2015 in Review: Six Word Memoir

We rang in 2015 in Deming.


Grandma China’s been gone eleven years.

We thought it was only ten.

Went ahead with the commemoration anyway.


K. cut three years of hair.

Just like that, he looks older.

Little boys get bigger. He resists.

Sometimes his fear outweighs his trust.

We celebrate risks faced and overcome.

We process the others. He grows.

I see him. I’ve been him.


P. turned 13. She wears eyeliner.

They grow so fast. Cliché. True.

I love who she is becoming.

She is stronger than she knows.


Feast Day at San Ildefonso Pueblo.

The dances root us in place.


I am constantly trying to simplify.


One board at a time—plenty.


After thirteen years, the Saturn died.

We left it where it stalled.


EKCO poets with Shelle and Valerie.

Write ten pages. Cut them up.

Collage them together. Rehearse. Perform.


We finally have a house plan.

There is a window between our bedrooms.

Can’t wait for that to go.


My friend started a book club.

Favorite: Between the World and Me


It’s time to be more honest.


Being a stepmom is no joke.

P. and K. – my greatest teachers.


Hembras. “Mother Lode.” My stepmom play.

My pink rebozo played a baby.


It’s time to write about Harvard.

Then I’ll have a suitcase trilogy.

Packing it to go to college.

Clinging to it after the fire.

Unpacking it to live my life.


I love reading at Sunday Chatter.


The cutest dog ever chose us.

Sat at our gate all day.

K. fed him, named him Leo.

Now he’s ours. I love him.


We lost Henry’s dad, April 20.


My dear friends lost their brother.


Aparna Levine healed my back pain.


I’m not allowed to run anymore.

Insurance pays gym fees. Hello, elliptical.

I’m trying to take up swimming.

Easier on the knees. Great cardiovascular.

Took first lessons since first grade.

I’m still learning how to breathe.


America Healing in Asheville, North Carolina.


Adrián Pedroza for Bernalillo County Commissioner.


It’s hard to share this part.

Depression has me back on Lexapro.

I tried everything I could try.

Running, writing, sleep, therapy, acupuncture, limpias.

Weight lifting. No coffee. No sugar.

Yoga. Meditation. Long walks. Good friends.

Poetry. Theatre. Being harder. Giving less.

Some combinations. Sometimes all at once.

But then there were mornings lost.

I’m kind of a mess today.

Yoga unlocking emotion in my hip.

I’m in tears on my mat.

Hours crying in the living room.

Nobody home. Thank God. I can’t.

And the worst is the judgment.

It came from nobody but me.

Suck it up. Pull yourself together.

Stop crying. Get off the floor.

What is wrong with you now?

You have everything you ever wanted.

You are healthy. You are loved.

Henry. P. K. This place. Words.

People are mean in my head.

Stop messing with my friend Michelle.

If I were my good friend

I’d say, you’re sensitive, that’s beautiful.

I’d say, it’s just for now.

I’d say, understanding why isn’t necessary.

Right now just do what works.

There’s nothing wrong with needing help.

Some people need to be medicated.

I guess I am one of them.

What else is there to do?


I remember I like to dance.


Summer garden wasn’t about the harvest.

I needed my hands in dirt.

I grew stevia, lemongrass, and sunflowers.

I grew six yellow pear tomatoes.

Oaxacan green corn, basil, marigolds, hyssop.

Lemon verbena, bell peppers, volunteer melons.

Grasshoppers and hornworms ate like kings.

K. said to chop their heads.

“Post them on toothpicks as warnings.”


I finally took the curanderismo course.


I want chickens in our yard.

They would help with the grasshoppers.


K. made the school’s archery team.

He and Henry shoot into hay bales.


The Kellogg Fellows are buena gente.

I get to work with six.

Carmen, Carnell, Carlos, Kayla, Sarah, Ventura.


Happy Arte Hour. So much fun.


We are launching an artist cooperative.


coffee, coffee, Zendo, Zia Latte, coffee


We lost Leo. He came back.


We rafted. Let’s do it again!


We lost my cousin, Robert Otero.

My BFF married a good man.

We lost Henry’s cousin, Epi Chavez.

We lost my tío, Joe Calderon.

A wonder he lived so long.

We lost Henry’s cousin, Alfonso Lopez.


P. was the best Halloween chola.

Thanks, Andrea, for doing her makeup.


My godmother was diagnosed with cancer.


P. dyed her hair in LA.

Four hours later, it’s bright pink.


Things I am embarrassed to admit:

I love that Justin Bieber song.

It’s too late to say sorry.

My mama likes everyone, except you.


Why don’t mid-school kids wear jackets?

That hoodie can’t keep you warm.


We lost Berna, a family friend.


Some things I could’ve done without:

Two words. Donald Trump. Enough said.

Middle school girls with duck lips.

