Some of my favorite blogs are kept by women who are codependent, or as one of them says, codies. They are in relationships with addicts in recovery and they document their ups and downs in their pages, sharing with readers the work they are doing on themselves, recognizing patterns and the reasons why they may have gravitated to their addict. Some of them have their own addictions they are fighting as well.
The one thing that I marvel at, and admire the most, is their fierce love and their commitment to their mates, to walking the path of recovery with them. In a nutshell, these women are fucking strong. Their men are very, very lucky, and I hope they realize it and treat these women like the queens they are.
Compared to them, I am a royal bitch, because there is no way I would do the same if I was in their shoes. No siree. I have enough on my hands just being a mother and a productive member of society while managing highly fluctuating moods. I don't have the patience, the dedication and the energy it takes to support somebody else's journey of healing. To put it plainly, I can't put up with people's shit anymore. I do not want to.
You could say I used to put up with people's crap before. After all, I grew up in an alcoholic household. And yes, you would be right. I did put up with crap from my parents. But it was something I had to do because basically I was stuck with them. Even then, as a college student I remember telling my mom that enough was enough and she should just divorce my dad. They even separated for a few weeks, although my mom ended up taking him back, because my dad was so miserable. And maybe it was for the best, as he died a year or so later.
I love my husband. He's got demons in his past that sometimes affect his mood. He's got struggles in his present incarnation as a self-employed professional. I support him completely. I am grateful he does not have an addiction problem, though. I don't think I could deal with the uncertainty, the potential for lies and the risk of being drained financially. You see, more than anything, I crave security and stability, two things that an addict can't provide.
I have two kids, who freely unleash their inner drama queen every day. Both are intelligent and quite challenging. My nine year-old questions everything I say and often calls my bluff when my words do not match my actions. Gabe says they take after me. And it seems to be true, as I sometimes act that way too around my family. But I wasn't like that as a child at all. My mom says I was very well-behaved, never one to give her any trouble, save for some talking back during my teenage years. Married to Gabe, I am sometimes childish and throw fits that rival my daughters', as if compensating for all those years when I had to be the dependable, balanced one. Awareness that I am being an ass usually makes me snap out of these tantrums rather quickly. Other times, the moods are murkier and spill out in episodes of rage whose origins I am at a loss to ascertain. Gabriel puts up with it, surprisingly. Maybe because I am always contrite after these moments; after all most of the time I try to be understanding and accommodating. Maybe because I put up with his moods too, although not as good-naturedly as he does.
Being a single mother was hard for me, but honestly it was no harder than being married. I am well aware that I can say that because I have a good job, with benefits. A stay-at-home mom, or a mom in a minimum-wage job may have a different view. In any case, I was able on my own to make a stable life for my daughter and I. Four years after my divorce, when I decided to date again, my approach was pragmatic. I was not looking for my soulmate, I was definitely not looking for a husband, much less a provider. I had a house of my own, I had a job and I already had a child, all I wanted was companionship. But not at any cost.
The first guy I seriously dated turned out to be an alcoholic prick. We were together for three months. When the novelty ran out, he broke up with me via e-mail, very Sex and the City tacky of him. I cried and was a wreck for two days. Then I realized I had been let off the hook and I should actually be glad, not sad. On the third day I sent him a farewell e-mail in which I told him he was an angry drunk and should own it and get help. I ignored his replies where he professed he still loved me and it was just a matter of bad timing. And when he wanted to come to my house to give me back my stuff, I made sure to leave his shit outside my door and not answer if he rang. To further quell any lingering doubts I had as to his character, I fabricated a fictitious "carefree, fun-loving hot Latina" profile on Yahoo personals and waited. A day after I posted my profile, among the dozens of hits I found a message from him requesting to meet Latina Hottie in person. Just as I expected, good riddance indeed.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Saturday, September 29, 2007
I was browsing through iTunes yesterday, and decided to check their recommendations based on my purchase history (they do the same thing as Amazon). Among the artists they were pushing was the group Chambao, from Spain. They have been around for a few years, but like Orishas before them, I had never heard of them.
I love their sound, it's flamenco music for the digital age. The song above is called "Pokito a poko" (poquito a poco or little by little). Something in the lyrics grabbed me when I listened to it:
pokito a poko entendiendo
que no vale la pena andar por andar
que es mejo camina pa ir creciendo"
Translated loosely and with no mind for the rhyme as:
little by little understanding
that it's not worth it to walk just to be on the go
that it's better to walk as a way to grow
Friday, September 28, 2007
This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt is:
When in your life did you feel the most powerful? Was it childhood? College? Now? What is that feeling like; what does it mean? Do you have power over your own life, or are you not feeling that so much these days? If you don't want to get serious, you might imagine superhero powers, and what you would do with them.
At first I thought I would write about being pregnant with my daughters. Both times I felt incredibly powerful and special (look at me, I'm creating life here!). But in the end, I am going to go with the time I moved to Houston. At once terrifying and exhilarating, it was the point when I truly became a grown up. At 31, months after my first marriage ended in divorce, I left my island and all my family behind to move to Houston with my 2 year-old daughter. To be truthful, it's not like I was jumping without a safety net. I was coming here on a work relocation offer, to a job that paid more and had more responsibility.
I had some help moving here. All my moving expenses were paid, and the company even paid for an apartment hunting trip. I made arrangements online with a dealership in Houston to buy a car. The person I replaced shared with me the name of the Early Childhood Center her daughter attended. My parents kept Paula and took a flight to bring her to me two weeks after I had moved, so I could have time to get everything set up.
I moved into my apartment the day I arrived in Houston, on Friday March 31st, 2000. My stuff had arrived a few days earlier and the movers were set to bring it in the next day. So far so good, I was impressed by how smoothly things were going. The next day I got sick and was puking my brains out while the movers were bringing in my stuff. I do not know if it was something I ate or if it was my nerves playing some kind of April Fool's joke on me, but the next day I was OK.
