Monday, June 30, 2008

Culinary ambitions

One of the crucial elements of Puerto Rican identity (not just for me) is food. Our cuisine is a mix of Taíno, Spanish and African. There are also dishes that emerged as a result of the canned food and dry goods from the PRRA era. In short, Puerto Rican food is a reflection of our history and we are very attached to it.

I don't usually make a lot of typical dishes. Yesterday I had the urge to make some typical stuff, so I went to the supermarket and bought meat and some root vegetables and green bananas, because I wanted to make alcapurrias, biftec encebollado and guineítos en escabeche. This is the first time I ever attempt to make alcapurrias. Gabe had never seen me prepare annato oil before and he was very curious, asking what was it and what exactly it was used for.

Grating green bananas and root vegetables can be time consuming, so I relied on my food processor to speed things up. I used half of the green bananas I bought for the alcapurrias, and boiled the other half for the escabeche. I browned some ground beef with sofrito and seasonings, to use as filling for the alcapurrias. After the alcapurrias were formed, I put them away in the refrigerator. I will fry them today, hoping they come out right.

For dinner last night we ate the biftec encebollado and the guineítos en escabeche. Gabe loved the cube steak with onions, as he has before. But he had a harder time with the guineítos. He had eaten a lot of bread prior to the main dish, so he claimed he was too full to eat them, but I think he just did not like them much. It made me a little sad, although it is not his fault really. I can't force him to like something, and he did not grow up eating that, so he does not have the emotional tie to the dish that I have. But at times like this, I really wish I had my family nearby, so I do not feel so lonely.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Weekend post

I am trying to put some order in the house. This is difficult for me to do. I tend to jump from task to task without ever finishing anything. It's always easier to come up with the idea and start the project than it is to follow it through to the end. Any bump on the road, any sudden distraction, any unexpected dilemma can derail me.

But I am plugging along this weekend. My project is to make Isabel's room livable, and in the process banish toys from our living room. We had the girl's doll house in a corner of the living room, and some toys stored in boxes on the shelves. Naturally, there is always a mess of toys on the floor, and I am tired. I want a grownup space, or at least something that resembles a grownup space. So that is what I have been working on during the weekend. It will probably take me longer than the usual person, but eventually I will get there.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


I woke up early this morning and decided to play with the format of the blog. After moving things around a bit, testing other templates and getting annoyed at column widths, I decided to go back to what I had, with a few dfferences. I have changed some of the font colors, taken some things off and added a few things. I have a new blogroll widget, for example.

The biggest change is that I have a new banner. I played a little with Photoshop and came up with something that captures The sun and the moon, Puerto Rico and Texas. I like it.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Reality shows

Last night I was watching American Idol for Dancers when Gabe came into our bedroom. He took one look at the TV and asked: "is that the dancing show?" I nodded yes. He groaned, said "tell me when it's over," and left the room.

The only reason I was watching this show is because Step it Up and Dance is over, and I really enjoyed that show. So I was looking for something similar to watch. But American Idol for Dancers is not a good substitute. I hate the show's format. I know that the three-judges (one quirky, one bitchy, one normal), two-days, public voting formula is the key to the success of these franchises. Still, I think the show is incredibly lame.

To me, there is a big difference between the dancing show I watched on Bravo and the dancing show on Fox. Yes, the Fox show came first and has more viewers. That does not make it better. Maybe I am a snob, liking the Bravo show because it's on the alterna-network?

To my husband, there was no difference whatsoever between the two shows. Both are merged in his mind as the dancing show. And he was having none of it.

Gabe is sick and tired of reality shows. He used to be able to sit in the same room while I was getting my Bravo reality show fix. Sometimes he would even ask a question or two, or laugh at something on screen. But after enduring several seasons of Project Runway, Top Chef and Work Out, plus first seasons of Shear Genius, Top Design and Step it Up and Dance, he just can't take it anymore. They are all the same to him and he hates them all. He no longer wishes to sit with me and laugh at the monumental vapidness of Millionaire Matchmaker. Not even the mildly amusing bromance on Make me a Supermodel made him watch a whole episode. He hates both the OC and NYC housewives equally and is not at all interested in watching them ironically. He hopes I stop watching when Project Runway (the one he hates the most) moves to Lifetime.

