How We Can Unite Rather Than Divide.

“But there is a good chance that we will all keep bashing each other anyway.” ~ Van Jones, Beyond the Messy Truth

Let the media and political pundits divide.

Let truth and love unite.

Yes, but those MFs and idiots on the other side!

Admit it. That kind of thinking is part of the problem and it’s pervasive in our society, even in some families and friendships.

Ouch. Own it. Who do you disagree with?

If you’re Republican, it’s the damn Democrats—the Libs.

If you’re a Democrat, it’s the Trump rats.

If you’re apolitical, it’s all that noise.

Now, who do you disagree with and also love and respect in other aspects?

Let’s meet there—in the love in our hearts, even when we disagree. Quiet your mind and the proving of things you know.

Take a different approach.

Why the hell would you, when they are so clearly wrong and won’t listen?!

None of us wants to be told how to think or that we’re wrong or stupid.

We want to be right!

Yes, but underneath that we each want to be seen, heard, and respected.

It’s not easy to give what we want to receive.

Recently, I went to lunch with a gal I used to babysit, who’s now a completely legit grown-up with kids of her own. She’s also a Trumper.

Full disclosure, I’m a Democrat. In my soul. Please don’t hate me. Or, even if you do, read on and see how I learned to listen to a Trumper I’ll call Marie.

I babysat her when I was in high school and later, in college, I lived with and helped her family during a crisis. Marie’s mom is my friend, mostly out of loyalty because she saved my big sister’s self-esteem and confidence at a critical juncture as a teenager.

So, off to lunch I go with Marie, a gal I only kinda-sorta know, no longer the little girl I babysat, but the woman I’d later learn hesitated meeting me because we so disagree politically.

I get it. Sometimes it’s easier to keep our distance, not engage in conversation, and resist confrontation.

One of my favorite words is juxtaposition. That’s where Marie and I met for lunch.

Sitting in my Prius before I went in, I prayed for a hand on my shoulder and one over my mouth.

I took a minute to remember Marie’s innocence, and how I let her, as a young girl, ride (and crash) on my brother’s skateboard, back when I babysat for fudgesicles and money to afford Outward Bound.

I was once 15 and Marie was once lost in the shuffle. In those days, Marie had a sister and I had a brother.

In between then and now, we’ve each held a thousand broken pieces.

And we’ve risen, as women do.

So, from that place, I listened when she said bad things about Obama and raved about Trump’s greatness, while stating the fact of his lack of character.

I breathed deep and it seemed so did she.

We had an adult conversation where we found common ground without either of us turning the other one around.

In those moments that went political, it felt like work, but worth it. 

Not because I won. Not because she convinced me.

Because I listened with my heart. Although, trust me, my brain and ego wanted to take that girl on!

I turned them off. I trusted I’d be given the words to say and the ability to keep my mouth closed without resentment.

The rest of our lunch, we discussed her new job and my writing career.

I learned she didn’t remember my brother Bill, who died at age 27.

I assured her, I think, without ideal words, I understand what she’s missing in a sister. I have mine and I can’t imagine having lost her when I was little, like Marie was when her sister had a life-altering car accident that crashed their family and forever shattered the solid foundation Marie had previously been raised on.

I feel compassion, not pity, for her.

I love the woman she’s become.

Both of us earned our living in sales for decades and came close to selling our souls. But we didn’t. Deep down we value our lives and ourselves.

From that place, as women (and men), we can honor one another. Unity starts in the heart.

Sometimes it’s hardest to go there, to the space of juxtaposition with loved ones, the people we otherwise like or love, but don’t want to dance with in the political divide.

Be brave. Be an adult. Refuse to engage in rhetoric and bullsh*t. Be willing to lean in for meaningful conversation. Remember: everyone has reasons for their beliefs.

If we listen to each other we may not agree, but we can build a bridge of mutual respect. These days, we could use some new bridges.

How Queen Corona Rules.

