Friday, December 5, 2014

I Am Childless By Choice

To be over 30 years old, Hispanic, and without children must be the greatest act of defiance. This is the message I get more and more often.

The pressure I get from people to have a baby must be an indication that my fertile years are passing me by at lightning speed.  That my clock is tickin' like this, Clang! Clang! Clang!  And that I must not be listening to it.  That the train is leaving the station.

Not that it worries me.  I don't know why they take it so personally.  Do they need another child? Are they going to raise mine?  At present, I have other goals.  It isn't that I am repressing any motherly instincts for these goals.  If I felt the pull of motherhood tugging at me, I would drop everything and become one.  But I don't want to.  

Besides, I don't understand what the fascination is with seeing me pregnant.  Do they resent my independence?  While they are changing diapers, I am painting my fingernails.  Either way, each of us chose our way of life.  They chose the joy of parenthood, which has its wonderful, exhilarating and crazy moments.  And I chose to be married yet childless which also has its wonderful, exhilarating and crazy moments.  Just more on the normal side of crazy.  Like the calm side of crazy.  Like a calm crazy with a margarita in my hand while chillin' at the beach crazy.  That is the sort of crazy I'm into.

It is what my husband and I chose.  We were straight-forward about it from the beginning. We come from big families.  We know about kids, diapers and drool.  We know that nothing smells so good as a new baby.  I love that new baby smell.  I also love that I can hand them back to their mother, give a nice big yawn and retire to the comfort of my peaceful bed for the night.

I admire women that just feel within them the unrelenting need to have children.  I can't really say that I understand them.  I have never felt it.  But I do love children.  One of my goals in life is to be the crazy, lovable aunt.  I want to teach my nieces and nephews about all the cool things that their parents are not allowed by convention to teach them.  Like how to make a catapult out of rubber bands, popsicle sticks and a bottle cap.  Or, how to fish for koi in grandpa's pond.  I want to take them to the bulk candy store and give them a one pound allowance for whatever they want and read them all the books I love.  But I am not the mother type.

I think they forgot to give me the mothering chip.  When all the baby girls were on the assembly line getting their sugar and spice and everything nice, which includes the "Mothering" chip, I was passed up.  They must have ran out and the next shipment was not for a couple of days which would have delayed production and started a big mess.  Imagine all those late babies!  So they improvised and decided to give me an extra "Wears two coats of mascara" chip and a "Owns too many shoes" chip, just to even it out.

In the Hispanic culture, when you marry it is a given that you will have kids. If you aren't going to have kids then what is the point.  Also there is the expectation that now the two of you have to adhere to the roles of care-taking mother and providing father.  For example, I found myself, once again, mixed up in the "what should we do about Josephina's aging womb" debate and this is what I heard:

"What do you mean you don't want no babies?  What will you do?  Una mujer no esta realizada hasta que tenga hijos."

That last sentence translates to, "A woman is not fulfilled until she has had children."  This one sentence chilled and angered me.  Is this what they teach their daughters?  That they will never be fulfilled until they have children.  Nothing else will do, I guess.  I didn't know.  All this time I thought I had done many fulfilling things.  I had been blessed with the time to do so many fulfilling things, but now they were telling me it was all garbage.  Having a child is one of the biggest accomplishments, I'll give them that.  But it is not the only accomplishment.  May I ask, what does it take for a man to feel ultimately fulfilled in life?  For some reason, I'm thinking it's something less painful than labor, conveniently enough.

Let's be straight, it might happen - because it can.  I may have to eat my words and prepare myself for morning sickness, nine months of feeling extremely warm and having to find a bathroom every thirty minutes, labor, and the next twenty-six years of child-rearing.  (I do have to consider the increasing prevalence of Failure to Launch Syndrome amongst our youngsters thanks to the state of the economy and smart phones.  Thus our children would finally mature and become independent at a later age.)  So, if it does happen... that's ok, too.  Every change in life, whether planned or unplanned, should start first as a wonderful adventure full of unknowns.  But I can't promise you that I won't pass out at first.

I thought that my sister-in-law being pregnant would finally save me from the unceasing question, "So, when are you going to have a baby?"  I thought, "Good... now everyone will be happy with the new baby and no one will pay attention to little ol' me."  I was wrong.  The question at every
gathering is still the same, just with different phrasing.  "So, when are you going to have a baby?"

Oy vey...






Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Okay, I will confess! I am not Super Woman and I take naps when no one is around.

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I think it was Hemingway who said that to write all you have to do is sit in front of your typewriter and bleed.  He was right. It feels just like that.

It's not pretty and usually, because I faint at the thought of blood, I try to suture myself up tight when I get to the keyboard.  I hold some back.  Not everything needs to be said or explained.  But fifty percent of that is pride and the other half, fear.

This leads to confusion sometimes.  And lots of plot holes.

In the present, my life is full of plot holes.  Not for me.  I know the story.  I was the one that cut out the juicy parts and passed the book over.  I realize there are holes in swiss cheese that are smaller.

Not that I lead this super secret life full of adventure and mystery.  I don't work for a top secret agency or have a cool secret agent name.  (If I did it would be Boricua Chula.)  But I feel bad giving out the unhappy details of my life.  I don't want to be the overly dramatic kill joy.  Even though lately I could care less and less if I am inconveniencing anyone with my dilemmas because I need help.  Please understand, if I am having a bad day I going to say so.

The reason I am filling in these gaps today is that I have been suffering from a strange illness for the past year.  I haven't talked much about because I am just beginning to understand it.  My doctor can't find anything majorly wrong with me other than my symptoms, which are more frustrating and varied than they are debilitating, seem to be stress related.  From my symptoms I deduce that my cortisol levels are out of whack and the stress on my adrenals have led to other issues.  Getting up in the morning is the hardest part of the day.  I feel like I tumbled down a long bumpy hill.  In other words, exhausted and tense.

After I stretch myself out and clean myself up it takes eons for my mind to wake up.  I was using coffee to help me through the morning.  It usually took two cups but after a while that didn't work any more and the caffeine overload was working against me.  It seems to kick in half a day later and at the wrong time.

