Monday, October 8, 2018

Indigenous People Day

Indigenous People Day...
Ugh... hard to write about. 
How about calling it 
"Screw Anyone Who Thinks
They Are The Boss Of Me Day!"

It seems that we are living in extraordinary hard times but in reality, we have always had hard times. Just this week in the news, Brett Kavanaugh, Trump's Supreme Court nominee, was facing multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. Unfortunately, he was confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. Everyone is asking "How could this possibly happen?" The same way the majority of us still celebrate Columbus Day on this day, 526 years after he raped, enslaved, murdered and took land from natives when he arrived in the Americas.

The only difference now is that we have social media to spread the information like a wild fire. "The Me Too Movement," seems to have re-opened the wounds of thousands of women who felt they had been violated. MeToo was founded to let survivors of sexual violence know they are not alone on their journey and to find pathways to healing. Yet to me, the issue is much larger than sexual assault. The real issues are more about any sort of transgression or invasion to gain control and/or power, stemming from the perpetrator’s need for dominance. The vast majority of MeToo stories describe occurrences within the family, or a classmate, a boss or someone at a party. Many times with someone the victim knew well. These transgression, most often weren't talked about because telling someone, most likely would create unfavorable consequences due to unhealthy family dynamics that had been set in place. The victim was used to feeling unheard so it was buried deep down inside.

Everyone knows someone who has used their position to seduce, coerce, manipulate or attack to gain or maintain control. They either had what their victim wanted or their victim had what they wanted. And it can go both ways, it isn't always a powerful man victimizing a woman. In some cases it could be someone feeling totally out of control who is trying to feel like they have power.

We have all had this experience to some degree, however, if frequent and/or prolonged adversity occurs, toxic stress is the outcome. I had one extremely damaging experience in my early thirties that profoundly changed the trajectory of my life. It had nothing to do with a sexual assault and everything to do with being a powerless woman in a bad situation with not one person that I could call on to be supportive. There was an enormous amount of shock, shame and disbelief involved, therefore it took me years to even admit to myself what had happened enough to even process it and react. I then became angry for a few years and then after the anger pasted the healing began. I later realized that the anger was really grief.

There were layers of hurt to heal and it took years. Even now it resurfaces from time to time in a very small way, yet I have found the tools to deal with it. In the beginning I felt shameful. Then I went through a period of anger. In the anger I found bravery and courage with the realization that I hadn't done anything to "deserve" what had happened to me. I am now a strong believer that we come into this life with memories in our DNA and it is our job to heal the generational scars, as to not pass it on to the next generation. It's an unusual belief, I know, but it works for me. I took back my power.  I now study my family history and there's plenty to be healed. Hundreds of years of transgressions.

I have VERY mixed emotions about Columbus/Indigenous People Day. I am almost 70% Spanish and 30% Native American, Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic Monarchs are my 12th great-grandparents. In 1478, they established the Spanish Inquisition, joining forces with "The Fajardo Army" of southern Spain to expel Sephardic Jews from Spain. Then in 1492, they financed the voyage of Christopher Columbus that led to the opening of the New World and established Spain as the first global power which dominated Europe and much of the world for more than a century.

My ancestors remained in Spain until the 1500's. The first expedition in 1527, was that of my 1st cousin 8X removed, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca's . Cabeza de Vaca befriended the Native Americans and learned the practices of native medicine men. He personalized his cures by making the sign of the cross and reciting prayers. In 1537 Cabeza de Vaca returned to Spain to publish a journal of his experiences and advised the king that the only way to win the hearts of the Native Americans was to treat them with kindness rather than force. The information Cabeza de Vaca took back to Spain helped to launch the Coronado expedition, then there were many more to follow.

In my 5 years of research, I have gained the most respect for my ancestors like Cabeza de Vaca and my 4th great grandfather, Esteban Padilla. Esteban was born in 1710 in Isleta, New Mexico, the child of Diego Padilla and a nameless Native American servant. Diego Padilla was the patriarch of the most prominent family in the community of Los Padillas. Esteban was a Mestizo or Coyote, meaning he was half Spanish and half Native American. He didn't marry into another wealthy Spanish family, but instead married a woman of his own social class, Jacinta Martina Delgado. Together they climbed the social latter by purchasing parcels of land from Esteban's half brothers and sisters. Esteban and Jacinta became padrinos or witnesses over thirty times in the baptisms and marriages of their family members or fellow parishioners, Spanish, Mestizo and Indian alike. He seemed to be the Barack Obama of his day, fitting into both cultures and uniting them. So my pride doesn't come from being the 12th great-granddaughter to the throne on Spain, I am so very proud that my 4th great-grand-parents overcame adversity and thrived. They are my heroes.

My message? Nothing has changed. There will always be those who want to reign over everyone, on whatever level they feel they can. Then there are those that are leaders, who teach us how to carry our own. Be a leader. Remember that we are one and we are only as strong as our weakest link in a chain of many generation. Memories are carried in that chain called DNA, much like our physical features. We are unconsciously affected by the unfinished business of our ancestors UNTIL we acknowledge the past. In other words, we revisit the events and traumas experienced by our ancestors in our lifetime, until the trauma is faced head-on and healed. It's of upmost importance to hold each other up on this journey, never trying to be in control of one another for any reason. Respect each other.