“A queen is wise. She has earned her serenity, not having had it bestowed on her but having passed her tests. She has suffered and grown more beautiful because of it. She has proved she can hold her kingdom together. She has become its vision. She cares deeply about something bigger than herself. She rules with authentic power.” ~ Marianne Williamson, A Woman’s Worth

Queen Corona has come to town, travelling with a thousand horses and an army of men. She is feminine power.

You cannot pay her off.

She’s not a princess you can seduce.

Or a child to be trifled with.

People step aside for the queen, yet peer behind for the king.

Where is he? The king got drunk on power, slept with all the pretties as if they were playthings, spent his fortune, and send his troops to wrong wars.

The king beheaded himself.

Queen Corona is feminine power.

We all bow before her.

First, in fear.

The closer she nears we see the parade is not for show.

She earned her crown. The queen rides with dignity.

She’s come to clear the field, to wake us up to our own greed and evil.

Queen Corona teaches us what matters by her royal presence.

She loves like a mother, after the father fled and the children grew wild.

Although she’s shrewd, Queen Corona doesn’t pretend everything is a business proposition.

She sends us to our rooms, lays down new rules, takes no backtalk, and reminds us what’s important now.

Take care of each other. We are family.

How Good News Ignites Us.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” ~ Philippians 4:8

Our family received some lovely news yesterday. It’s not mine to share, but I can tell you joy rose in me like it does in a child at Christmas.

We seek to grab the good, get on our mats and stretch into it, get on our knees and pray it in, work, affirm… It all helps.

Nothing like Kundalini, but that’s just crazy me.

Yesterday reminds me: Sometimes the best gift someone can give is their own good news.

Joy over another’s fortune is as pure as music that moves us.

With the announcement, I felt surrounded by our families’ ancestral lines smiling and celebrating. Happiness fell on us like confetti.

These days, we need good news to compensate for our outrageous political and chaotic social climate, and the bombardment of media and technology we’re addicted to.

As a female citizen in the United (now acting divided) States of America, it’s my civic duty to pay attention to the occurring conversations and decisions affecting us culturally, while aligning my activist inclinations with truth, compassion, and action.

There’s an allegiant mindset determined to fix our problems. First, we must face them. Yuck!

Recently, a girlfriend said, “I don’t watch the news. I like to stay positive.”

That’s how I felt in my 20s and 30s. I suppose some people weren’t rivetted to the news as Watergate unfolded, either.

In our 50s, in these #metoo times, women (and men) can’t afford to go back to sleep. And the young people are showing up fully awake.

I don’t want to be the person who isn’t paying attention while history is making a solid mark on humanity.

For decades, through helping myself to personal growth and positive thinking, I learned the art of positive denial.

I rode it like a skateboard. Then, I crashed and came face-to-face with all I’d refused to look at.

Positive denial is still denial.

Now, I’m into facing life head on, because I may not have time to circle back to see what I left under the bed.

There’s a balance, isn’t there? In previous scenes in my life, I practiced playing Pollyanna, but I’m not her.

I like being educated and informed, and yet information, understanding, and truth-seeking can be heavy.

Oh, but that good news! It ran through my blood like a happy drug. I want more.

In turbulent times, joy still dances.

People fall in love, get married, and have babies. Promotions are granted, new jobs landed, homes purchased, and travels taken.

Sometimes, when we talk about our own joys, it feels like bragging. Sometimes, I hold back–as if my joy diminishes another’s or dismisses their pain.

We must share our good news—in spite of and because of the personal and collective challenges of our times, which we must face with courage and character.

Although serious, let’s not be joyless. Let’s share good news like juicy gossip.

How to Be Like Kevin

Kevin Fire! Lentz died March 4, 2016. He was my friend. My boyfriend. My beloved. He was a badass and together we were crazy, sexy, cool.

Call. And call again. Take the calls—even when you’re driving to dinner with your girlfriend and looking for a parking space. Take the call, especially if it’s your dad. Not because he’s 85, because he’s your dad.

Connect with people. Laugh. Let your funny be infectious.

Don’t be a hater. Speak your mind.

Apologize when you screw up. And mean it. Move on.

Own your anger. Be forthright, but be gracious.

Love women. Really love them. And music. Listen to music-LOUD! Especially the 80s. Hard rock. KISS.