My move to Houston was the single most empowering thing I have done. It changed my life. It forced me to truly rely on myself, to be the strong one. I would not have it any other way.
This week's challenge:
Give a virtuous character a sordid past.
I did not go that sordid, but I like what the challenge prompted me to write.
Every night I got up to go to the bathroom, and I always had trouble getting back to sleep, the secret pushing to come out after a year’s worth of silence. But how could I tell her? She would be so angry at me, so disappointed. I was terrified.
One day I asked her, would she love me no matter what I did? She said yes. I decided I had to tell her. The secret felt too big inside of me.
That night, as she tucked me in bed, I said I needed to tell her something. She lay down in bed next to me and said “go ahead, baby, I’m listening.” I started talking and then it just poured out.
Mom, last year there was a kid in the cafeteria sitting next to me who said the F word. When the cafeteria lady came to find out what was going on, I told on him: “Ma’am, Tommy was saying F%@*^!” She sent us both to the principal’s office. They sent me home with a letter for you to sign. But I was so scared that you would get mad at me that I hid in the bathroom and signed the letter in your name. Are you mad at me, mom? Am I in trouble?
Mom took a deep breath. She hugged me. She said what I did was not good and I should not do it again, but she was glad I had told her, and she loved me very much. Then she told me about the time when she was a kid in third grade and did not do her homework. The teacher put a note in mom’s workbook: “Ingrid did not do her homework. Why?” and a blank space for my mom’s mother to sign the page. Mom was so scared of her reaction (mom was always a goody two-shoes in school) that she forged abuela’s signature. I actually did not know what the word forgery meant until my mom told me this story.
I asked her if she told abuela about what she did, and she said that she kept it a secret for years, but that my uncle found out about it and used it to blackmail her, in jest. We had a good laugh over my mom’s memories of the taunting chants that mi tío Toño used to sing around her. “Libro, liiibrooo, liiibrooo.” For those of you who don’t speak Spanish, libro means book.
So imagine that. My mom and I did the same thing, at the same age. I feel a lot better now.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
This week's words are:
Towards the end of my senior year in high school, my best guy friend from the previous year came to visit the school one day. I have written before about him, in a thinly veiled fiction exercise.
It caught me by surprise the day he came to visit, and I was more than eager to meet him. I was on the second floor of our school when I saw him downstairs in front of the principal's office. I rushed down the stairs quickly and ran to him. He wrapped his arms around me and gave such a hug that I wanted to melt into it. As he hugged me, he whispered in my ear "you still smell the same. I missed your perfume." Or something like that.
I can't remember what happened after that. Maybe a group of us went out for lunch with him. Maybe we did not. In any case, that was the last I ever saw of him. This was someone I used to care about a lot, yet I sure made no effort to keep in touch with him once he left school. This, again, is the story of my life. I seem to have no trouble divesting myself of relationship ties and affections, especially at a distance. Absence does not make the heart grow fonder in my book. I am not celebrating or indicting this trait. It is what it is.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
The ad was beautiful and powerful in its simplicity: a full-page ad with a white background, a picture of a single green plantain in the center, and the following copy at the bottom: Esta es la única mancha que no queremos sacar (this is the only stain we do not want to remove). A reference to the term tener la mancha the plátano (which literally means to have the stain of the plantain, symbolically that which makes us Puerto Rican and is indelible), the ad was eloquent and very successful at tugging at the heartstrings and our sense of pride, so much so that when it came out I tore the sheet from the newspaper and taped it to the wall of our apartment, where it joined other assorted post cards and clippings that covered the walls.
I wish I still had that ad, so I could show it to my daughter. There is a lot of crap in advertising, but every once in a while someone hits it out of the park. That was one of those times.
Lucky for me, I brought my notebook computer from work home on Friday. So I will be able to connect to the office and work from here. I may have to bite the bullet and head to the office later today, as I think my boss' boss invited me to attend his weekly staff meeting today. I don't get invited every week, and usually when I do it is because they need me there to answer questions or whatnot. So if I check my calendar and the meeting is today, I will have to muster all my willpower in order to go. Just thinking about leaving the house sends my heart racing.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
What do Puerto Ricans celebrate? We celebrate the anniversary of a failed coup. We celebrate the time when Spain squashed a dream. We also conmemorate the day when, one-hundred and thirty-seven years later, a US federal agency decided to dispense justice by their own hands, bypassing such inconveniences as due process and offers of voluntary surrender.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
I like my humans, although they have a bad habit of closing their bedroom door, as you can notice in the picture. I like my house, it has lots of high shelves and places to climb on. It also has lots of goodies I can chew on, like those things at the tip of the window blinds cords. I like to sit at the windowsill and watch little birds flutter around. What I would do if I could only go outside.
1. growing up in puerto rico,, i am wondering what you thought about the possibility of leaving all of that behind,, your family,, your culture,, life as you had come to know it,, and coming to the states?? was it a childhood dream?? or was it more or less a "career move"???
When I was growing up the thought of leaving the island for good never crossed my mind. I lived with my head buried in books about far away places: Agatha Christie novels, picture books about Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel frescoes, books about Pompeii or the discovery of the ruins of Troy, places I would love to visit one day. My dad had done graduate work at Stanford in Palo Alto. My mom had spent a year in Berlin on a a Fulbright scholarship. I envisioned a future where I would travel and maybe live in another country for a short time, but there was never a question in my mind as to the fact that I was going to live my life on the island. Where else would I be?
It's not like people did not leave the island. They did, in droves. But the largest migration waves in Puerto Rican history had been made up mostly of the poor and rurally displaced, coming to the US to get jobs in factories and in farms, being treated like dirt, like second-class citizens. My mom's brother lived in New York (he still does), and his life was full of struggles. A couple of aunts on my dad's side had worked abroad, but had managed to come back home. It just wasn't what I wanted for myself. The massive Diaspora of professionals of which I am a part had not yet taken place.
