How Miracles Arrive.

How Miracles Arrive.

“Hope is believing in spite of evidence, then watching the evidence change.” ~ Jim Wallis

I didn’t realize I’d been holding my breath until I saw the breaking news of 12 boys and their soccer coach saved from a cave in Thailand.

I hadn’t followed the story closely. My heart couldn’t take it. No more innocents dying!

Over the last several years, our hearts and minds have taken in and pushed back on school shootings, a political arena that resembles the WWF, grown-ups fist fighting and flinging flagrant disrespect, suicide rates soaring, police involved shootings (both as victims and perpetrators), hurricanes in Houston and lead-contaminated water in Flint, white supremacy rising, everyday people getting dragged off airplanes, children being kept in cages, a friend’s mom dying of painful cancer… My heart screams no more!

I want to turn off the news, but as citizens today, we can’t afford to be complacent.

A society gone astray stirs up chaos in our individual and collective hearts.

In this environment, it’s increasingly easy to be frenzied or even flip out on someone, for something as minor as having a meeting at Starbucks. What?!

At first, each incident seems isolated, but it’s all a mirror of the society we’ve created, or the one hatched while we watched The Bachelor.

Shootings in schools, theatres, and nightclubs reveal more than one crazy individual.

Like the one running our country with lies, corruption, and the master manipulation of a reality show king. To those who continue to point to the clothes they insist the emperor’s wearing, there’s nothing to say.

We’ve lost the art of discourse and taken on anger, violence, and disrespect as if our Constitution reads not, “We the people,” but, “You people!”

Here’s how it actually starts:
We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure Tranquility, provide for the common deference, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Amazing! Yet, no matter where we stand, disappointing news arrows into our hearts, filling the American diet in a way we haven’t seen in decades.

So, today I happily focus on this miracle of people from around the world coming together for the sake of these children.

Today, I focus on the miracle of people from around the world coming together for the sake of the children.

Can we focus on the miracle of coming together for the sake of the children?

 

How to Own Your Destiny.

“We have to stop waiting to wake up.” ~ Sarah Entrup  (Inspired by 30 Days of Meditation)

I am my destiny. When I came into my mother’s womb, I restored hope.

I radiate the fullest source of my being. I always was my destiny.

I float in a lavender bubble and sparkle from within whenever I let my light shine.

When I almost died as a baby, but didn’t, I showed the world resolve. Even the nurses were amazed; I had a remarkable destiny.

I learned to ride a bike, color, climb trees, play hide-n-seek, spend time alone, and write stories about this crazy, beautiful world. I was always my destiny.

I wrote stories about squirrels, stole money, and broke rules by ditching Camp Fire Girls. I got into trouble for living my destiny and being free—and I loved it!

Later, I attracted men and love and left them to be my destiny, not my karma or drama. I had sh*t to do!

In my last life, I learned the price of contorting myself and playing it safe. Now, I live into my destiny.

I’m health and nature and joy.

I’m bringing sexy back over and over as many times as I like.

It’s my destiny, like laughter, the woods, words, and even getting hurt. Those are my growth spurts!

I am my destiny. I’m not resistance or stuckness. I’m F*ck yes! and Hello, life!

I’m knocked down; get back up.

I’m: here’s what I learned when I was down there, in there, back there, over there. Now, I’m here.

What? You say I look different? I sound different? No, baby, I’m the same. I’ve always been my destiny.

I dance with my history and lineage. There are no limits, only gifts.

The opportunity to shine into the full line of me.

You thought I forgot who I was? Ha! I tricked you! Tricked myself, too!

But, I’m back to my destiny, twirling and swirling and smiling.

Through all my lifetimes, I’ve screamed delight flying on the swings with my sisters.

And lovers? Boy, have I been lucky!

This time, I experienced the legendary love I longed for in my last life—the one I gave up my life force for, back when I went dark.

I had to make a choice then with what I knew and the times I lived. That’s when and how I made a vow to my divine destiny.

The me that I kept hidden away behind the protocol of that time protects me now.

