"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo



Saturday, February 25, 2017

Redemption

It is 78 degrees outside. On the 23rd of February in Northern Virginia. I run a four-hour anesthesia on a stable, young Great Dane having a laparoscopic procedure. The OR window blinds are closed to allow the surgeons to darken the room so they can see what they are doing on the laparoscopy screen. But the blinding outdoor light fights its way through the cracks into the room. My eyes keep hungrily sliding from the anesthetic monitor and my patient to the slits of warm light on the OR floor under the window.

"Join me," the light says. "Come outside and play."

"You can turn the lights back on Saiph," Dr. T, the head surgeon, says, waking me up from my trance. They are going to close the incision now.

I double check my monitor to make sure my patient is still coasting along before stepping away. I flip the OR lights back on and walk around the room to the window blinds, which I flip open again. The light roars into the OR.

"I want you," I think fiercely at the light, before silently turning back towards my patient.

Two hours later, I have recovered my patient from anesthesia (this involves staying with him until he fully wakes up, is swallowing on his own, is extubated, and is resting comfortably), filled his medications to go home later in the afternoon, updated his treatment sheet and his invoice, and typed up his discharge instructions. There are no more surgeries scheduled for the day and it is only 2:30 pm.

"Who wants to go home early?" my supervisor asks.

It's up for grabs today. It has been slow in the veterinary hospital this week. It is slow everywhere. We all need the hours, but I'm on call...and also 78 degrees in February.

"I'll go," I say. Everyone else sighs in relief.

I round one of our treatment techs on the plan for the Great Dane for later in the day, clock out, grab my stuff and take off. I blast the radio and drive back to Maryland with the windows down, letting the warm air thread through my hair.

Home. I quickly change into a tank top and capri pants, grab ID and a bottle of water with BCAAs (I am absolutely LOVING these; the hype is 100% true) and fly back out the door to hop in my car. I am having one of those days where literally every person I think of, instantly texts me. I'm sort of on a roll today; I'm not sure if I'm invoking them or if I'm feeling them thinking of me across the distance right before they text. (This is Fairly Normal in my world.) Hence why, when I have a moment of trepidation as I sit in the car, I wonder if the fear is warranted or if I'm just being paranoid. I pick up the phone to text Carlos at work to let him know where I'm going, and the phone vibrates in my hand as his text comes through first. Told you. We text back and forth and I let him know. I decide the trepidation is paranoia and zoom off for my favorite park in downtown.

The park is FULL. EVERYONE is out and about taking advantage of the warm weather. I'm still able to find a primo parking spot. I start my SoundCloud playlist that is only reserved for running, and take off.


The first song on my playlist. It's another long-time favorite.
Lady, running down to the riptide
Taken away to the dark side
I want to be your left hand, man

Towards the water, as always.


I love the new boardwalk. Carlos and I watched its construction over the course of the last year and now I get to run on it. My feet are tired from standing for the entire 4-hour anesthesia and my legs are still sore from Leg Day two days ago. But I start out slow and it isn't long before the lactic acid is flushed out of my muscles.

I run past a Central American family taking photos of their children near the boardwalk. I run past a couple sitting on a bench: a woman with purple hair resting her head on the shoulder of her partner, who is wearing a pretty red sundress and sandals, in tune with the warm day. They are laughing as they talk. The sight makes my heart sing.

So many people with babies in strollers. So many people with their dogs. I skirt around them all with a smile.

Missy Elliott's Get Your Freak On plays on my phone.



I run past the clocktower. There are kids playing kickball in the park green, and twenty-somethings in shorts sitting on hammocks strung between the trees around the tower. Their feet are bare, shoes strewn on the grass that is unseasonably green. I grin, remembering my college days back on the island, in the university that is now dying thanks to budget cuts that would force it to close. It is the oldest university on the island, founded in 1903. Its 11 campuses are part of the 58 colleges and universities on our tiny 3,515 square-mile land. (To compare, Nevada is 110,572 square miles and has 26 colleges and universities.)

A tall lanky guy with fuschia hair walks past, his Golden and his Lab trotting along next to him. The Lab looks up at me as I run past.

An elderly Asian man accompanies his grandchildren as they fish from the dam. An interracial couple walk shoulder to shoulder and look at one another in adoration as they talk to one another. Both men burst into laughter.

I approach a street crossing. Incoming cars stop to let me pass. I wave thank you and continue on.

