyed doing it. I look forward to writing more posts and hearing from you with your comments and subscriptions. Thanks for stopping by and sharing this anniversary with me.

Here are a few of my top posts from the past year:

What’s Good About Good Friday?

Mischief Remembered

Tres Generaciones

Date Night Without my Husband

Sunday Offerings – The Body/Mind/Spirit Connection

Yesterday I went on a women’s retreat put on by the Women’s Community at my church.  I was a little hesitant about going because the last time I went to an all women’s retreat the retreat was organized by a very bible based church,
I was in my 20’s and the women who attended were nearly all  (gasp) women in their 50’s.  Yesterday’s retreat was very different.  The average age of the women was still probably 50+ but somehow now that I am closer to the average age, that wasn’t such a big deal. The bigger difference was the theme and feel of the retreat–no bible thumping, hallelujah-shouting, blue-haired women here. The theme of the retreat centered on the body-mind-spirit connection, and the ritual we all use in getting our bodies in a place to open our minds, and our spirits.

Zelda, a female Episcopalian priest from my church,  led the retreat.  She  helped to show us how some of our daily rituals open our minds and spirit. Something as ordinary like stretching in the morning, or like me, washing my face at night. As I listened to the other women offer examples of daily ritual I realized that I could use some more ritual in my life, something other than the washing-my-face-at-night-before-I-go-crashing-into-bed-and-falling-asleep-as-I-try-to-get-through-my-nightly-prayers. All, too often I don’t even get to the nightly reflection part because I am so tired at that point all I want to do is lay down and SLEEP!

One of the ways we were supposed to use our body’s on yesterday’s retreat was to walk around this amazing retreat center in the San Gabriel mountains very close to my house. Yesterday’s springtime temperatures and clear skies made a glorious day to be walking about the mountains.

Zelda had set up the walking labyrinth, and she set up a trail with small stations along the way.  We were asked to walk the labyrinth or walk along the trail (the body connection).

The labyrinth set up in the shade of the trees.

A steep part of the spirituality trail.

Along the trail Zelda set up “sacred stations,” which were meant to be places where you could stop and wrap yourself in a prayer shawl and meditate on the writings that were placed at each station, or meditate on some of the questions we were given at the start of the retreat, then we were asked to write or draw our thoughts in a journal, (the mind connection).

One of the sacred stations along the spirituality trail

At the end of the two-hour walking and journaling period, we returned for lunch and, if we wanted, we shared our thoughts, and had communion, (the spirit connection). It was a transformative day.

I came away with many thoughts and revelations but one of my thoughts was that I should really practice this more often.  I need more ritual in my life so that I can get to the mind/body/spirit connection. And, as Zelda said, if you say it aloud for the universe to hear then it often works. So, I’m saying it out load to the blogosphere–“I am going to get up a half hour earlier to walk and meditate and journal.” This is huge, because as my husband Juan says, my daily ritual is trying to sleep in as long as possible before I have to start my day. Please pray for me.

Battle Hymn of the Paper Tiger Step-Mom

Recently there was a lot of furor over the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom. It was a memoir that featured the tyrannical parenting style of a Chinese American mom and the clash between raising kids in our permissive Western culture of  self-esteem-as-paramount, and the Eastern culture’s value of hard-work-and strict-discipline as the key to successfully raising children. I have not yet read this book, nor can I say that I personally subscribe to any of these philosophies, although I must admit I have a lot of respect for the Tiger Mom who can pull this off and not cause her child to go into therapy over it.

There is one philosophy I do value in parenting, and that is consistency.  I am not saying I can’t be flexible, or that I am perfect, but I do believe that consistency is very important in parenting.  In most two-parent households, no doubt there are parenting disagreements, but it’s usually best if the parents maintain a show of unity and consistency.  What happens when you are in a co-parenting situation with four adults, three households and four kids? Chaos sometimes reigns over consistency.

As a step-parent, I know that I have no real ability to discipline my husband’s kids. My role is chiefly to support my husband in his parenting.  And, in a case like ours, where all the parents are generally amicable, I also support the girls’ mom in raising the girls. Even though I am not supposed to be a disciplinarian, I am sometimes asked to help out with enforcing rules. But truly, it’s the bio parents who should have complete authority.  And when the girls have been grounded for misbehaving, and I am asked, along with their dad,  to carry out their punishment and back up their mother, that is also my responsibility.  Even if it means that I feel like I am being punished too because I have to keep the girls housebound over spring break, a time when they would otherwise be out with friends, at the beach or having fun.  But in the spirit of consistency we carry out the punishment over our custody period, even though we were not the ones to impose the punishment.

We try to be consistent even though it means that the girls will complain and harp endlessly about how UNFAIR life is that they are in LOCK DOWN.  And so, for several days, I turn a deaf ear to the petitions, the cries and complaints about the grounding, just to be consistent. But our girls are stars on the debate team. Their dad and I are lawyers. They know that sometimes, if you plead enough, or if you take your case to another venue, your pleas might be heard, your request might be granted. They know that chipping away has proven effective, and if they chip hard enough, they will break your will.  Today, when we woke up, one of our girls showed us a text that had come in overnight from her mother, long after we had gone to bed, and long after we told our daughter to go to bed. The text read, “Sure, you can be ungrounded.”  This, after we were expressly asked to” ground the girls through the weekend.” Now we were being told by our daughter that she was ungrounded? What happened to backing each other up? What happened to consistency?

