Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Trapped in a Billy Joel song

I took a "break" from blogging last week. I could not come up with anything, to be honest.

Don't ask for help
You're all alone

I feel the pressure at work mounting. First being sick, then being out for the holiday. Now I have a pile of work that is past due, and I can't figure out how to tackle it. And our reviews are due sometime now at the end of November. I haven't started mine, and I dread the interview with my boss.

But here you are in the ninth
Two men out and three men on
Nowhere to look but inside

Another day, another freakout.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Yes, I did it

Like a lamb to the slaughter, I joined the throngs of people who make atrocities like Black Friday possible. I did not make it to the store at 5, though. I woke up at 6:30 AM. That is still freaking early to go shopping, right? Wrong! By that time, the line in some stores circled the whole perimeter.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Books

You are what you read. Really? Are you? Not necessarily, but the books you like are definitely a key to the way your mind works, a way for people to understand what you care about and what makes you tick.

With that goal in mind, I'd like to share with you a few of my favorite books.

My favorite childhood book was a Spanish translation of Through the Looking Glass. I did not read Alice in Wonderland until I was older. I had seen the Disney movie, and so I knew there was some sort of connection between the movie and the book I would reread often.

I also loved reading Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales. I had a beautiful, Spanish-language illustrated edition. My favorite story was "The Snow Queen". To this day, it is still one of my favorite stories.

My third favorite book as a child was called Corazón, by Edmondo di Amicis (titled Cuore in the original Italian). This is such a wonderful and beautiful book, and I wish I could find it in English so Paula could read it. But it seems there isn't an English translation of it.

El Principito (The Little Prince or Le Petit Prince) was another book that I reread often as a child.

Last, but not least, I had a child-appropriate version of 1001 Arabian Nights. Boy, I loved that book so much! It was so worn down and parts of it had come apart from so much reading, but I loved it.

Finally, the other books I would read often were Spanish translations of Agatha Christie's novels. I loved Poirot and Miss Marple, I thought they were so smart. As a grown up I read the books in their original English, and at first I found myself thinking something was off, that I did not like them as much as my Spanish translations. Funny.

As a grown up, I mostly read memoirs, non-fiction or history books and novels/short stories.

Here are some of my favorite memoirs. All of these books, in a way, are about the search for an identity. I guess all memoirs are efforts by the authors to map themselves, so to speak. (Did that sound too pretentious?)

Silent Dancing
Black Bird
Still Waters
Running With Scissors
Dry
You Are Here
More, Now, Again
Darkness Visible
An Unquiet Mind

Here are some of my favorite Non-fiction/History books. It seems most of the books that make the biggest impact on me have to do with man's hubris, man's struggle against each other and/or against Nature, sometimes with catastrophic results.

Isaac's Storm
Into Thin Air
Ghosts of Cape Sabine
In the Heart of the Sea

I love humor. It can't be all doom and gloom, right? While I mostly get my humor from watching stand-up comics, I like to read books from acerbic, sarcastic people like Joe Queenan:

If You're Talking to Me, Your Career Must Be in Trouble
Confessions Of A Cineplex Heckler
Red Lobster, White Trash and The Blue Lagoon

I went through a phase several years ago where I was crazy about The Straight Dope books. In the same period, I read several books by Jan Brunvand about Urban Legends. I was fascinated.

As for fiction, where do I start? There's so many books I have loved, so many that I am sure I have forgotten many. Here's a few I remember:

Cat's Eye - I love Margaret Atwood. This is one of my favorite books, period. It resonates with me a lot. I also liked Alias Grace very much.
In the Time of the Butterflies, based on real-life people and events duringthe last days of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic.
Wide Sargasso Sea and Good Morning Midnight, by Jean Rhys are also two of my favorite books. They are either "haunting" or "downers", depending on how you want to look at them.

More on fiction later. This is getting way too long.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Slang

I was going to title this entry "sick as a dog" because that is exactly how I feel. Instead of feeling better, I get worse and worse. Today, it's gone down to my chest, and when I cough, I can feel it in my bronchi.

Then I started wondering where does the expression "sick as a dog" comes from. I don't recall a similar expression in Spanish. So I googled the phrase, but I am not too satisfied with what I found. Then I started thinking of slang, and I remembered that sometime after I moved to Houston, I bought a dictionary of American slang. I know, I am a total geek. So I grabbed it off the shelf and started leafing through it, with the idea that I would find a few obscure, cool terms to post here. Well, I had a hard time finding something. Most words and phrases are so commonly used it would be no fun posting them here.

I did find one word I did not know, that I should have: diks (dual income kids).