When I walk down yesterday’s path or slip into somebody else’s destiny, mine whispers, “Not that way, this way.” Suddenly, where I was once unsure, I’m certain.

I am my destiny, not my habits or quirks. That’s just personality.

I’m royalty walking as a commoner, kissing the sweet sunshine of freedom. Incog..neato!

I breathe deep. I do Downward Dog, Upward Dog, and Destiny Dog.

I’m my destiny the way my Black Lab Phoenix is the full loving expression of herself without apology, pretense, defense, or need to analyze.

I know people need love, light, laughter, and listening. Hello, destiny arriving! No problem. Pure joy. No inconvenience. And if it is, I’ll tell you to get the f*ck out.

My destiny is not to be mean—even to myself. I’m kind and cool and lean into joy.

I let sadness flow through me when it comes, knowing it’s part of my destiny to fall and rise and realize new insights about myself and life.

This is my nature: to be transformed, shaped, and radiate today’s femininity.

Beyond definition. The divine feminine ignites birth, braves motherhood, raises people, owns beauty, and beholds grace. She makes way for messy blood and medicinal hugs.

Feminine spirit is raw, as destined as the apple seed to the apple.

She respects and dances with, but will never bow down to masculine musculature.

Because she’s not supposed to! That’s not her destiny.

That’s not my destiny. I am my destiny. My destiny is change and transcendence.

My destiny is growth, wisdom, and light. If we have to light this world on fire with hope and spirit and compassion combined with sisterly and motherly love, so be it.

We are here. This is our destiny.

We are the firefighters of our time.

We are willing to burn for better things.

We’ve been here all along. Oh, you just noticed? Well, welcome to the party.

Destiny is always on time, even when she’s late!

I am my destiny. I am words and footsteps, connections and creations.

I’m poetry and art, travel and speaking, books and teaching.

I’m as loud as hawks squawking, quiet as sunshine, and vibrant as a song called Life.

Destiny is as undeniable as the color purple, as heavy as gravity, and as well-designed as a hummingbird.

She is me and I am nature.

I smell of lavender and sway my hips like a front porch swing. I sell you truth smoother than Tennessee whiskey and make you forget time before you knew me.

I am destiny. I arrive with the current of the ocean and all the treasures within. You can pollute me, but never contain me.

I am my destiny. I am fulfillment.

I’m stories told for generations and values held by women around the world.

I’m education, expertise, respect, and truth.

I shall not yield. I need not fight. Watch me rise.

I am destiny. Unstoppable.

I storm in like winter and blossom like spring—just when you thought I was in the ground.

I am life. I am death. I am peace and anger. I am hope and happiness.

I’m the first time I roared down a dirt road alone on a four-wheeler, dust everywhere and a grin so big I caught bugs in my teeth.

Nothing you say matters, but I hear it all. Clearly. So clearly now.

I am destiny. I always have been.

 

What “This Is Us” Teaches us about the Right Way to Handle Grief.

“Grief is as necessary as joy. It comes inconveniently, often catches us unprepared, but we understand that a full, rich life experiences both ends of the spectrum.” ~ Alexandra Stoddard, The Art of the Possible

Recently, a woman told me she’d also lost her boyfriend. He died.

So, yes, she knows grief. But, she had to put it out of her mind so she could get on with life.

Each person chooses her path and I can’t say she’s wrong.

However, in my life, grief grabbed me, shook me, shattered me, and dared me to look directly at it.

That’s where I found the gifts of grief, the metamorphosis of myself, and the place from which I’m rising as a woman transformed.

I get why people don’t want to get into the grief. They can see what a mess it causes.

Tears in public places? No, thanks. Being dragged down? No, stand tall!

Be strong. Don’t let it beat you.

Well, I believe what Arielle Ford said to the Book Mama, Linda Sivertsen: “Grief is your superpower.”

It’s a passage, like adolescence or menopause, or maybe a mid-life crisis.

We must go into the mess in order to get to the metamorphosis.