As a grownup I saw things differently. After a year living in Madison, Wisconsin while my ex went to grad school, I had a taste for something different and I liked it. Years later, I had just gone through a divorce and the island felt small and confining, my life there stagnant. I saw rising crime rates, overpopulation, nightmarish traffic, a public school system that left a lot to be desired. I saw salaries in Puerto Rico were too low compared to those in the US for comparable positions, that a degree in Liberal Arts did not really open many doors on the island, and those that it opened were not very wide. I was weary of the insular mentality that afflicted island Puerto Ricans, myself included.
I was working as an administrative assistant (in title, in reality I was doing much more than that), when I was presented with a wonderful opportunity: a relocation offer to come to Houston in a new position within the company. All moving expenses were paid and I would receive a $20K salary increase yearly. How could I refuse? I needed a change, a place that felt safer to raise my daughter, a place where I would earn a salary that would allow me to live decently. I did not think twice and took the offer. Some people have said I was very brave in doing this, leaving everything behind and coming here with no safety net, no network of family and friends. I never felt it was that great of a challenge. It was hard adjusting at first, but also very exciting. I don't regret it one bit. I have made a new life here and have had a second chance at building a family.
And yet, I still harbor the dream of one day going back home. As much as I like Texas, nothing compares to the dream of my homeland. No matter what, I will always feel like a stranger here. I conveniently forget that even at home I felt like a foreigner, and find myself longing for Puerto Rico in the same idealized way that all immigrants do. But the Puerto Rico I miss is not the present-day island. My Puerto Rico is forever frozen in time, back in the year 2000, when I left it to move to Texas. The island of my dreams may date from even earlier times, from my childhood in the 1970's and 1980's.
2. being involved in the corporate world as you are,, and thus realizing the importance of a having firm grasp on the english language,, i am wondering if your daughters are being taught english or spanish as their first language?? and regardless of your answer,, i am wondering why you made that decision...
When we moved here it was just Paula and me, and she was two years old and learning to speak Spanish. She picked up English quite quickly, and insisted in speaking to me in English because she knew I spoke the language. Paula is definitely bilingual, but her Spanish is more rudimentary than I would like. I need to get her some Spanish lessons so that she learns to read and write well. She wants to learn more. We have spoken about her maybe going to college in my old alma mater, the University of Puerto Rico. It is an excellent school and it is extremely affordable compared to schools in the US, but classes are in Spanish so she would need to be quite fluent. I want to help her learn Spanish well, so that when the time comes to choose a school, she has that option available. With rising college costs in the US, it's something to consider.
I will have a harder time teaching Spanish to Isabel, since she was born here and her daddy and grandparents do not speak Spanish. But I am hopeful. She understands certain expressions, lots of her baby terms are in Puerto Rican slang (she refers to her pacifier as a "bobo", for example) and whenever I can I make her watch TV in Spanish. Also, living in Texas there is more people speaking the language around her, in daycare for example. Now, if only I could get Gabe to learn Spanish I will be set.
Spanish is my native language. I am fluent in English. I studied French and Italian in college. I know some rudiments of Brazilian Portuguese. Being exposed to all these languages has enriched my life not just professionally, but on a deep personal level as well. I hope I can give my daughters the same opportunities I have had.
3. i want to know more about your affinity with dead poets.. i too have always been especially taken with the works borne of despair, tragedy, rage,, but i think that is also reflected in my demeanor and my work... you however seem to have a much more socially acceptable,, if i may use the phrase,, approach to life,, where does all the pain and anguish register with you??? how do you feel it effects your own writing??
I have struggled so much with this question in particular, paisley. It has made me reflect a lot about my life. I will attempt to answer it to the best of my ability.
As someone who grew up in an alcoholic household and has also struggled with Major Depression for years, I know how deep the abyss can get. Sadness is second nature to me, never far away, even when I am content, as I am now. Hence my affinity for people who are honest about their pain, who make something beautiful out of something so painful. Reading works by those poets, and by the memoirists I am partial to, not only affords me a glimpse into their souls, it helps me connect with my own.
When I was at my lowest, I simply lost my writing voice. No matter what, I could not write. This lasted for more than a decade. I lived inside my head for most of that period, trapped in concentric circles of anguished, obsessive thoughts. Sometimes I wonder what would have come out if I had been able to write through that. It would have been definitely darker and more tortuous than what you read from me now. I am glad I am over that.
I credit my family life with keeping me grounded. I had a large extended family when I was a child, something that unfortunately my girls do not get to experience. I went to elementary school at a very small school where everybody knew each other and where I was the straight-A teacher's pet. When I was a teenager, my brother took me under his wing. He was four years older than me and quite popular. I was the little sister who tagged along with him and his friends. So even my youthful experiments with drinking, smoking et al where done under controlled conditions. At home I was the golden child, the baby of the family. I grew up with the sense that I was someone special. This was good and bad, especially when you have an older sister with learning disabilities.
I loved my immediate family, my dad, mom and siblings. Granted we had our faults and dysfunctions (which were never talked about or even acknowledged for years), but my family meant everything to me. I grew up with an "us against the world" mentality. My dad may have been an alcoholic, but he tried to be the best dad he could be, and always provided well for us. Whenever we needed help, he would be there. Sometimes he would get drunk on whiskey at night and the undercurrent of violence that could flow at any moment scared me. Thankfully, he did not physically abuse us; he had enough restraint and no doubt remembered the abuse he suffered at the hands of his dad. No matter how drunk he got, or how bad things got at home, the next day, he would get up, shower and go to work. From him I learned to be responsible with my commitments regardless of my emotions, and that nobody would care about me and come to my aid like my family could. I also learned that even good people are extremely flawed.