Road rage. Police violence. Susana Martinez.

(Pee-tzah. Cokes. Call off your guys.)


I am blessed with good friends.

Stephanie reminded me who I am.

Emmy, thank you for making time.

Avi visited with her youngest daughter.

Anel and I wrote in Santa Fe.

María Limón surprised me one morning.

Finally got to meet Jesse’s kids.

I told them stories about college.

I wish his family lived closer.

Vicki and I ate and laughed.

Got to hold Desiree’s baby Luisa.


It’s time to be more honest.

I am constantly trying to simplify.

I’m still learning how to breathe.

Everything is better when I write.







Published in: on February 2, 2016 at 8:30 am  Comments (7)  
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How to Be, Part II: Holy Saturday

Continued from How to Be, Part I: Two Words


Saying “I’m a perfectionist” is another way of saying “I’m never gonna get it right.”     -Ana Castillo


Holy Saturday I spent the morning in Chimayó in a Spiritual Memoir Writing workshop led by Ana Castillo. Prior to the workshop, she had asked each of us to prepare a question about memoir writing and to bring an object that symbolizes our current spiritual questions.

There was a time when writing was my spiritual practice. I lived alone. Every morning I’d write in my journal. I’d eat a simple breakfast—yogurt with granola and papaya from the mercado, a cafecito or te de yerba buena. I’d light a white devotional candle and sit in the company of my own words and stories. I wrote Malinche’s Daughter. I sketched Vessel. I was on a Fulbright in Oaxaca, Mexico, teaching Writing to Heal workshops for women. I was a student in the low-residency MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. I knew even then how good I had it, how supported I felt; I wished my life on every writer. It was as close to perfect as could be.

Malinche’s Daughter came out, and I returned to a place that no longer felt like home. I had graduate school loans to pay. I needed a job and a place to live. I missed Oaxaca. I missed that life.

If you’ve read my blog, you know that I got a job and signed a one-year lease on a sunny downtown apartment with wood floors and high ceilings. You know that I met Henry and—in an unrelated move—left that job. You know that Henry and I would eventually get married and that his two children would someday become my family. You also know that somewhere in the job-leaving and apartment-living and memoir-writing and Henry-loving, while I was visiting friends in Mexico, my apartment burned to an ugly, uninhabitable heap.

I spent the first several weeks of this year revising “The New Normal,” a short play about the fire, about loss and new life, and coming to live with Henry and the kids. I performed the first ten minutes of the play as part of Hembras de Pluma, nine original plays by nine original mujeres. Early in our rehearsal process, my director Valli Rivera asked me to walk my piece. We had divided the stage into three realms: the apartment, Henry’s house, and limbo. The stage was sparsely set with a desk, a clothing rack, and the pink suitcase that came with me from Mexico to Henry’s house. It wasn’t until I broke down at the desk that I understood how deeply embedded in me the fire still was. It wasn’t until I performed with Hembras that I understood how much I missed solitude, my journal, quiet, stillness, how much I missed my spiritual practice.

I told Ana about the fire. I told her I’m a perfectionist. I asked her how to go deep when I have only 15 minutes. I want to know how to get unstuck, which I’ve just mistyped as “unsuck.” How do I unsuck? How do I get out of my own way?

Published in: on April 22, 2014 at 6:35 am  Leave a Comment  
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Disappearing Act

ImageAy, the blog.

I disappeared those last few months of 2013.

I do that sometimes, get buried under tasks and meetings. I don’t make the time to sit quietly and reflect. But it wasn’t just tasks and meetings; I got buried under fear and disappointment, lost in that tape that too often plays in my head: Am I doing enough? Am I good enough? When will I feel like I am enough?

Even the voice rushing to my defense wields a bludgeon. Of course you’re good enough? What’s wrong with you? Why do you always do this? Why aren’t you ever satisfied?


2013 was rough. Family stuff, relationship stuff, personal stuff, writing stuff, transitions, friends in crisis.

It wasn’t all heaviness. There was rain. Here, rain is good. There was light. There was the reunion with the Desnudas, hours writing in a little house in south Texas. The Belize women met up in Seattle and took a ferry to San Juan Island for a long weekend of drinking tea (well, okay, and wine), visiting lavender and alpaca farms, watching a pod of orcas, and long talks into the night. A group of mujeres decided to turn our stories into a stage production, so I started writing a play. We got a puppy. I wrote new poems and read at Sunday Chatter. P. jumped more than a grade level in reading. K. lit up the stage dancing at his school’s annual cultural celebration. I took swimming lessons. Henry and I celebrated our second anniversary with hot springs and massages (and Café Bella Luca and the Passion Pie Café) in Truth or Consequences. I started (and kept) lifting weights. Our little family walked to the Río Grande the weekend after unexpected rains swelled our río to levels not seen since the early 70s. We saw viejitos, backpackers, little boys with buzz cuts and Raiders jerseys, families, a woman doing yoga on the observation deck.