My friend’s daughter is 17, just on the verge of adulthood. Not many months ago, she claimed she was already an adult and couldn’t relate to kids her age.

Now, she’s decided she doesn’t want to be an adult. In fact, she wants to go back to being a baby.

Yes, I’d like to go back to being the happy woman I was in May of 2014, sunning on Big Daddy’s boat on Lake St. Louis, gushing with gratitude for how great my life felt.

Unfortunately, I can’t unknow falling in love with my man Fire and him being put out of this life.

Often, we want to be in a different stage from the one we’re in.

We’re single; we want to be married. When a teenager, we’d rather be an adult. As our kids ready to leave home; we wish them younger and still contained by our love.

When we’re in the thick of grief, we crave the hole in our heart be filled with yesterday’s joy.

Of course, there are extremes, like the widow who keeps her husband’s clothes hanging in their closet 20 years after his death, clinging to what can no longer be.

But, who’s to say? What’s the timeline? There isn’t one.

On a recent episode of my favorite show This Is Us,  it was the 20-year anniversary of Jack, the father’s death. Each of his children and his wife found a different way to deal with the memory. (Spoiler alert.)

Every year, his wife makes lasagna. She spends the day cooking and eating alone, even though she’s now married to another man.

One son does his best to ignore the day. Like him, I’ve tried that in the past (unsuccessfully).

If only December 10th, the day my brother died and the day my mom was diagnosed with cancer, could be removed from calendars!

On the show, the daughter beats herself up with guilt every year and chooses to be melancholy. While on the surface this may sound like a poor choice, she needs to indulge in her feelings.

Sometimes, it’s diving in that allows us to resurface stronger.

On the opposing mindset is the other son, who leaps into celebration mode, throwing a Super Bowl party and going overboard with determination to create big fun.

Trying to overpower grief can catch us off guard. When his daughter’s pet lizard dies, Randall ends up turning the party into a funeral too somber for children and a lizard.

When it comes to how to handle our grief, there’s no right way.

There is, however, a call for courage: to admit the mess, allow the loss to transform us, learn our individual lessons, and especially, the courage to love again—not just another person, but life itself.

When we see, feel, and honor our grief, we can grow into more awake and compassionate people.

We become intimately aware that some of the people we love will pass on, leaving a missing piece in the picture of our lives.

The death of a loved one can feel like none of the pieces fit and life is a puzzle that can’t be solved.

But, if we’re willing to let the pieces fall and scatter, when we go to pick them up, we may discover a new picture.

When that time comes, we’re not over the loss. We’re transformed and made new in the face of it.

We more clearly see others in the process and allow space for them to find their way.

This Is Us—all of us, dealing with grief the best way we know how. And that’s enough.

 

 

 

How Dedicating Yourself to Writing is Like Owning a Dog.

“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life.”  Liz Gilbert, Big Magic

Writing is like deciding to get a dog.

You spend your time thinking about what kind of dog you should get and imagine your joyous life frolicking with your wonderful companion.

You envision people asking, “Is that your dog?” and saying how beautiful she is, as you’ll say, “Yeah, that’s my dog.”

There’s no question getting a dog will benefit you and open a glorious new chapter in your life.

So, you start telling people, “I’m getting a dog,” like one might say, “I’m going to be a writer.”

People will encourage you; it’s so exciting. “Oh, my gosh! A puppy!”

You take on the identity of a dog owner (writer) before you even have a dog or pick up one tootsie roll poop (receive one rejection letter).

First, you commit to a breed (genre). Then, you invest in the proper kennel and leash and find the perfect place for this dog to sleep (ha!).

You read about how to care for this animal you imagine you’ll master.

Of course, you search the internet, find out which dogs are the most popular and how they’re best trained (what sells).

You might read expert advice, like The Dog Whisperer (The Artist’s Way).

Determining to become a writer is like deciding to own a dog in that it starts in your head, like all fantasies.

However, real writing is more like owning an actual animal who wakes you up at 5 a.m. with a lick you find embarrassingly delicious and coaxes you out of bed ready for play.