Around 11am I can mentally start my day.  I get some work in until about 2pm when I dip in energy again. Sometimes I have no choice but to take a quick nap.  It is a sickening kind of tired.  Then my energy rises steadily till about 10-11pm when I start running laps in my house and dancing to old Mariah Carey songs like its the summer of 1997.  Then I take a bath and drink some tea.  I get a book or watch something soothing and try to wind down.  For a time I would drink a tall glass of wine before bed but I was told that was a sure path to alcoholism and alcohol aggravates the problem anyway.

About 12:30am I nod off into a light sleep and start dreaming of every worst case scenario.  I kid you not every night I air an episode of Josephina's Worst Case Scenario Adventure in my head.  I jump off of tall buildings to get away from a tornado.  I run from one fiery obstacle course after another saving loved ones from disaster. Sometimes I am as agile as Bear Grylls other times I run into walls and nearly get myself killed at the hands of mad penguins.  Sometimes I just get lost for hours in a mall where nothing is remotely stylish, nothing fits, the shoes are a disaster and there are no exits.

And then I wake up like clockwork at 4am.  I drink some water.  Say a prayer.  Go to the bathroom.  Fall back asleep and have the most restful 3-6 hours of sleep if I am so allowed.

Sometimes this syndrome (which my doctor doesn't officially want to call Adrenal Fatigue) makes me think I have finally lost my marbles.  When I am up -  I'm as fun as two three-year-olds in a four room bouncy castle.  When I am down I don't want to be around anyone and I am glued to my couch.

I say no a lot these days.  I'm gaining the reputation for being antisocial and I've decided to be careful about who I tell my reasons to.  Some people are very understanding, others try to create instant remedies and still others tell me I need to be more disciplined in my habits.  When I say Adrenal Fatigue they look puzzled like if its some newfangled 21st century syndrome developed by marketers to sell more vitamins.  So needless to say I don't get very far.

My other symptoms are crazy too.  I crave salt.  I have brain fog.  Sometimes I mentally wake up and can't remember what I've been doing before I "woke". 

I have noticed improvement while taking Ashwagandha and eating avocados with sea salt.  I try to eat well and on time.  When I'm tired I stop and rest.  I try not to do too much in one day so I don't completely ruin the next day by being bound to my couch.  Strenuous activity has to be carefully planned and carried out in stages.

All this laying down lets me think about how I got myself to this place.  It's a harrowing story starring chronic stress, putting yourself second, not knowing when to say No, and too many grande caffe mochas.  I know that I have usually turned to writing when I am most stressed.  So Almost Josephina is the road map to how to exhaust your adrenal glands.

I will tell you about more about it later, I need a nap.




Tuesday, October 14, 2014

We are stronger than we seem...

It seems for the last seven years we have been fighting for every last inch.  I don't think we will get a break anytime soon but then again I am looking around and everyone else is fighting too.  So take a deep breath and dance a little, sing a little and get ready to get back in there.  At least the sun is out and the Earth is rotating and there are people out there who are good and we are stronger than we seem.

Take it day by day.  Pace yourself.






Friday, October 10, 2014

Leaky Boats and Long Swims at High Tide

Copyright ShutterPlum Photography


Have you ever been in a boat and, all the sudden...

This is where the trouble starts.  It all goes down hill at "all-the-sudden" but if we look way back - it wasn't so "all-the-sudden".  It was actually happening under your nose the whole time, little by little, inch by inch or in this case in whole nautical miles.

All the sudden... you noticed your boat has drifted away.  Away, away!  The dreaded twong of panic rings in your head.  Then you say, "it can't get any worse" and your boat springs a leak.  Simply a consequence of your bad decision to sit in an old boat during high tide.  They warned you about high tide.  But you didn't listen.  So now you are condemning yourself for your mistake.  You know you messed up.

The boat is leaking bad.  The good thing is that if you squint real hard you can still make out land.  We have to be positive. There might as well be a whole continent between you and that shore but you can see it and you don't want to die.

You can still make it.

In a minute you will be in the water anyway so you take off your shoes and any extra clothes.  You dive in and start to swim.  

You are alone now.  Just you, the water and the sky.  The sound of silence surprises you and despite the situation you find yourself in, do or die,  you find the sound of the water and your breathing to be heavenly.  You can hear every thought in your head clearly and those thoughts are good.  They are memories of the good things of the past and the good things you will miss in the future if you don't make it to that shore.  

You know it will take time to get there.  You drifted quite a bit.  Steady.  If you panic there will be less energy, less hope.  You must think over every stroke and keep your eye on the shore.

Time passes...

Stroke, stroke, stroke...

You can see the docks clearly now.  

Enough time has passed for someone to have noticed you were gone.  There should be people waiting for you at the docks, drawn there by the knowledge that it was the last place you were seen.  But you don't see anybody.

What hurts the most is knowing that nobody has come looking for you.  

Your strokes get heavier and breathing is so labored that you have to stop.  You float for a while and wonder were everyone is.  Then you push past and start swimming again.  

It is painful. Your body is in pain and, deep down, so is your heart.  You WANT to give up but you push past all that.  You will get there.  Even if no one is waiting.  

After hours of swimming you feel the break of a wave pull you in.  You are there.  The last couple of pushes take everything and little by little the waves dump you on the shore.

Sand between your fingers.  You could cry. 

You set it in your heart to make the effort when you dove off that leaky boat.  That shows you are a survivor. 

It could have helped tremendously to have a cheering crowd of loved ones on that shore telling you that you can make it.   The power of their belief in you would have made that journey so much easier.

This is to illustrate the predicament some people find themselves in after making a very big mistake. Maybe the mistake cost friendships, a relationship, or hurt family members deeply.  Maybe it put the people they love in danger.  Or they may have just created problems for themselves.  Either way they felt as tall and important as an ant.

Everything had to be made right but it would take time and some thinking.  They would be the only ones who could make it right.  It would be hard and very lonely and the shore would be far away.  Everyone else had to watch you from afar.  Some split off into the positive thinking group of waiters.  They would wait for you and in seeing your splashing swim breaking the water and getting closer and closer, they would smile and cheer.

But then there are the "they'll-never-make-its".  They've decided early on that you will never make it to shore and take off to spread the news that you are a careless person, undeserving of any praise.  If you have been surrounded by judgmental people, you know what this is like.  

