processing the process

Remember what I said about writing? About scratching the itch? As it turns out, actual scratching, and not thinking about scratching, makes the itch spread. Like really bad. I’m talking poison ivy, chicken pox, bedbugs, and other gross, graphic medical-related analogies.

I finally finished two concepts that I’ve been mulling over for years. The first was the poem I shared a few weeks back. The second was a short story I’m (persistently) shopping around (in abject terror). I thought finishing those would feel like a relief. It turns out, when I finish one concept, I suddenly think of five more. Which, you know, cool, I’m creative and have lots of ideas, I guess. But I’m having trouble focusing on just one or two. I want to jump back and forth among all of them and really, I kind of have to because I’m afraid I’ll forget my ideas. I find myself wishing I had more time to spend on them because I can only write when I have spare time. And I have a kid, so, “spare time” usually means “when normal adults sleep.” Because I also want to spend all the time with my kid. He is amazing. And I don’t get enough time with him because of the thing I do for 40 hours a week that gives me money. And THAT is another story to be told at another time.

I’m trying to figure out how to be organized about this. I know HOW to be organized, obviously, but it’s always been for other people’s projects and other people’s deadlines. I need to learn how to be organized and prioritize for myself for once. I’ll let you know if I figure it out. And I need to stop thinking about this because I’m actually getting physically itchy.

imposter syndrome redux

I just submitted a short story for publication

I feel like I’m going to throw up.

There is NO WAY they’re going to pick it. I’m not being modest or overly self-deprecating. I don’t write in the style that they’ve been printing lately. It’s not edgy enough or weird enough. It’s fine. I like my story. And this is just practice for submitting. I’ve never done it before. They have a regular submission window each week so I don’t have to wait several months. Once they reject it, I’ve got a couple of other options lined up.

I really hope they don’t laugh at me.

I seriously feel like I’ve made a colossal mistake.

Can someone bring me a damn cupcake?

I’m not good at romance

Roses are red,
wait, not all roses are red.
Some are pink and yellow.
I’ve even seen orange ones.
Let’s try again.

Some roses are red,
violets are blue,
Ok, are they blue or purple?
Sometimes things I see as blue,
other people see as purple.

Some roses are red,
violets are sort of bluish-purple,
sugar is sweet,
but no one eats straight sugar.
Also, too much can be bad for you.
Have you seen that Katie Couric documentary?

Some roses are red,
violets are plausibly blue,
sugar is best enjoyed in moderation,
and so are you?
I mean, you can be kind of annoying.
Like right now.
Stop that and pay attention.

Some roses are red,
violets are violet,
pay attention to your sugar intake,
and I love you.
Every day.
Not all day every day.
But yeah,
Every day.


scene: a practitioner and her apprentice

Writer’s Note: Get used to seeing this kind of thing. I desperately want to see if I can write speculative fiction and so I’ll try out a few concepts here. Today’s Daily Prompt was just too good to pass up.

There were two sets of hands resting on the wooden table. One pair was folded, right over left. Delicate nets of blue and green veins, more prominent than they once were, pulsed gently under the skin. The other pair forced the palms flat on the table’s surface, trying to convey control but a twitching finger betrayed some dread. The girl belonging to those hands kept her gaze just above them, hardly daring to look up.

“I’m not sorry I did it,” she said. Her voice was quiet but firm.

“You put yourself at risk. You put your family at risk. But I can’t say I would have done much differently at your age, particularly with a boy like that at stake.” The girl’s fingers curled in on themselves. The woman allowed a corner of her mouth to smile slightly. “There is to be a wedding, then?”

The girl looked up. “Yes. Before the end of the season. But we can all move into the palace right away. There is a lot of talk about preparations and how much time it will take, but I know you and I can make quick work of all that.”

The woman tightened her grip on her own left hand. “My dear one, my daughters and I cannot go with you.”

The girl waved them away. “Oh, of course you can. He knows what we can do. Well, what you and I can do. I don’t think my sisters will ever learn now, do you? I don’t think so and neither does he. You see, I told him everything. He knows everything and he doesn’t care. He-”

“That may be true. But it’s one thing for a young prince in love to blindly trust the object of his affections. It’s quite another for a king to accept that kind of power. Does he know?”

“He knows there was magic involved that night, but-”

“Does he know it was you?”

The girl’s hands fell to her sides. “No.”

“He must never know.”

“It was a dress and some shoes. It was a party trick. What concern could he have?”

“That what started as a party trick would turn into a coup.”

“A coup? He would fear me? Us? That’s madness! We would never do something like that. I don’t want that kind of power. I never have.”