Becoming a writer is also similar to owning the dog who refuses to fetch a ball, jumps on company, and eats your $250 Maui Jim sunglasses.

That dog is work. That dog tries your patience. You’ll wonder if that dog might be better off belonging to someone else.

Plus, there’s so much poop to be picked up (revisions to be made)!

Writing is the dog that demands attention and time devoted in the present moment when you might prefer to be eating potato chips and reading about the preposterous President.

Writing, real writing is like owning the dog who runs away, but makes you gasp with glee, relief and the giddiness of a young girl when she returns.

The neighbors will ask, “Is that your dog” (running wild in the street)? “Yeah,” you’ll say, “She’s mine.”

Leaning in with Her, The American Warrior Woman.

Leaning in with Her, The American Warrior Woman.

“I want to express gratitude to all the millions of women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed, bills to pay, and dreams to pursue.” ~ Oprah Winfrey, Golden Globes Speech

Generations of American warrior women
Standing up for what’s right
Against tyranny and bullies
At the risk of…everything.

Things could go real bad real soon.
Or, we the people, could consent
To some sort of reset,
Like a ship off course.

Like adults.
Like Americans.
Like now.

How We Can Create a Respect Movement.

Will you meet me on The Respect, Compassion and Action Bridge in 2018?

“It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes. Distinctions in society will always exist…but when the law undertakes to add to these natural and just advantages artificial distinctions… exclusive privileges to make the rich richer and the more potent more powerful, the humble members of society have a right to complain of the injustices of their Government. There are no necessary evils in government. Its evil exists only in its abuses.’ ~ President Andrew Jackson

Hello 2018,

We greet you with raw and ready hearts. 2017 challenged us.

For me, not like 2016 when my beloved died. That year almost broke me.

Still, I limped through most of 2017. Is it true for the collective? Are we all in this together?

What’s worse than being knocked down or crawling through the struggle is starting to believe stagnation, or even backsliding is normal.

When we get smacked down with too many triggers or linger too long in a season that’s meant to be temporary, grief becomes us.

Bombarded with too much danger, too much rhetoric, too much power wielded illegitimately and selfishly at the expense of people’s souls, too much fake patriotism, fake Christianity, and fake politicians leading us, we crave a break from what’s happening in our country and the world.

Sh*t! We almost want to watch fake reality shows!

This is us. This is our country, The United States of America. Acting divided.

Our 2017 experience included Mother Nature sweeping with her hurricane broom. She’s cleaning up. And we came together in times like that. Thank God.

Chaos. Catastrophe. Disaster. Scandal. Death. Lies. Corruption. Collusion.

All this made my personal grief feel minor next to the collective mourning over our country’s pandemonium.

But, hello 2018! Welcome to the shift.

Listen, we’re Americans. We’re stubborn. We’re independent. We don’t like to be told to come to the table; we like to be invited. And, we expect there to be food for all when we arrive.

See, we like things running smoothly. We want to believe in our justice and electoral systems. We prefer our Presidents act Presidential.

We want people to be treated with respect, dignity, fair pay, and opportunity to compete for the American dream—so we can focus on our own lives.

Yeah, we’re a little self-centered. We’re used to being entertained.

Things are changing. The 11th hour is upon us. We might be a little out of shape, but we won’t stay out of the big game. Not when it counts.

In 2018, we do not like greedy men manipulating our democracy.

We’re not British, but we Americans have a certain decorum.

It does not include crass and violent actions against women or crazy boys with bad hair banging drums for nuclear war.

In our hang-loose American society, we still care about the least among us.

Education, health care, environment are the seeds we sow for our children and our children’s children. These are the safety nets of civilized society.

Hey, we might be slow to the table, but don’t think just because you didn’t invite us, we won’t show up.

We go when we feel called. Truthfully, we didn’t think our voice was required. We thought we had systems in place. Geez, gosh! We never thought it would get this bad.

But, now you arrive and enliven us, 2018. Now, we hear the call.

