Family, Latino culture, Parenting, poetry

Poetry as a Gift to Ourself

gettyimages-Fraser, Colorado
gettyimages-Fraser, Colorado

I’m really missing my kids who live in Colorado.

It’s hard to believe they are young adults making their own way, not only in another town, but another state. Sometimes I get comments about this fact, “How could you let them go so far…” For many Latino families this just isn’t done. But that’s another story, for another time.

A couple or three weeks ago, the “polar vortex” swept through Colorado. My flight was cancelled and I didn’t make it up there to celebrate my daughter’s birthday. That sucked, but better to be safe than sorry (my daughter’s words).

Last time I was there, in December, I experienced my first snowy Christmas. We took a walk. The air felt frigid, the snow crunchy, my toes had no feeling.

Inside was the best way for a Southern California resident to view the snowfall.

My journal captured some thoughts which I developed into a poem.

Outside My Window

Layers of snow cover

a multitude of sins,

which no longer hover

below the blanket of white.

Cold truths against the light,

making beautiful the wrongs to right,

softens the landscape

against the morning light,

see how things can be made right,

Cushions of snow,

light and fresh,

unmarked drifts of possibilities

to keep the wrongs right,

to begin anew,

erase the dark.

A canvas of white

illuminated against the daylight,

soon to be crushed by black stripes,

criss crossing

making sludge of white

I’m glad I recorded my thoughts. They take me back to sitting at the living room window early in the morning, looking out to the balcony and street below.

Snow layered itself over hedges, trees, and cars. Pretty soon cars started driving by, and the morning woke up.

I made the kids some vegan Mexican hot chocolate which we stirred with cinnamon sticks. The spicy fragrant drink and the heater in the apartment warmed us from the inside out.

Memories about one’s kids are one of the greatest gifts about being a parent.

Poetry is a gift to ourself.

Art, Inspiration, Latino culture, poetry

Art and Poetry To Inspire

Canto A La Naturaleza/Ode to Nature-Paula Nicho Cumes, Artist
Canto A La Naturaleza/Ode to Nature-Paula Nicho Cumes, Artist

On my Facebook feed, I look forward to reading poems by Frank de Acosta and finding how he pairs his poetry with art.

This image, by Mayan artist Paula Nicho Cumes knocked me back, shook my eyes awake. Life so vibrant, I am lost in the colors, desiring to run up and roll down the hills, feel the blaze of sun, dip my toes in flowing waters, lay back and watch the migration of rainbow clouds journey me to dreams.

The poet’s words inspired me to be mindful during my own walk, to listen, and understand that the “soul of this life,” is something to seek.

With Frank’s permission, here is today’s poem (line breaks are mine):

Whispering Beauty (Reprise)

Rather than walking blindly through my day,

I will seek out the resounding beauty that waits in whisper before me.

I will humble my eyes to recognize blessings;

embracing the beauty taken for granted in my relations, creation, & changing rhythms of life.

Sharing humanity, compassion, & tolerance along my path,

I will walk in the spirit of gratitude, integrity, & purpose.

Exposing my heart in acceptance;

allowing space for love, laughter, understanding, forgiveness, & reconciliation.

Today is for listening intently to the soul of this life;

remembering that resounding beauty waits in sacred whispers before me.

Reflection by: Frank de Jesus Acosta

Frank is a writer and poet. I sure wish he’d put out a collection of his work.

Cancer, Faith, Family, Healing, Health, Inspiration, Juicing, Latino culture

Six Surprising Ways to Heal Illness

Japanese word for healing-gettyimages.com
Japanese word for healing-gettyimages.com

Yesterday, I visited with a young couple. The young man has undergone six rounds of chemotherapy and will soon start on another round of six ‘treatments.’ I single quote that word because chemotherapy drugs are so harsh it’s hard to think of them as treatments.

First, a disclaimer: These ways of healing are what worked for me during and after my cancer treatments eight years ago. Two methods are what works for another cancer patient. Discuss your use of any pain relief methods with your doctor.

The young man looked so much better than I expected, he still had some hair, his eyebrows and mustache, his face wasn’t gaunt. I expected him to look like I did after chemo–bald, pale, tired. Different types of cancer, different chemo treatments.

We talked about how he felt, both physically and emotionally. I think it was hard for his fiancé to hear us talk,  but she knew he needed to talk.

He asked me how I dealt with the physical pain, especially the tenderness of the scalp, fingers, palms, the joint pain that doesn’t let you sleep, the stomach distress. The pain meds the doctor prescribed did very little to ease pain.

We shared our stories.

These are some ways that helped me heal and cope with the pain of cancer and healing from cancer.

  1. Meditation music  temporarily helped, especially with stress, but also with pain . I slapped on earbuds, played pleasurable music (I seemed to prefer water sounds) and zoned out for a couple of hours. Many hospitals, community centers teach meditation and mindfulness. Dr. Lisa Rankin talks about this and more in her book, Mind Over Medicine.
  2. Reiki (Rei which means “God’s Wisdom or the Higher Power” and Ki which is “life force energy”). This was offered at the cancer center I attended. I was a skeptic, but now I’m a believer. You can find more about reiki here
  3. Marijuana:

“Whatever you do, don’t take Marinol (concentrated THC in pill form). It didn’t help at all with my nausea, just gave me the munchies,” I said.