You know that you can make it with or without a cheering crowd on the shore.  But having that cheering crowd would make the journey back so much easier on your heart.  When you finally got to safety, the celebration for your return would encourage you to be more careful next time, appreciating what you might have lost.

Let's be kind to each other, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.






Thursday, September 25, 2014

Para Cuando Te Pierdas, Poetry by Josephina Ferrer

It is in Spanish and contains some of my poetry.  Sorry for all of you non-Spanish speakers but I will have something in English out soon.

Aqui les presento....





Para Cuando Te Pierdas


by Josephina Ferrer

Poemas Para Ayudarte A Recordar

Dejamos huellas hechas de palabras, de verdades, que nos ayudan cuando estamos perdidos en la jungla que crea la mente. Huellas que nos hacen recordar quien somos y de donde vinimos. Nos ayudan a ser valientes y resistentes aun cuando nos sentimos, aparentemente, indefensos. Este libro de recuerdos en forma de poemas viene de una Nuyoriqueña que creció en los barrios de Williamsburg, Brooklyn y que anda con las lecciones que aprendió adondequiera que va.


Disponible en Lulu.com






o copia y pega estos links:

http://www.lulu.com/shop/josephina-ferrer/para-cuando-te-pierdas/paperback/product-21823137.html

http://www.lulu.com/shop/josephina-ferrer/para-cuando-te-pierdas/ebook/product-21823052.html






Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Decluttering Your Mind



Copyright ShutterPlum Photography



I like to sort closets.  Maybe it's a symptom of having grown up in a tiny New York City apartment.  Plus, I rule at Tetris and I am a tad OCD.

So I learned to apply my closet sorting tendencies to the mess I have going on in my head.  Does your head still spin while you are asleep?  Mine does.

Well the rules of decluttering apply in life as well.


#1.  If you haven't used it in a year, GET RID OF IT.

I have things rummaging in my head that have no use.  Worries that have no foundation and negative thoughts that appeared out of no where.  There are also misunderstandings that I came to when reading too far between the lines.  These things surface at weird times like when I'm having a bad day.  I have learned to say, "To the Garbage Pile with that!"


#2.  If you don't absolutely love it, Get Rid of It.

Basically, if it's not working for you, be done with it.  Maybe it worked for someone else, but you clearly have held on to that thought for too long.  Long enough to know it is not you.  Throw it away.


#3. If you don't know what to do with it, give it a trial run.

There are some thoughts we don't know how to classify.  Are they useful for us or not?  Allow that thought to be and play around with it.  Examine it closely but don't give it a permanent residence yet.  It's OK to not know something right away.  Let it all play out in the calm of your mind.  Put it in the Maybe Pile.

If you come upon something in there that confuses you a bit,  examine it to find out why it is there. Don't ever be afraid of what you may find because it just might shed some light on your inner workings and help you become a better you.

Have fun sorting your marbles.




What is Your Worth?


Copyright ShutterPlum Photography



If I let myself breakdown right now I might never recover.  I feel broke down and it is my own fault.  I didn't understand my worth and I didn't speak up for it.

I didn't say, no.  I didn't say, "This isn't even my problem.  Why do I have to fix it for you?"  I didn't stick up for myself and say, "You are wrong about me.  That is not who I am."  I didn't stop the unhealthy opinions and suggestions and unwanted problems that I had no hand in creating from entering my home.  I wanted to be cooperative, polite, obedient, generous and I wanted to keep the peace.  But not everyone deserved these things from me.

Why did I let the toxic people cause my breakdown?  Because I didn't value myself enough to control the influence they had over me.

Worth...

What am I worth?  We don't ask ourselves that enough as women.  We know the worth of our husbands if we are lucky enough to have a good one. We protect our children with our lives because they are worth everything to us.  We help our other family members when they are in need because, "If they can't count on us, who can they count on?"  We help others because we appreciate what they have done for us and want to be generous with what we have been blessed.

But when we need help we try to be as self sufficient as possible so as to not bother anyone with our worries and not put an extra burden on anyone.  And we bend ever so slightly more under the weight of all we have piled on ourselves so that those we love don't hurt or want or suffer.  We don't value ourselves enough to say, "Hey this is getting unfair and my back hurts. Will someone take back their issues? I have my own.  For once, I need help."



Some of the toxic people are easy to cast off.  They are jerks and you can easily separate yourself from them.  It becomes harder when these people are in your family, circle of friends, "adoptive family", or at work.  If this person may be really good at heart but just very, very misguided.  What do you do then?  You have to see them often and it becomes an unpleasant experience, over and over again.

I just try to play nice and I make a game plan.  One that involves my escape, if that is an option.  Flee!

But it isn't always an option.  So limited exposure becomes the way.   Limiting the amount of time you allow certain people to be around you will eventually breed suspicion.  They will wonder why, all the sudden, you are no longer putting up with what they dish out.  They get antsy and uncomfortable.  It is a subtle kind of revenge and necessary.  "Why isn't so and so not jumping when I bark?"  They will soon move on to some other unsuspecting victim.

It takes great patience to live this way. On the positive side, if I can live this way, exercising great patience and being civil while still holding my ground, then I would have helped to build character.  This is what I tell myself.  I am building character.  Until I can flee.  

Then there comes full-on-confrontation.  I hate confrontations, not because I'm a wuss, well... maybe I am a little.  But I usually regret what I say in defending myself when confronted.  I can go from calm to cruel in .08 seconds.  It is not something I am proud of... although it can come in handy in some throw downs but that part of my life is in the past.

Remember, BUILDING CHARACTER.

BUILDING CHARACTER and GREAT PATIENCE...

and NEVER FORGET YOUR WORTH.

If you forgot how much you are worth ask a good friend to tell you or just remember how much you are worth in HIS eyes.




Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Those Voices in Your Head are Part of a Conspiracy and Martha Stewart is their Leader


Copyright ShutterPlum Photography



Trying to be the perfect suburban housewife is an unrealistic and delusional notion.   Here is why it doesn't work for me.

Insight #1:  I am easily distracted by the voices in my head.

