14 January 2012

Felíz Cumpleaños, Dad!

My dearest father, from whom I have been given the heart that beats its music for you,

I was out having my morning coffee/smoke and was thinking about you this morning, and I realized with some regret that I have not used what some people call my gift of writing to compose words for you that are so important and long past due in needing to be said.

In the past, I have used my writing ability to vent, air frustrations, blast, surprise, hurt, and wound people, including you. But for all of my life and all of the little cards and things I've made for father's days or birthdays, I realized I have never tried to compose something that would be of value to me in passing on to you.

Now that I have grown older and I can no longer see the value of using my ability to air gripes, as well as cringing fiercely at my past for having done so, I'd rather tell you what you mean to me, what your presence in my life has done for me, how your passion and culture and influence on me has built my very identity, and how very much I appreciate it. It is the very essence of me--you.

No doubt you have wondered, in the days thus far in your own life, how someone you took in your arms and raised as your only daughter could surprise you in such monumental ways. Both in negative ways and positive ways. I feel like I have been responsible for a great deal more of the negative than the positive, but this time and for future times, I hope this to be a positive thing, because I am tired of being negative. As to the ways that have been negative, all I can say for myself is that I feel much sorrow over being a dumbass.

Fortunately for me, you were right about the stages I would come to in my life: the teens being that awkward and angsty life stage where there is a general contempt for all things ungratifying; the twenties being when you start to realize your parents aren't completely unreasonable but your are still fighting all of your ideals; and now in my newbie 30s being a shift in the tide of change where I can already sense that what I learned in my 20s, I can either throw away or apply it to my life.

I have been looking forward to my 30s and 40s because I heard that's where a person really, truly lives what they've learned. And for me, ever since Kyle was sick, when I was in my twenties, I felt like I had lived twice but suffered the frustration of not being taken seriously and being disrespected no matter what I did or how hard I tried to carry myself with grace and dignity.

But you have always treated me with respect and dignity. And you have taught me things I will never forget and which I pass onto my children. Even though I am unworthy of such love, it is because of your love that I am able to understand just a sliver of the kind of love God must have for each one of us. I am able to love my children in the same way. You have taught me how deeply children are to be loved because it emminated from you and underlined everything; so now it is the foundation that underlines my girls' lives.

I know that the boys have taken more opportunities than I have to tell you I love you and solidify the bond between each of you, and I know we have taken moments to do the same, but I don't think that, for the entirety of my adult life, I have taken the time to tell you just like this, in this way, in these words, in MY way what you are to me and what you mean to me.

You are my father, my reason for being alive. Without you, I would not be here. Without your presence in my life, I would not be who I am. I would not be made up of every good thing you have taught me and that I have learned.

It's true that any prick can have a baby, but it takes a real man to be a daddy. You are that daddy. So many people I know whose fathers were absent in their lives. They have to struggle with love, acceptance, even relationship compatibility. They have to struggle with self identity, self worth. If I ever struggled with those things, it was because of decisions I made or from living so damned far away, which created its own insecure monster at the time; not because of you. People with more family around have been more insecure than me because I realized being a Cazares means being a survivor. I was always able to draw strength from my deepest laid roots and remember that as crappy as it was to not have family around, I was able to quit feeling sorry for myself, lift my chin from the mess, and see that you were always there.

I also know that, maybe, as you read this, things I have said in the past will come back to contradict themselves and that, as recently as last year, have slapped you with my words and been wrong. There have been so many times I have wanted to say I'm sorry for, but the times when I have disrespected you are what bring me the most shame. There are specific moments in my life and in yours that I've wanted to speak for. For having been a brat, a red-headed step-child-like temperament, an insecure waffle trying to cover up my insecurities. For blaming my insecurities on you. For forgetting where I came from. For not talking to you more often over the years. For allowing myself to be influenced by everyone and everything all the time when that is NOT what you taught me to do.

I am a survivor.

Because of you.

You are a pillar of strength and resolve; it has taught me how to be strong and have resolve.

When I think of you, I am a stronger person. I forget my weaknesses and insecurities and remember where I came from.

When I think of you, I remember where I came from.