Wednesday morning

I have been up since 4:19 AM (oddly specific, no?). I woke up with a pounding headache. Luckily, a cup of coffee and rubbing my neck and shoulders made it better. I have been checking out the boards since. I love to wake up before everybody else. It's my private time, and it helps me ease into the day.
I'm still sick, and so tempted to stay home. My notebook is at the office, so I'll have to go and ask my boss if he's ok with me working from home. I have done this before, when I am sick or one of the girls is sick. My boss prefers to have us at the office, but yesterday I was coughing so bad that one of my coworkers brought me throat lozenges. It's really not good to be there spreading germs all over the place, so hopefully he'll let me work from home.

Another reason why I want to be home today is to wait for FedEx. Yesterday I missed a delivery. Have I said that I am buying a new computer? It really wasn't absolutely necessary to get one, but oh, I am excited. Got a good discount through the employee purchase program, and there were also some specials attached to it (discounts on a flat screen monitor and an all-in-one printer). The unit is configured to order, and will not ready until the 20th, but the monitor and printer were shipped first. That's the shipment I missed ysterday.

Well, it's 6:30 AM now. I have to get everybody up and rolling.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I am hopelessly behind...

...on the NaNoWriMo challenge. I have 5,000 measly words so far... :(

Monday, November 13, 2006

I hate Mondays

Yes, I know the title is a cliche, but there is nothing that sums up my feelings better than that.
It's 8:40 AM Monday morning. I am sick. Whatever Isa had, she gave to me and now I feel awful. My throat is sore, scratchy and in pain, especially on my right side; my lymph nodes are swollen and my ears are numb. My whole head feels numb. I feel extremely tired too. I called in sick, because it's not a good idea for me to show at the office like this. But I hate calling in sick on Mondays. I always feel like they are not going to believe me.

I was not online at all this weekend, which is rare for me. We spent the weekend at the godforsaken timeshare up in Conroe that I once made the foolish decision to get into. We left Friday night and came back Sunday night. We had a good time, although I had to sit at a stupid meeting where the timeshare people kept trying to get me to upgrade my crappy, blue-period, even-years only timeshare. They went as far as to admit that I had, indeed, entered into a very crappy deal before. So what is their solution? [CAREFUL, FOUL LANGUAGE AHEAD] Spend more money on us! We fucked you, and now you should let us fuck you again, on an even grander scale!

Needless to say, I told them they were full of crap and left. Gabe thought I handled it well and said he was surprised I had been sucked into a timeshare to begin with, that I must have changed a lot since then. And so I have, I guess. Five years ago I had a hard time saying no to people, so after being subjected to a very hard sales push, I gave in. I am not falling for that again. I have learned from my mistake.

At least the stay at the cabin was good. It is in a wooded area and we enjoyed it. We invited my in-laws and on Sunday we grilled some steaks and cooked potatoes. We were close to the outlet mall at Conroe, so Gabe bought a pair of shoes and I bought Isa a Xmas dress for pictures. We were also close to a Crackelbarrel, so we went there for breakfast twice. Check out Isabel riding the cute rocking horse we saw at the store, and helping herself to orange slices for breakfast.



The resort has an indoor pool that is heated so we took the girls for a swim. It was the highlight of the weekend. But I think that may have precipitated my sickness, as it was deathly cold getting back to the cabin from the pool all wet like that. I'm going to crawl back into bed now.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Today we are going to the dentist...


... and all I can think about is this:

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Fico Lopez is dead

I don't normally keep track of Puerto Rico news. Usually it's all politics all year round and I get sick of it. But every once in a while I go to www.endi.com to catch up on what's happening on the island.

Today's news was sad. Fico Lopez, the 43 year-old retired star Point Guard of the Puerto Rican National Basketball Selection, died yesterday. He was a great player. We lost a legend today.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Monday morning

It's 6:35 AM. Usually at this hour Paula wakes up and I send her to get ready while I have coffee and go online. Today my alone time will be cut short because Gabe needs to finish a project. It's OK, I'll find some time later.

Yesterday I enrolled in NaNoWriMo. I had no idea this existed, and found out about it through a post by a friend on one of the boards I go to. Fifty thousand words in a month may be more that I can do, and I started with a few days' delay. But I like the challenge, and to push myself a little bit. I have not sat down to consistently write fiction in years. This month I will only have nights to write what I need. We'll see if I make it and what comes out of it.

I have also, in a way, committed to the whole Flylady thing with my friends from the board. My friend Amanda and a few others swear by this, and my house is always so messy and cluttered that we need all the strategic help with can get. I say in a way because I have not been making daily lists, as my friends have. And I confess that I have not shined my sink consistently the last few days.

This is so typical of me, biting off more than I can chew. Starting things without knowing whether I will have the time to commit. I can already predict what will happen. When faced with two challenges, one domestic and one creative, I will have a tendency to leave the domestic one aside and focus on the creative. In fact, I don't even need the creative challenge to put off the domestic one. So it will be a big effort to try and juggle the two. Plus work from 9 to 6. Plus the girls. Maybe I should go looking for something else I can volunteer for.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Depression

Depression has been a constant in my life since I was in my teens. Back then I had no idea there was such a thing as clinical depression. I just remember sitting on the living room, listening to rock LP's and crying my eyes out as I sang along. When those moods came over me, I sought out the saddest songs, and crying felt like such relief. My mom never commented on it, so either she did not notice or she chalked it up to adolescence.