Friday, September 28, 2018

My Valdez Family of New Mexico from Oviedo, Asturias, Spain

Five years ago, in the early days of my ancestry research, I discovered that the Fajardo family originated in Andalucía, Spain. Simultaneously, I saw my favorite chef and world traveler, Anthony Bourdain, on an episode of "Parts Unknown" in Andalucía. I was moved by this episode more than any other. After watching the episode, more than once, I pondered the word "duende," used by the Spanish Flamenco musicians and dancers. It's said to be the hardest Spanish word to translate to English. Originally El Duende was a magical being akin to elves and leprechauns. Later its meaning translated loosely to spirit, passion, inspiration. You know that spontaneous feeling that arises in creativity, particularly relevant to the arts.The mojo that's born and dies perpetually during the performance of a dance, song or even cooking.

I was listening to Paco de Lucia's album, "El Duende Flamenco de Paco de Lucia" to see if I could gain insight into what the word "duende" meant to Paco, the most famous of Flamenco guitarists. It excited me because it was something I had always felt but didn't have a word for. I've known from a very young age that often words don't translate from Spanish to English, neither do customs and traditions. Most importantly, neither does the passion. There was always a passion that my mother had when she spoke that I didn't see in my friend's parents in Amarillo, Texas when I was growing up. I've been told on more than one occasion by ex-boyfriends that I was too sensitive. They didn't comprehend the fire in my soul and most often, it was scary to them.

In my research I found that Paco was from Algeciras, Andalucia, Spain. In my research, I traced my beginnings back to a castle in Andalucia originally called "Castillo de los Fajardo" now called "Castillo de Velez-Blanco built by Pedro Fajardo.

Much of the information was in Spanish but I felt like I was being guided by a spirit much larger than myself to dig deeper. I stayed up late and woke up early to read about Andalucia, the Fajardo castle, Paco de Lucia and the word "duende." I took a break to get more coffee and rest my brain. I opened the CNN website to read a little morning news and discovered that Paco de Lucia had died of a heart attack that morning. What are the chances that I would be listening to his music and researching the region of Spain where he was born on the morning of his death? I was really blown away by the synchronicity. As I read on, I realized Flamenco originated in Andalucia, as was bull fighting.

Album byPaco de Lucía
"El duende flamenco de Paco de Lucía"

For the past five years I have been overwhelmed and humbled by my family history and the information that seems to just appear out of nowhere. Because of this phenomenon, ancestry research has become somewhat of an obsession. I feel that it's my duty to record my family history. The information seems to fall in my lap from time to time and I don't think it is my chance.

So... fast forward five years... I took a trip to New Mexico this month. The airbnb we stayed in was north of Taos, a couple of miles from Valdez, NM. That was a sign to me that it's time to dig deeper into my Valdez lineage. My maternal grandmother was a Valdez and my mom was extremely proud of her Valdez family heritage. But the stories that I heard as a child only went back to the late 1800's when Billy the kid worked on my great-great uncle's ranches on the banks of the Pecos River in Puerto de Luna. My favorite story about Billy the Kid was that after the ranch work was done in the evenings, Billy taught my 7 year old Great Uncle Hilario Valdez to read and write in English. This tells me that Billy the Kid was not the cold blooded killer that you read about in the western novels, but someone with a kind heart who was a protector of the Hispanic families that had taken him in when he arrived in New Mexico as an orphan. When the cattle rustlers came to steal from his adopted family, he acted as a protector.

My research took me off into a hundred directions and it has taken me almost 5 years piece together the back story on the Valdez family. After my recent trip to New Mexico, took me within a couple of miles from Valdez, New Mexico, I discovered that my 7th great-grandfather, Jose Luis Ruiz de Valdez was the first Valdez to come to New Mexico from Spain. He was born in Oviedo, Asturias, Spain in 1664. I started writing this blog earlier this week and just like clockwork, tonight "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" 2nd episode of his final season was in Asturias, Spain. I was glued to my TV. His co-host is Chef Jose Andres. As it turns out the people of Asturias are sheep herders and musicians. Go figure.

Anthony mentioned that Chef Jose was sued by Trump in 2015 after he canceled plans for a restaurant in Trump’s hotel in Washington DC after Trump’s disparaging remarks about Mexican immigrants. In this episode, Chef Jose Andres was wearing a T-Shirt that says "We Are All Dreamers." 

Thanks Anthony and Jose. ❤️

I don't know why it surprises me but it's somewhat overwhelming to think I am a direct descendant of just about every Spanish settler of New Mexico.

I found a "Taos News" newspaper clipping written by Jerry A Padilla about the original Valdez family on It was attached to Jose Luis Ruiz de Valdez. I downloaded it, read it and was blown away. 

It states that "Among the oldest and most respected families in Springer, NM is the Valdez family. Springer is about 80 east of Taos. It's kind of sad that I never met the Valdez family of Springer or Taos and barely knew the Valdez family of Puerto de Luna. I really wish I had lived in New Mexico way more of my lifetime. There are so many unanswered questions. 

