¿a dónde vas, chicana?

Screenshot 2017-07-27 21.47.42

This image by Chicana artist, Yolanda Lopez, took my breath away the first time I saw it a few years ago.  That it is part of the Getting Through College” series makes it even more significant for me.

I was not a runner in high school or college.  It wasn’t until the middle of graduate school that I discovered that I enjoyed running.  By myself, outside, without music.  It’s a small way to be present in the world and in your body.  It is also a place for me to sort through my thoughts. To me, running can be a kind of meditation.

I began running in earnest while I was living in South Texas, conducting field work for my dissertation.  In the winter, I ran through “northerners,” winds that swept cold weather through town.  In the summer, I had to leave the house early to not have a run suffocated by humidity.

My easiest and most pleasurable runs were in Santa Barbara, when I was on a fellowship to write my dissertation.  There, I lived just a ten minute walk from the beach.  I ran almost every morning along the trail to the beach and then on the sand.  I learned about how the ocean changes colors with the sky, about low and high tide.  One afternoon, I almost got swept up in the high tide as waves were crashing closer and closer the base of the cliffs.  When I finally made it to the stairwell to go to higher land, some people watching me remarked that they “didn’t think [I] was going to make it!”

I enjoyed running through the tree-lined streets of my neighborhood in Austin during my last two years of graduate school .  It was then that I also began to do some races–a couple of 5Ks and a 10K.  I don’t consider myself to be a competitive runner, but I did discover that I enjoy the conviviality of races, especially “fun runs” and mostly compare my race time to previous race times.

When I moved back to California eleven years ago, I was still running.  The apartment where I lived was at the intersection of two busy streets, so it wasn’t a great place to run.  When we bought our house, one of the benefits was that I was able to run along tree-lined streets again.  I used to run by a beautiful historic-looking elementary school not imagining that in just a few years my own daughter would attend that school.

I stopped running during my first pregnancy.  My limbs felt heavy when I ran, and ultimately my doctor advised against it.  After my daughter was born, I didn’t get back into running with any consistency.  I was nursing, I was exhausted all the time, and I felt like I no longer had the extra time.  After our second daughter was born, that was all exacerbated. I caught a run here and there, but it was not really part of my life any more.

[to be continued]

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walk on the ocean

one of the things that i looked forward to about having kids was being able to share with them all of the things that i love.  very close to the top of that list is the ocean.  so, you might imagine my bitter disappointment when eliana, my oldest daughter, was completely unimpressed the first time we took her as a six month old to pismo beach and santa barbara.

every summer was progressively worse.  she would take one look at where the ocean met the horizon and start to cry and scream.  when she was two and a half, joseph and i took her to San Diego,  doing our best to “talk up” the beach and the ocean.  we’ll build sand castles!  we’ll search for sea shells!  we’ll see sea gulls!  she seemed excited.  i thought that would be our year, but as soon as the ocean was in sight and she could hear the waves crashing on the shore, she started to cry and begged us to leave.  so, of course, we did.

over the past couple of years, she’s been able to be in the sand, but not in the water.  i felt resigned, thinking, it’s ok.  she doesn’t have to like everything that i like.  it seemed like a fine compromise for us to be at the beach while she  kept her distance from the water.

this year she is six years old, and something just shifted in her.  she went with her day camp to an orange county beach a couple of weeks ago, and she enjoyed it.  we went back with joseph’s family last weekend, and to my surprise, she was running toward the ocean (not too deep), jumping and splashing in the ocean spray.  she was smiling and laughing, running ahead of me along the shore.  watching her discover and enjoy the ocean was one of the sweetest moments that i’ve had with her.  it makes me really appreciate the process of growing up.

ely OC


chican@ family camping

I have a friend from college who used to say, “My parents did not come to this country so that I could sleep outside on a dirt floor.”  I don’t know if my parents felt the same way, but we never went camping when I was growing up.

We live in California, and opportunities to be outside abound.  Even my aforementioned college friend has been known to camp near the beautiful coastlines of Northern California, where she lives.  I, however, have never really had the urge to go camping.

My husband, Joseph, on the other hand, is a different story.  Because he was born and raised in the inner city of Dallas, his experiences in the great outdoors have been limited.  Nevertheless, he has–for years–been urging me to try camping.  My argument to him has been that two inexperienced campers with two small children in the wilderness would likely spell disaster.

A couple of years ago we became friends with a lovely couple in the area who have a daughter between the ages of our two daughters. When discussing one of their camping excursions, Joseph expressed that he had always to go camping.  “Come with us!” was their immediate response.

So last fall we decided to piggyback on a trip that they had planned to Leo Carrillo State Park, a beach camping site just north of Malibu.

After a fairly arduous drive through Los Angeles on a Friday afternoon and north past Malibu, we arrived.  Our friends were already there, mixing margaritas.  This might not be half bad, I thought.  It was actually a relief to be outside after so many hours in traffic.

The campsite was more crowded than I anticipated.  The other spaces were filled, and people were already set up, drinking and grilling.  The girls ran off to explore and play, and we set up our tent and bags.  They cooked dinner over a small charcoal grill.  When the sun set we watched the girls’ total delight as they roasted marshmallows over our site’s fire pit.

It was loud at night.  We could hear conversations, laughter, and music from the neighboring sites even after the girls drifted to sleep in their sleeping bags.

The ground beneath our tent was hard, and I found myself waking to shift from side to side several times during the night.  But in those moments, when everyone else was asleep, I could hear the rhythmic roar of the ocean and let that lull me back to my dreams.

This weekend during our third camping excursion with the same family, my six year old told me, “Camping is really about spending time with our friends and our family, right?” I thought about the long hours on the beach, collecting stones and jumping in waves, roasting marshmallows for s’mores at dusk, and hearing the soft snores of my kids at night, and think, yes.  There is also constant grime, dirt, sweat, insects, and little animals ready to scurry away with our food.  There are unexpected rain storms and wrong turns on trails.  There is thirst and there are sun burns and crankiness on behalf of both the adults and children.  Of course, for the adults, it’s a lot more work than a conventional vacation.

While my husband and kids are converts to camping, I tend to like my vacations to feel more … vacationesque.  But I enjoy watching them enjoy the experience.  And I appreciate being forcibly unplugged.  It’s not just about spending time with each other; it’s about fully being present–for better or worse–during those days off the grid.


return to blogotitlán

i started my original blog thirteen (!) years ago.  it was the zeitgeist to blog in the early 2000s.  i was exploring oaxaca for the first time with an old friend from college, and i wanted to chronicle our experiences.  that’s not entirely true.  i used that trip as an excuse, but i had been wanting a space to write for a while.

as a graduate student, i did plenty of writing.  or at least i was supposed to.  at that time, i was writing my dissertation.  the blog gave me a space to be more free with my writing.  i didn’t have to engage with the latest literature or give a sophisticated analysis.  blog posts could be my first thoughts on any given thing, and because i had a few readers, I could hash those thoughts out with other people.

i ended up marrying one of my blog readers six years after i started writing.

why don’t i blog any more?  i have a number of excuses.  i have a full time job in academia now.  a husband.  two kids.  some days i barely have time to think let alone blog.  but also the time of blogs seems to have passed.  i don’t read blogs any more; i read facebook updates.  the brevity of social media posts has replaced thoughtful blog posts–not just for me but for many of us former bloggers.

in any event, this month i’m returning to blogotitlán.  to see what emerges.