My parents, especially my mother, had extremely high expectations of me. I did not want to disappoint them. I am very close to my mother. For years I was her rock, her emotional and psychological support. Her talk about committing suicide always scared me. But, like my dad, she was also a responsible, dependable person, always going to work, never doing anything crazy, regardless of the pain inside. We had times when things got a little rocky between us, especially after my dad died. She became even more dependent on me and I finally rebelled and tried to get a life of my own. But we have always been quite close. She has helped me a lot when I have needed help as an adult. She loves my kids. We talk every week. I am so glad she never followed through with her suicide fantasies.
All of this formed my character. Early in life I had to learn to rein in my own emotional turmoil, because there was no way I was going to act up and cause trouble. My parents had enough on their plate. I have a very strong sense of duty and a keen awareness that whatever I choose to do in life will have consequences on my loved ones. The upside is that I am the kind of person who keeps going no matter what, which makes me what my therapist called a highly-functioning depressed person. The downside is that I am too dependent on people's feedback, too eager to please. I always want to give people the benefit of the doubt and strive to understand the motivations for their actions, to put myself in their shoes. The problem with that is that sometimes I am not fully aware of the nature of my feelings and I bury them deep down, where they fester until they explode into episodes of misplaced rage or extreme sorrow, which mostly Gabe and girls have to put up with. I am open and friendly with people, and I like to be honest and true. But I also can be very guarded, and I really don't have many close friends.
4. as the mother of two young daughters,, what are the building blocks you hope to instill in them,, while they are young,, the things that you will know,, no matter what course they choose for themselves,, you have given them as a foundation on which to build their lives???
I want them to know that I will always love them and will be there for them, no matter what they do with their lives. Paula and I talk about this frequently. She feels compelled to test this by asking me questions to gage how far my allegiance would go. The other day she asked me if I would still love her if she kills someone. And I told her that I would be there to visit her in jail every week. Then she said not to worry, that she had no plans to kill anyone.
I want them to grow up with the same sense I had of being someone important and special. I want them to love themselves. They both have my genes, which carry the potential for suffering from depression. Isabel has it on her dad's side as well. I want them to feel good about who they are and have a healthy concept of self-worth, so that if the darkness ever shows up, they take it for what it is, just a chemical thing and not a character flaw.
I want my daughters to be tolerant, kind and compassionate people. I want them to be accepting of others. I want them to be open-minded and to know that no religion in this world has the answer to all the questions. Nobody has a monopoly on truth.
I want them to feel they can do anything they want if they work hard for it. There should be no glass ceiling above their heads. There should be no concerns about their ethnic roots. Other people will still be hung up on that, but I don't want them to even worry about it. While I don't want them to be naive, they should not handicap themselves with those kinds of thoughts. I also want them to know I don't expect them to be perfect or win a Nobel Prize. I just want them to make a good life for themselves. Last, I want them to always be close to their family, no matter what, because we are the ones who will see them at their best and at their worst and love them just the way they are.
5. what legacy do you hope to leave behind????
Healthy, well-adjusted children will be my main legacy. I really hope I get to accomplish that. Other than that, I think I will ephemeral. Somewhere in a library bookshelf there is a book that includes two short stories written by me. Maybe someone will read them for a class years after I die. Maybe not. I am OK with that. If I manage to ever write and publish something else, I will be happy. But for now, the blog is good enough for me.
If you are interested in doing an interview, here's how it works:
1. Leave me a comment saying "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with a post containing your answers to the questions and a link to my profile or blog as your interviewer.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.
Friday, September 21, 2007
[Fiction] Friday Challenge for September, 21 2007:
Pick an unusual phobia and explain why a character has it.
Mayra Cortes was a fashion designer whose clothes were described as colorful, whimsical and charming by the trade magazines. Her specialty was bright colors, turquoise, hot red, green and others inspired by her childhood in the Caribbean. Sometimes people came to her with requests for custom pieces, and she always approached these with trepidation, dreading certain requests. The term "little black dress" made her cringe, for example. She had been asked repeteadly why she did not use the color black in her designs, and her answer was always the same: black is overrated, my designs are full of life.
The truth was she could not stand the color black. One glance at something black, it did not really matter what, would make her break out in a sweat and feel a strong desire to run and hide. This made things a little hard in life, as black is quite a pervasive color in everyday objects. She always designed with colored pencils. She tried not to use a computer and when she did she had her software set up to use colored fonts instead of black. She avoided going out much for fear of encountering something black out in the open. She took anti-anxiety medicine. It still was hard to deal with. The truth was, no amount of medicine and treatment could mend a grieving heart.
When Mayra was five years old her family had been in a car accident while driving home from a day at the park. It had been such a great day too, with Mayra and her brother flying kites and competing to see who could fly it highest. She also rode her bike, and her dad took off her training wheels for the first time. She was ready, and took off with grace and speed, a seamless transition. Mayra's mom had brought sandwiches, and as Mayra sat at the picnic table eating hers, a chango bird flew down and set at the edge of her table quite close to her, watching her intently with its yellow eyes, waiting for a crumb to fall so it could grab it. The bird scared her with its aggressiveness. She shushed it and the bird resisted at first, then finally took off after cackling in protest.
On Road number one an 18-wheel truck whose brakes failed rammed the family car from behind, killing her parents and brother. Miraculously, Mayra only suffered minor injuries.
The day of her family's burial, their large family showed up, clad in black and filling the funeral home with loud sobs and misery. Mayra sat alone and forgotten in her starchy black linen dress as her grandmother and aunts comforted each other. As they were lowering the caskets to the ground, a black bird came to sit on top of Mayra's dad's coffin. Mayra looked astonished as the bird cackled loudly and looked in her direction.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
The first old drunk guy hit on me the night of my senior prom, which took place at the old Dupont Plaza Hotel in Condado, Puerto Rico. Speaking of the Dupont Plaza, if the name rings no bells, click on the link and learn about a dark chapter in Puerto Rican history, which took place months after my senior prom, and which claimed the life of the father of one of our childhood friends, among others.