According to the Taos newspaper article, Jose Luis Ruiz de Valdez was the son of Francisco Ruiz de Valdez and Maria de Caso Valdez both born in Asturias, Spain. Jose Luis Ruiz de Valdez was the first Valdez to arrive in New Mexico. He of course had to make the trek across the ocean and through Mexico. He met the woman he would marry in Mexico City, Maria Medina de Cabrera. She was of Spanish decent but had been born in Mexico City. They moved to New Mexico in the colony of 1693, the reconquest after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 with their two children. Jose was 4 and Ana 1 1/2. After arriving in New Mexico, they had 4 more children, Ignacio Luis, Catalina and Juan Lorenzo and Domingo, my 6th great-grandfather.

Unfortunately, Jose Luis Ruiz de Valdez was killed by the Zuni Indians in the Mission church of Zuni while he and two other Spanish soldiers were singing an alabado after Mass, on Sunday, March 4, 1703. Jose was only 39 and his wife, Maria only 30. A sad end for a promising soldier and family.

Of the Valdez girls, Ana married Lazaro Antonio Cordoba in 1710.
Catalina, nicknamed " La Prieta " was murdered by her husband, Miguel Lujan in 1713. Her mother was still living in this year and gave her age as forty. Maria Hernandez de Medina Cabrerra died in Santa Cruz de la Canada in 1731.

I decided to look up the writer, Jerry Padilla, who I figure is more than likely a distant cousin since I have Padilla's on both sides of my family. What I found, unfortunately was Jerry's obituary from 2012. He was born in 1952 and  a long time resident of Taos. Jerry was an avid historian, and was very involved in preserving and teaching the history and culture of Taos and Northern New Mexico, which earned him recognition from the Taos Country Historical Society. He was an artist who painted in acrylics. I think he and I would have become friends had we known each other.

I really appreciate other's research on ancestry because it makes mine easier. I was able to fill in the 7 generations between me and my 7th great-grandfather, Jose Luis Ruiz de Valdez.

I found this life story of my 7th great-grandfather, Jose Luis Ruiz de Valdez on Excerpt from Fray Angelico Chaves' book, "Origins of New Mexico Families, A Genealogy of the Spanish Colonial Period." Revised Edition, 1962 . Page 301.

Jose Luis Ruiz de Valdez a native of Oviedo, Spain, was thirty years old in 1694. Two years later he was a sergeant in Santa Cruz. His wife was Maria Medina de Cabrera, a native of Mexico City, who came with him in the colony of 1693 (The Reconquest) with their two children, Jose who was 4 and Ana, who was 1 1/2. After arriving in New Mexico, they had 4 more children, Ignacio Luis, Catalina, Juan Lorenzo and Domingo. Jose Luis Ruiz de Valdez was killed by the Zuni Indians in the Mission church of Zuni while he and two other Spanish soldiers were singing an alabado after Mass, on Sunday, March 4, 1703. Jose was only 39 and his wife, Maria just 30. A sad end for a promising soldier and family.

Of the Valdez girls, Ana married Lazaro Antonio Cordoba in 1710.
Catalina, nicknamed " La Prieta " was murdered by her husband, Miguel Lujan in 1713. Her mother was still living in this year and gave her age as forty.

Update on this blog July 2023
Genealogy is a fun game of connecting the dots. Jose Luis Ruiz de Valdez was the first Valdez to arrive in New Mexico. He of course had to make the trek across the ocean and through Mexico. He met the woman he would marry in Mexico City, Maria Medina de Cabrera. She was of Spanish decent but had been born in Mexico City. They moved to New Mexico in the colony of 1693, the reconquest after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Sometime before 1847 Buenaventura de Jesus Valdez and Maria Juana Catarina Lovato settled in the Taos area. I am assuming that "Valdez" the unincorporated community located in Taos County, is named for Buenaventura de Jesus Valdez. "Valdez" is located on New Mexico State Road 230, 8.8 miles north of Taos. 

I mentioned in another blog post that on January 19, 1847, the Taos Revolt began. While serving as territorial governor, Charles Bent a violent mob attacked the Bent home. He was assassinated, scalped and his mangled body was dragged through the streets of Taos. The mob called for a full-scale rebellion against the American occupation and by the end of the evening, 15 others had been killed including Kit Carson's brother-in-law (Josefa Jaramillo Carson's brother) Pablo Jaramillo and Lucien Maxwell's brother-in-law (Luz Beaubien's brother) Narcisco Beaubien. Both of them blood relatives of mine. Kit Carson was on a fur trapping trip, Charles Bent's wife Ignacia Jaramillo Bent, her sister Josefa Jaramillo Carson and the children escaped through a hole in the adobe wall. Ignacia and Josefa begged the blood thirsty mob for mercy. Luz Beaubien Maxwell's grandfather, Buenaventura De Jesus Valdez entered the Bent house and intervened, sparing the women’s lives. The attackers left, leaving the family in a state of shock. The ladies went to stayed with Luz Beaubien's grandparents, Maria Juana Catarina Lovato and Buenaventura De Jesus Valdez for three days until they could escaped to Santa Fe with their children. What I didn't know when I found this information is that Buenaventura De Jesus Valdez was my 2nd cousin 6 generations ago. Buenaventura and Maria Juana's son, Antonio Jose and his wife Maria Antonia Quintana lived in Taos until they purchased 100,000 acres from his brother-in-law, Carlos Beaubien. They then moved to Rayado where Antonio Jose Valdez became a prosperous rancher. Some time before 1850 Antonio Jose and his wife Maria Antonia adopted a young Native American boy in Taos and named him Francisco.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Trip to New Mexico