Men like to think that because you iron their shirts then, by default, you must 'love' to iron.  No I hate ironing.  It just makes me mad to see him walk off into the world in a wrinkled shirt.  Men don't care that they look like a raisin.  Then the other women start talking.  "So she lets her man walk around like that.  Poor thing."  And I have to zap them with my laser eyeballs.  It creates chaos if I don't iron.

Women in the suburbs have to do all sorts of inhumane things that I was not prepared for.  How do you hold down a job and take care of a huge house with a huge yard, making sure that everyone has clean underwear and still have dinner ready before seven?  I cannot be bothered with all this nonsense.  I have more interesting pursuits.   All that work and I'm not supposed to look disheveled.  You'll be happy if you get to eat frozen fish sticks for dinner in my house.

The voices of those we love, those of other women and the voice of society telling you what you should be doing can drown out your own logic.  The voices in your head are sometimes deceitful and manipulative little minions. Don't let them bully you into trying to be something you are not or do things you simply can't do for lack of time and energy.  Learn to say NO.


Which leads me to Insight #2 - Those voices are part a collective conspiracy and Martha Stewart is their leader.  

That Stewart lady and her perfect DIY projects gets on my nerves.  They never come out like they should and it's no wonder.  She had a team of people design and make that table runner made of whimsical fabric scraps.  She just came down to take the picture and then ran off to go shopping.  Don't be fooled.


Insight # 3 - I speak in tangents, deal with it.  

When I was younger my grammar teacher frowned upon this tendency.  I am not in school anymore and I don't care.  This is what I sound like and I love it.  My life is one big tangent.  Housewives frown at tangents.  They swat at them with wooden spoons. 


Insight #4 - Don't buy into other people's interpretations of YOU. 

They don't know all about you and your life, so how can they tell you what you need to be doing.  And if you must, tell them so.  Take care of what YOU need to take care of.  Hold as valuable the opinions of a small group of close friends and family but remember they are just opinions.


Insight #5 - The life expectancy for women is 70.

Which means I'm almost halfway there and I don't have time for triflin' people.  Ain't nobody got time for that.


Insight #6 - Celebrate your good traits and your 'truth'.  

Don't criticize yourself and add to the nasty voices in your head.  Your truth is yours and you will know it when you see it.  Stand by it.  Unless it is illegal, naughty or unethical.  In which case, seek counseling immediately.





Friday, June 3, 2011

Left our manners at home, did we?

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Has anyone else ever had to deal with a person who brings up money at the dinner table?  He doesn't just bring it up, he actually gets snippy about it.  

This is one of my pet peeves.  But this one makes me feel especially peevish.  As in - I start to squirm and my eye twitches.  I may suddenly lunge out in anger.  

This is why.

When the waitress asked us how we are going to divide the tab - Sir emphatically volunteered one person in particular to pay the whole tab for a group of nine.  He must've thought we had recently come into some money.  I didn't get the memo.  Then Sir said, "You never pay the tab for everyone".  Maybe because they can't and that is why we always go dutch.  Not one of our friends have ever gotten mad about going dutch.  It is safe to go dutch.

Sir must not have realized that the person he so enthusiastically volunteered was now, understandably, mortified and about to crawl under the table.  Thank you Sir.

Everyone else has now, in a state of panic, proceeded to look down at something invisible under the table in the same way a drowning person looks for a float.  All the sudden everyone looses their appetite.  

This is when I order a big plate of barbecue ribs - which I may or may not be able to fully digest. I make an effort to control myself but I want to jump across the table and plant Sir headfirst in the first pot I find.  Instead I find comfort in devouring the ribs like a hungry tiger.

In reality we stayed put and ate despite the urge to leave.  There was a family guest at the table and we didn't want to seem as bad mannered as Sir.  We asked to go dutch and paid for ourselves and the guest, like was originally intended.  We should have said that we were going to powder our noses and then quietly ditched them all.  There were other things I would have rather been doing.

What irritates me more is that this person thinks of himself Well-To-Do.  

Dillard's doesn't sell manners.  
You actually have to grow them yourself.





Thursday, February 3, 2011

To My Friends

Copyright ShutterPlum Photography



We are all guilty of being a bad friend at some time or another.  It happens.  Especially in adulthood when so many things get in the way and daily life is a challenging maze.  We may forget to stop and smell the flowers.

When you have a great group of friends life is instantly better.  Lots of bad things can happen to you but you don't allow yourself to be your situation.  You don't have time for that because you have plans with your friends.  Friends help you make light of the heavy things.  Things will get better because your friends help you will them to being.  That is the power of having a support system.

Maybe like me you left all your childhood friends 1800 miles behind and slowly this one got married and moved there and the other one got a job and moved here and the other had a baby and you don't hear from her anymore.  Or maybe there was a difference of opinion and you shrank back from your entire group of friends.

It sometimes happens gradually.  You lose touch.  Then one day you hear from a family member who knows someone close to your friend that she did indeed give birth two weeks ago.  Two weeks and not even a picture.  Then you get an email string from one of them and in reading down the trail you realize just how much your long lost group of friends email each other and don't include your name in the address bar.  But you aren't mad about it.  Just sad because you finally realized, acknowledged the deterioration of a friendship.  

Or maybe a good friend of yours, one who you looked up to as a big sister, suddenly had a crisis and took off without a word to her family or you.  At first you felt guilty that you couldn't do more to change her mind.  With time and experience you realize you could've done something but, at that time, you were too young to know what to do even if it hit you in the face.  Maybe her problems were way to deep and complicated for you to have done anything about them.

So when you finally wake up from that little dream world you've been living in - pick up the phone, send an email or visit if they are close but don't let your friends go.  Especially those you met when you were a geeky kid with eccentricities and going through a weird growth spurt where your nose was bigger than your face and you didn't know the importance of deodorant.  'Cause if they stuck with you then, they'll forgive you for anything.




Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I Quit My Job So I Can Finally Clean My Closets and Everyone Else's



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In this horrid economy where the nightmares of unemployment are all too traumatic, I decided to quit my job.  Any sane person would have stayed till something better came along, giving a splendid example of the long-suffering martyr.  Not I.

When was the last time I waited for anything?   I blame it on being raised by an impatient New York mother.

I did.  I quit.  I wasn't mistreated or underpaid.  I mostly liked my job but it was too far from my house.  On average I would spend 9 hours at work and 2-3 hours a day commuting.  And I rarely had time for anything else.  Worth it?  I think not.