But, take Etta James and the candles. Yeah, bring that old boom box to the beach. Play the game Washers.

Read. The Bible when you feel nudged. Take pleasure in reading.

Find your favorite author. Kevin’s was Lee Child, but he also read Mark Twain, JR Moehringer, and Alice Lundy.

Give people nicknames. ICE! ICE! ICE! Let it be your way of honoring them.

Pray. Out loud. In the morning. While drinking coffee and watching birds with your girlfriend.

Say, “I LOVE THAT!” often. Say, “I love you.” Write it. Bring back the art of hand-written letters.

Send kids’ Valentine’s Day cards with love to friends and family every year.

Enjoy good food. Make memories of meals, like cooking Chilean seabass at home or taking your lady to the high-class, like-you’re-in-Italy Italian Tony’s, where you used to go with your mom.

Also go to dive bars, like Villa Nova.

Bring home Taco Bell sauce packets that say, “Marry Me” and “Team Fire!” Present them like a bouquet of flowers.

Seek love. Be romantic. Be real. Dance.

Follow your passions and applaud others.

Take care of your business, but don’t be so serious. Make work fun. When it’s not, refocus. Readjust. Decide what you want and go for it.

Change. If you want to. Become better.

Be at peace with yourself. Take care of yourself. LOVE YOURSELF. And especially, BE YOURSELF. Kevin was totally himself, not imitating a soul.

Be emotionally courageous. Say: This is how I am. I have a temper and I can be selfish, but I’m the man for you.

Yeah, be a man—in the best sense of the word.

Support your team and Diva’s team and your people.

Show up. Be on time. And have some style!

LIVE your life. If it ever comes to your door, kick cancer’s ass!

Speak a unique language with your brothers—one your girlfriend couldn’t understand if she wanted to.

Make your cousin a brother and make the word brother mean something.

Give friends and family the value they deserve.

GO ALL IN. Whatever you’re doing: sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, sales, wooing a woman, loving your mom, hanging with friends, frying fish, developing relationships, telling a truth, listening… damn, Kevin could listen.

He could talk, but he could really listen.

Open doors. Pull out chairs. Hug. Hold your partner tight throughout the entire night.

Kiss too hard and love like this is your last chance and you want to get it right.

Buy little gifts. Don’t expect so much from others. Give because it makes you feel good.

Tell stories. And make them entertaining!

Hang with your boys. Be wild when you’re young, but never grow old.

Get out of the house. Travel, but spend time hanging at home, just chillin’.

Be like a kid, but be a man. Face life head on.

Be like Kevin, but you can’t. There was only one.

So, be like you. Be the wild, weird, wonderful you.

 

How a Political Refuge from Chilé gave me much to be Thankful for. #bloglikecrazy

How a Political Refuge from Chilé gave me much to be Thankful for. #bloglikecrazy

 

“I urge you to celebrate the extraordinary courage and contributions of refugees past and present.” ~ Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General

It was the day after Thanksgiving last year. My best friend Andrea was out of town. I called her father, Mr. Mena to see if I might stop by and visit.

I said, “Hola, it’s Alice.”

Papi said, “Oh, mi otro hija!” (my other daughter).

When I arrived, he wanted to cook for me. I didn’t let him, but I said yes to his Chilean wine and pride. We sat at the kitchen counter talking about life, family and politics.

Although I’ve known this man since high school and he once introduced himself to my mother as, “Hello. I’m Alice’s father,” it’s never been just the two of us. Usually, I was in his home visiting Andrea.

You know how sometimes you drop by just to say a polite hello, and somehow time opens up to make space for words never considered?

Mrs. Mena was in the back bedroom sleeping. She hasn’t been the same since her stroke 20 years ago.

Although I never considered this question before, I asked how they met—some 50 years ago. Papi told me when he was a teenager he was friends with Mrs. Mena’s sister. Then, he saw Andree with her long hair, but he said, “I wasn’t thinking anything. I was 16.”

Later, he got free tickets for a concert because he’d pounded a dent out of a bus and the owners gave him the tickets. He fell asleep on the bus ride to the concert and awoke to Andree kissing him on the cheek.