Sunflower at "Palacio de Milagros"

I just returned from a short trip to New Mexico a couple of weeks ago, I always return a changed person. The connection I feel to the land of enchantment and it's culture is indescribable. I went with my long time friend, Brenda. We flew into Albuquerque and rented a car and drove to Taos for Michael Hearne's Big Barn Dance. The Annual Big Barn Dance is held at the Kit Carson Park in Taos is attended largely by friends of mine from Texas. I could have just stayed home, right? No. It's truly an experience to hang out with my friends in the land of enchantment.

Christina and Brenda at Michael Hearne's Big Barn Dance

So the first night we arrived at the Barn Dance just in time to catch Bill Kirchen close out the show. As we were walking up in the parking lot, I was telling Brenda about my friend, Gary Roller, who now lives Taos who is an artist and musician. We walked in the front gate and there he was with his art on display and he played with Michael Martin Murphy a couple of nights later.

Christina and Gary Roller

After the show, we drove to the airbnb where we were staying with a group of friends. It was a large beautiful adobe house north of Taos called "Palacio de Milagros." Waking up to the cool mountain air was just amazing.

Christina and a Sunflower at "Palacio de Milagros"
My bedroom door at "Palacio de Milagros"

"Palacio de Milagros"

Our days were spent listening to our friends play music at the Big Barn Dance and shopping in the downtown plaza of Taos. But always, in the back of my mine, I am thinking that this is where the Spanish Conquistadors that I am a direct descendant of, came to look for gold. This is where they met with the Native Americans. This is where the mix of 65% Spanish and 30% Native American occurred in my bloodline. It's sacred ground to me. 

On the last day of our trip, while looking on a map to go to the Rio Grande Gorge, I saw that Valdez, NM was just a couple of miles up the road. I would  love to wonder around there for a day since my maternal grandma is a Valdez but we had run out of time. On this trip, the big find was the breathe taking Rio Grande Gorge. 

Rio Grande Gorge From The Bridge

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge From The Parking Lot
We parked to walk across the bridge and the most beautiful little Native American woman was sitting up a table to sell her goods. I walked over to take a look. She was selling kachinas made by her husband. I felt like crying when I picked one of them up. It took me back to the time in the mid 80's I used to dream about kachinas and since I grew up in Texas, I had no idea what they were or the significance of a kachina. I had seen a life size kachina in the moonlight, on a nature trail in the middle of Austin, TX one night. It appeared and disappeared just as quickly then I was given a book of original kachina drawings by a Hopi. By this time, I was telling anyone that would listen about them and  Christian and I used to draw kachinas when he was young. Needless to say, I had a connection to them that I couldn't explain.

So Brenda and I walked across the Rio Grande Gorge bridge, in awe, we took photos and came back and bought 2 of the adorable hand made kachinas. One for me and one for Christian.

The One on the Left is the Sun Kachina -
Representing Warmth and Shelter for the Old and a Bright Future, and Playfulness for the Young
I bought the Rose Quartz Buffalo to Add to My Buffalo and Cow Collection
The One on the Right is a Hemis Kachina - Representing Happiness of a Successful Harvest
We got back into our rental car to drive to Santa Fe. Brenda programed "Waze" on her iPhone and we were on our way. Suddenly we both realized we were headed down a dirt road. I'm always a little skeptical of "Waze" taking us the best way since the last time I was in New Mexico we ran out of gas in the dessert... so here I am again. Then immediately we both realized we were headed to the bottom of the Rio Grande Gorge and it was breathe taking. We reached the bottom and there was a herd of bighorn sheep crossing the road and climbing some rocks. We pulled over and I took several photos but all the photos I took with my iPhone had this strange aura around the bighorn sheep.

Bighorn sheep at the bottom of the Rio Grand Gorge
the Bottom of the Rio Grande Gorge

I stood on a small bridge and listened to the Rio Grand water flowing and I felt the spirits of my ancestors lingering in the air. It was magical, emotional and calming and overwhelming all at the same time. I felt like I never wanted to leave. It is almost impossible to wrap my mind around the thought that I am a direct descendant of the Spanish Conquistador Francisco Vazquez de Coronado. He is my 11th great-grandfather. Coronado, was born in Salamanca, Spain in 1510. He led one of the most remarkable European explorations of North America. 