Today I spent half of my day calmly scanning the clothes racks at Macy's.  My superpower was bargain shopping.  My danger room was the 34th Street Macy's and the semi-annual shoe clearance was my favorite obstacle course.  I had gorgeous shoes.  My current collection is made up of hasty choices.  I frantically picked them because I had a wedding to run to and here I was, stuck in rural Texas without a single shoe that would say "pretty", "intelligent", "urban", "blessed with excellent taste".  So I picked out of desperation.  My closet if now full of second rate shoes.  Nightmare.

I've had the time to calmly look into every nook of my house.  I've cleaned and organized and pulled out things I had forgotten about.  I found tons of pictures here and there.  I found my collection of greeting cards given to me by my friends and family over the years.  I never throw them out. 

It's amazing how many things you forget you had.  Especially if you've moved and piled a closet up with stuff you were to organize later.  I love organizing.  I do, it's true.  I am just too good at it and it shows.  Celebrate your strengths, I always say.

Yesterday, I tackled my mom's house while she went shopping.  I unloaded thirty moving boxes at  the least.  She moved to Texas more than six months ago.  My mom has what she calls an organized mess.  The office supplies are piled in a drawer with household odds and ends like curtain pulls and screws about two rooms removed from the office but that makes sense to her.  There are books and papers all over the house.  It makes me crazy.  

She has a collection of encyclopedias from 1991 in English and Spanish,  a VHS collection of 100 or so movies,  80 cassette tapes and telephone books for the past three years.   I also found about 10 blizzard worthy coats.  We live in Houston.  We don't even get a winter season.  WHY MA, WHY?   

But you never know.  Yes, you never know when a freak Noreaster is gonna come barreling down to Texas.  When a wayward blizzard will dump 3 feet of snow right on Houston burying all the palm trees.  Then we can break out those 10 oversized coats and roll right out the door with nothing but our eyeballs showing.  Makes tons of sense.

Ma, by the way thanks for the box of goodies I snagged from you. That vase will look great once I find an available surface to put it on.  I might as well buy an accent table for it.






Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Monkeys, Fried Chicken, Laundry, Check



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Since late August my life has been an all-consuming black hole of work and yet I have not accomplished much.  You ever feel that way?  Exhausted to the point of disgust and desperation, yet, as you look back, you realize you haven't accomplished a thing of value.  Well of value to you, anyway.

My weekends have blown by in a haze of errands and catching up with tedious tasks, like food shopping and picking up the dry cleaning.  There are people and plants in my life that are screaming for attention.  I feel dehydrated, tired, malnourished, gray, draggy, a bit cranky at times and bloated.  Maybe I need more fiber in my diet?  Maybe I should sleep?  Right now me and my loofah plant could join a look-a-like contest.  All wilted and pathetic.

I little note to those who depend on me:  do you not fathom yourself capable of doing anything YOURSELF?  Does anyone know were anything IS?  Yes I know you can't find the scissors to open the coffee packets in the lounge - it's not a conspiracy, they were just placed in a drawer.  They have been removed from your view!  But are they actually there? YES.  I will get up and stop working on that important project to open all the drawers for you.  Will you require anything else?  Should I stir your creamer in with my finger seeing as some vile creature has made away with the stirring sticks just to spite you.  Come back after brunch and I shall burp you myself.  

In a desperate attempt to get back to my life and take care of my family I took to the task of making dinner.  Since I got home at 6:30pm we actually started eating around 8pm.  By eight I wasn't hungry anymore.  I'm not supposed to eat at that time.  The food floats in my stomach while I sleep when I eat that late.  But I was determined to make southern fried chicken and mashed potatoes.  If you want to see someone torture fried chicken, come see me sometime.  

Last night I dreamed of monkeys hurling giant buckets of fried chicken at me from the trees as I ran through the jungle with my laundry wrapped around my legs.  I was screaming, "Don't forget the organic almond milk!"

I've completely lost my marbles.



Friday, September 17, 2010

A New Yorkers Favorite and Not Favorite Things to Do in New York

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There were a lot of fun things we did on our trip to NYC and, like I said before, it is more fun when seeing things through the eyes of a couple of real tourists.  In this case we brought a couple from Houston with us.  They had been on 'quick' trips to NY but never got to see much.  This is just a little of what we learned and saw.


1.  The Brooklyn Bridge is the No. 1 NYC attraction.  It never fails to amaze me and holds some of the best views of both sides of the river.  The tourists were mesmerized.  We brought them there at night when all the lights of the city are on.

Must see and do:  Fulton Landing Pier (on the Brooklyn side) while eating ice cream from the old lighthouse ice cream parlor and walking through the still unfinished park.  It's going to be beautiful. Also: Walk the Promenade above and see the Historic Brooklyn Heights area where my favorite movie Moonstruck was filmed.  It is accessible through Columbia Heights.

2. My new favorite route through Central Park is, as always, one I found by accident.  I am so glad we got to show them all the best parts of the park at once.

Must see and do:  My new idea of a perfect day is a tour through the Metropolitan Museum of Art followed by a little rest on the Museum steps with a hot dog while watching the street entertainers, who are usually excellent.  Especially the guy who does the human helicopter stunt, you gotta see it to believe it.  Then we walked south of the Museum into the park via the foot path before the 79th Street transverse (that's the path for the cars). You taken' this down?

Follow a winding path a little similar to the ones found in Alice in Wonderland.  You should end up at Belvedere Castle.  If you don't then you weren't paying attention.  Then go down the old steps to the left of the observatory of the castle and into a charming old country path with wood linked fences and benches.  Note: Do not chase the rabbit in the overcoat.  You should shortly find yourself in a beautiful butterfly garden.

Must Do: Take 70's LP cover-style pictures of yourself frolicking among the flowers in the sunlight.  
Find your way into the Ramble: we came across a fork in the road were there was a marsh and a nice old Japanese looking bridge and we took to the left.  Note: Do not go into the Ramble at night or by yourself especially if you are female.

We followed the Ramble to Bow Bridge where there were a band of angry squirrels collecting a bridge tax, only in New York, and we took more goofy pictures which I can't share.