Our family and our blood line has been blessed with these strengths and I cannot forget them; but for you and me, on the eve of the anniversary of the day you were born, I celebrate another survivor being born and recall with profound richness all that you have taught me to be.

I will never forget this.

You are my role model, my hero, my teacher, and the very reason for my existence. You wisdom, your knowledge, your humility is awe-inspiring and I am humbled and excited that I am the one who gets to call you "Dad." I miss you. I wish we were closer. I think we have a reservoir of love between us that remains not fully tapped because of the distance, but I have confidence that it will not dry up. I love, you, Daddy, and I wish you a very happy birthday.

All my love,
Amy Maria

11 January 2012


So this afternoon I'm sitting in waiting room, flipping through a glossy home decor mag. I hear two ladies talking and every few words I also hear, "Sweden.." I glance up. Make eye contact. Smile. Look back down at my mag. Continue flipping.

I don't like waiting rooms. They remind me of all this stuff. But I'm a cool person, so I just read; and again,

"Sweden...." followed by nervous, waiting-room banter laughing and then, "must be the Swedish blood."

I can't help my nosy people self. I glance up again. Make eye contact again. Smile again. Look back down at my mag. Again. I'm bubbling. My heart is pounding. "I'm Norwegian!" I almost exclaim because, you know, Scandinavian is Scandinavian.

And this time, instead of sucking in that hot breath of air that reels just after one heart thump of stage fright to explain that I'm Mexican (also) because I don't look a beat like some hot Latina goddess, I feel a brand new sensation creep across my frontal and occipital lobes. I probably look Norwegian!

But I don't. Exclaim anything, that is. I'm trying to stay tuned in and tuned out simultaneously. It's not all that uncommon to run into every kind of nationality these days. Chances are, if they're not directly emigrated and aren't speaking with an accent, they're probably mutts, too.

I'm way too enthralled anyway. To me, it seems like I could have an "in" if I take advantage of the eye contact, engage in an understanding laughter, as though I have used my non-existing Swedish heritage (actually I have SOME) to define some common behavior that simply "must" be culturally exclusive to the Swedes.

It works! The nice, pretty ladies are laughing, looking my way, and they non-verbally invite me into this world of instant empathy with even brighter smiles and relieved laughing. I smile back. It really worked!

I still have it, oh yeah.

I actually stop reading (or looking at duh purty pitchers, okay?!) and slide my hand on top of the magazine, right over the page, and engage right back.

Laughing with them, as if I completely understood, I raised a finger, as though I were saying "aye" to a motion and in by best sympathetic chuckle said,

"Norwegian here!"

It was total dork move, but did you realize it was the first time in my life that I actually associated myself with my Norwegian roots in a public conversation (or conversation-type exchange) with strangers?

I was very proud of me.

09 January 2012

The First Day of my New Life, the first time.

(...previous.) (Written ten years ago:) It was my first year at a Catholic university and I was young, alone and overloaded with class credits. I battled all-day morning sickness, worried about off-campus housing, living expenses, non-existing employment and got buried under school work.

After the initial shock of learning I was pregnant wore off and the heartache it caused my family subsided, I gave birth to a little baby girl at the end of that year, whom I cradled in my arms and named Aurora. I accepted motherhood and pressed on, signing up for and attending classes for two and a half years. I worked part time at a local fast food joint and tried in vain to make ends meet and pass classes while trying to fit in time for practicing my bassoon and being a mom.

Moving into the first apartment I ever lived in involved caravanning with my mom and her car and me with my loaded, rusted blue 1977 Ford at half past five in the morning and seven months pregnant.

It was not a vehicle I cared to have, but I didn’t have much say in the matter and was sternly told that it was not beneath my station in life to drive it. I had to take what I could get because I didn’t have the money to complain and my dad had scrambled to doctor it up for me just the previous day.

Before there was even light in the sky, we were already on the side of the long highway, frantically discussing how bad I was speeding because the speedometer had been reading 10 to 20 miles per hour lower than what I was really going.

I tried to adjust to one comfortable speed so that the vinyl recliner and flimsy TV stand wouldn’t fall or fly out of the box, but I was unable to get a feeling for speed in the dark; and the tarp which was barely covering the furniture whipped sharply in the wind, so we had reason to regroup.