But I digress. If you visit my blog, you have already had the wonderful opportunity to glance at my senior prom pic. So you know what I looked like that night. If you haven't seen it or have wiped it from your memory (and who wouldn't?) allow me to share with you again my big-nosed, raccoon-eyed, gigantic-earring, curtain-of-hair splendor. I mean, look at that! How could the poor middle-aged drunken Cuban guy who hit on me could resist?
The night of my senior prom we had booked a hotel room so we did not have to drive home. I did not have a date (well, my mom was my date, can you say loser?) and I hated most people in my graduating class, so I drifted in and out of the ballroom and just wandered around the hotel. I think my mom retired to bed early and I decided to ditch the prom and hang out with my brother and sister-in-law so I could drink and smoke. The legal drinking age in Puerto Rico is 18, by the way (although I was off by one year). There was a bar & night club up in the last floor of the hotel and a group called Las Mariposas was doing a show there. It was two guys doing funny songs and imitations.
I was sitting at the bar with my brother and sister-in-law, having a drink, smoking a cigarrette and feeling all grown up when this forty-something guy stumbled up to me and said in a very thick Cuban accent: "oye, ¿tú eres de verdad o de mentira?" (which loosely translates as are you real, or just an illusion?). Great. The guy asked my name and wanted me to sit and have a drink with him. No fucking way. And he would not give up. At some point he looked at me and he said "Ingrid, estás destinada a ser real." (you are destined to be real.) Give me a break, how corny can you get? I don't know how I did it, but I managed to escape.
The second drunken creepy guy who was charmed by my greek goddess looks followed me in his car from Bounty Steakhouse in Santurce all the way to the campus of the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras. I had lunch there with my sister in law, and after I dropped her off I realized I had left my umbrella at the restaurant, so I drove back to get it. The old drunk was sitting at the bar and he brightened as soon as he saw me. He tried to pick me up and kept on saying "mi amor", but I was in a hurry and brushed him off quite brusquely. I guess he liked women who played hard to get, because the asshole jumped in his car as soon as I left and must have spent about 20 minutes chasing my car, doing his utmost not to veer into incoming traffic.
I made it to the UPR and was about to park next to the museum when the drunken fool blocked the parking spot with his car while yelling "Mi amor, te vengo siguiendo desde Bounty." (my love, I've been following you from Bounty-the restaurant). While the Cuban guy at the Dupont Plaza annoyed me, this guy was a bona fide stalker. Who knows what his intentions were. As you can imagine, he scared me to death, so I drove off in search of the first campus cop I could find. Luckily, I did not have to look far, and the guy disappeared.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
What a busy day I have had. In the morning I checked Bones' blog and got the 3WW prompt. The first and second words brought images to my mind, but I have been so incredibly busy at work today that I have not had a chance to develop anything. So I am just going to post whatever comes into my mind in the next couple of minutes.
Ambiguous: My last two years in college I was very involved in my university's Honor Studies Program. It was there that I met the guy who would be my best friend during that period. We became inseparable, best friends. We got elected student representatives and hung out together all the time. I was quite taken with him, and developed a crush on him. He was gay, and had not officially come out yet. Yes, I know. How Will & Grace of me. But this was not a sitcom, it was my life. In hindsight, it was quite obvious he was gay, but at the time I was in denial. He was struggling with his demons and not ready to come out. He liked to be ambiguous, and so he courted my adoration as a sort of cover.
Nine: Paula, my oldest daughter, is nine years old. I sometimes marvel at how fast she is growing. Just writing this sentence made my eyes water.
Slept: Once, when I was a kid, a parranda came to our house during the Holidays. I slept through it and missed out on the fun.
Where I grew up the climate was pretty much uniform all year round (the seasons are maybe rain/more rain), so I am perpetually confused about the traditional four seasons that people allude to. I wear the wrong clothes: strappy sandals in winter, boots in summer. I fail to perceive the emotional atmosphere that certain seasons evoke in most people. I would very much like to, but it just doesn't happen. I guess I am not wired that way. Except for spring, where I am in a constant state of elation for about a week. Because I am finally rid of the cold.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Monday, September 17, 2007
Sunday, September 16, 2007
This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt is "collecting."
I don't have an inclination for poetry. I don't read it much and I could not write it even if I tried. But I collect dead poets. Female poets. Dead, broken female poets.
I have kept their names in my head for ages, like talismans. Their deaths haunt me. All tragic deaths, and entirely too early. Two of them took their lives into their own hands. One drank herself to death. She collapsed on the streets of Harlem, died and was buried as an unknown. Another received a death sentence and decided to end her life in her own terms. One resisted the impulse for so long, until she could fight it no longer. They had so much beauty to give, and they were in such pain.
My collection says something about me. My father was an alcoholic. When he tried to sober up, he died. My mother talked about suicide a lot. I grew up fearing my mother's death. She said that she would kill herself while she was still young, before she would become a burden to others. She said she would kill herself before she turned fifty. She is past fifty, and still around.
I have suffered from clinical depression sometime or other in my life. I have known a sorrow so deep, so pervasive that you wonder if it will ever end. Years ago, in another place, I would play with the idea of crashing my car into a tall wall I passed everyday on my way from work. My will to live, my love of life (however painful), my sense of duty kept me from ever giving in to those brief temptations. But I got a glimpse of the utter despair these women must have felt, and to a certain extent I understand it.
Also, I have someone close in my life who attempted suicide in their youth. Despite the fact that it was so long ago and this person is at a different stage in life, I know that once that threshold is crossed the fear is gone. If things go badly there is nothing stopping them from considering an option they have already chosen before. And so I find myself back to the way I lived as a child, with the fear in the back of my mind that I will be powerless to stop someone I love from leaving me behind.
Below are excerpts of works from the poets I collect. Two of the poems are in Spanish, and I could not find any satisfactory translations on the web, so I took a stab at translating them. I enjoyed doing the translations and trying to respect and maintain the spirit of the original Spanish verse.