A police officer on a Segway is saying hello to a woman at the little Mexican restaurant in town and she smiles back at him. As I pass the restaurant windows, I realize I'm not jogging anymore, I'm full-on running, and I have been full-on running for the past 5 minutes. I'm surprised at my reflection in the window because I have a huge involuntary grin plastered on my face.

I run past a trio of teenagers, all different shades of chocolate. The two girls turn and grin at me, "Run, run!" they say. I burst out laughing as I fly between them.

I run past the art school and the painted bridge, still flying.

This is painted. All of it: the wrought-iron door AND the stones in the wall.

That bust is painted too. See the mallard duck by the column? Also painted. :)
I hop onto a dried-out fountain and run around its perimeter, past a man with his two fluffy dogs playing in the grass.

Jacob Forever's Sueltame la Mia makes me run even faster.



I run back towards the park, following the creek. I slow down to a walk when my heart rate escalates past 160 bpm. I'm out of breath. Endomondo calls out that I've completed my second mile in 10 minutes flat, which is pretty amazing.

There is one person that has been on my mind on this day, and he is the only one I haven't heard from. He is an old friend who was a mentor in what feels like another lifetime ago. He is a real immigrant that holds dual citizenship, and he used to post with regularity on social media, but I haven't seen anything from him in a while, even when I've actively searched for his posts. He is not the type to communicate first, and on an impulsive whim, I grab my phone and text him, "How are you? I don't know why I was thinking about you today, but I was. I hope all is well with you. *sunshine emoji*" I hit "Send," put my phone back in its sleeve on my arm, and picked up a run again.


A man pedals past me on his bike. I slow down to a jog to watch him go by...and then realize that he has a basket on the back of his bicycle and it contains four Pomeranians! All four dogs are happy as clams, chilling out while their owner takes them for a ride. Literally.

The man with the Pomeranians on the back of his bike.
The grass is greener than ever and I look up to realize the trees really are blooming. In February... I feel the excitement I feel every March with the changing of the seasons. If we move back to a place that is warm 24/7, I will miss seasons so very much. My heart aches with it.


The light dances off of the water of the creek, dazzling, chasing away the nightmares and the darkness, allowing me to live in a present where there is no fear.


I run past my favorite weeping willow and am taken aback: it has green leaves on its branches. In February.


As I run past my tree, I realize that sitting at its feet are an olive-skinned woman wearing a hijab, a white woman with blonde hair, and a third woman and her child, both with chocolate-colored skin. You can see their silhouettes in the photo above. They are surrounding a Bernese Mountain Dog and are all laughing, talking and petting him. I can't tell who he belongs to, only that this group of people are interacting as equals and making friends, over this one dog that is bringing them together. I want to take a picture of them in close-up but it seems weird to take photos of people I don't know personally. Hence why there are photos of none of these moments I see, and thus why I have to write about them. Because I want to remember.

I run past the gazebos in the park where families are hanging out like they would on a weekend summer afternoon, some of them even cooking up some BBQ: Hispanic, African American, white, Muslim, mutts of all kinds, some of them in their own separate little groups but so many of them interacting with one another. It seems cliche but this is what you expect in the suburbs of D.C.: an amalgam of cultures, religions, and languages, all beautiful, all equally accepted, where everyone can see past the physical appearances and simply witness another human being. It's what you want to believe this country is in its entirety, after studying its history. To me, this is the real American dream: a place full of people from all walks of life, from all parts of the world, coexisting happily despite their differences. Our tiny town is a living representation of what we think the world should be, and it is the number one reason why Carlos and I love it so fiercely and why we are so proud of calling ourselves a part of the community.

After everyone hiding for at least half of the winter, it is so good to see all our Frederick residents out and about like it is any other day, and to be reminded that our town remains unchanged. For now, at least.

I finally slow to a walk and use the last quarter mile to the car to cool down. I have completed 3 miles in 35 minutes: not too shabby for my first run in warmth with moderate humidity.

I don't want to go home, but I remember I forgot to have a snack before my run and my blood sugar is dropping rapidly. I need to eat something. But first, I must check on the girls.

I swing by the barn. They are out in their field alone munching on hay from the mangers, the other horses (who are on stall board) already in for the night. I walk into the field to look them over, running my hands over bodies and legs to make sure everything is okay, and both of them snuggle me at the same time. I kiss their fuzzy foreheads, think again that I really do need to take the time to clip Gracie, and rush back to our apartment to EAT FOOD.