Needless to say, I was frustrated. I was going to keep my frustrations to myself, but then my husband encouraged me to write about it. I am sure I am not the only one out there with experiences like this. I know it happens all the time in blended families, and even in nuclear families.  When I decided to write about it,  my husband suggested the title. He was frustrated too, so I knew he was not referring to me as the “Paper Tiger Mom.” But now that I have just written the post, I can see that as the step-mother with no real authority, I too am the “Paper Tiger Mom.” What about you, do you ever feel like a paper tiger parent?

NaBloPoMo…The End

Sixty days ago I launched this blog. Thirty days ago I decided to put my money where my mouth is, my pedal to the metal, and commit to blogging every day, for the month of November. 30 days. 30 posts. Today I am done, finished, stick a fork in me, DONE!

 Participating in the National Blog Posting Month has been a test of my commitment to this blog and a test for me to see how serious I am about my writing. I have started many journals throughout my life, and none of them have daily journal entries. In fact, most of them just died after a couple of months.  So my participation in NaBloPo has been a success as far as I am concerned.  It’s motivated me to post something everyday. I don’t know that it’s been a complete success in getting me to write something good everyday, but that’s okay. Someone once told me that if I wanted to be a writer, I needed to write. So, I guess I am a writer, a little.

 Even though I haven’t penned the great Latina-American novel, writing something everyday has helped nurture my creative side, it’s given me ideas, and motivated me to talk to family members whose own stories need to be told. 

 Being part of NaBloPo has also given me community. The on-line community I’ve met through each one of you who has read my blog or posted a comment to my blog. This was especially evident from all the support and kindness I received after posting about my dog Mischief. I’ve also had community with fellow bloggers who I’ve met through Latina blogger conference, wonderful ladies and writers who support each other, and who are much more advanced than I am in the on-line world of blogging, networking, and Twittering.

 So tonight, I will celebrate the end of National Blog Posting Month with dinner out at a wonderful Mexican restaurant I have wanted to try for a long time. I will be meeting with two fellow Latina bloggers, and maybe they can finally teach me how to tweet.

Thankful Thursday

It’s Thursday. And because it’s the Thursday before Thanksgiving and I am thinking about what I am thankful for, and because it’s Thursday and it’s almost the end of a long, tiring week and my creative juices are just barely trickling, and because it’s Thursday and NaBloPoMo is kicking my blogging butt, today’s post is about things that happened today which for which I am thankful:

1.  I had a job to go to, and a family and house to come home to.

2. The Office is on television tonight.

3.  My son Nico discovered my blog today and laughed out loud. He told me that he never knew I was so funny. (Love him!)

4. My dog is still kickin’.  (See Tuesday’s post.)

5. It’s the day before Friday.

Checking In with NaBloPoMo

 I signed up for National Blog Posting Month on November 1. Today marks the halfway point. I almost didn’t make it.  You see, it’s 10:00p.m on the 15th of November and I have gone all day without a post. I am tired and my brain is fried.  I started my day at 5:30am to take Olivia to school, made it to work at 7:00 where I put out about 3 fires. Then,  I raced off to Diego’s  parent teacher conference, picked up Nico from school, worked with Diego on homework, returned to school to pick up Erica from Girl Scouts, returned home to pick up Diego and take both of us to the dentist where I learned the unfortunate news that he would need a tooth extracted. Then I returned home to make dinner.  Simultaneously I ate dinner and quizzed Diego on his vocabulary words, did the dinner dishes and proceeded to bake two items for tomorrow’s bake sale. Just when was I supposed to blog today?  I almost gave up the NaBloPoMo, but I didn’t. I didn’t because I am kind of  enjoying this. I like the discipline it’s taking for me to sit down with my thoughts and actually produce something. Apart from the two things I baked today, the banana loaf and a carrot cake, I really did not create anything. This blog allows me to be creative, sometimes. And I produce something, from start to finish.  Too often my job does not allow me to create a finished product for months, if at all.  The responsibilities of motherhood can be mundane, exhausting, and garner little recognition.  So, even though I am tired, it’s late , and I nearly missed today’s post, I am still on track. And I get to do it all again tomorrow.  Fifteen more days to go.

Discovering Mas y Mas

Yesterday I told you that I attended the Discovering Mas blogging conference over the weekend.  Because of this conference I have decided to overcome my resistance to Twitter and will begin”tweeting.”   Another thing I took away from this conference was this:

The sponsors for this conference gave all of the attendees some really great stuff. I had a lot of fun going through my bag of “swag.”  It was filled with beauty and health products, food items, and all kinds of great stuff. Thank you Proctor and Gamble, Que Rica Vida and Avocados from Mexico!

But I wasn’t the only one to get something out of the conference. My husband Juan got something out of it too. As I’ve said before, Juan is a gadget guy, and he absolutely loves his Iphone.  During the conference I texted him that I thought I would need a smart phone to help me Tweet and stay on top of my blog.  He texted me back:

“Do you want me to give you my Iphone and I’ll get the new Iphone 4?”

Hmm. ….I don’t really love the Iphone because I can’t seem to get my fat fingers to work the touch key pad. Still, there are features I like on his Iphone that I don’t have on my current phone. Juan has wanted the new Iphone since it launched, and has tried justifying the expense of upgrading to a new phone . This was just what he needed. So, it turns out that Discovering Mas has really worked out well for Juan. Maybe it should have been called Discovering Mas y Mas.  (Discovering More and More).

 Here’s what I got out of  the conference: 

  1. Valuable information
  2. New relationships with fellow Latina bloggers
  3. A whole lot of great stuff in the swag bag. 

Here’s what Juan got out of me attending the conference:

  1. The Iphone 4
  2. And two of his favorite picks from my swag bag:

This blogging thing is paying off!