Sundays Are For Spanish: Something Like a Book Review

The Good Food Revolution, written by Will Allen and Charles Wilson, is a book that I read about four or five years ago. The story remains in my mind, however, and has been something of an inspiration to me. Before I discuss the book, I would like to tell a short story (un cuento) about how the book and I came to meet.

At the second university I attended (out of three), I took an intensive writing course in Spanish. It was required for my major: Spanish Education. No problem (no problema), I thought. Well, it was the most difficult class I have ever taken. On the first day of class, our professor, una colombiana, told us that we would not be allowed to speak in English while in the classroom. Everyone nodded their heads in agreement.

On the second day of class, I, in a somewhat boisterous mood that day, spoke loudly in English. La profesora turned and yelled my name. The classroom fell silent.

“Alexandra!” she said before all. “If you speak in English again, I will take off 20% of your grade.”

I was in shock, as were the rest of the students. I sat, stunned, staring at her with embarassment (vergüenza) and anger (ira). Leaving the classroom, I vowed to speak only Spanish in the class, and to speak Spanish well.

Having studied Spanish, English, and the educational theories of teaching either, I know that many young Spanish speakers have been yelled at and forbidden to speak their own languages in school. Now it had happened to me and I would accept it. A stronger piece of my character decided that I would accept the rebuke and the challenge (reto).

So, I worked very hard and spoke only in Spanish while in that classroom. We learned so much that semester. The class culminated in a six page research paper, due entirely in Spanish. I wrote mine on the topic of motorcycles (motocicletas). I don’t remember the particular grade, but I will never forget what happened on the last day of class.

La profesora approached me in the hallway. We never spoke about the incident on the first day of class but I no longer felt the need to. She recommended I sign up for an Honors class. I was surprised, but thrilled. We had come to respect each other.

Taking the advice of a woman that I had come to regard highly, I signed up for an Honors class the next semester. Her referral got me in. On the list of required texts for the Honors class was The Good Food Revolution. I remember wondering, “What the hell do we need that book for?”

The Honors class was about mentoring others and, as I suspected, had a vague connection to The Good Food Revolution. The author, Will Allen, did mentor others along his way, but his book taught me so much more about taking chances, getting your hands dirty, and bringing people with you on your way to greatness.

Will Allen is a black man from the Wisconsin area. He discusses the connection between black people and farming: how it’s in their bones, how they have always cared for the land. After travelling abroad as a basketball player and later, selling medications as a pharmaceutical rep, Will Allen did something crazy. He quit his job and bought an old greenhouse. From there, he learned to grow food, help urban communities, and bring people together around the garden.

Will Allen experimented in everything from composting, to aquaponics, to vertical farming. After a lot of work in his own community, he and his daughter worked to build community gardens in Chicago and bring fresh food to people that don’t have access to it. He offered workshops in growing vegetables, raising fish, cooking what came from the garden. I believe his lessons are crucial today.

Allen tells his story with grace and includes pictures of his life in the book. The history he tells of black people in this country is tragic, but he offers good food as a solution to the problems of urban living. His moral is entirely uplifting: we can help those that have been oppressed by giving back to them their own skills, and teaching them to feed themselves well.

I have never forgotten this book and, though I don’t think it has much to do with mentoring, I have fallen in love with growing things, saving things, and turning old things into something new. Good food (la comida buena) is important to our success as a community, as Allen demonstrates. We must work hard, but we are inherently equipped to do so.

You may not be very interested in this book. I wasn’t. But, I read it. I fell in love with it. And I never forgot it.

P.S. If you’ve seen this post before that’s because I’ve posted it before. Some or all may have been changed.

Thursday’s Reflection

I am trying to spend more time living in the moment. However, reflections still occur. Only now, I will schedule a time for them. Thursdays just seemed right.

I want to thank my followers and all the other bloggers on WordPress. Without you guys I don’t know if I would have made it. You reading my words means a lot to me and I have seriously enjoyed my first year of blogging, even with the ups and downs.

Writing has always been a big part of who I am and I am happy to have found some great creators on this platform. I have been inspired by you often.

Again, thank you. Gracias. Have a great Thursday.

Sundays Are For Spanish: My Favorite Book

I love to read Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Es mi libro favorito. It’s my favorite book.

I bought this edition many years ago, on vacation. I was already familiar with the story after having watched a movie version of it and finding this edition was thrilling.

I love this book like Cathy loved Heathcliff.

Published in 1847 under the name Ellis Bell, Wuthering Heights was found quite strange, as Lucasta Miller writes in her Preface. Indeed, it is a strange story and very difficult to describe, though many have tried, according to Miller.