The only show he would still watch with me is Flipping Out, because he truly wants to see how the collapse of the real estate market is going to affect Jeff Lewis' life. Plus, Jeff's anal-retentive, control freak, OCD antics make him laugh. And I get it. Jeff knows how to be a great reality show character. Also, Gabo is a much neater person than I am, and living in the chaotic mess that is our house, he can identify with Jeff's obsession with symmetry and order.


I am in a better mood today. It's a sunny day, a bit hot, but nice and bright. I am working from home and I can hear birds chirping outside my window. It's Friday and I am taking three days off next week, so I have a long recess from work ahead of me. Also, I dealt with my finances, and that has taken a lot of the anxiety off.

I finally sat down and paid a few pending bills (those that are not set up for automatic draft). Of five, two were past due by a day or two, which was completely unnecessary and totally avoidable had I gotten my act together earlier and stopped burying my head in the sand .

After paying bills and balancing my account, my irrational fear of being destitute has abated. I am not swimming in money, but I am not completely broke either. There is money for gas and food, and maybe to watch a movie this weekend (if there's anything good on).

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Life on Xanax

I took my first Xanax pill this morning. I was in tears because I had failed to set the alarm, which is really quite excessive if you think about it. Gabe was upset, but it's not like he was screaming at me or stomping around. Yet, I came undone. So this was as good a time as any to get over my fear of Xanax and just take a pill.

I feel wheels grinding to a halt in my head, but ever so gently. The chemical is persuading me to call down and I just might listen. Now I have to test if this will work. I will shower and go to the office today. My boss should be back from his trip, and although I am not sure he will actually be at the office (he often works from home himself), I am hoping he does. I need to talk to him about the key issues discussed on that conference call from Monday. I also need to tell him I may need a few days off, a mental health vacation. I do not know if I will have the courage to do this. We'll see.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I saw my doctor today

My doctor said she has seen so many women in my age group suffering the same symptoms I do. She strongly suspects it is due to hormonal changes in my body, so she wants to do testing to measure my levels of estrogen, testosterone and the others associated with the reproductive system, as well as thyroid antibodies. She said that sometimes the thyroid hormone levels may come back looking normal and there might still be a problem, so they measure thyroid antibodies to check for possible autoimmune thyroid disease. In the meantime, she prescribed Xanax to use only as needed (in case I have anxiety attacks).

She agrees with my assessment that I am suffering from pre-diabetes rather than diabetes. Still, she says that the treatment would be similar. She recommended I take Metformin, and explained the benefits of it. She also said I need to eat accordingly and monitor my blood sugar twice a day. And she shared some information on a healthy diet for diabetics. The last few months I have done absolutely nothing to take care of myself or eat healthy, so it is going to take a lot of effort to try to put myself back on track.

Today I feel a lot better. Maybe it due to physical reasons. Maybe it is knowing that someone is looking after me and taking steps to take care of myself. Maybe it is because I am working from home today, but I am not experiencing the panic attacks and uncontrollable crying of the last few days. I am far from cured, though.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


At 12:30 PM I decide to walk to the Commons to get lunch. Walking on the spine, I make eye contact and smile to the few people I cross paths with. The lady ahead of me in line is ordering a very healthy stir fry dish, tofu, veggies, steamed rice, ginger, no sauce. I greet the cook at the pasta bar warmly. He is always very friendly to me. The lady ahead of me glances in my direction as I talk to the cook in Spanish. Whatever. I get meatballs, noodles, mushrooms, and a mix of Alfredo and marinara sauces. Take that, b*tch.