Follow the bridge and go to the left into the area known as Bethesda Fountain.  Either lounge about like the other lazies and watch the people go by, or rent a row boat and test out your rowing skills.  We once ran aground and almost had to abandon ship.  The turtles laughed and swam away shaking their arrogant little tails at us.  My mom rowed us to safety.  Which is why I prefer to people watch at Bow Bridge.

As the sun was lowering we walked up the grand staircase and to the right making our way past the bright Imagine collage in Strawberry Fields where I always get the munchies. And we walked right out of the park, down 72nd street and end up at Gray's Papaya's.

Note to self:  Tourists don't get Gray's Papaya. They will wonder why on Earth you walked them ragged through the park just to get a cheap hot dog at a standing room only hole where the homeless ask you for change while you eat.  But you make'em do it anyway.

Central Park is the best park in the world.  I admit I haven't seen the whole world but I dare you to prove me wrong.

3.  I've never seen the Statue of Liberty.  And on this trip I found that I still have no desire to see the Statue of Liberty.

4.  Trying to explain to a tourist that Hell's Kitchen is not all that bad anymore is a lost cause.  Just takem' there, run away and come back later.

5. Brooklyn Heights is my second home and if I could afford to live there, I would.

A note: Keep the tourists and their cameras away from the curtain-less brownstone windows as they walk the Promenade.  People actually live there.  Yes, their decorating prowess is amazing, but we aren't peeping Toms.  

Must see and do: Shop and eat along Montague Street, especially the Chinese food at Andy's.

6. I don't even recognize my old neighborhood in Williamsburg anymore.  The Puerto Rican ghetto I grew up in now looks like Soho.  I am having all sorts of mixed emotions. Is this good or bad?  Either way I hear the music scene is now a great draw here.

Buildings have cropped up in all the old abandoned lots and I hear you don't have to duck, tuck and roll anymore.  The condemned McCarren pool is now open and the site of summer concerts?  There are trees lining the streets?  What is that all about?

One thing that hasn't changed is the food.  Whatever you want, at any time of day, just a minute away.

Must do: Explain the concept of duck, tuck and roll to a tourist. It was vital to survival back in the 80's and 90's.  Check out the concert days of summer at the McCarren Pool.

7. We, the citizens of the five boroughs, DO NOT do karaoke.  You can't make us.  And there are only a handful of karaoke places and those are all in the Village.

But please DO: Visit the Caracas Arepa Bar in the East Village. Another delicious hole in the wall. 

8.  Sit in Madison Square Park across from the FlatIron Building and take black and white pictures.  

Note: Do teach the tourists how to jay walk. Preferably before you see them running and screaming across the street all the while being honked at by a angry yellow cab driver.  Taxi cabs don't brake.     They play chicken to win.

BTW, the best roller coaster in NYC is a taxi cab ride.  Just tell them you are late.

9. Go to Washington Square Park, feed the pigeons and the black squirrels.  Eat at any or all of the restaurants on Bleeker Street.  Determine which is your favorite.  I love the cannoli's at Rocco's Bakery.  And the pub food at 1849.

10. Buy and eat directly from the Union Square Farmers Market.  Have a cannoli breakfast at Ferrara's on Mulberry Street in Little Italy. Haggle a bag in Chinatown and take pictures of the plucked ducks and barrels of live frogs at the food markets.  Then buy steamed dumplings and try to eat them with chop sticks.  Take in all the giggles from the locals as a friendly sign.

The tourist wandered into Columbus Park where there was an spirited game of Majong going on.  When the locals caught on that there were strangers amongst them they stared them down and hid the money.  We caught up to them and saved our beloved tourists from being chased by an angry mob of senior citizens. Then we laughed endlessly about the fun adventure.

11.  Going up to see the Empire State Building's observatory is too expensive and a lot like going through airport security but on a clear day the view is beautiful.  Go at sunset and don't be afraid to elbow people out of the way for a good look.  Say excuse me and smile, of course.

12.  New York has some of the best beaches.  Surprise!!!

To see what I am talking about, get a car and drive out to Long Island on a Saturday in the summer. Make sure you pass Jones Beach, it's always overcrowded although popular.  The beaches I'm talking about are worth the extra time behind the wheel.  I will keep my favorite spot secret till the day I drop dead.  But I hear Robert Moses is the best of the closer spots, $10 to enter till 4pm after which it is free.  Beaches in New York open on Memorial Day and close after Labor Day.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Suffering from Post Vacation Depression




I am guilty of abandonment.  I have abandoned my blog.  But I have an excuse.

It was my dog - he was standing in my way, growling, with his tail between his legs, showing a lot of pointy teeth and I just had to give up and watch TV.  So there.

The truth is I have been everywhere and I am starting to wear thin.  I have been so busy that I couldn't write a single word.  My busy-ness is a dog with pointy teeth.  It's scary just how busy I have been.  There have been a trillion hurricanes in the Atlantic this past month.  I didn't realize.  I don't watch the news anymore.  I could've been swept away by flash floods and wouldn't see it coming.  But at least I dropped off the dry cleaning. My condolences to those of you who had to contend with the hurricanes. 

Between my vacation, from which I later needed an induced coma to recover from, and the end of the fiscal year at work, I have not had time to scratch.  That's a lie.  I did scratch yesterday.  I rubbed the itchy spot on the corner of the mail table while I was copying and scanning files. Didn't miss a beat.

Speaking of sleep deprivation.  This morning I spent more than an hour in traffic and when I rolled into work 45 minutes late I was ready to chop some heads, but I was too tired.  I decided to take things easy - fearing an aneurysm coming on and all.  Until someone asked me to unjam the copier. Then I snapped.  Everyone ran for cover.

I do feel a little guilty for snapping but everyone in the office will get over it.   

Get over it or I'll sick my dog on you!

On the up-side, I spent 8 wonderful days in New York.  August is not my favorite time to go to New York.  I really like spring and fall in Central Park but I was starved for the beach.  As I already told you the beaches of Texas are "nice" but I wouldn't want to swim in them.  

Since the beaches in New York are closed all year except for summer, I decided to dive into the humidity and baking-temperature concrete sidewalks with grace and humility.  Thankfully we dodged a bullet.  The freak heat wave that had my people screaming for their AC's had passed a week before.