My lineage to Coronado
He was my 11th great-grandfather

The first Europeans to see the Taos valley were conquistadors with the Francisco de Coronado expedition. In 1540, he sent his Captain of Artillery, Hernando de Alvarado with twenty soldiers accompanied by Fray Juan de Padilla from the Zuni Indian Reservation, west of Albuquerque to explore to the northeast. Upon reaching the Rio Grand River, they were visited by twelve representatives of pueblos to the north with friendly greetings, so Alvarado, his soldiers and Fray Juan Padilla traveled up to Taos. The explorers returned with glowing accounts of the beauty of the area, but reported that there was no gold—the primary purpose of the expedition.

In my research I always find unexpected treasures. Father Juan de Padilla is one of them. I am assuming he is related to me because he was born in Andalusia, Spain in 1500 and I have many Padillas in my family tree on both sides of the family that go back to Andalusia.  Father Juan de Padilla was a Spanish Roman Catholic Missionary who spent much of his life exploring North American with Coronado. Padilla was one of the first Europeans to see the Grand Canyon. Coronado wasn't interested in going that direction because he was really only interested in finding gold.

Padilla was killed in Kansas in 1542 by Native Americans, and is considered to be one of the first Christian martyrs in the U.S. Juan de Padilla is associated with a miracle known as the "Rising of the coffin of Padre Padilla." The story of seeing his coffin rise above the ground was repeated for many years, and was believed by many people in Isleta, where the Padilla is believed to be buried. It has since becoming New Mexico folklore.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Saint Cecilia, Patron Saint of Music

I was going to write this blog a year ago, but my writing process was derailed by life. Emotions were running high for everyone in my circle of friends during the month of May last year due to the passing of my friend, Jimmy LaFave. I kept putting it off until I forgot. So today in honor of my mom's birthday I am writing.

Synchronicity is a big part of my life, I feel blessed when it occurs. My friend Jay Curlee snapped a photo of the fresco of Saint Cecilia, painted on the interior of "The Paramount Theater" last year. It was the evening of May 18, during "The Jimmy LaFave Songwriter Rendezvous." It was three days before Jimmy passed away. Saint Cecilia frescos are a part of the decor in many theaters because she is the patron saint of musicians.

Saint Cecilia Fresco
Paramount Theater
Austin, Texas
Saint Cecilia Fresco
Paramount Theater
Austin, Texas

Saint Cecilia Fresco
Paramount Theater
Austin, Texas

I love this fresco and all things Saint Cecilia because my full name is Cecelia Christina Fajardo. I have been told my whole life that I was named after the patron saint of musicians so I have worn that hat very proudly and it has been as much of a joke in my inner circle as it is an honor. I was, in fact, wearing that hat proudly at the Paramount the night the photo of Saint Cecilia was taken. I couldn't see the fresco from where I was seated because I was stage left, as I displayed all of the slide shows I had created for "The Jimmy LaFave Songwriter Rendezvous" from my laptop to the screen behind the band.

My laptop, Stage Left
Paramount Theater

Stage Left
Paramount Theater

Jimmy had requested that a slide show of photos of his life be shown as the audience enter the theater. You can see it on the link below.

As each of his chosen performers played, a slide show of each of them playing with Jimmy through his life long musical career, was shown behind the band on a larger than life backdrop on the stage. I spent hours each day the for the first 3 weeks in May, combing through photos to find the perfect photos for these projects. It was nothing less than a labor of love for Jimmy and all my musician friends who were performing that night. Only someone labeled a patron saint of musicians would take on such a project. It was a blessing and means to help process his passing.

Jaimee Harris Singing "Restless Spirits"
at the Jimmy LaFave Songwriter Rendezvous
with a larger than life photo of them in the background

Jimmy's Songwriter Rendezvous was on Thursday May 18, then on Friday night I went to Lana Nelson's for the annual Taurus birthday party weekend for the May birthday girls. (Mary McWatters, Ellen Rothkrug and me) While we were having dinner, I was wearing my Taurus princess tiara. Ellen was claiming the title of Queen for the night and brought up the fact that I was named after Saint Cecilia and a German princess that lived in Amarillo when I was born. I vaguely remembered being told that I was named after a princess but I mentioned it to a teacher in elementary school and she made fun of me so I never mentioned it again. To anyone. So fast forward half a century and as fate would have it, my mother and Ellen became very close in the last three years of my mother's life, after my father passed away. She and Ellen went on trips together and fortunately, she told Ellen stories I had either forgotten or she had never mentioned to me. My mother talked about her life much more in the final years of her life. I am realizing myself that as I have gotten older, I have time to reminisce and see our lives from a different perspective. In doing so, we become more forgiving of ourselves.

So at dinner on the night of May 19, Ellen started to tell the story about the German princess that lived in Amarillo and Mary said "Oh yeah, I remember that Princess. Her daughter, Kira was my sister Joan's friend." Then our friend from Germany, Ruth Boggs said that wasn't possible. So she googled it and it was all true, but her name was Cecilie, not Cecilia. Not only was it true but there had been a movie made about Princess Cecilie's husband, Clyde Harris, called "Monuments Men" in 2014, starring George Clooney.