The cafeteria is packed. A sea of tables, with small groups of two and three people per table, pecking at their food, chattering endlessly, watching the news on TV. This is it, I am trapped in a perverse, Fortune 500 version of high school. I resist the strong impulse to drop my bowl of pasta and run the hell out of there. Instead, I busy myself with packing my lunch to go, taking care to include plastic utensils, napkins, a straw. On my way out of the cafeteria, someone calls out to me. It's an old coworker from LA. We exchange greetings. He has a cold, so I wish him a speedy recovery before saying goodbye.

On my way back to my cube, someone I don't know says hi to me and I smile. I congratulate myself on staying in control. Bad idea. Congratulations are not in order. It took a tremendous effort just to get lunch. What is worse, I am painfully aware that keeping my sanity is entirely my responsibility. I can't just have a breakdown. My husband has enough on his hands, he would have a hard time dealing with a three year-old and a crazy wife. Plus he is heavily influenced by my moods; if I go wacky, he may plunge into depression himself. My mom would not be much help either. For starters, she is 2,000 miles across the ocean from where I stand. And she doesn't know how to deal with this kind of stuff.

My doctor, I am seeing her tomorrow. Maybe I can finally put myself in someone's hands and let them take over my care. Please fix me, doctor, I am stuck like a broken record. But she can't help me unless I drive myself there. She can't fix me unless I tell her what is wrong. Not to mention I need to hand out my insurance copay.

Ultimately, it is still up to me to help myself.

Somewhere in the middle of the spine, my chest gets tight and my eyes water. I force the tears back and sing a song in my head to get my mind off track. There is no use crying in such a public place.


I went to bed late last night. I had somewhat of a hard time getting to sleep. At least I did not toss and turn. I feel exhausted, however, as if I had stayed up all night.

I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow. My doctor had left the office she practiced at, and it took a while for her to set up her own office and get on the major insurance companies' networks. But she is finally set up, and I called yesterday to get an appointment for a complete physical. I know something is wrong with me, and I am pretty sure there are biological reasons for it. Hopefully she can help figure out what is going on, why have I gone off the deep end lately. Is this hormonal? Is it related to blood sugar? Is it a weight issue? Is it sleep deprivation? Bad nutrition? All of it? I don't really care, I just want some solace.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Barely contained

I can no longer hide the cracks on the surface. It takes tremendous effort to stop the tears that are now flowing at the slightest provocation. The idea of fasting, after days of binge eating, is suddenly very appealing.

I wish I could just let go and let it all come crashing down. A part of me very much wants to relinquish control and unleash the crazy. Maybe I could start running up and down the aisle, screaming at the top of my lungs and punching cubicle walls left and right as I pass. Maybe I could lie on the floor in the middle of one of the corridors that connect our buildings, and tell whoever asks that it's performance art. Maybe I could improvise a song and dance number at the top of the stairs, regale the cube prairie dogs on the first floor with a story they will be able to tell for years to come. Maybe I could go to the cafeteria, climb on top of a table and start reciting Río Grande de Loíza by Julia de Burgos. Then sit and wait until they come to take me away to the loony bin.

Maybe I could just get up and leave with no advance notice, and never come back. Flush eleven years down the drain. I am very tempted to do this.

Instead, I call our employee assistance program and get a referral to see a therapist on Saturday. Then I write this post. No song and dance numbers for me, thanks.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Hulk Spoof

I like Ed Norton very much and I love how he is willing to make fun of himelf and the rumors that he was a total diva during the filming of The Hulk.

Waxing Moon- Almost there

I took this photo to participate in the June photography challenge at the blog One Man's Travels. This is the first time I participate and my entry is quite literal, entirely on purpose. I love looking at the Moon, but this is the first time that I have actually taken a picture of it. What I like about this picture is how the shape of the almost-full Moon gradually fades into darkness.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Counting this one, I have generated 598 posts since I started this blog in November 2006. Wow. I am amazed I have been able to consistently post this long.