Julia de Burgos, Puerto Rican (1914-1953)
Yo misma fui mi ruta
Yo quise ser como los hombres quisieron que yo fuese:
un intento de vida;
un juego al escondite con mi ser.
Pero yo estaba hecha de presentes,
y mis pies planos sobre la tierra promisora
It's hard to convey the aching beauty of Julia de Burgos' poetry in translation, but below is my best attempt at translating into English this excerpt.
I grew up in Carolina, the town where Julia de Burgos is from. I studied her poems in school, I memorized and recited her ode to the Rio Grande de Loíza, the largest river on the island, which runs through our city. I was so proud to come from the same place as her, and so sad as I learned about the tragic life she led and how it ended.
Alfonsina Storni, Argentinean (1892-1938)
Voy a dormir
Dientes de flores, cofia de rocío,
manos de hierbas, tú, nodriza fina,
tenme prestas las sábanas terrosas
y el edredón de musgos escardados.
Voy a dormir, nodriza mía, acuéstame.
Ponme una lámpara a la cabecera;
una constelación, la que te guste;
todas son buenas, bájala un poquito.
Déjame sola: oyes romper los brotes...
te acuna un pie celeste desde arriba
y un pájaro te traza unos compases
para que olvides... Gracias... Ah, un encargo:
si él llama nuevamente por teléfono
le dices que no insista, que he salido.
Below is my translation. Again, some of its beauty gets lost in the transition. This one is especially poignant to me because it is the last poem Alfonsina wrote before killing herself by walking into the ocean at Mar del Plata.
Teeth made of flowers, cap of mist,
hands made of grass, you, fine nursemaid,
have ready for me the earthy blankets
and the eiderdown of weeded out moss.
I am going to sleep, my nursemaid, put me down.
Put a lamp at the head of my bed;
a constellation, you choose one
they are all good, dim it a little.
Leave me alone: you hear the sprouts break through...
a celestial foot rocks your craddle from above
and a bird composes a few bars for you
so you can forget... Thank you... Ah, one more request:
if he calls again on the phone
tell him not to insist, I have gone out.
Anne Sexton, American (1928-1974)
Wanting to Die
Since you ask, most days I cannot remember.
I walk in my clothing, unmarked by that voyage.
Then the most unnameable lust returns.
Even then I have nothing against life.
I know well the grass blades you mention
the furniture you have placed under the sun.
But suicides have a special language.
Like carpenters they want to know which tools.
They never ask why build.
This excerpt from Anne's poem reminds me of my mother and her obsession with pondering the best method to kill herself. She would talk about getting in the tub full of water and throwing an appliance in it. She would talk about slashing her wrists, about taking pills, about doing all three so that there would be no chance of failure. I should have never worried so much, as I see now she was just venting, albeit in a way she should not have done in front of her child. She was too chicken and pain-averse to have actually done something. And thankfully her life is quite different now and I still have her around, which in the end is what matters to me.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Thursday, September 13, 2007
[Fiction] Friday Challenge for September, 14 2007:
Write a story, poem, or essay from the point of view of an inanimate object.
I am in a crappy mood this morning. My moods are starting to get all weird again. Last night, a small misunderstanding with Gabe caused me to freak out and start a sobfest. At night I had restless sleep and woke up a few times. My asthma flared up and I had to do a breathing treatment at 4:30 AM.
I woke up this morning with a feeling of dread, the all familiar stir at the pit of my stomach. I am going back to work after taking the day off yesterday to care for Isabel and I wonder what is in store for me, what messes do I have to clean up. I feel like a condemned prisoner walking towards the firing squad. I wish I could stay here and not have to go out at all.
When I started this blog one of my motivators was to chart my moods, in the hopes of seeing a trend in black and white, something that will help me understand better what is going on, beyond the "hormonal" label. If you look at the themes of my posts, you'll see that "Mood" has the most posts associated with it. I have been too lazy and have not done any kind of analysis of my mood trends, but perhaps it is time I do that.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
This is my first time doing 3WW.
This week's words are:
Below is my entry:
She was sitting at the computer when she heard a loud crash, a yell and shrieks of laughter. She ran to the living room. "What's all that racket???"
Her oldest daughter had been skipping rope (in the middle of the living room, come on!) when the rope got tangled up in her youngest daughter's big wheel rider thingy. The rider went up in the air and landed a few feet from the TV. The oldest was not hurt, but she was crying in full-blown drama-queen mode. The youngest, momentarily distracted from her easel by the crash, thought it was a game and laughed delightedly. A closer look at the little rascal showed her arms and legs covered in blue marker scribbles, original toddler tattoo art. Great, just great.
I made these signs using the Church Sign Generator, which I discovered while visiting Rod's blog. No offense meant to Megan, Laura, Amanda or my other Christian friends. I just could not resist.
Maybe Bravo has finally gone too far. I used to think differently, but now I realize their shows are no different from the reality television drivel the networks throw at us. They want us to think their programming is more sophisticated, but the truth is every Bravo reality show is an exercise in snobbish futility.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
I had been living in Texas for a year when it happened. I made it to the office and a coworker had the radio on. I was stunned. Everybody was upset and details were so sketchy at first. Most of us who were parents felt the impulse to pick up our kids from school. I did not do it, because I wasnt sure what was going on. Maybe she was safer there than where I was. I did not see any images until much later, and that made the whole thing feel quite surreal.
So much has happened since 9/11. While I don't agree or support many of the decisions of this country's government, and the direction they have taken us, none of that matters today.
Today is a day to honor the memory of the victims of this tragedy.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Part of Speech: noun
dejection, despondency, doldrums, dumps*, gloom, gloominess, glumness, low spirits, melancholy, moodiness, mournfulness, sadness, unhappiness
euphoria, glee, happiness, joy
Roget's New Millennium™ Thesaurus, First Edition (v 1.3.1)Copyright © 2007 by Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. All rights reserved.* = informal or slang
I am in the office. I have things to do, a gigantic report to finish and review so we can finally send it quickly this morning. I have no energy whatsoever.