The woman leaned forward slightly. “Oh, no? You have never considered what you could achieve with your gifts?”

The girl sat up straight. “No. Never.”

They sat in silence a moment, the girl’s words hanging in the air. The woman fixed her eyes on the girl. “He will be hard to convince. It would be best not to give him the opportunity to wonder.”

“So what would you have me do? Lie?”


“And say what? A witch enchanted me? Or a fairy broke the veil just to bring me new clothes?”

“Say whatever you think he will believe so long as he does not suspect you. Better to let him think you were a victim or innocent bystander than a woman who can wield magic.”

The girl pushed back from the table. “You always told me magic was a gift. That I should be proud. Now you tell me I must hide it?”

“From those that would fear you or cause you harm, yes.”

The girl crossed her arms. “So this is the end? I’m never to use magic again? You would leave me with no teacher? No guidance?”

The woman sat silently for a time then stood. “For our safety – yours, mine, and my daughters’ – you must leave me behind. I hope you continue to practice in some small way. But you must be discreet.” She walked over to the girl and took her hands. “I feel as though I have doomed you to a life of compromise. If you stay here, I can teach you. Your talents could improve some but your heart would be miserable. You would never know more than this small patch of land. If you leave, and you know that you must, your heart will sing but you must hide a part of yourself. This world does not understand magic. They may see the beauty in it as long as it remains a novelty. Once it ceases to be amusing, they will fear you and then they will want to destroy you.”

The girl looked at the floor. “I can’t bear this alone. There is still so much to learn. I need you.” She looked up. “Think of what good what might do together.”

The woman tilted her head. “Ah, and you say you never wanted power? Be honest with yourself, dear one. Of course you want greatness. I only wish this world would allow it.” She squeezed the girl’s hands. “My days of teaching are at an end. It’s time to focus on my young daughters and build up their strengths. Yes, their strengths. They are different than ours but they have strengths nonetheless. And I will care for your father’s estate and all who work here. That’s enough goodness for me to do, I should think.” She kissed the girl’s fingers. “Goodbye, my dear one.”

“Goodbye, Stepmother.”


via Daily Prompt: Conjure



phoenix sky

Phoenix is at its best in the morning. Take a moment before the day begins, before the anxieties kick in, before your to-do list begs the first check mark. Take your eyes and ears off your phone and look up. The city is tented by a brilliant, stretching sheet of color and light. Let your gaze scan slowly from east to west. Start with the pinks standing guard from the peaks of the Superstition Mountains. Watch how they waft into orange and yellow tufts, gently pulling the sun higher and higher. If you’re lucky, you might see a streak of purple bordering the massive scope of blue. That blue, that prevailing blue, which dominates the rest of the expanse westward over the city, over the highways, to the Colorado River, to the Imperial Sand Dunes, to the Pacific Ocean. Relax your focus and your vision will start buzzing from the sheer intensity of uninterrupted iridescence.

The desert sky is studded on all sides by mountains at its edges. Splinters from skyscrapers are few and far between. It’s just so OPEN. How many other cities get to have this? How many allow for the Earth to have her space? High above our personal responsibilities, our collective frenzy, hangs the boundless ceiling of our planet which gives shelter to every living thing. It’s a real, ever constant connection to the rest of this world which we know is there but may never see. Quiet but commanding, it tells you that while you are small and your day might seem daunting, you are not alone. And to remind yourself of that, at least here in Phoenix, all you have to do is look up.

Damn. This is why I live here.


via Daily Prompt: Profuse


sometimes I write poems

The Lake

The lake appeared and he would not see it,
though water was there where none had been before.
It spouted from the pavement and the dirt,
rising with a quiet, steady threat.
The neighbors built dams to keep their walkways dry.
My father criticized their new decor
and made a point to keep our doorway clear.

The lake appeared and closed in on the house.
The surface of the water began to swirl,
drowning plants that never wanted to swim.
The neighbors traded in their cars for boats.
They waved at him but he just turned away.
All at once our home became an island.
My father swore it was only a mirage.

The lake appeared and burst through the front door.
It ruined things that once seemed matter:
photos, books, computers, and coffee pots.
I tried to save his favorite pair of shoes.
He would need them if we ever found dry land.
My father threw them back and said with rage
that this wasn’t any of my concern.

The lake appeared and surged through every room.
The water seemed to make the whole place shrink,
stealing the spaces that made it feel like home.
My mother said my sister and I should find
our futures away from this shipwrecked house.
We promised them we would come back to help.
My father asked why then yelled to stay away.