His eyes lit up as he recalled their young love. They used to go out dancing and he’d buy her Coca Colas.

Even back when he was a teenager, Mr. Mena worked on cars. He built a car that was in a three-country race: Chilé, Peru and Argentina. Then, he got hired by the university and earned a paycheck! Mr. Mena told me he never had trouble making money.

Later, Andree wanted to get married. He was 19. She was 17.

Both their fathers approved and went with them to get married. Both moms were opposed, especially his because he was the family breadwinner.

Then, Mr. Mena told me about the coup and Pinochet coming in as dictator of Chile. That’s when Mr. Mena became a part of the resistance.

Because now Pinochet was in charge of all the companies, Mr. Mena and his coworkers would do things like leaving the lights and water on all night to wreak havoc. In the shop where he worked, they made sharp objects to throw in the road to stop the military and secret police.

He also took people to the French Embassy to escape.

Papi described helping one mom and her three girls go out the back of their house and in the front and out the back of three houses to escape the military police, who, he claimed were “so mad!”

“Why were they after her?” I asked. “Because her husband was part of the resistance.”

Mr. Mena drove the woman and her girls to a farm. Those were just the things they did. Yes, it was dangerous.

In fact, the military police captured and tortured Mr. Mena, but he “never told them anything because then they’d have no use for me.”

Then, they’d kill him. Mr. Mena’s sister and many of his friends were killed.

While he was held and tortured, Mrs. Mena searched and did everything she could to find her husband. By this time, they had three small children.

Mrs. Mena pleaded with the French Embassy and told everyone she could that her husband had been captured. She made a lot of noise and with the help of the French Embassy, Mr. Mena was released and the family fled the country.

Mr. Mena showed me some old black and white pictures of one man who came to Santa Fe, NM to visit and thank Mr. Mena for saving his life. He showed me a letter the guy had written him. Of course, it was in Spanish.

Somehow, our conversation wound to God. Papi said he doesn’t believe in God. But he said, “How easy to find him in this,” as he picked up an apple, “or a flower or ants building things.”

He told me he gets mad, all those people dying. ”Why does God do this?”

His wife, Mrs. Mena was healthy, fine, until a doctor prescribed Premarin which caused a blood clot and then she had the stroke.

I listened as this strong, masculine man, my father figure, praised his wife for getting him out of Chile, encouraged him to buy the land the house we sat in was built on and to work hard. She always supported him, and the kids in all their sporting events.

Papi said he talks to his son Ish, now grown with his own kids, about what it means to be strong.

“I say to him, ‘You can’t go to Albertsons, give them money, and say you want to buy time.’”

Mr. Mena emphasized the importance of being strong, deciding what you want and going for it.

Then, he told me—the girl who used to enter road races under the name Alice Mena because I wanted to belong to his family—how proud he is of me, how strong I am, how he sees me as having done everything on my own. (Not quite true, but I ate up his compliments the way I used to devour Mrs. Mena’s langostino empanadas.)

Papi kept preaching about how proud he is of me for finishing school. (Oh, yeah, I completed my bachelor’s degree at age 37!)

He told me what a great example I’ve been and that his daughter, (my best friend) Andrea looks up to me. The feeling is mutual.

Mr. Mena and I continued our conversation, now onto marriage and divorce.

It makes him mad when people say how much they respect him for still being with and taking care of Mrs. Mena.

“Where else would I be? She’s my wife. She’s my life.”

Mr. Mena has always been a proud man. It felt different on this day.

More than in the past, I took in his kindness. How respectful and full of admiration he was for the woman who welcomed me into their home, cooked for me and often restaurants where she was dealt the blows of conflict between her Chilean Spanish heritage and the New Mexican Spanish culture I grew up around.

Mrs. Mena slept for most of my visit. Papi and I went into the back bedroom and woke her up. She looked at me with a mother’s adoration. Tears of joy leaked from her eyes.
I held her, hugged her, kissed her, looked into her soul and told her I wished I could take her pain away. She shook her head no.