Princess Cecilie and Husband Clyde Harris
Princess Cecilie and
Her daughter Kira,
born 7 months before me on Oct 20, 1954

Clyde Harris was a 1939 graduate from Oklahoma State in Stillwater with a degree in Interior Design. Okay... that is interesting.... LaFave grew up in Stillwater. As a Monuments Man, Clyde helped the family of Prince Ludwig von Hesse-Darmstadt recover their family art, stolen by the Nazis during World War II. He then married the German Princess June 21, 1949 at the Castle Burg Hohenzollern in Hechingen. So long story short, I was named after the patron saint of music AND a princess who was married to a man who helped to save art masterpieces that had been stolen by the Nazis during World War II. I feel so very honored.

As I write this blog, I am watching "The Monuments Men" for the first time. It was directed by George Clooney and written and produced by Clooney and Grant Heslov. The film has an all star cast of George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Cat Blanchett. It is based on a true story but the names of the Monuments Men have been changed.

As I am watching the movie, I am not at all surprised that Hitler reminds me so much of Trump. Hitler was a failed art student. As part of his takeover, he wanted all of the western masterpieces stolen for his cultural complex in his hometown of Linz, Austria. In July 1944, Claire Simone, a curator in occupied France, was forced to assist Nazi officer Viktor Stahl in overseeing the theft of art for Hitler. President Roosevelt was persuaded to assemble an army unit nicknamed the "Monuments Men," comprising museum directors, curators, art historians, and an architect, to both guide allied units and search for stolen art to return it to its rightful owners. 

Clyde Harris died in Amarillo of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 39 on March 2, l958. Cecilie died in May l975 in Taunus, Germany, while visiting relatives.

So back to my name. I went by my first name, Cecelia, until junior high school and decided I liked Christina better for many reasons. One of them being that the song "Cecilia" by Simon & Garfunkel was popular in 1970. I was in the 9th grade. Having classmates singing the lyrics to the song in the hallways of Horace Mann Jr High was extremely disheartening.

Making love in the afternoon with Cecilia
Up in my bedroom
I got up to wash my face
When I come back to bed someone's taken my place

Horace Mann Jr High is now called Mann Middle School

The biggest reason I wanted the name change was that my family called me Cecil, as in Cecil B. DeMille. But friends in the Texas Panhandle pronounced it Ceeeeecil. I hated it. With a passion. So when I moved to New Mexico for my junior year of high school, I started a new life using my middle name, Christina. Even to this day, my family hasn't been able to go along with that name change so they call me CiCi. My sister completely changed her name from Josie Ann to Nita in 2nd grade and nobody ever questioned it. Go figure. Oh well, CiCi works for me. 

I posted this photo of my mom today on facebook because it is her birthday. Davy Delgado commented that he sure did miss her. So, the thought of writing about the name she gave to me surfaced again.

Davy and my mom were close. His dad was her favorite cousin, but more importantly, Davy and mom appreciated each others love of writing. She used to send Davy's articles to me from the Santa Rosa News. Today Davy said "Most of her contemporaries frequently wondered how people in the future could be able to relate with other without the art of letter writing."

That's one of those synchronistic signs that the time had come to write an entry on my blog, which for me, has taken the place of letter writing. So this is my birthday present to you Mamma. I am writing! Thank you for passing down the love of writing to me, Christian and Ava. I love you.

Saint Cecilia
Patron Saint of Musicians

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Happy Mother's Day

I dedicate this Mother's Day to my grandma,
Rosita Valdez Padilla

"The past is not a burden
It is a scaffold which brought us to this day.
We are free to be who we are 
To create our own life
Out of our past and out of the present.
We are our ancestors.
When we heal ourselves,
We also heal our ancestors,
Our grandmothers, 
Our grandfathers,
And our children.
When we heal ourselves, 
We heal Mother Earth. 

— Grandmother Rita Pitka Blumenstein

(Yupik), of the 13 International Indigenous Grandmothers Council

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Good Grief

Grief is something that most of us don't like to talk about. It is a natural response to losing someone or something that’s important to us such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a home or job. Chronic illness may cause one to grieve the loss of the life you once had.

Grief brings on a variety of uncomfortable emotions and responses. Everyone's grief is as individual as our fingerprints. For some, grief is so extreme that one can be catapulted into the dark night of the soul and the whole conceptual framework for life, the meaning that the mind had given it, collapses.

Most often, one will receive sympathy and a shoulder to cry on upon the death of a loved one. However, sometimes the response one will receive is judgmental and in that case, instead of sympathy, one is met with stigma which makes the loss even more painful. Either way, someone or something you cared about is gone and it hurts. Your life, as you knew it, has crumbled into a heap all around you.

Last week, I had one of those out of the blue, raw sea of emotion experiences. I met up with my friend Robin and went to the opening night of the Jimmy LaFave photo exhibit at the Stephen L. Clark Gallery on West 6th St. in Austin. Jimmy, who was exactly two months younger than me, passed away of a rare type of cancer May 21, 2017. His passing was a great loss to many, world wide. I felt blessed to be asked to create the slide show that was shown at his last show at the Paramount, three days before he passed away. I spent days combing through hundreds of photos, weeping and laughing simultaneously. Then I reproduced it to announce his passing and again for a Swan Songs presentation. Each time with new songs and new photos and a new layer of grief processed. It was a cathartic, healing process for me.