Part of Speech: adjective
aimless, confused, cool, discontinuous, disordered, displaced, disunited, divided, far out, fitful, fuzzy, inchoate, incoherent, incohesive, irrational, loose, muddled, rambling, separated, spaced out, spacey*, spasmodic, split, unattached, unconnected, unorganized
affiliated, attached, coherent, connected, jointed, united
Roget's New Millennium™ Thesaurus, First Edition (v 1.3.1)Copyright © 2007 by Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. All rights reserved.* = informal or slang
This weekend went through my fingers like water. Absolutely nothing of substance was accomplished this weekend. I spent most of my weekend inside the house. The pool is closed until next year. I had no energy to exercise. We did not go out in the sun. Gabe made a couple of errands, but I stayed home with the girls. Isabel is so moody lately that I cringe at the thought of going out with the girls. Every time I do, I wind up feeling frazzled, not relaxed.
I went out once Sunday afternoon, to buy Paula a pair of sneakers for volleyball. She had practice tonight and her first game is next weekend. That was the most productive thing I did all weekend. Plus a few loads of laundry.
My inactivity was deliberate in part. The past week had been so hectic at work that I needed to unwind. But today I can't help but feel like I squandered my weekend. I don't want to go back to work today. The rush begins anew, as there's several deadlines this week.
At least I did not make a sorry spectacle of myself, like some other people having an aimless weekend.
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Browsing through Flickr I found this picture by a Puerto Rican photographer. Instantly, two things came into my mind:
1- Hitchcock's movie, The Birds.
2- Memories of Old San Juan and the swarms of pigeons that live there.
I used to love chasing those pigeons as a child. There is even a little park called "El parque de las palomas" (Pigeon Park), where you can feed them, and if you are a little kid, chase them all over the place like I used to do.
Saturday, September 08, 2007
This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt is writing.
I don't do much handwriting anymore, and lately I have noticed the quality of my handwriting is going down. My signature has become a hurried scribble, my notes to Paula's teachers look like Paula could have written them. In fact, Paula has better handwriting than I do.
I used to love writing checks, as recently as four years ago. Those times are long gone. The convenience of automatic drafts, ATMs and check cards has turned checks into an oddity, an anachronism. I am OK with that, but I do miss writing the occasional check.
At work I still take notes by hand, but they are almost laconic. The full summaries are fleshed out on my computer, usually as e-mails. My job has definitely changed the way I write. I illustrate trends, I make charts. I write bullet points. When you have to capture the attention of people who have little time to give you, you learn to be succint. When you have to boil down complex issues into a high-level executive synopsis, it's hard not to continue that approach outside of work.
I always say I miss writing with a pen on paper; keeping a handwritten journal, maybe one of those beautiful ones you can buy at bookstores. Unfortunately I don't have the patience to do that. While it is tempting to blame the ubiquitous computer for my inability to keep a handwritten record of my thoughts, the truth is that over the years I started keeping journals at various times and was never able to continue beyond a few days' worth of entries.
My blog is the longest-running production I have ever kept. I am amazed at how long I have kept it going, 10 months now. Keeping a blog has allowed me to resume my pursuit of writing, and has connected me to a wonderful new community of friends. I know that the reason why I have kept it so long is because I have an audience to write to. When I started the blog my focus was very much into doing my own thing. Now I think about who reads my blog when I write, and await with enthusiasm the comments I receive.
There will always be writing in my life, whether it's by hand or computer or whatever medium comes in the future. I am looking forward to this evolution.
Ramona, ¿ande tas metío? ¿Dónde?
La Ramona es la más gorda de las mozas de mi pueblo
Ramona te quiero
Tiene un globo por cabeza y no se le ve el pescuezo
Ramona te quiero
Sus piernas son dos columnas, su trasero es un pandero
Ramona te quiero
Le han hecho una cama con cuatro vigas de hierro
Y cuando se acuesta tiembla el suelo de mi pueblo
Le han hecho una silla en casa del cerrajero
Con catorce patas pa´que resista su cuerpo
La Ramona es barrigona, su cuerpo da miedo verlo
Ramona te quiero
La Ramona es pechugona tié dos cántaros por pechos
Ramona te quiero
Los brazos de la Ramona son mas anchos que mi cuerpo
Ramona te quiero
La han hecho un retrato en casa del retratero
como era tan gorda solo ha salido medio cuerpo
Se ha comprao un vestido colorao de terciopelo, hecho de volantes con cien capas de torero
Je je je je madre... ay Ramona...
La Ramona se ha fugao con el hijo de cartero
Ramona te quiero
Como no cabía en el tren se la lleva en un velero
Ramona te quiero
El velero se ha ido a pique por el exceso de peso
Ramona te quiero
Va dando zarpazos pensando en su salvamento
Pero no hay cristiano que pueda con tanto peso
A lo lejos viene un barco de balleneros
Han tirao las redes, la remolcan por los pelos
Creyéndola una ballena la han cazao los balleneros
Ramona te quiero
Sentadico en una orilla llora el hijo del cartero
Ramona te quiero
Se ha quedao sin su Ramona por no calcular el peso
Ramona te quiero, Ramona te quiero...
Ay madre Ramona. Un cacho carne con ojos eso es lo que eres Ramona...
Instead I sit here listening to Colin Hay's most recent album and reading blogs I discover through other blogs, trying to break through the fog. I have discovered some that are so well written and demonstrate very sophisticated thinking. I find myself in awe of these people, and inevitably the comparisons arise. I am nowhere near as articulate as them. My mind is an alphabet soup, a jumble of thoughts that sometimes find their way out in spurts, halfway cooked, not very deep, bare bones outlines of the cacophony inside.
Am I turning stupid and don't know it?