More than anything, this blog is a chronicle of my moods. That is why it has lasted this long, longer than any offline diary I have ever attempted to keep. The medium is definitely to be credited for this longevity. I can post images and songs. I can write a post about memories of my chilhood and have a link to a website with supplemental information. Most of all, I have an audience. No matter how small the number, someone out there is reading this. And that helps me focus and give direction to what I post. A writer is a teller of stories, and stories always need an audience. Like cooking for one person, it is no fun to write something that will never be seen by anybody but its creator. We are at our best when we are doing things for others to consume, be it cooking or writing.

The audience of this blog is mostly comprised of people I do not know in real life. I like it that way. It emboldens me to say stuff I would never say in front of other people, especially friends and family. I have also counted on the vastness of the Internet and my relative anonymity to keep my cover. My blog is a drop in a vast sea of blogs, with only a handful of regular readers.

Maybe I am being naive. If somebody really wanted to find out this blog, they would have no trouble doing so. I am not posting under a pseudonym. I post pictures of myself and my family. It would be easy to find. And yet, I am confident that nobody would go through the trouble.

I have never said anything that can put me at risk of anything other than embarrassment. I hardly talk about work, for example. And when I do, it is always in relation to my mood. I do not talk about actual sensitive work matters. To do so would be idiotic and not very professional.

Is there a value to this blog? What can it possibly contribute that is special and unique? I am just an ordinary person with an ordinary life. This blog is partly a record of that life. Maybe that is its value. As a trained historian, I like to think that in the distant future someone may look at this blog, among many others, as a glimpse of everyday life in the time we live in.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Better mood

It was nice going to the park and meeting with Gabe and his coworkers. I had a blast and my mood improved considerably.

Friday afternoon breakdown

Had lunch with my friend T, and a couple other friends from work whom I had not seen in a while. Lunch was nice, and I was really glad to be there. T is a great friend, and since she moved to Colorado I have missed her, so it's good to be able to spend time together. At times I even forgot the pervassive sadness and had a good meal, chatting with my friends.

After lunch, as I drove back home I thought of T. She reads my blog, probably the only friend from real life who does. I wonder what she thinks when she reads the barrage of depressive feelings that afflict me. After seeing me act like a normal person at lunch, does she believe what I write? In the past I have been classified as a "highly-functioning" depressive, so I always tend to think I put up a good enough front. But do I, really?

That line of thinking made me sad, and I ended up crying in the car, all the way back home. What kind of freak cries alone in the car after spending a good time with friends?

I came home and spent the entire afternoon listening obsessively to Tommy Torres' new CD. He incorporates typical Puerto Rican sounds in some of his songs (jíbaro music, a plena). Some of the songs are making me tear up from nostalgia. Naturally, those are the songs I repeat endlessly.

It's 6:05 PM. I am done with work. I had a late conference call, but I have been done for at least twenty minutes. Gabe and the others are already there. He is waiting for me. I should get ready. I should be showered and dressed by now. I should be leaving the house now. But I am having a hard time getting started. I must break the circular thinking pattern and stop listening to this music that is tearing me inside.

Sticky thought

El amor es como lotería
Gana el que tiene suerte
No el que merecía

Tego Calderón, featured in the song
"El Trabajito" by Tommy Torres.


Love is like the lottery
The luckiest one wins
Not the most deserving


It hasn't been a great week for my mood. Today is not shaping up to be that great either. I should shake off this funk. There are things planned for today, fun things. I am having lunch with my friend T (who is down from Colorado this week) and a few other old coworkers from when I was in the LA group. Also, I am going to a ball game tonight. Gabe, his partner and the rest of the office are having firm portraits taken today. After that, they are going to the ballpark to watch an Astros/Yankees game. There's a ticket for me, and I will meet them after I get off work.

I am going through the motions, though. I could not care less. Depressed people are so self-absorbed. The more despair you feel, the narrower your tunnel vision becomes, until you are incapable of looking at anything other than your pain.