It was scary as hell. Mom was as equally terrified watching the contents in the back of my truck wobble, so she took the lead and I was able to calibrate my speed somewhat by following her Grand Marquis.

We were able to complete the 400-some-mile trip and start unloading by two-thirty in the afternoon. Setting up the apartment itself was not without scuffle. The couch that went with a hideous, 70’s era set of furniture we bought and scrounged up that day had to be shoved through the door, nearly busting the door frame, this worried mother and I working together with my six-month belly in between us; and the pizza guy was two hours late with what became our free supper.

We cleaned up beer bottles left by the previous tenants (who were evicted because of such related activities), mopped the floors and tackled the bathroom. Meanwhile, and not to our surprise, the oven was immaculate.

At close to two in the morning, we finally crashed on the only bed in the apartment only to lay there wide awake with late-night fears of the uncertain – my mom worried about her pregnant daughter and questionable means of transportation while I worried how I would fare completely and totally on my own without a job to speak of and no money in any other account.

So we sat up in the dark, grabbed a deck of cards and played a few rounds of 15 In a Pile until we were too exhausted to think about it anymore. An hour or so after dozing off and much to our horror, the phone rang. Though it had been plugged into both the electrical and line socket, the service wasn’t set up to work until well after the next day.

We debated momentarily whether to answer the phone or leave it, but the incessant, unending ringing made us pick up to silence on the line. The perfectly harrowing end to a perfectly harrowing day.

08 January 2012

The Reason For The 22 In My Blog Name

That was the age that I came back from much of time period I described in the posts labeled "cancer" and "auntie m". It was the age I had, for probably the first time in my adult life, the time and the resources to start unclogging the master grand hairball of toilet bowl-exploding confusion that was my life up to that point.

It was not lost on me that it sounded kind of like 'catch-22', although a majority of the mess had far less to do with a 'you're-damned-if-you-do/damned-if-you-don't' cliche than it had to do with feeling freaking incredulous realization that I had just been through hell and was still reeling from it; and then was trying to take the encouragement I was given to write, tell my story, and ran with it, like any dork would, to the awkwardly forced humor side of it.

Anyway, it was just the age that I was when we all moved back to the town where the girls' dad had gotten his first job teaching and been diagnosed with the third episode of tumors. We had left, lived through hell, and come back. 

It was pretty amazing that he was able to go back to work so quickly with having experienced all his side of these episodes, but as he went back to work, one little step at a time, I sat down to my computer and started to write. I started to write my story.

It has evolved into a hundred other things since then. Rants, introspection, memories not even related to the heavy parts. But after reading my auntie's post about her first child (my auntie, not the auntie m,) it inspired me to go back to my own. Especially since she is such a good writer and so interesting. I love her take on things.

So I went back into my old drafts, dug up a first chapter, and did some editing on the cutting floor.


My first of year life out on my own started at a Catholic university. Being a music major, I was instantly overloaded with class credits. 

It was new. It was scary. I was out of my league on just about every issue imaginable, but especially the music level. Everyone around me had already had tons of experience in their instrument. I felt like a little hick kid out of Cow Town, wondering if I'd ever be good enough. 

I didn't go there on scholarships, save for the one I got from the Knights of Columbus that didn't even pay for all the books I needed and the Burger King one that never, to this day, got paid out to me or the school. I was set up completely on loans that my mother had to help me get.

I hated practicing and saw practice rooms filled up all the time with people slouched over pianos and music stands. I knew I was going to have to work a lot harder to get better, rather than being a natural, and I hated that, too. If it didn't come easy to me, I didn't want it. I felt I should have been AWESOME without any effort.

And after seeing these people, I realized I was only so-so at my craft. Pulling an aria out of my ass, like I did in high school, wasn't going to work for me here.

What was worse was learning that flute and piano players came a dime a dozen. They have always come a dime a dozen. That's why certain instrument families are highly competitive. That's why I gladly switched to bassoon. Anything to get me out of there.