The lake appeared and he cannot see it.
He refused his eyes so long they’ve given up.
The lake consumed our house some years ago,
and now it wants to pull him to its depths.
My mother treads the tides to keep him floating.
My sister and I swim in whenever we can.
His days and nights are marked by rolling waves.
Today my father whispered, “I feel wet.”


You know that sensation when you drink cold coffee thinking it’s hot coffee? Your tongue retracts into your throat and you sputter and almost die a little bit. You know? Oh, no? That doesn’t sound familiar? Seriously? Oh, you’re just perfect, are you? You never mix up hot and cold coffee. You never forget which beverage you’re drinking. Good for you! You’re winning at life! I’ll get you a trophy! I bet you’ve never mistaken a carafe of old coffee at work for fresh coffee and poured some into a mug and pumped some hazelnut creamer into it and then took a drink and yelled because it’s cold, stale, and tastes like burnt carpet lint and then your co-workers come check on you because they think something’s wrong. BET YOU NEVER DID THAT!

I have exceedingly little patience these days. Chalk it up to being a new mother and the lack of sleep and the ill-fitting clothes and the no time to do anything ever. My nerves are frayed. Everything annoys me. All it takes is one little push to set me over the edge. And then I want to rampage. Like, give me Kylo Ren’s lightsaber and I will throw you one epic Dark Side temper tantrum.

But I don’t have a lightsaber. I have a keyboard. So get ready for me to drop a wicked list of things that I hate right now. Oh yeah, a LIST. Ooh, you’re shaking in your boots. Careful now, don’t drip any of that hot coffee on your precious, precious boots.

  • Leftover coffee
  • Weak coffee
  • Too much creamer
  • Not enough creamer
  • Powdered creamer
  • Powdered donuts
  • Not having any donuts
  • Not having any cinnamon rolls
  • Not having any pancakes
  • Not having any sugar
  • Being cold
  • Typing with cold hands
  • Being tired
  • Not having enough energy to type more

via Daily Prompt: Candid

imposter syndrome

There are a number of people that would say that the month of November in the year 2016 rocked them to their core. It rocked our country from our perch of democratic superiority. It rocked the notion that ours is a progressive society, on the brink of achieving racial and gender parity. I, too, was rocked but because of more than just the presidential election (and I cannot overemphasize how rock-worthy that was). I became pregnant with my son in November of 2016. The confluence of these two events rocked and socked me. This is the world into which I am bringing a new human? With this guy as the leader of the free world? And I have to stop drinking? Now?? I had no idea how to be pregnant or be a mother in the most ideal of circumstances. I had no idea what to do about any of this. For some reason, I felt like a fraud.

I think it’s fair to say that most people get hit with imposter syndrome at some point in their lives. Questions like “How did I get here? What am I doing? How long before everyone else figures out that I don’t belong here?” swirl around in your brain and inevitably churn down to your stomach. It feels as fun as it sounds, doesn’t it? I have long struggled with my writing and whether or not it’s good enough for anyone to read. Ok, that’s a lie. I know it’s “good enough.” But there are lots of “good enough” writers. That’s never been what I wanted. I have never wanted to be “good enough” at anything. I want to be the best. I want you to think I have the best words (wink). If it’s not “the best,” I don’t share it. I don’t write for public consumption nearly as much as I want to because coming up with “the best” takes time and energy I don’t think I have. My imposter syndrome tells me “I can’t be the best so I’m not going to this at all.” I struggled to come up with the best words after the presidential election. I so desperately wanted to say SOMETHING. I wanted to say SOMETHING about being hopeful. As the months passed, I wanted to say SOMETHING about being a woman, SOMETHING about refugees, SOMETHING about believing in science, SOMETHING about the importance of public education. Everyone around me was saying lots of somethings: prominent writers, politicians, celebrities, friends on social media. Over time it became painfully obvious that none of it was making a difference. So many things which I hold dear in this country got a turn at the top of the President’s agenda and then got beat down, like a progressive Ferris wheel of doom. It wouldn’t stop. All of the somethings being written by others just became echoes of angry voices agreeing with each other. I felt like my voice wouldn’t add “the best” of anything. So I contributed nothing.