This last bout has been building up over a long period of time. I have neglected so many of my friends, both online and offline. I have simply disappeared. Two of my friends had babies in the last year, and I have not visited or seen their children. I don't call anybody on the phone. I have stopped visiting my fellow mothers' online groups. I telecommute far more than necessary, just so I do not have to go into the office. I have become a recluse, only spending time with my immediate family.

Because this is a recurring a pattern throughout my life, because some of these traits are part of of my makeup, sometimes it is not quite clear to me when things are really getting out of hand.

The world of a depressed person can be in so much turmoil, even when absolutely nothing is going on. It is quite tiring. I wish I could snap out of it already. Frankly, all that anguish becomes boring, like the dull ache of an old sports injury that is always there.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Paula and Ingrid, June 9 2008

We took this picture the night before Paula left for her summer stay in Puerto Rico.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


When I was younger I remember talking in History class about the waves of migration from Puerto Rico to various parts of the US. There were the islanders recruited to work on the sugar plantations in Hawaii in the early years of the 20th century. There were the Puerto Ricans recruited to work in contruction and other matters related to the war effort during WWI. There were the various waves from the island to New York City, that started in the last years of Spanish colonial rule and intensified during "Operation Bootstrap" in the 1950's.

History never stops and the outflow has continued. There are Puerto Ricans all over the United States now, and the demographic component of these migrant waves has evolved as the social and economic landscape of the island evolved. The drain of workers from the island to the mainland exists at all job levels. Economic conditions in Puerto Rico are challenging, to put it mildly. The growth of the Hispanic population in the United States has created a need for bilingual workers. Put those two together and the exodus is understandable. Educators, policemen, doctors, nurses, engineers, business professionals, skilled laborers and service industry workers, these days everybody leaves. According to some estimates, 1,000 Puerto Ricans leave the island every week. I am one of them.

Source: Wikipedia

I left the island on the last day of March in the year 2000. I left for the same reasons that many others have. I wanted a better life for my family. I wanted a better salary and better opportunities for growth than I had available on the island. My company offered me a promotion, a salary increase and paid relocation to Texas. I could not refuse that. On the island I was a secretary, because that is the only job I could get as a History major who did not want to be a teacher.

I was not naive. I knew the United States is not the land of milk and honey. I knew there are good things and bad things about this country, just as there are good things and bad things about Puerto Rico. I knew sometimes there is discrimination against us, a whole host of negative stereotypes that some ignorant people in this country decide to attribute to the Puerto Rican people. But I knew my worth, that I could stand tall and feel proud of myself. I also knew my circumstances were very priviledged, compared to what many people who preceded me in this jump had to face.

It has been interesting, living outside the island. Life has been good so far. I am still with the same company, and I have gone up the ranks since I got here. I remarried and I have a second daughter. I have made good friends. I live every day with the awareness that I am not among my people, but I have met a lot of people from many countries who experience the same. There is a sense of kinship with my Pakistani and Mexican neighbors, with my Argentinian, Brazilian, Panamanian and Colombian coworkers, and with the other Puerto Ricans I have met in Houston. I am not alone.

The Puerto Rico etched in my memory is that of the late twentieth century. There was no tren urbano yet, no reggaeton. It has been almost three years since my last visit and I miss it so much it hurts. Sometimes I dream of sitting on the steps at the base of La Rogativa, or on the rocks by La Puerta de San Juan. I can almost feel the cool breeze against my skin, the warmth of the sun; I can almost hear the sound of the waves of San Juan Bay.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Fragments of a life

I lost my newfound voice in the mid-nineties. I had just started playing with words, breaking out. My stories gave me a sense of purpose and the ability to put into words the plethora of anxieties that plagued me all the time.

Then I met a man and it all went downhill.

What’s that old saying? Behind every great man there is woman. For me it was: behind every struggling male writer there is a wife suffering from writer’s block.