Sometime in the darkness of early morning in early winter, I woke up before the rest of the house and rearranged the words of my play for fifteen minutes. I did it again the next day. And the next. And then something cool happened. It was three in the morning, and there was a sentence in my head. The new normal is a window between our bedrooms. And another sentence. It’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and laundry. It’s feeling homeless even though I have a place to live. I followed the sentence to my laptop and wrote for thirty minutes.

Whatever the darkness, whatever the disappointment or fear, writing always leads to light.

Writing leads to light.



I am here again. Think I’m gonna stay awhile.







Published in: on January 16, 2014 at 12:29 pm  Comments (2)  
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Última: Reconciling the Masculine

December 1, 2012
South Broadway Cultural Center
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Published in: on February 5, 2013 at 11:11 am  Comments (8)  
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Vessel will resume The People in Your Neighborhood next week.

ImageFelíz año, gente!

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions. I tend to usher in change with my birthday or a new season. Early to bed in winter, remove clutter in spring, early to rise in summer, shed what no longer serves me in fall. This year is different. The final months of 2012 saw me not writing, not exercising, feeling sluggish, spending too much money, and not experiencing as much joy as I would have liked. After a whirlwind late fall which had me doing two plays at once, coordinating a major storytelling project for the Kellogg Foundation, traveling to Seoul with the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project, and presenting at TEDxABQWomen, I wanted to hibernate until 2013.

But there were projects to finish, tamales to make, gifts to buy, and cookies to bake. K turned eight. Henry left corporate America for a job much closer to his heart. P starred in her first play, The Farolitos of Christmas by Rudolfo Anaya. She played Luz, a young girl from a northern New Mexico village whose father is off fighting in World War II. Her grandfather, Don Vicente, makes a promise to the Santo Niño de Atocha that he will cut the wood and light the luminarias on Christmas Eve for her father’s safe return. But Don Vicente is old and ill and cannot cut the wood, so it’s up to Luz to help her grandfather keep his promesa.

In the spirit of Luz, Don Vicente, and the farolitos, I’ve made a few promesas of my own. I’ll share them on the blog over the next few months. The first is to write, at least a bit, almost every day.

I realized during my slug period that I need buddies. I also realized that the book I started writing several years ago is not the book I am writing now. I don’t know what I am writing now.

Enter: buddies.

Buddy 1: I’ve handed the manuscript over to Henry. For the next month, he is my book brain. Whatever he says to do with the book, I will do. Henry is my best reader. He is honest. He respects me and my story. He is intuitive, a gifted writer, and one of the best communicators I know. It was his idea to write short stories after the fire, when I didn’t know how to find my way back to my voice. Chapter One is Chapter One because Henry said, “I think your book is really about this.” I used to know what my book was about. Now I kind of know, but I’m a little lost, and I need a trusted friend to help me find the path. We’ve already made a decision. I’m going to Texas.

Buddy 2: My mom and I are taking a trip. My grandfather was born in Dolores. His father was a coal miner. His mother’s family had a ranch. According to the Texas State Historical Association, “in 1983 Dolores had two cemeteries, an inactive mine, and a few houses.” The population is 1990 was twenty. I need to walk where my grandfather walked before he was my grandfather. I need to meet his sister Lute’s children and grandchildren in Laredo. I need to do this with my mom.

Buddy 3: 750words.com. Andrea Serrano turned me on to this site in the waning days of 2012. The concept is simple. Write 750 words a day. The website keeps track and scores points each time you log 750 words. If you write several days in a row, you get even more points! I’m on an 8-day streak and have racked up more than 30 points.

Buddy 4: 13 in 2013 for Writers is a challenge issued by Ryan Henry, a writer from Brownsville. Writers who sign on “commit to writing a minimum of 13 minutes every day during cycles–no excuses. Every day. No doubling up on another day to make up for a missed day.” We rest the 13th and the 26th (multiples of 13) of each month. We track our progress on the group’s Facebook page. So far I’ve drafted two poems for my reading at Sunday Chatter on January 13 and written a scene for one of those short stories I started writing all those years ago.

I have to admit, there’s a voice in my head telling me I shouldn’t need crutches. I should write 750 words with or without points. I shouldn’t need a support group to churn out my “Ode to Tamales.” The woman who started writing that memoir didn’t need buddies. She had a quiet apartment in Oaxaca. Her work was supported by a Fulbright. She was a grad student with a writing mentor who read and critiqued her work on a monthly basis. She taught writing workshops for women, and those women became her community. Come to think of it, she did have buddies. She called them friends, teachers, a grant. I love that woman. She is still here inside me, telling me to do whatever it takes to write.

Next Week: When This Man Was Well: Bobby

Published in: on January 8, 2013 at 2:10 pm  Comments (1)  
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