Mami pointed to my diamond circle pendant necklace, diamond earrings and rings and her eyes lit up like I’d landed some rich man. I reminded her I worked in a jewelry store for many years. She always loved jewelry. She still loves it and shopping.

Mrs. Mena eyed for (since spoken language is no longer her friend) Mr. Mena to give me a big bag of Lindt chocolates.

Papi told me about the foot surgery she had to fix her foot that wasn’t quite right since the stroke. Now, it’s even worse. She can hardly walk. He drives her in a van and she has a scooter.

Mr. Mena’s doctor told him he better take care of himself or he’ll die before her. “I try, he said.” But, he has diabetes, is overweight and his health doesn’t look like it’s rooting for him.

He showed me a new Mercedes he’s working on making into a truck. He’d sold his old prized Mercedes sedan. “What do I need with a car I can only drive once or twice a month?” He also sold his apartment in Chile. “Andree can’t travel.” It seems not too many years ago he was insisting otherwise.

His priorities have shifted. His purpose is caring for his wife and watching his grandkids grow up.

Mr. Mena told me he spoke in Washington, DC at the UN years ago. His talk was called “The Ismael Menas of the World.”

I considered the multitudes of people like papi who came from harsh circumstances to build their American dream.

The Ismael Menas of the world: people to be thankful for.

How my Sister & I Grew up in Different Families. #bloglikecrazy

“There is space within sisterhood for likeness and difference, for the subtle differences that challenge and delight; there is space for disappointment—and surprise.” ~ Christine Downing

My sister once told me one reason siblings are different is they’re not born into the same family.

Jayne—the one and only first born—was welcomed into the world with hope during a stage my mom and dad had been told the world was tough, but maybe they didn’t quite believe it yet.

Our brother—Mr. Middle Child—arrived on the scene into Hey, maybe we can make it.

Then, just five years after my sister’s arrival, I was born into the heart of challenge.

I swam in my mom’s frustration for nine months. I ate her Oh God, what have I gotten myself into? for nourishment.

Maybe that’s why I spent too many years wishing to leave this world.

Or what I was doing at the age of eight weeks, returning to the hospital with pneumonia, checking into an oxygen tent, and keeping human touch at a distance.

My mother said the doctors told her, “Go home and take care of your other children.”

Five days later, when my parents picked me up from the hospital, a nurse said, “This time, take care of her.”

My mom hardly had room for me in her arms with all that pressure.

Besides, my independent streak and fighting inclinations had already taken root in that tent. I won my first battle and was ready for more.

However, as a toddler, I quickly learned my mother was not somebody you wanted to do battle with.

The lessons my sister learned—baking, measuring, and Winnie the Pooh seemed spent before I arrived.

We all learned about Mama Bear and that saying: If mom’s not happy, nobody’s happy. Yeah, totally true.

My mom wasn’t happy.

My dad worked. If I said all the time, it might seem like an exaggeration, but if I said he was a workaholic, that might be underplaying it.

My father appears as a visitor in my young memories.

Then, right at that crux, where my parents parted and my sister did her final years at home, the families my sister and I lived in shifted again.

By the time I was a teenager, I knew parents were just playing at righteousness and big sisters were really the difference makers.

After all, who explained divorce and that love that goes on, anyway? Who took care of me when I was sick or let me tag along on dates? Who worried when I stayed out late?
My big sister parented me when my parents were busy doing other things—like trying to get their sh*t together.

Ok, are you with me so far?
1) Parents fall in love.
2) Get pregnant.
3) Get married.
4) Have my sister.
5) Have my brother.
6) Have me.
7) Struggle.
8) Make a new decision.

My formative years were filled with my parents arguing, cutting up credit cards, building bookshelves, road trips to therapists, and me being left alone. Well, often in the care of my brother and sister.

This was the 1970s. These things were done. My parents tried for traditional, but that’s one thing neither of them could adhere to.

The thing is they tried—really hard. They wore us all out with the struggle.

What a different world develops in five short years—both the years since my sister was born and the ones after my parents divorced.

Jayne found love and leaped into it. She moved to the other side of the country.