Robin and I were looking forward to going together for old times sake, she and I used to go dance to Jimmy and the Night Tribe's music in the 90's at LaZona Rosa. We arrived and realized we knew most everyone there. It felt like it was going to be a joyous celebration of Jimmy's life.

Gypsy RV | Tucumcari, New Mexico | 2013
Photo by Jimmy LaFave

In the back of my mind, I was wishing he could have been there to experience his gallery opening, at the same time, I knew he would be there in spirit, happy that his collection of photos was in a gallery for the world to see. My physical body didn't exactly react with happiness. All was well as I stopped and chatted with a few friends on the way into the gallery, then I entered into the gallery and was surrounded by what felt like the visual evidence of an unfinished life of a brilliant soul. I suddenly became weak and dizzy. Granted, just the day before, I had an appointment with my cardiologist and was wearing a heart monitor patch because I had been experiencing atrial fibrillation. This was different. I was experiencing a dizziness that I had never felt before accompanied by inexplicable emotion that was swirling in every direction. I found a chair and sat down. I was dizzy from the time I walked in the building until I got to my car to leave. Fortunately I was with my friend Robin, who drove me to Rene and Danny's where I spent the night. I was back to normal as soon as I arrived there.

So let me back up a bit, Jimmy had been a fixture of the Austin music scene since the 80's and a friend since 1990. But mostly, he's a huge part of the soundtrack to my life, in the top five favorites, along with Willie Nelson and Townes Van Zandt. His last concert at the Paramount was on Thursday, May 18. On Friday I was driving to the Nelson's ranch for my birthday celebration and one of Jimmy's songs came on my Spotify. I realized then that this was going to be hard. It dawned on me that everyone always calls me when they hear in the media that Willie is ill. He is in his eighties and people worry. It is a genuine concern for me too. At that moment, I realized this loss was going to be just as hard for me personally. Jimmy passed on Sunday, 5 minutes after I had finished editing his slideshow to announce his passing. On Monday I saw Amy Nelson in the bathroom at Donn's Depot. I hadn't thought about it but she was the only person I know that bridged the Willie music family to the Jimmy music family. I had never seen her at Donn's. We looked and each other realized it was a God thing. We stood in the bathroom and hugged each other and cried.

Amy Nelson and Christina Fajardo
Donn's Depot, May 22, 2018

There are few recording artists that I listen to when I create art, when I need to feel grounded and especially when I don't feel well. Jimmy is at the top of that list. Not only did he write beautiful heart felt ballads, he was one of the best interpreters of ballads written by other recording artists like Dylan. And like Willie, he had such an incredible sense of timing, commanding stillness between phrases, making it feel as if he was singing every line for the first time from a place deep in his heart. Then there was the Jimmy that I knew as a friend. Like most Cancers, he spent a lot of time in his shell hiding his empathetic side. You could always count on him to keep everyone in check with off the wall remarks and laughter that sometimes cut to the core.

As an artist, seeing his art on the walls of the gallery just hurt. I hurt for him because he should have been there. I have been ill most of my life, I am still here and he isn't. It didn't make any sense. I thought I had processed it until I was there surrounded by his photos. I came home and I have painted every day since that day. It sent a strong message to me that I don't have one minute to waste.

Fast forward to this week. My son's ex-wife is taking him back to divorce court. This has been going on for well over two years and this nonsense is taking a toll on everyone. However, I believe that  my 11 year old grandson has suffered the greatest loss. I am bringing this up because earlier this year he became very ill and was taken to several specialists and to the emergency room on more than one occasion. He was suffering from dizziness, nausea, headaches. Dizziness seemed to be the main issue. He was over a period of several weeks, taking a number of medications and nothing seemed to help. I went to St Louis, he was allowed to spend the night. His mother sent a bag of medication for him to take. He seemed fine. He didn't have a fever, wasn't dizzy or nauseous so I just gave him his antibiotic. When he went home, he was sick again for weeks.

It finally occurred to me this week, after my odd dizzy spell at the art exhibit, that my poor little grandson was experiencing was a severe case of unresolved grief that he has not been allowed to deal with. It was horrible feeling like that for one evening. I can't even imagine what it was like for my grandson to feel like that for weeks. I remembered that when my father died, my daughter walked into the cathedral for his funeral, she immediately felt dizzy and thought she was going to faint and had to sit on the back pew. For those of you that follow me on Facebook, I most often post cute happy photos of my then 2 year old granddaughter who isn't aware that this is not the norm but most photos taken of Andrew are sad and distraught, looking like he's lost his best friend. Guess what. He has lost his best friend. His father. He's not allowed to see him or speak to speak to him. He has had his phone taken away. He isn't allowed to grieve his enormous loss and it is all being internalized.


I spent a couple of days on the internet reading about the effects of divorce on children and realized that not enough consideration had been given to my grandson's grief. We live in a grief-illiterate world and most cultures don't teach how to deal with the grief that comes along with inevitable life changes. We need to be given the permission to grieve. In my grandson's case, there is an unwritten family rule that everyone stuffs their feelings and act like everything is fine, when in fact nothing is anywhere close to being fine.