 

You should have seen the expression on his face, hearing that I ingested Marinol (under doctor directions) and wished California had medical Marijuana back then. He smiled and said he tried an “Edible,” which is marijuana baked into a food like a brownie or cake pop. It dulled his pain for a couple of hours and didn’t hurt his stomach like the pain pills. 

Edible Cake Pops-Huffington Post, photo by weedmaps.com
Edible Cake Pops-Huffington Post, photo by weedmaps.com

This is legal in California if you have a medical marijuana card. In Colorado you don’t need a card (other than proof of age, 21) and they have strains of marijuana that are lower in THC and higher in CBD (Cannabidiol)a major, non-psychoactive component of cannabis that helps shrink inflammation and reduce pain without inducing the euphoria effects of THC. Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks about this in his CNN program about medical marijuana. Several studies are researching placing marijuana into a pill for pain relief. 

There is an old remedy used in Mexico, and here, where a liniment is made from soaking marijuana in alcohol for a couple of weeks and applying it on painful joints. (I know of a couple of elderly people who use this for their rheumatoid arthritis and they say it works.)

4.  Juicing vegetable and fruits. I wanted to heal myself from the inside out. The dietician at the cancer center emphasized 6-8 servings of    vegetables/fruit daily. It was so much easier to drink the juice of carrots, apples, celery, spinach than to eat them, especially when you’re nauseous or don’t feel like eating. I still juice a few times a month or buy a vegetable and fruit combo at Trader Joe’s or a health food store.

I Dwell on Positive Thoughts-Louise Hay card
I Dwell on Positive Thoughts-Louise Hay card

5. Positive affirmations and prayer, every day. During my cancer recuperation I bought a deck of 64 Wisdom Cards by Louise Hay. The card above and quote below resonated with me.

“The moment I say positive affirmations, I step out of the victim role. I am no longer helpless…I’m taking the next step for my healing.”

Healing really comes from a mind, body, and soul connection. I’m not saying it will cure your illness. For me, I became more holistic in my ideas about healing. Dr. Deepak Chopra has a wealth of  information about holistic healing.

Bucket List
Bucket List

6. Hope: This couple made a bucket list of places and experiences they want to enjoy when chemo is completed or on the young man’s ‘good days.’ They look to the future, believing the cancer will be healed. They have hope. Together they tackle the pain of the present and look to the future.
I left our visit hopeful for this young man’s full recovery. I look forward to his marriage, the creation of a family, and the end of cancer appearing in his life ever again, or mine, or your own.

Family, Latino culture, Latino Family Traditions, Mexican traditions, Parenting

The Importance of Cultural Traditions

At the Baptismal Font
At the Baptismal Font

This past Sunday my family and I attended a celebration that stirred memories of our young adult lives and childhood. We attended a “Bautismo” or baptism. It is one of the seven religious sacraments of the Catholic Church where an infant is initiated into the spiritual community of the Church.

It has been many moons since our own children were babies and now that several of our extended family are not Catholic (except for my mother) we don’t attend baptism’s as often as we did in our childhood and young adulthood.

Cultural traditions remind us of who we are and where we came from. That is why we were delighted that the young couple, college graduates, third generation Mexican American’s, followed the traditions of their culture and religion.

Mexican and Mexican American baptisms have their own baptism rituals. The parents select godparents, or compadres, who traditionally have the duty of raising the child if the child’s parents were to die. This isn’t a legally binding contract, but more of a moral obligation or promise to bring up the child as a Catholic.

After the pouring of the water on the baby’s head, the priest invites the parents to light a candle from the main candle at the altar. Prayers are said, the blessing of the oil takes place, and then the baby, parents and godparents are presented to the congregation.

The next ritual is the throwing of bolos. When we were children we lived in a predominately Mexican neighborhood, so bautismo’s and the ritual of the compadres throwing bolo was frequent. This is a gift of coins thrown to all the children attending the baptism. Bolo is said to symbolize prosperity and good luck for the infant.

photographer R. Ambriz
Photographer R. Ambriz, muralized

Usually bolo was done on the steps of the church after the baptism ceremony. Pennies, nickels and dimes rained upon the heads of children scrambling for coins. In those days you could buy nickel candy bars, so bolo was quite the event. You could imagine that children from all over, and some adults, frequented the church steps on Sunday late afternoons after baptism ceremonies. In our neighborhood, everyone knew that twenty something Petra, would be at every baptism. She was mentally disabled so she was given a pass. But now bolo is thrown at the reception party.

A party takes place after the baptism, usually a backyard barbecue, for the family and friends of the parents. This is an opportunity for the extended family to get together and bring each other up to date. For us, the ‘old parents’ it was a time to reminisce about the baptismal parties we threw, how the years fly by, and how glad we are that the traditions we grew up with have not died out.