In the midst of a country gone mad, I was growing new life. There were times I was overwhelmed with that beauty and its power. Most of the time my feet hurt. Thanks to my pathological need to be “the best,” I dove into the books, the classes, and the mommy blogs. I had to know what the others were doing so I could do it as well if not better. The imposter syndrome started to manifest here, too. With each new development in my pregnancy, I became mildly terrified. I had to know if this was normal. I had to know if others got nasal congestion, racing heartbeat, acne, migraine headaches, hip pain, knee pain, swollen ankles, swollen fingers or nausea from prenatal vitamins. I Googled absolutely every question that popped into my head when it popped into my head. What kind of food should I eat to keep my blood pressure low? Should I sleep on my right side or my left side? How much could the baby really hear (read: should I make my husband stop cursing so much)?  I accidentally ate feta cheese – WAS IT GOING TO GIVE MY BABY LOW SELF-ESTEEM? Oddly enough, none of my questions were unique. While this was a great relief to my worried mind, it was strange to realize how ordinary this extraordinary experience really was. As badly as I wanted to talk about it, I felt silly vocalizing any questions except for a few very close friends and family members. How am I being “the best” if I’m complaining or asking the most basic things? Of course, writing about any of this was absolutely out of the question.

I spent a lot of last year alternating between fear of writing and guilt over not writing. My outlet became reading Twitter. Lots of Twitter. I heard someone on a podcast say that tweeting can feel like writing. It turns out that reading tweets also scratches the same itch. I fell into a cycle of feeling guilty about not writing, reading Twitter, and then feeling better. Guilt, Twitter, better: repeat as needed. I thought this was working…until I impulsively signed up for a writing workshop. My wonderful English teacher from my senior year of high school recently published a book. I was so thrilled for her and I wanted to support her so I registered up for her workshop at Changing Hands Bookstore. I truly was not signing up as a writer – I was signing up as a former student. I’ve always been a good student. The writing thing had been dormant for months. Remember, I had Twitter. Still, I brought a pen and my favorite Moleskine notebook. I waddled my nearly nine months pregnant self into community room at the bookstore. I took a seat very close to the front because, as I said, I’m a good student. The Marvelous Sandi Marinella (I graduated school thirteen years ago and it’s still weird to use her first name), spoke so beautifully about her journey to and through writing her book. She encouraged us to recognize that we all have a story to tell. I loved having the opportunity to be able to sit before her and learn from her yet again. I love being a good student, you guys. Then, she presented the evening’s first writing exercise: brainstorm some excellent metaphors. I hesitated briefly and looked around the room. Everyone else had already pulled out notebooks and tablets. I was sitting up front. And I’m a good student. So I took a breath, took out my Moleskine, and just WROTE. And it was…glorious. I’ve never been the type of writer to have words just pour out of me. It’s more like they spit out in rapid fits and starts. I’ve always liked it that way. I’ve always liked the moment of “OOH, that’s good!” jumping through my steady thought processes. In this kind of setting, there wasn’t time to sit and think and let those moments jump out. I just had to let my fingers go. The “that’s good” moments were smaller – more “ooh” than “OOH” – but there were lots of them, which surprised me considering how rusty I was. It was exciting. Hell, it was fun. Too quickly, Sandi (yup, still weird) was telling us to wrap up the last prompt. I wanted to end on a high note. I had only managed a few lines this time but I liked what I wrote. It was about the night before I found out I was pregnant. It was meaningful. It sounded like me. It was even a little funny. So I squashed the imposter syndrome under the considerable weight of my very swollen foot, and volunteered to read aloud what I had written. These weren’t my best words. These were just the first words I could jot down in a few minutes. I opened my mouth, and before I even really realized what was happening, I was done reading. I sat back, beaming. I could have done a tap dance if I had tap shoes that would have fit my giant feet. Of all the things I went without last year – beer, margaritas, soft cheese, caffeine – I had no idea that writing was the thing that was truly missing.

So, I’m writing again. I’m writing because as frustrating as it is to come up with the best words, not writing anything is actually worse. I’m writing because it feels better than retweeting. I’m writing because it’s an election year and there is work to do. I’m writing so my son will have something special to read. I’m writing because I’m tired of reading stories that I felt like I could have made better. I’m writing because I have settled for being “good enough” and I can’t ignore that anymore. You can call that pride if you want to – I call it being self-aware. At the risk of sounding like a character in a Lifetime movie, I’m not being my best self if I’m not writing.

I do have SOMETHING to say after all. I’ve got something in stacks. Stacks on stacks. You might not like it. It will not always be the best. I will hate that.

But I’m still going to write it.

taco thursday

If I see that stupid picture of Donald Trump and that pile of food he calls a “taco bowl” one more time, I will vomit. And then cry. And then yell. And maybe cry again. I will do something.

I could see the absurdity the first time I saw it on Facebook. I could see why people thought it was funny the next three times it popped on my wall. Then it took over my wall. Then it was on Twitter. Then it was all over Twitter. Then it was on the New York Times. Then CNN. Then the BBC. Then AZCentral. It has ceased to be even slightly amusing. I suppose I shouldn’t blog while angry, but it’s happening.