To save our democracy, decency, decorum, respect and kindness. To restore the dignified character of our country.

Truth and advocacy.

We’re opening our eyes, thinking for ourselves, researching facts, and reaching a boiling point in our individual minds and hearts.

Collectively, we move toward the good. We consider our neighbors. We’re Americans, in the best sense of the word that some have tried to pervert.

There’s a shift, like when you’ve been dating the wrong guy and you’re trying to see the positive, but he keeps doing stupid things and so you’re in the in-between… until he crosses some nonnegotiable line you may not have even known you had.

Suddenly, it’s game on.

You stand up and speak truth. You remember who you are. This isn’t it.

Like when you’re searching for a new job before you’ve told anyone, and one day your lips tell your boss you quit. Scary. This is a time for reckoning.

Like when you start packing before you even know where you’re moving.

Taking in the ridiculous scenarios of 2017 packed our bags and mentally readied us to move. Forward. With the heavy baggage.

Or, for some of us, 2018 may slap us awake like the day I witnessed a teenage girl beating the crap out of another at the park across the street while other kids laughed, cheered, and videoed the fight on their phones.

“Hey, what the hell are you doing? I called the police,” I said, even though my leg shook like Elvis and in my panic I forgot to hit send after 911.

Our democracy is the girl being beaten. What’s going on is wrong. People are applauding. Others hide in our houses and pretend what we clearly see is not as bad as it is.

No more.

In 2018, we speak. We question. We consider. We make noise. We show compassion. We listen to what’s behind the rhetoric. We research.

We bring back a little thing called FACTS.

We avoid violence and name calling. We focus on shared values and ideals.

We find common ground on which to restore and strengthen our communities, society and country.

We’re not fools; we know there’s a lot of faking going on.

Let’s be real. We can create the kind of country that offers fulfillment for all.

Not prideful. Not egotistical. Not my-hands-are-bigger-than-your-hands charades.

What about a Respect Movement? Respect yourself. Respect your neighbors and fellow citizens. Fellow humans. You know, God’s children.

Kind of like Jesus did in the Bible, if you believe he was a good example. When the times called for it, like when religion was perverted and money was worshipped, that dude got mad!

Blind belief after the truth has frayed is ignorance waiting to be revealed.

We’re not blind. Now, we speak from our hearts and minds.

Profit isn’t the only bottom line. There’s a cost to pretense.

This moment in history can be the blip or this can be the blow-up. We’ve got to show up.

Let’s peak behind the curtain and see what’s behind the political reality show because we might just marry one of these fellows.

Do we respect these folks? Do we believe their words? Very few. Regardless, we, the people still regard the United States of America and our ideals.

Here’s a few words from THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE:

That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the Consent of the Governed, that when any form of Government becomes destructive to these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.

Those framers gave us the manual: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—not Power, Greed and Inequality.

This isn’t the beginning of our country and this isn’t Selma, but these growing pains call for courage.

I haven’t been as brave and actionable as I liked to believe I would’ve been if old enough during the intense 1960s.

See, my generation has enjoyed the good fortune of not having to be involved. We’ve been riding on the work of generations before us.

This isn’t about politics. It’s about civics. Doing our civic duties. Yep, all of us. We’re a family and we all have chores.

Let’s not let our American house and family go down in shambles.

Let’s not be the naïve child who believes her parents will never divorce, although she’s witnessed her family’s splintering all along.

We insist our children get an education. It’s not just to get a good paying job, is it? What have we learned? What were the lessons?

Civil rights. Vietnam. Suffragettes. Authoritarianism. Journalism. Voting Rights. Environmental Protections. Dictators. Authoritarian regimes. Rhetoric.

Gosh, what about the bomb on Nagasaki that was a baby compared to the ones we’ve created now?

Oh, please. The time is late, but it’s ours. It seems big, overwhelming. I know.

Let’s start small.

Let’s start with respect, the kind of self-respect that calls us to step up.

Respect is a bridge we can walk toward tomorrow.

Let’s do this.

 

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.