Plus, I was surrounded by kids who were on scholarships. I didn't even have the expressed desire of the college to have me there. I was there out of my own free will and accord. There couldn't have been a scarier way to be motivated. Relying on myself? Psh. No way.  And I wasn't even realizing this feeling beyond the dread factor of it. All these kids around me who were being paid to be busy bees over their instruments.

I would have my work cut out for me.

Besides feeling cross and resentful about this new reality, I also knew that a lot of money was riding on me getting through this. So I dove in, trying to look like I knew what I was doing, trying to look like the others. Only I wasn't and I was deathly afraid it showed.

I did swallow the desire to complain. Mostly. I choked down the newness and unfamiliarity of a campus that was largely made of concrete. (No lie, even the walls in the main arts building were gray, lifeless, prison-type concrete.) I tried with a tremendous case of the "I don't want to!s" to be in the practice room as much as I could.

Because that's just what a Cazares does. They jump in feet first without thinking about it, being tough and proactive, and think about the sting of it later. Or the consequences.

But I was also sick during this time. I was bizarrely, uncharacteristically nauseated day in and day out. 

And I couldn't explain it. 

I went to class feeling gross and sick. I sat in theology as the nun went on and on about her syllabus. I tried to follow my Spanish literature professor during night class.

That's if I made it to class.

I was late to morning music theory that year more than I was on time, because even if I could make it breakfast without heaving, I was often rushing to the washroom after breakfast. I actually even quit wearing makeup because it would all wash off as I cried, bent over the toilet, wondering what in the sam hell was wrong with me.

Did you hear that? Me! The Makeup Queen! The girl would not even so much as leave her house without it. Not wearing makeup. That's how bad it was.

I was never a sickly child. I think the worst thing I suffered in childhood besides a broken arm and a few sprained ankles was the chicken pox.

I was beginning to think there was seriously something wrong with me. I could not, no matter how I tried, surpress the overwhelming feeling that something was terribly wrong.

I had actually started getting sick in Paris, France, where a whole group of us traveled, as a state diocese (about 200 individuals) all over the fabulous city on a tour of World Youth Day in 1997.

I thought it was culture shock. Food poisoning. Something. Anything. Maybe the french food was not sitting well in my stomach, the clove cigarettes, the smashed-down wilted grass, the collective scents of just about every nationality of people in the world. Smells set me off and even apples I bought to try and sooth myself didn't set right with me. Smells and flavors filled my nose like a pungent spear.

I called my barely-boyfriend back home, crying. Everything was so strange. Maybe it was because I was missing out on some of the more cultural parts of the city due to being on a church trip. Maybe I was just one of those wusses who couldn't travel to foreign countries after all. Maybe it was just the churning in my stomach that just wouldn't go away, no matter how I tried to make myself comfortable. Maybe I was just pregnant and I was going to be in a shitload of trouble in very short order.

The lacking bit of interest he showed in my distress didn't help.

Neither did landing on home ground, which I thought it would bring some source of relief, nor the 13-hour bus ride for the last stretch home that had my nausea crashing my insides like a tidal wave. I rode with my bag on my lap, clutching it with a death grip, forehead miserably glued to the seat in front of me. I hate throwing up.

Hate. It.

I was fighting the raging fire in my esophagus so hard that I found myself relenting to having a trash can in my seat so that I would at least be at liberty to. If I could get anything to come out.

Everyone on the bus was aware of my situation.

Finally, at about seven in the morning, the bus reached our church. I saw my parents waiting outside for my brother and me. I was in such distress about my nausea I bolted past them to go throw up in the church bathroom.

Good times.

It was like everything pointed to me being pregnant or something.

Denial is funny, funny, strange thing.

The hell adventure didn't stop there. I was college-bound promptly the next day. I had the whole day I got home to rest, then it was up and re-pack for oh, I don't know, roughly the last hour and day of my childhood I would ever see again.

It was another 400 miles or so of traveling. I didn't even puke until we were at a gas station at the bottom of the hill where the campus was. Yep, I waited a good chunk of time before it came blasting out of me onto the floor in the back seat of my mom's car.