We did everything.  Everything we never did while living there.  We decided to shamelessly become tourists.  We drooled a little while looking up at the lights in Times Square and took pictures with reckless abandon.  

I have more stories to tell and never enough time.  Funny ones involving endearing tourists and the practical jokes we played on them while in my homeland.  But I have to go figure out the fiscal mess that's biting my leg right now.



Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I'm unBalanced

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We live in a world of extremes.  We either under-do things or over-do them (Note to self - under-doo's, that could be a good product name for something related to poo).  

Yeah... we over-spend, over-eat, under-communicate, under-tolerate, over-judge, over- and under-nurture our loved ones, and we wonder why our lives are a shambles and we're suffering from weird rashes. 

Could you imagine the possibilities if we were able to balance out everything in our lives?  I'm sure life would be better.

If we could just slow down time so that we could think things through.  Have the time to consider the effects and look at all the avenues. 

What if there weren't so many distractions keeping us from living the best life?  That pesky credit card debt, our high tech aparatos that keep us plugged in like zombies, the grandchildren that never seem to go home (where's your mami?), the spoiled people that rule over our lives, the drama that other people impose on us, the drama that we allow in our lives, etc.

What if we stepped away from those situations and asked what we need to do for ourselves?

This has a lot to do with willpower and will to change things even though it is, at first, uncomfortable.  

Like my fountain soda addiction and the sugar withdrawals I get at 3pm that make me a twitching mess.  They call to me but I know that our relationship is toxic and it has to end.  

I have to change the way my mind works.  I am the boss of  my mind and I tell it what it can think about. 

Easy to say right?  This donut is delicious. Then I think "Bingo Wings and Thunder Buns", ok, I put the donut down. Continue.

I think this multi-tasking, unchecked environment we allow is keeping us away from learning some real truths about ourselves and our world.  We've stopped digging for the bare bones truth about where our priorities lie.



Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mommies

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We had dinner last night with a family we know. They invited us over for some delicious comfort food.  Mashed potatoes, pork loin and gravy. The lone woman of the house is a stay at home mom with two boys that she home schools herself.  She has developed a cool, practical, tough but soft quality - ideal for a woman in a house full of men.  We get along great.  

I like talking to mommies. I try to understand their life with all it's movement and juggling.  Many of them constantly tell me that they are envious of my free time.  I can shop peacefully, garden with reckless abandon, and manage my time with near total control.  I can even spend a little free time writing of my life and nonsense on this blog.  But I think they are the true examples.  It takes a lot of moxie to do what they do everyday.

My mom worked for the first three years of my life.  I hated being left with a babysitter every morning.  I  remember throwing temper tantrums after she would jump out of the cab, drop me off at the door and run back to catch her train.  It was exhausting for her.  So she quit and became a full time mommy. 

The truth is that mommies have a lot more to do these days.  The dollar doesn't stretch like it used to, the kids aren't going to bring up themselves and the house doesn't come with an auto clean button.  I read that although almost half the work force is comprised of women, the majority of the demands at home fall on them.  Adding to that, finding good childcare these days is not easy or cheap nor is the hiring of these people without its faults.  So they worry constantly.

Although some companies have tried to accommodate the very different needs of their female workers, many still fall short.  You can't expect a female worker to react like a man would, they are not men.  The pressure that women feel to be able to keep up with their male counterparts while repressing their womanly ways is oppressive.  After all, women think differently and they worry more.  We need to communicate more, express more and feel trusted to be able to contribute.  But they also plan the meals, make sure the kids are clean and happy, tackle the closets, and so on.  

And what about the dad's out there who have to take on both roles.  They could benefit from a little flexibility in the workplace.  Read this dad's point of view on Work, Life balance.

We could be happier people if we had more flexible schedules, could balance the roles in our lives easily, had reasonable job expectations, some control over our work and could contribute to a cause.  

One of my mommy friends also pointed out to me that it's not just the employers that have to make changes.  Families have to change their lifestyles too.  Live simply and try not to incur debt by making well researched decisions and weighing all your options. Downsize if you have to in order to take some of the weight off and focus on your priorities and goals.  You'll find that you really don't miss a lot of that extra stuff.



Monday, July 12, 2010

M_n_t_ny, Meet my foot.

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You know, sometimes, you've had enough.  Enough of being a grown up. Enough with the responsibilities. With worrying about nonsense.  And enough with looking back at those carefree times and saying to yourself, "Those were the days, but now they're gone."  WHAT?

Are we dead yet? I don't think so.

I have seen many who look resigned to this fate.  The monotony of life.  The giving in to the distractions that steal us away from our true selves.  The job, the kids, the bills.  Why people?  I am not ready to go. I'm still young and I have not experienced all.  I'm still that brand new lily in spring, hopeful and ever-reaching upward.  Thirty is too early to lay down.  Forty is too premature still.  Fifty and Sixty say never.  Seventy and Eighty hold on fast and fight.  Ninety - hear the rebel yell.  And a Hundred, well just throw yourself a ticker tape parade 'cause if you made it this far, you rock!  Or maybe you're a rock, but anyways...

What is all this doom and gloom?  I'm tired of it and I am not taking it any more.  We know what constant barrage of must-do's and problems life brings.  We know it is never ending.  So why don't we take a break at an outdoor cafe around 10am and have some wine by 10 pm. 

By the way, I am saying this as I unglue my underside from the chair I've been sitting in since 9am.  I am dying to see the sun.

Choose to do something differently everyday for the rest of the month.  Even if it's small.  And Especially if it's outside of your comfort level.  But it has to make you feel good and it has to be legal... and for my sake make it tasteful or keep my name out of the police report. For my friends who  have kids, they may let you in on their fun, if you promise to play nice. 

Give Monotony a kick in the O's.

After work, instead of going home and cooking the evening meal and getting ready for the next day, I'm going to stick a sandwich in everyone's mouth and take a dip in the pool before sunset.  We might also ring my neighbors doorbell and run away.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Simple Living Grandma Style

Following my post about my chus (giggle), I started to think.  I sort of think in circles.  And I asked myself, did my great grandmother have a shoe budget?  No, she didn't because she only had one good pair at a time and they were only worn on Sundays. At least that's what I think she did.  I never met her but I know she didn't have a shoe budget.  She probably didn't have Windex either. Or brand names, fast food, cable.  Come to think about it, I have budgets I probably could live without. After all, she lived on very little. And she had 12 kids.