In my early 20's I described myself on a letter to a boyfriend: "Ingrid es por definición un ser triste" (literally translated as "Ingrid is by definition a sad being"). My father had died a few months before I wrote that, so I guess that was a big part of it. I never questioned it, I never wondered why I was sad, or why could it not be different. I just assumed that was who I was. I was at the same time ashamed of my weakness of character, and proud of my very sensitive nature. One thing I knew, other people don't like to put up with drama and tragedy, so I hardly ever talked to others about how I truly felt. This did not help at all. Like a friend from my Mommy Board told me recently "depression feeds off internalization".

I am in my late thirties. It has taken me years to understand and accept that depression is a clinical problem, not a character flaw. I have become very attuned to my moods and can recognize when the monster rears its ugly head. Knowledge is power, and even though I can't change the mood swings, I can control them better.

Dreaming of the sea

There are days when I miss the ocean so much it hurts. It's not like I have no options, but if I want to see the ocean I have to drive 1 hour to Galveston. The area around the Galveston Sea Wall is nice, and sometimes you get such a good breeze it is pleasant to sit on the wall. But Galveston is not the same as the beaches in Puerto Rico. The Gulf of Mexico water is brown, muddy. It is also cold.

Growing up on an island, I was accostumed to being surrounded by sea water. We always knew where we were in relation to the water's edge. The beach was so accessible that I took it for granted and did not actually go in the water that often. But I loved taking drives along the Isla Verde/Boca de Cangrejos coast. I did quite a lot of driving when my first marriage was ending. Somehow, seeing the vast expanse of the ocean made me feel like my troubles were small and my sadness was fleeting.

Today is Saturday, I have a whole day ahead of me to decide what to do. Or what not to do. There is so much cleaning to do in our house, more than can be done in one day. My husband Gabe is moving to a new office and has to get a lot of his files, books and papers out of our study. There is a gigantic pile of laundry in the dining room floor, and a new stove should be delivered sometime today. I am looking forward to getting the stove, it has been a wheek since I have cooked something that isn't microwaveable or a grilled cheese sandwich.

Of course, I would much rather be lying on a hammock between two palm trees on the beach at Boquerón.




Friday, November 03, 2006

Baby Steps

For someone who fancied herself a writer once, I am a little late jumping into the blogosphere. I had been hesitant to blog because I kept wondering if I will be able to write something new and fresh every day. Is my life interesting enough? Will anybody at all read my blog?

As the title of my blog says, I am a boricua living in Texas. Some of you may already be humming the song "Yo soy boricua, pa' que tú lo sepas" ("I am boricua, just so you know"). Others are probably wondering what the hell is a boricua.

Boricua (bor-ee-coo-ah) is another way of saying Puerto Rican. Back in pre-Columbian times, the island that eventually was named Puerto Rico was called Boriken by the native Taíno indians. From Boriken, the Spaniards came up with the work Borinquen, and from that evolved the term boricua. In the United States, this term is embraced as a sign of ethnic pride by Puerto Ricans who live here.

One of my favorites songs is called "Boricua en la luna", sung by Roy Brown and based on a poem by Juan Antonio Corretjer. In the last verse he proclaims "Yo sería borincano, aunque naciera en la luna". I would be Puerto Rican even if I was born in the Moon. To me it is very fitting. I am very much a Puerto Rican, there is no question about it. However, since I live in Texas I have been wondering a lot about what exactly constitutes the Puerto Rican identity, and even more about how to keep my daughters in touch with theirs. It is something that concerns me greatly.

Those who don't know much about Puerto Rico might be wondering why this is such a big deal for me. Puerto Ricans have always struggled with the definition of what constitutes their identity. Puerto Rico has never been an independent country; we went from being a colony of Spain to being a territory of the United States. There is no Puerto Rican citizenship, at least not in the legally recognized sense. Puerto Ricans are American citizens by birth. So our nationality is a cultural construct, not a political one.

Living on the island, it is easier to assert our identity. We tend to have a "us-them" mentality, seeing the US as a unified mass against which we define who we are. The Spanish language is a crucial part of the definition of who we are. We speak Spanish, and in some cases Spanglish. We pride ourselves in keeping Spanish as our main language after more than 100 years under the US. But when you live in the mainland, these variables don't quite work the same. You move to a big city like Houston, and you start to see how diverse this country really is; so your first wall comes down. Then you marry an American and have children who speak English (and a little bit of Spanish), and another wall comes down. How, then, do you define what is a Puerto Rican? How do you keep your heritage alive in future generations?