I found myself a fellow writer. He romanced me with a manuscript, stories that amounted to a love letter. I was hooked.

My ex-husband took his writing extremely seriously. He would spend hours thinking about story structure, crafting sentences, not a word out of place. I admired his dedication, his clarity of purpose, the way he would state "I am a writer" so categorically. I was also damn jealous of him.

I was messy in my writing, like I am with everything else in life. Whenever I got the urge, I would sit down and write feverishly, intuitively, knowing that somehow it would come out right. And for a while it did. But somewhere down the line, I lost it.

Living with my ex and his meticulous writing habits, I started to doubt my ability and question the seriousness of my calling. I was incapable of writing like he did; I was too restless to sit still for hours like he did. And I could not be bothered to construct a structure beforehand.

My stories were always rambling variations on the same topic, my neuroses projected onto thinly veiled alter-egos. Two of these stories wound up being published in an anthology of young writers. By the time the book came out, I had already stopped writing. Ultimately I was trivial, a footnote in the story of my ex's ascent to fame.

Once I concluded I was not real writer material, I concentrated on getting ahead at work, and I left the writing to him. Someone had to keep both feet on the ground.

Thus I drifted onto unfamiliar territory, playing at being a grown-up. Now all I needed was a child to complete the cliché. But try as we might, I could not get pregnant. I am convinced it was lack of love that accounted for our failure to conceive at first. We had been married 5 years, going on 20, and I could not remember a time when I had not been unhappy.

But on a fateful weekend, a window to the past was opened. I can’t remember the particulars, only that we spent the whole weekend inside the house, isolated from the world. We made love for the first time in so long. And I knew that if I ever was going to get pregnant, that would be the time.

When we finally got around to turning the TV on we learned Princess Di had been killed in a car crash while fleeing from overeager paparazzi. I had never cared for Diana before, but her death changed all that. I mourned her as I sat on my bed wrapped in a sweaty bed sheet. Shortly after, news of Mother Teresa’s death reached us. Great, we had to choose such a tragic weekend for our lover’s retreat.


Is it funny that these days I get my mental and emotional kicks from TV shows?

I go through periods where I read avidly. And then I go through periods where I watch TV very intently. I know reading and viewing television are two very different activities, but I do not agree with the people who equate watching TV with a passive dumbing down. There is intelligently written, well acted, compelling stuff out there.

These days I spend my free time watching new episodes of the last season of Battlestar Galactica, and catching reruns of the second season of Dexter on Showtime. I love both shows. My only gripes are that last week's Galactica episode stepped dangerously close to soap opera territory, and that Dexter's female characters are, to be honest, quite lame.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


Sometimes I wish I could get out of myself, become gelatinous, malleable. Take away all that is specifically me and pour myself into the best possible mold.

How many of us, struggling with our flaws, stretched too thin to meet our goals, secretly wish the same? How many of us would do it if we truly had the choice?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Plot lines

For the longest time I have entertained the fantasy of writing a memoir, or a work of fiction with a heavy autobiographical bent. Recently I have started to ask myself what would be the hook of such a story, what would be the underlying theme, the quality that shapes and defines the narrative. And I have a hard time coming up with something remarkable, different or exciting for a reader.

Don't get me wrong, my life has been a monumental learning experience. I am proud of how I have lived it, mistakes and all. But I think that deep down it is a very ordinary life. Even the things that have shaken my core the hardest are pretty common. So many people lose a parent when they are young. So many women have had an abortion and struggle for years to come to terms with it. So many women go through the dissolution of a marriage they expected to last forever. So many single mothers have fought to keep their sanity. So many Puerto Ricans have left the island in search of a better life on the mainland, only to experience life as a dislocated self. So many Liberal Arts majors have a hard time navigating the job market. So many young writers lose the spark and spend years trying to get it back. So many mothers know their life is no longer theirs alone to do as they please.

What do I have to contribute? Is the story of my life worth telling? What can I say that hasn't already been said by someone else?