So as not to give any spoilers I will say only this: Wuthering Heights is about love, betrayal, taboo, death, and misery.

I dare you to give it a try, and let me know what you think!

Te reto leerlo, y dime que piensas.

Sundays Are For Spanish: Lovely Lamb’s Ear

Me encanta esta planta: la oreja del cordero. Por sus hojas y sus flores pequeñas. A las abejas les gusta tambien.

I love this plant: lamb’s ear. For its leaves and its little flowers. The bees like it too.

Sus hojas son muy suaves y no necesita mucha agua.

Its leaves are very soft and it doesn’t need much water.

¿Cual es tu planta favorita?

What’s your favorite plant?

Sundays Are For Spanish: Texas Two-Step

I don’t know about you, but I can’t dance. However, my husband wants us to be able to. So, we practice that damned Texas two-step whenever we have some cervezas. I usually step on his feet and run into him several times. Alas, what can you do but practice?

This is one of my favorite songs to stumble around to. This version is by Los Pitufos and is called La Abeja Miope (The Near-sighted Bee).

Chorus lyrics are as follows:

Esta es la abeja miope

Miope miope miope miope

Novia del sancudo loco

Loco loco loco loco

This is the near-sighted bee

Girlfriend of the crazy mosquito.

Disfruten. Enjoy.

Sundays Are For Spanish: What’s Up, Buttercup?

Just kidding. This is spiderwort. We know it as a prairie flower and, according to Wikipedia, is native from Southern Canada to Argentina. She only blooms in the morning when its cooler.

¿Que bonita, no?

How beautiful, no?

Sundays Are For Spanish: Foodie or Not?

As I sat and pondered my garden this morning, my stomach growled. Coffee just wasn’t cuttin’ it. I’m not a big eater and never have been. As an adult, I’ve barely managed to make it over a hundred pounds, except for during pregnancy. It’s partly genetic, partly my diet. I love my fiber, yogurt, and a good pasta but I don’t usually think about food for enjoyment. My husband, on the other hand, who is Mexican American, is almost obsessed with it. We often talk about what he’s eaten on the road. We fight about it when he’s home. But our best memories are in the kitchen, laughing about the cow tongue tacos we tricked my mother into eating, making tamales for the first time, watching our son spit out barely picante salsa.

Now, being a white person, and this probably won’t surprise many people of color, I haven’t grown up with a love for food. No one in my family is a “natural cook” or particularly likes the ritual of preparing, serving, and eating a hot meal with family or friends. I don’t want to make generalizations about any group of people, but take what you will from this. Nevertheless, I’m no “foodie.”

I’d like to say that I can cook. But I’ve had to study it and am constantly asking my husband, who cooks without fear or hesitation, for advice. However, planning and executing a meal is, in my husband’s opinion, my responsibility. El machísmo of my husband’s culture is something I have had to adjust to, but its present in any man’s ethnic background, so, whatever.

I started cooking and though I’m not always interested in eating, (a necessary, biological process for me) I’m always friggin’ hungry now.

My husband makes the best guacamole, carefully cubing the fresh avocados (not homegrown) rather than scooping it all out and mashing everything together. He leaves in the pit because it helps to keep it fresh. This guacamole casera takes a bit longer to make, but he does it for me because he knows I love it.

Maybe I’m enjoying this food stuff because I’ve achieved a pretty good tamal (aka tamales). The secret to the success of my tamales is a mystery to me, but it might be because I mix the maza (dough) by hand (por mano), something my husband insisted I do. It helps to make your own chicken broth, too, but I’m really no expert.

I think you can learn a lot by accepting and living with people of other backgrounds or cultural upbringings (I won’t call it “race” because there’s only the human one). Most important of those lessons being to eat with your family (familia) and cook something once in a while. Whatever the case, I’m lucky to be where I’m at, to have learned what I can.

And all that other inspirational jazz. I’m off to eat.

This is an upcycled post, meaning if you’ve seen it before its because it was published before. I may have edited or changed parts or all of the original post.

I Have a Counselor!

And its okay if you have one too.

I used to think that I didn’t need counseling, that my mental health was… what? I never talked about mental health. I didn’t know what it was. Welcome to the club, right?

Well, now that I am suffering from the aftermath of postpartum psychosis, bipolar affect, shock, and the trauma of losing my children for three months I am acutely aware of how important mental health is, how difficult it is to maintain, and how being open about it with a counselor can help.