Friday, September 07, 2007
Right after I made my top 20 list, I started remembering more old songs I loved. Some of them I love more than what I put on the list. I will not go back and change it, but since I can't get these songs out of my head now, you'll have to endure them.
1- Down Under, Men at Work. How could I have forgotten that one? I was a major Men at Work fan. It's always been a favorite of mine. The video always cracked me up. And I heard about vegemite for the first time.
2- Talkin' Bout a Revolution, Tracy Chapman. Tracy Chapman's music is timeless. This song is as fresh now as when it first came out.
3- The Way it Is, Bruce Hornsby and the Range. It was the piano that hooked me, but the lyris are great too. I bought their recording when it first came out and loved to listen to this song. Apparently the piano has inspired everybody and their brother, as YouTube is full of cover videos of the song.
4- The Glamorous Life, Sheila E. This song kicked ass back then and it's still great.
5- We'll Be Together, Sting. I was such a Sting fan from the time he was in the Police through his first four solo records. This song was from his second release. The video was on heavy rotation on MTV.
6- Who's that Girl?, Eurythmics. The language of love slips from my lover's tongue... cooler than ice cream and warmer than the sun... This is one of my favorite songs by Eurythmics.
7- Electric Avenue, Eddy Grant. What can I say? I can't get it out of my head! How can I resist lyrics like these?
A character gets three wishes…
Thursday, September 06, 2007
1. Copy and paste the story below, and the rules, on your blog.
2. Find out who you’re going to tag. (2-3 people, or more, if you wish)
3. Write one or two sentences to continue the story, and use the titles of the blogs you’re tagging or any word(s) associated with them as keywords in the links you include in your part of the story.
4. Remember to tell your taggees that you’ve tagged them!
5. Feel free to use this and start your own viral link story. I’d very much appreciate a link back to Mother’s Home! if you do. (Or a tag, if you prefer!)
The story is below. The last paragraph is mine and it has links to the 6 friends I have chosen. If you got tagged, feel free to do the meme or not. It could be fun, if you decide to continue the nonsense story.
Here’s the beginning:
Mother’s Home! the cave troll yelled. I have been out all day strangling chickens like CRAZY! for the evil Empress. All i want now is a MOment to myself, but i keep getting Linda talking Drivel, but that is better than a certain someone Mooing. Then suddenly what should appear but the NOT evil Empress and all her strangled chickens and Mags cooked them all up and made us a lovely cake to eat. Gracie wanted all the cake for herself but the NOT evil Empress was able to hack off a good sized slab for herself!!! Ha ha ha, Gracie belched loudly after eating all the scrumptious cake that Mags had baked and watched Callie scrappin’ with Sarge about who was gonna win Big Brother 8. Sarge started humming “Dixie,” and almost choked on the bite of cake in his mouth! So he got some coffee to go to wash down the cake. The coffee helped a bit but he had to vocalize before he started singing again so he began, “Mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi…”
…who heard him all the way from Bloggingham Palace and said, “Where is that awful noise coming from? Is there a sick wailing Wacky Mom loose in the woods?” She said, “I’ll bet Songbird can teach him to sing!” but she was busy BONDing in the desert with Kathleen who sat writing heresy in her diary. She was absolutely no help. So Mi-Mi asked Kat to put him on the PP&P list to save his sorry soul. Alas, Ralph the Airhead made a new batch but the Patti-cakes fell in Polliwog’s Pond and nobody got to eat cake after all! It was all Bee’s fault (somehow). Feeling sorry for herself, she pranced over to Odat’s for a dance but she only heard strange mumbling…
That mumbling, however, resulted from The Alien Next Door trying to clone Justin Stanely’s Weblog. The meticulous and risky cloning occurred throughout several millennia, past, present, and future. Or so it seemed; no one could keep count. It was just too much. The mind-numbing years had finally sublimed the earth into a pristine Bobbarama. All well and good, said Bob, but whatever happened to the rules? Before anyone got hurt, however, enough stars fell and crashed to alert Sci-Fi Girl, who grabbed her laptop and returned to the woods, where Mimi’s Dating Profile popped up, allowing a lion to lie happily next to a lamb…
Now, the insane writer burst into the forest, kissing the dogwood and sat on the lion, spinning tales about sci-fi girl’s boyfriend, sci-fi guy, who had his eye on [her] DNA, which he was hoping to sell for anything goes. But just then the mad goat lady and the drowsey monkey pranced into the forest and sang a truly quiet symphony, which annoyed the insane writer.
“What’s that funky sound?” screamed sci-fi guy.
“Well, it sure isn’t a raspberry-latte!” grumbled the insane writer. “Get a grip, sci-fi guy! You’re my main character! I expect you to know how to split an atom! Ignore that woman and her indolent pet! Now, go and do your dastardly thing!”
Kissing the dogwood had been a lure, a trap set by the Mighty Morgan to take control of the BlogWood. Those petulant witches disguised as writers must be eradicated, them and their man slaves. She stuck her talons into the lion with A Twist and a Skewer till it rolled over and laughingly pleaded to go back to Neverland where it had been extremely happy. Her faithful followers, the Gargons grouped around her skirt folds, drooling and kissing her hem in adoration. “Here, take this poison” she commanded, “why? (asked) paisley“, the only rebel in the camp. “To blight their computers my little friends, it’s a special potion A Bit of This and a Dash of the Other“…she smiled mysteriously in her best Mae West accent and set off in search of the Englebert Humperdink Fan Club.
well they searched all over boricua in texas….till they found just write road… aha this was the place… if they could just get in the front row,, surely that was the place that screamed “flash your knickers here“… and oh yes… they would… in doing so they could only hope to distract the masses long enough for the twisted sisters to sneak in with the special potion they had cooked up………
But the potion did not work. They were missing the secret ingredient... Papaya!!! There was no use hiding in public. Off they went in search of an abyss to gaze into, for they had heard the place was haunted and they could find Pyreflies there. Picking up pieces of somebody else's memories was a habit they enjoyed very much. Live and love!