I was unprepared for life without her. She built a family with her husband and sons, as she should.

I found myself a part of a new family with my stepmom, stepbrother and stepsister. We did family stuff like vacations, dinners, and playing canasta.

I was getting the love I needed. So was my sister—in another world.

In the beginning—her beginning—my sister was served hope with a side of parental presence. I arrived for leftovers.

I never saw the full meal in my original home, so I didn’t miss not getting dessert.

Jayne knew something had been left off the table. She took off to find something sweet.

I stayed home and was introduced to peace. Plus, I got my turn to be the big sister! I poured love and protection into my stepsister’s atmosphere.

See, my sister showed me how, having arrived first in the world. And those five years, they made all the difference.

 

 

How Morgan Corinthos’ Death on General Hospital Helped Heal my Grief. #bloglikecrazy

Morgan Corinthos—a 20-something, vibrant, got life by the hands, and finally getting his sh*t together, young man—died on my soap opera a year ago.

Before my real-life beloved died over a year and a half ago, I used to sit on his bed, in his bedroom (which felt like our clubhouse for two), and watch General Hospital (GH).

Often, Kevin would be showering or doing paperwork before he headed out on sales calls.

I found comfort in his bed, making a picnic of some random treasure I found in his refrigerator or leftovers from our prior night out.

I felt at home in Kevin’s house, bedroom, bed and space, enjoying one of my favorite guilty pleasures: my GH hour.

Kevin never made me feel guilty or chided me for watching my soap. In fact, he watched a couple of his own. Sometimes, we watched them together.

We even spent a few Saturday mornings in bed with Lifetime TV movies.

Kevin was all man and a sports guy, but he grew up on the soaps his mom watched. He knew the characters’ names and no matter how many years one stops watching, in a couple of shows, you’re caught up like a family reunion.

Now, Kevin’s dead. I’m not in his bedroom. I’m in my home. At 2:00 most weekdays, I turn on GH for a moment and get a rush—of being in his home, in his presence, like he’s still indulging with me.

It was like Kevin cried with me when Morgan Corinthos died on my show.

If he’d died sooner, I couldn’t have taken it, but Morgan’s girlfriend, mom, dad, brothers and sisters are six months behind me on the grief journey.

Morgan’s death on GH reflected my feelings and kept me in tune with how many people around Kevin were shaken by his death.

Morgan’s parents wanted answers. Why did he die? His girlfriend felt guilty for trying to move on. His siblings wanted to assign blame.

Some characters on the show acted unexpected kindness and sincerity. Others fumbled with words.

I related to GH in ways I felt disconnected to my new reality minus my man.
So, I watched more religiously than ever. It was my crying hour.

The show mirrored my emotions, but it couldn’t hurt me the way I was cut when my favorite character was written out of my own life.

Recently, it was the one-year anniversary of Morgan’s death. People of Port Charles (where the show takes place) came together to commemorate.

It matched my recent experience of seeing Kevin’s best friend Garry, with whom I’m forever bonded. He talked about how he was ready to start traveling and imagined he and his wife would take cruises with Kevin and me. But, now we can’t.

I vicariously celebrated Morgan Corinthos—a character on a soap opera, a man in his prime, embracing life and balancing intensity, passion and intimacy, like my Kevin.

I cried for Morgan, his mom, girlfriend, brothers, sisters, and their pain.I shed tears for Kevin, his dad, brothers, and wide array of friends.

I cried when Kevin’s best friend told me he had other friends—good ones—but no one he connected with or could expose himself to the way we did with Kevin. He was a safe place and a grand party for each of us.

Garry said he hadn’t been able to cry. He cried—but hadn’t cried.

I’ve bawled at least a hundred times. I need the cleansing.

I let the triggers hit and the tears flow, even the ones ignited from a story line that wasn’t actually mine. It was close enough. Close to my heart.

Thank you, Morgan Corinthos for playing a part in my healing. His friends and family toasted him on the show: Here’s to Morgan!

Yes, here’s to Morgan Corinthos, and General Hospital, and wherever we find a path to process our pain.