So, if you have a counselor (that you see via the internet these days) know that you are not alone and that its a good thing to seek help for your mental health. Its step one, in fact, and arguably the most important step.

Stay safe out there. And thank your counselor.

Sundays Are For Spanish: Snakes in the Kitchen

So, let me start with a somewhat personal question or two. When was the last time you cleaned out your fridge? Do you clean it often? If you were to ask my husband the same questions of me he would answer “Two months ago,” and “Never,” respectively.

I would have to jump in with “Mentiras! Lies!” because his answers would not be true. “I just cleaned it!” I would probably reply, though in reality its been two weeks.

My husband and I have been married four years now and the chore that I hate the most is often a sore subject around here.

El matrimonio (marriage) is difficult and we’ve had some rough patches. The argument that I’m about to tell you about happened in the first year, while I was pregnant with Sergito.

The fridge, el refrigerador, was a mess: full of leftovers, some old meat, many rotting vegetables. This was before I began composting, so there was plenty of green material in the fridge.

Alejandra,” began my husband, standing in front of the open fridge and staring at me unbelieving. “What did you do all week?” he said, as usual.

“S., I’m not talking about this right now,” I answered, trying to evade any conversation requiring work, as usual when it comes to the fridge.

That’s how this argument started and continued until he said this.

Van a estar los serpientes en todas partes!” S. said, gesturing towards the countertops (“There’s going to be snakes everywhere”). As if I would allow snakes to lay coiled in my kitchen for anyone to see. As if the dirty fridge was a beacon to them.

“Snakes?!” said I with laughter in my mouth. It was ridiculous! I’d never had a snake in my house and didn’t have plans to!

“Yes, snakes,” S. replied, sheepishly trying to hide a grin.

Piensa en lo que dices S. No vamos a tener los serpientes en la cocina,” I said with a hand on my hip. (“Think about what you’re saying S. We’re not going to have snakes in the kitchen.”)

Pero sí es posible,” S. said, though I was already laughing and moving forward to clean out the fridge.

I believe that confrontation can bring people together, or drive them apart. Shared laughter can sometimes help, too. Fortunately, we were both able to laugh it off in that moment.

Now the inside joke is part of our family lore, something to tell los niños one day.

Fish Lake

I recently found an old piece of writing of mine, scribbled on the inside of the front cover of a book that I carried with me everywhere during the summer of 2013. The book is The Intellectual Devotional and is a book of lessons in history, religion, visual arts, and other topics. For awhile, I was consistent in reading its pages. But then I put it away, and forgot about it. Here’s the inscription: a description of a place and day that apparently I really wanted to save.

7-17-13 Fish Lake

Tall, lush reeds created a barrier near the shore of the entire lake. A bright, lively green, they stood stiff and strong, partnered with wide, flat-open lily pads that were accompanied by white or yellow flowers. Trees of every color, in the shades of green only summer can provide, protected the cool, clean lake on almost all sides. To the Northeast the trees thinned to reveal softly rolling hills. Phone lines stretched between the crests of these and the sky was a heated, pale blue. Thick, happy clouds floated gently by, above a healthy cornfield hugging one of the far off slopes. A lone dead tree, which was sun-bleached and bare like a bone, stretched its boughs over the water. It sang the land a silent song of ancient wisdom, long forgotten by the buzzing horseflies and oblivious sunfish. Silver-backed leaves rustled loudly when a dainty, playful breeze skipped through the forest.

We had been fishing in a small boat on a still lake, the sun beating over us. I had tired of fishing and reclined to write this description of what I was seeing.

Have you ever done the same? How does it feel to look back on your own writing?

I Did Something Controversial

This post contains links to websites where I bought products. They are not affiliate links and I gain nothing from any purchases.

Controversy is part of my life, as an atheist woman married to a Mexican immigrant with two bi-racial children (which I hate to label any child as such).

If I talk about my lack of belief, I’m trying to be controversial. If I do/say/dress the wrong way, as a woman, I’m acting controversially.

Some people in Walmart find my husband and I to be controversial, standing there talking about peppers in Spanish. We see their looks.

However, I really did something controversial this time, at least, in the eyes of my gringo family. However, my husband’s side of the family has been pestering him with questions on when it will be done.

I’m talking about piercing the ears of a baby girl. (I have known white girls who’d had their ears pierced shortly after birth. Not trying to make any generalizations about the Latino community). I just have noticed a cultural trend. My grandmother especially finds it to be barbaric and my own ears weren’t pierced until I was 12.