We should all spend time with our elders if only to soak up the things they know and have experienced before it is lost.  They are also good for the occasional and much needed reality check.  Among the things I learned from them: 
  • How to dress appropriately because you are most likely to be gossiped about incessantly otherwise.  In other words, you are game.  You will know this is happening when your ears begin to ring or your skin tingles hot.
  • The household cleaning product aisle didn't exist back in the day.  There was only Clorox and Ajax.
  • They have loads of juicy stories about 'the ones that got away', and how they really met their husbands
  • 101 different recipes to make with your leftover chicken and how to sew a hem
  • The things in their life that they regret and hope you learn from.  And the stuff that they should regret but don't and recommend you try sometime
  • How to have almost wrinkle free cotton shirts straight out of the dryer without ironing
  • How to wrap a pastel de yuca into a delicious symmetrical banana leaf parcel 




My conclusion: 
  1. Analyze your situation and make the appropriate tweaks - Be the boss not the slave of your life.
  2. Make time for the important things even if you have to kick some habits and take some names.
  3. Question everything they try to sell you.
  4. Take a refreshing family vacation with all that mula you saved by being a smarty pants.
  5. Thank your elders.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Say what?

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It's the good girls who keep diaries; the bad girls never have the time.  - Tallulah Bankhead

May I remind you that Tallulah Bankhead had to have a hysterectomy in her early 30's after getting a wicked case of gonorrhea.  I, however, have all my parts in place.

May all you good girl writers stay good and whole. Literally.



Thursday, June 24, 2010

Shoe-phoria



If you are a girl you must already know about the wonderful euphoria of shoe shopping.  When you are in a shoe shopping mood the world has its own soundtrack.  It is a blissful day, that shoe shopping day.  Of course all this can be spoiled by a dry spell.  Sometimes, and I HATE when it happens, you can go to store after store, rack after rack after rack and not find one single shoe that you like, can afford or don't already have.  I call it tragic, a horrible no shoe day.  These should not be repeated. 

I ask myself, Why Me?

I used to be able to get the most gorgeous shoes for under $30 sometimes $20.  Now I can't find a flip flop that I like under that price.  My ma says its a condition I have. It's called wine tastes and beer pockets.  But I can't help myself if I was born with style.  So on said dry spell no shoe day I got desperate. I paid twice what I would pay for a pair of shoes because they called to me and everyone should have a pair of red shoes.  Like Dorothy. 

Do I feel remorseful? 

Yes.

Can I live with this remorse?

Yes I can.

Click  Click
(giggles)
my chus.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Kiss of Death Gardener



At the heart of all of us, I believe there is a gardener.  Windowsills and fire escapes will do if there is no land around so that even in a city you can find little patches of wanna-be farmers.  

Fire escapes, by definition, are used to aid in your escape from a fire.  But they are ugly looking cages. So city people have different ways of spicing them up.  Sometimes you'll see a whole living room out there, a TV and a chair, some pots, even a little produce box to prop your cafe on.  Some look like little jungles, with vine plants and flowers hanging through the bars.  Others are for clothes drying or to hang your mop.  This is all goes against city fire ordinances but it's done.

I remember having little plant pots on my fire escape growing up.  In spring my mom would get plant fever and attempt to grow her very own flower garden on the kitchen windowsill and out on the fire escape.  I would help by watering and watching, hoping that something would come of the little seeds we had so lovingly placed in holes and gingerly covered.  Months would pass and all we would get were a few scraggly seedlings that keeled straight over. I would forget to water them really. So I got the reputation of having the kiss of death.

A few months after moving to our new house in Houston and after I had cleared out all the moving boxes from in front of the windows, I had a revelation.  I had  my own backyard.  I could build it and they would grow. 

Little did I know how much sweat and money it cost to start from scratch. We didn't even have grass. My backyard was a lonely desolate desert of patchy weeds and sand filler. How would anything grow in that?

I starting reading. I wanted an organic vegetable, herb and flower garden. When I told my husband my plan he gave a deep sigh but he trudged on with me anyway.  He sighs like that when I say the word "plan". He knows that the idea has been pacing and tinkering away in my brain for some time and now it is a PLAN. 

Here were my obstacles.  This house was built on a lot of filler dirt.  Under the filler is the native dirt which looks like gray clumps of hard clay.  It was a nightmare to dig a hole for a plant.  I watched my first store bought plant die from drowning in that hole. There was no drainage.  And a bent shovel and a few trowels lost the battle.

We laid down grass squares and I reserved two lines on both sides of the fence 30 feet long and 3 feet wide from the fence forward (I charted it with string and some dowels to make it straight).  I started to buy bags of top soil to mix in with the, um, clay filler stuff. My first attempts were not so bad but it was a full time job keeping those poor things alive in the summer sun.  And then over-watering was a persistent problem. The diseases from planting in shallow dirt where horrible. That was my experimental phase. 

We made raised beds using cinder blocks and ordered a ton of dirt. It was literally a ton. When I called the landscaping place to order the dirt they had this special where if you buy more than 4 yards the delivery is free. I gave them the measurements and told them what I was doing and they said 4 yards was more than enough in that 'no worries' tone they have around here.  And the price was also good.  Four yards of topsoil mixed with sand, and compost not bad.

THEN the DUMP truck parked in front of my driveway.  My eyes widened, my knees trembled, my back started to ache at the sight of a dirt pile tall enough to reach the top of my garage and wide enough to cover two cars. FOUR YARDS. My husband started to laugh, a nervous type of laugh.

We were able to cover our three trees and one bed in the front and our three trees and two large beds in the back of the house with more than two feet of topsoil.  And we gave three or four wheelbarrel-fulls to my neighbor. My husband laid down on the ground at the end of that day.  I worried because I couldn't remember how to do CPR but he was OK after a bath and a few weeks.




Flower and Herb Bed (Shady Side)




Still Scraggly Vegetable Raised Bed (Sunny Side)


Try to fit all that on the ol'fire escape.

~
A very special Thank You to my wonderful husband.