I'm still grinning as I defrost tilapia and put it in the oven. I'm cutting up ingredients for a salad when my phone buzzes.

My former mentor texted me back. It makes me unexplainably, giddily happy, and we text back and forth for a bit, talking about normal mundane things like the weather and work and dogs.

I eat dinner alone at home (Carlos won't be out of work until 11:00 pm) and type up this post because I don't want to forget any of it.

Thank you guys for the comments on my previous post. I have cherished every one. 
I love you all. 





Wednesday, February 22, 2017

On Flying, Horses and the State of the Now



I trot Lily halfway down the path and bring her to a halt.

"Are we galloping back home?" she asks excitedly, bouncing around expectantly. She knows I am about to unleash her.

"No, we don't gallop back home," I say to her, swinging her around in the opposite direction. "We're galloping this way."

She waits expectantly, rocking her weight onto her hind legs with no cue from me.

All it takes is one cluck and we surge forward together. This time it is not a dream, it is real, and of course Carlos is there to document it with photos.






Afterwards Lily prances proudly back to the barn.


Why? Because it was fun. We did 5 miles in an hour and a half, with equal parts trotting and meandering while just talking and catching up, with a couple of canters/gallops thrown in.

And so this has been life lately. We have been riding, but not very frequently. There was one long ride at North Tract that I wanted to write about, but time went by and I didn't get around to it.

I think we did 12 miles this day?
There was another ride at Little Bennett that I also meant to write about, but the draft has all of one sentence.



Pretty sure we did 10 miles on this day.
I don't care how long we went. Because we had fun.

There was the Fire in Ice Festival in downtown Frederick that Carlos and I went to with Dom & Mike, Shanna, Jess, and Meggan. Dom wrote about it here, and I'm going to let hers be the only version of the story on the internet. She did a great write-up. Though after seeing the comments on her post, I want to clarify: Frederick is not a big city! It might be 50 miles from DC but it is considered a country town. Locals are called "Frednecks" for a reason. It gets packed all of once a year: for Fire in Ice! The population is all of 68,000 residents for the "city" area, as of this year. By comparison, my family's country-ish hometown of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, has 97,000. Hence why I laugh when people call Frederick a "big city." Oh man, it is not. DC has a population of 560,000. :)

Ice queens. That's Dom in the blue jacket, Jess in the purple argyle hat, Meggan with the fuschia scarf, and yours truly in the dark jacket with the fuzzy hood.
Meggan OWNED that throne! Hers was my favorite photo of this series!

A whiskey toast between Carlos and Shanna from the free tasting being offered at one of the local refinery booths!
People always make assumptions about two girls that always hang out together, so let's just play along with those assumptions because why not.
<3
I TOTALLY photobombed this one with Jess and Meggan.
Too much fun in the bathroom at Starbucks.
Don't ask. Lol
Carlos and I kissing over the Lady & the Tramp ice sculpture later that night.
We were going to go to the Blackwater Swamp Stomp in Virginia the first weekend of March, so I could do the 50 miler with Gracie, but we scratched. With the impending ACA repeal with nothing else to take its place, all of our region's hospitals are cutting back on their staff and on their staff's hours. Carlos was laid off from his full-time job and currently has two part-times with the most unpredictable schedules. One of them keeps sending him home early or telling him he can come in later in the day. He works with other agency and travel nurses that bounce around the different hospitals in the VA/MD/DC area, and it is the same situation everywhere. Veterinary hospitals have been cutting back on hours too. So finances have been tight and stress has been high. Carlos continues to look for a full-time job but we are currently going into month 3 of his search.

We are both US citizens: I was born here on the mainland. (Thank you Dad for being an Army Colonel, which is how we came to be stationed in Oklahoma at the time of my birth. And thank you Juan Torrech for leaving Spain for the New World when Sir Francis Drake commissioned you in the late 1500s to come design and build that bridge in Puerto Rico...My mother's family has lived in the Americas for five centuries.)