That piercing was a failure because I didn’t take care of them properly. I had them re-pierced later on. I always wished that I’d had earrings since infancy.

Reality struck when I had Marisol

I could not take that tiny baby to Claire’s and let them punch holes in her ears. I just couldn’t. So I waited and waited until about a week ago, after my husband asked me again when we would pierce her ears.

With the COVID-19 pandemic there was no way to have them professionally pierced. My husband said he would do it. I ordered a kit of two pre-loaded, sterile ear piercing guns from Sally Beauty and they quickly arrived in the mail.

Well, my husband wasn’t home that day. I was sure I could do it myself. So, I washed her ear lobes with alcohol (front and back), marked the natural dimples that she has in her lobes and removed one gun from the package.

One snap, two snaps, and Marisol had earrings in her ears. She didn’t cry and she barely messes with them. I clean them twice a day with Claire’s Ear Cleaning Solution and the lobes appear white and not swollen.

My grandmother was not happy when she saw the pierced ears, but the girl is so cute with them that how could one be mad? Also, she’s one year old and some change – not a newborn.

And honestly, Marisol’s pretty lucky that I’ll be doing all of the work for her (cleaning, etc). I hope she appreciates them as an homage to her Latino culture one day.

Piercing baby or toddler ears may be controversial to some, but I’m happy I did it.

Create A Cafe At Home

I was feeling creative when I arranged a glass table and two chairs this way. I can sit and watch the children playing outside while I imagine myself to be in some cute, outdoor cafe.

What’s Needed for Your Cafe at Home

  • A small table. Preferably round.
  • Some strong coffee, which you can make anyway you like.
  • An interesting book. In my case, I’m reading The Power of Thought by John Algeo and Shirley J. Nicholson. It is quite intriguing.
  • Two chairs. I suppose they don’t have to match.
  • Your laptop or notebook if you’re working on something and don’t have time to read.

And that’s it! A space created.

In my cafe there are toddlers running around so I’m off to help a little one. Ciao.

Sundays Are For Spanish

I want to start a little series where I introduce everyone to some Spanish words, hopefully with funny anecdotes or stories.

You don’t have to learn Spanish with me (maybe you’re already fluent for all I know), I just enjoy writing in both languages and sharing some vocab words.

I will be posting my Spanish “lessons” on Sundays because I’m all about alliteration ;). If you didn’t already know.

Buenos dias y que tenga un domingo feliz!

Good morning and have a happy Sunday!

P.S. Happy Mother’s Day! (Feliz dia de las mamas)

House Cleaning With Two Toddlers: A How-To

Disclaimer: Its not actually possible to deep clean your home with two toddlers in tow. Therefore it is wise to do small things every day as part of a cleaning routine. However, if you are forced to clean up the whole house in one day here’s how I do it. (My kids make big messes every day so I’m always cleaning.)

  • First, I recommend taking a thirty minute break or so, just to mentally prepare yourself for task(s) ahead.
  • Set the kids up with some screen time if you allow it. I am trying to keep screen time to a minimum so I let them play in their mountain of toys until I’m ready to tackle that room, which is the living room and the main part of my house. It never looks like I’ve done anything until the absolute end. Ugh.
  • Change diapers and give snacks (no chips!! Those end up smashed into the carpet) right before beginning.
  • Turn on some music or use your headphones. Try listening to an ASMR video while cleaning. It might change your world.
  • Walk around a bit or stand amidst the mess and just marvel at it for a moment. The popcorn on the floor, the window that’s smeared with something, the sticky habdprints on the fridge door. Resist the urge to quit before you even start – sometimes the hardest part.
  • Follow this order to a degree: kitchen first (I usually wipe the kitchen down before bed so that its easier to clean up after breakfast. It doesn’t always get done though. Pick up all garbage and take it out. Wash dishes and put away. Start a load of laundry. Fold those clothes on your “clothing chair” (I know you have one). Put folded clothes away and dust. Change sheets after spraying shower and toilets with cleaner. Wash glass surfaces, wipe down and clean toilets/bathroom(s), and sweep. I also have to vacuum. Then, mop or swiffer.

Some Tips

  • Check on the kiddos often! While you scrub the toilet they could be coloring on your couch or something.
  • Keep them in the room with you if you can and encourage them to help with picking up their toys or dusting the coffee table.
  • Accomplish one task (or room) and give yourself a pat on the back. Take a cofee, tea, or Red Bull break and get back to work before you decide to give up.
  • Pro tip: always multi-task and never leave a room empty-handed!

Good luck! I’m off to vacuum up some of those chips I was talking about.