In the 80's I studied the works of a Swiss-American psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kubler Ross. As an author of groundbreaking books about grief, her goal was to break through the layer of professional denial that prohibited patients from airing their inner-most concerns. Her research was one of the reasons I decided to go to art school. Not so much because I thought I was a great artist but because I thought art to be cathartic. In her work with terminally ill children, instead of talking to them about how they felt, she had them draw how they felt. This struck a chord with me. In her first book,"On Death and Dying" written in1969, she identified five stages of grief that people experience following a death or loss. They include: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

1. Denial: The first stage of grief we pretend the loss has not happened. We are still in a state of shock, disbelief and numbness. Denial is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle at the moment. The feeling wears off with time so that the healing process can begin.

2. Anger: This is a big one. When the denial starts to wear off anger moves in. It is a way of taking back control. As unfair as it may seem, anger sometimes brings on blame. Children going through a divorce struggle to process the change in their family’s arrangement so they are met with frustrations and confusion and the blame game begins, feeling like it is unfair and even worse blaming themselves. This is why it is important for the adults to step in and assure the children that life is ever changing and it will be alright. The adult version of anger is to think “why me?” Redirecting anger to close friends and family or blaming others for the cause of grief is common because it seems incomprehensible how something so horrible could happen to you. You might start to question your belief in God.

Anger is a necessary stage of grief and it is extremely unhealthy to suppress your feelings of anger. It is a natural response and it’s important to truly feel the anger because if you stuff it, the next time you are met with a situation where grief is the natural response, all of your stuffed anger resurfaces so your reaction to the current situation can become explosive. The more you truly feel the anger, the more quickly it will dissipate and the more quickly you will heal. When you experience grief, you might feel disconnected from reality – that you have no grounding anymore. Your life has shattered and there’s nothing solid to hold onto. Think of anger as a strength to bind you to reality. You might feel deserted or abandoned during grief. That you are alone in this world. The direction of anger toward something or somebody is what might bridge you back to reality and connect you to people again. It is a “thing.” It’s something to grasp onto – a natural step in healing.

3. Bargaining: This phase of grief is often the briefest of all the stages. It's a last ditch attempt to try to control life so that it will go our way. Children may often exhibit behaviors demonstrating that they believe they can alter their current family situation so their parents will get back together. We will promise anything to God at this point. Bargaining gives a temporary sense of relief. 

4. Depression: Yet another agonizing phase in the healing process. Withdrawal from life, feeling numb, living in a fog, and not want to get out of bed are common. The world might seem too much and too overwhelming to face. You don’t want to be around others, don’t feel like talking and experience feelings of hopelessness. Depression is part of the natural progression towards acceptance and like any of the other emotions needs to be felt. Please know that it is a normal part of grief and that too shall pass. For a child, a longing for the past and demonstrations of sadness are indications that the child is in the grief stage. Changes in social patterns, sleeping and eating behaviors, and irritability can emerge during this stage. Parents must take extra care during this stage to make sure to support their child and should monitor for depressive symptoms. “There’s nothing I can do to bring them back together. I’m so upset and just want to stay in my room and be left alone."

5. Acceptance: In this stage, emotions may begin to stabilize, come to terms with the “new” reality. There are good days, there are bad days, the good days tend to outnumber the bad days. You are no longer arguing the loss, trying to bargain with it or wanting to change it. Another word for acceptance is surrender. Acceptance is marked with a sense of understanding and a general desire to move forward with the new family dynamic. The fog lifts and you start to engage with friends again. An understanding that your loved one can never be replaced, but you evolve into your new reality.

So there are the 5 stages of grief but for my grandchildren, it doesn't end there. They are being denied the opportunity grieve and to mourn the change in there family situation or even talk to their father or anyone on his side of the family. The severe effects of parental alienation on children is well-documented. When children lose the capacity to give and accept love from one of their parents they experience depression, lack of trust, low self-esteem and self-hatred. When they are older, they often turn to substance abuse. 

So here is the underlying issue. My grandchildren's mother is repeating the very painful childhood she lived. Alienated children typically have conflicted relationships with the alienating parent and are at high risk of becoming that same type of parent. Unresolved grief is at the root of the problem. Alienating parents don't have enough self awareness to know their personal feelings about their ex are not even real. They were taught as children that it's not okay to have their own thoughts and feelings. They are stuck in anger and look for a target to blame for their problems and painful feelings. In the case of divorce, that target is their ex.

Their tactics are similar to cult leaders who destroy their followers’ ability to think for themselves and make their own choices. So how do you combat your ex’s mind games? Teach your kids about critical thinking. If they’re still in the bedtime story phase, ask them why they think Cinderella’s stepsisters are so mean to her. If they tell you history class is boring, ask them why learning about civil rights is important. If your child says he doesn’t know, or asks you to explain things, say you will but you want to hear what he thinks first. Talk about the difference between opinion and fact. For instance: one person can love tomatoes and the other person can hate them. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with tomatoes, it’s just a person’s preference of point of view. As your child develops the ability to think for himself, he will be better able to put the alienator’s skewed narrative in perspective.