Despite Carlos being born in PR, neither him nor I are immigrants. We are as immigrant as Hawaiians moving to the mainland. Which is Not Immigrant, by the way. Now tell that to the average American that assumes all Hispanics share the same traditions with Mexicans. (No, Puerto Ricans don't celebrate Cinco de Mayo...neither do Guatemalans, Argentineans, Brazilians, Colombians, Venezuelans, Cubans, Dominicans...I can go on.) Having been lumped in with Hispanic immigrant groups time and time again, and having had to prove my citizenship before thanks to my last name and an initial work history that took place in Puerto Rico, my fears over racial profiling under the new administration are actually very valid. Because it's already happened in the past, under Dubya, who was nowhere near as...special...as 45. Back we go to pretending we aren't Hispanic, to speaking only English in public.

Do you know what that feels like? Especially when you were born here...It makes me furiously, rabidly angry that last year I finally felt like I could be outwardly as Latina as I wanted to be, and now here we are again, back to hiding it as desperately as possible so as not to stand out. Do you know what it feels like to be hated by an establishment because you are singled out as an "other" because of your cultural heritage, despite being from here?

So right now we are surviving. The gym has taken priority over riding because it's something I can do every day, rain or shine. The transformation continues and that is motivating in and of itself.

Sissy squats with a 45 lb plate
This..."mierda cabrona" as I call it in Spanish...is Jacob's Ladder. It is a piece of torture with whom I have a love/hate relationship. If you can do 4 minutes on this thing, you're doing fantastic, and I really do mean that.
On this day I was aiming for 12 minutes. Carlos gets a huge kick out of watching me struggle at the gym, hence the snarl.  Sidenote: 12 minutes accomplished.

Flipping tires with Carlos during a session with Tony.
Yup, try not to die..
Leg day; working on deadlifts.
In Maryland we have had some weird, unseasonably warm days, followed by more seasonable cold days. There has been so much rain that trail riding has been downright treacherous 3/4 of the time because the clay footing is so slippery. Everything is whacked. The other day I saw a caterpillar at the barn, our seasonal allergies have been acting up, the grass keeps trying to get greener and the horses keep trying to eat it, and as you can see in the top photos, I rode outdoors in a tank top. Then we'll have a random freeze and I'll be back to throwing midweights on the girls and giving them electrolyte mashes because 50-degree drops overnight are a recipe for colic.

The caterpillar.
Dressagey ride on Lily. Yes I have piano hands. Whatever.
From a day that was warm enough to ride both girls. In a tank top.
I love this photo. Bareback ride on Gracie in the barn parking lot. Taken by Carlos, of course.
Bareback ride at sunset before heading out to one of our favorite bars.
Shanna goofing around with Gracie: she was trying to channel the mare's inner diva.  Hence the hand on the hip!
I hadn't laughed this hard in a while. 
Jumping over a fallen log on trail. My position isn't stellar but I don't care. Again: we were having fun.
Also: tank top in February.

I think my leg is commendable in this photo given that I'm in a dressage saddle with giant knee blocks.

Shanna. We had so much fun on this day.


From a snowy ride with Shanna at the end of January.
Ever since Astarte passed away last July, Aengus has taken his role as My #1 Cat very seriously. He assigned this role to himself the day he decided I was his person, not Carlos (he was originally supposed to be Carlos's kitty.) Astarte is irreplaceable, but Aengus is literally something else. He has an incredible knack for knowing when I'm upset. I'll find him sitting next to me, watching me closely. I'll look down at him and he'll chirp, "Are you okay? Can I help you?" "Yes you can. Come here so I can love on you," and he'll jump onto my lap, where he will chirp and purr and rub against my face until I'm giggling.

He is named after the Celtic god of love. He is working hard at living up to his name.

I adore this dork. He is my dork and there is no other like him.
This is how I get woken up in the mornings. With a back massage, face rubs, chirps, and requests for pets.
And then there is the eternally squishy Zombie Cat. Who would have thought that an undead cat would love to be loved this much?

My living plushie
He was quite literally grooming my hair.
There are many days when my emotions flip back and forth between anger and fear, with some moments of brilliant happiness splattered throughout.






The song is Ed Sheeran's "The Shape of You." 
We had a lot of fun rehearsing this one in advance for once.


From a day I was able to run outside in a tank top.
We love this town so much.
We wanted to set roots here so very badly, and now we're slowly ripping those roots back out one by one.
We are so tired of being nomads.
I am grieving. I just want the moments of happiness back for good again. I want to feel welcome and safe again. I want to be able to be us in public without fear of someone going, "Hey, they speak Spanish! They might be illegal aliens!" and hoping that pulling out passports is enough proof of our citizenship.