I’m glad people are making a big deal out of this, because it is a big deal. But I can’t look at it anymore. I can’t stand in mocking solidarity with those who are outraged or find it absurd. It’s hurtful to look it. This is causing me pain.

I’m going to try and do something which may prove to be impossible. I’m going to try and describe what it’s like for me to be discriminated against. Keep in mind, I am speaking purely from my own personal experience as a “mixed race” Latina.

The first and only time I ever had a school playground altercation was when I was in the fourth grade. Some classmates and I were standing around talking about what we “were.” We understood that we were all American, but we were talking about the part that makes us hyphenated. One girl was French and Italian-American. One boy was German-American. I said was Italian-American and Mexican-American. One boy said Mexicans were stupid. I kicked him as hard as I could and told him to take it back. Through his tears, he obliged. The group conversation ended right there. I wish I remembered more of what came next. I think that in itself is pretty telling. No one told on me. I know I didn’t ask them to keep it a secret. Maybe they agreed with me. Maybe it was just one of those kid things.

Modern discrimination usually isn’t that blunt. It’s subtle but deep, which makes it more painful with time. It’s passive-aggressive, which makes you try to talk yourself out of it, like they didn’t mean it or you must have misunderstood. Make no mistake, there is no misunderstanding. I’ve heard stories of people asking my uncle if he was “an illegal” before signing a contract with his flooring company, which he owned, by the way. I listened to my grandfather tell us how he had to convince the bank he was a veteran when he was trying to buy a cabin because they didn’t even believe he was a citizen, despite all the paperwork showing he was born in the United States and lived here all his life. I waited my turn to try on some jewelry with my mom at the silver cart at the mall, only to have the woman working there slam the case shut when we were next and tell us not to touch anything. I’ve sat with my hands gripped to a theater seat as a white actor in brown make-up played the part of Ritchie Valens in a musical, affecting an exaggerating Latin accent and shimmying across the stage. Any 90’s Latino kid knows Valens was born in California and didn’t speak a word of Spanish. The mostly white audience gave him a standing ovation, in case you were wondering. I’ve listened to my mom tell me about how her polling place couldn’t find her name this year, despite having gone to the same place for over a decade now. I’ve seen the scars on my family members who were physically attacked. I’ve missed family members while they were in jail.

Modern discrimination starts out feeling like righteous indignation. I have that first flush of “how dare you,” which is probably what made me kick that kid when I was nine. Then it sort of burns into embarrassment. See, this kind of stuff usually happens in a public setting. Even though I did nothing wrong, I know other people are watching. The situation is out of my control. I don’t want it to escalate. So my mom and I back away from the silver jewelry display case and timidly point at the ring I like. But now, by ignoring the moment and continuing to engage in the situation, I’ve allowed it to happen. I made it seem okay. Then comes the shame. I feel trapped. I want to take the moral high ground but what am I going to do? Storm out of a live theater performance? So I sit. And I stew. That’s when I have time to think.

I remember every other time I’ve felt like this. Anger, embarrassment, shame, and for what? What did I do? I was born with brown skin. My family was born with brown skin. That’s why the police tried to shove a stabbing under the radar. That’s why a life was derailed when a public defender pushed the plea deal because didn’t think he could defend against drug charge on someone who looks like that. That brown skin. Our skin. Our blood. I can’t change this fundamental part of me. Why should I want to? Why should I have to? This is ME. This isn’t self-love; this is existence. It’s like air. I didn’t put it there, but I need it to survive. And THIS is what THEY think of ME:

I’m not to be trusted. People who look like me are not to be trusted. Nope, back up: people who are darker than me are not to be trusted. See, I can “pass.” So I shouldn’t worry, right? I shouldn’t be upset when a certain presumed presidential candidate says people who look like my family are rapists and thieves. I shouldn’t be upset when he calls for a wall to enforce an arbitrary boundary that is less than 200 years old. But I am upset. So what’s a presumptive presidential nominee to do? Oh, I know! Take a picture with some misshapen mass of food that’s supposed represent my cultural heritage. Hey, everyone, check out this awesome gringo! He loves Hispanics! I’ll just go take this pathetic piece of pandering and sit my Latina ASS DOWN!

I recognize that racism in this country has, to quote Lin-Manuel Miranda, gone from latent to blatant. My experiences are nothing compared to the atrocities committed against others. For one, I’m still alive. I am grateful. I recognize my privilege. I will use it. I will do something. I will speak up. I will advocate. I will vote. I will try so hard not to let my feelings end in shame. I will try so hard not to let this anger evaporate into the void. I will channel it into something helpful. And I will not look at that picture anymore.