Mom and I said our good-byes outside on the sidewalk, shortly after getting my stuff set up in my room. She looked at me strangely and, without much ado, turned around left. Scared as a little baby in a dark room full of monsters, I screamed at her not to go. I did so without moving my lips.

No play on words intended.

* * *

So, after a round of this horrifying thing that was making my body do all these things and feeling the suspicious eyeballs of my parents, all the stress of the new surroundings, and noticing that it just wasn't going away, wasn't a bug or the flu, I finally relented to calling my mom, who asked me point blank if I was pregnant.

Whoa, wait a minute. I laughed it off nervously. No. Way.

She was so calm about it.

In fact she was so calm, it was eerie.

After I got off the phone, I handed my roommate, who had a job in the city, the last of my care package money and asked to get me a pregnancy test.

Just barely 18 and new on campus, I learned I was pregnant.

Oh, snap!


Resolutions. Yes, I actually have them. For the first time!!

I actually, really, for reals, have resolutions that I fully intend to stick by. Who woulda thunk it!?

What I am most excited about is that I feel they are realistic and that I can follow through with them; which has always been my excuse for never setting a single other one in my whole life. Like, ever.

Seriously. I don't even stay on track with Lent. That's considerably more important than the so-called social bandwagon of New Year's Resolutions.

It's a new year. What can I say. A new year in the new life that is my life now. I'm not exactly the same person I was before. At least I hope I'm not. I hope I took the good stuff, banished the crap from my soul, and took on more good stuff, shoving it deep in my cellular makeup.


I really thought about what was close to my heart. What did I really need/want to improve on? What was imperative that I get right this year, that I've not worked on so much in previous years? (Besides not making resolutions at the top of the year?)

One answer. My girls. More specifically, my family.

1. Play more video games with Celia
2. Be ready to have my hair and makeup played with lots more by Aurora, as well as be her guinea pig for manicures and nails
3. Spend less time on the computer in the evenings
4. Spend more time in private with God; some people call this meditating. Whatever. For me, it's the awesome dude who created us all.

I cannot stress how, at the age of 32, this has become more than just a duty. One has to understand that my entire adult life has known no other way but being a mom. It started out as a personal sacrifice laced with rightful duty--an emotional conviction deep within my core--and blossomed into a choice.

What? A choice? How can that be, right? Obviously it's not like I could (or would ever!) give them up and then, like, re-adopt them or something. It was the difference in the attitude I had toward parenting: surviving parenthood at eighteen versus engaging parenthood full-on.

And then, call it age, necessity, maturity, whatever you want, I really started to feel these waves of needing my family near me that stirred deep within me about a few years ago, when the pain of leaving my mom standing at the train station in Seattle left me surprisingly, gut-wrenchingly wracked.

Who knew I'd ever grow up out of my surprisingly cocky, surprisingly naive, suprisingly angsty 20s to really re-grow an attachment to my parents, my brothers, even now my cousins and aunties! It was like re-attaching an arm that I had ripped off myself.

Needless to say, for all that I whined about in the last 15 years, and even more specifically on this blog, I needed my family the most.

And I LOVE being in my 30s now. I kind of remembered that I was waiting to be here a long time. Yeah, sure, I've complained about feeling my life is half over and wondering what I've done with my life. But frick! I'm changing my mind. Yup. Just like that. Because I have realized the importance of focusing on the positive. I have realized this by being consumed with the negative for far too long. And I don't even know how. I'm going to say: it just happened.

(Gaaa!! I'm really digging this Collective Soul album tonight! Staring Down from their second self-titled album.)

I'm not only just tired of working so hard at trying to get the people who just don't get it to GET it, but I am tired of the effort of it all keeping its grip on me. Tired of people who don't have the time of day for me and even more tired of giving the time of day to people who don't have it for me. Truly fed up with people who don't like me. And I have crap to teach my girls, crap that I learned from all of this.

Like following your heart, for one.

And for two, following your gut.

With having basically ditched town and torched a lot of friendships, I'm pretty much at the top of the heap of detestable things, really, and so my biggest fear of being hated came true and my second biggest fear followed suit: having to take responsibility for my share of things going wrong long before that.

It can't get much more in my face than that! I'm up! I'm up! I smell the coffee, dammit!