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.

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.

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.

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.

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)

Cuentos: The Color Black Rules — Bilingual Baby (Re-blog)

I wanted to share the review of this children’s book by Bilingual Baby. Black is one of Sergio’s favorite colors and the book speaks of color equality. Check it out on Bilingual Baby’s post.

There are definitely no pale princesses in this book, and kids are asked directly to rethink their own ideals in a tangible, easy-to-grasp way.

Cuentos: The Color Black Rules — Bilingual Baby

Easter Eggs

So, I’ve been looking at my writing (who doesn’t read their own stuff?) and finding that I’ve got some puns and/or plays on words that I didn’t notice upon first draft, or even final edit, which never catches all of my errors (but who can pay an editor that knows their grammar well?). I’m not here to brag; some of ’em might not make sense and I might come off as estúpida (new non-native speakers of Spanish: don’t use this word. Not one native-speaker that I know has ever used it (around me) because it’s connotation is that much stronger than ours [como me han dicho]). I’ve also missed a few witty word combinations, but I hate to edit an original work. Alas, what can be done?

Well, it got me thinkin’ on post topics. Most of which I scratched. I scrap a lot of stuff. I’m always cleaning something. Easter egg. Why do they call it that? Isn’t it mostly the Swifties? Don’t put words in my mouth; I can jam to T. Swift any day, but Drake, you’ve always had me in my feelings. Ever since Best I Ever Had. (No innuendos there, I just love that man’s music). I simply don’t understand why they applaud Taylor Swift (or anyone else they apply this reference to) for leaving “Easter eggs” when it’s something that all good writers do: leave a little to the imagination, tell a suspenseful story, create some drama.

I’m not accusing anyone of anything. I watch what the celebrities do, but they live their own lives (in the same world as mine) and theirs are not something I should judge, or worry about. I just find a lot (not all) of celebrities shallow.

Sure, celebs write catchy songs, dance like hell, act better than I ever could, or know a lot about make-up, but I just want ’em all to stop arguing. Quit engaging on Twitter (the only way to beat a troll) and focus on the big problems that are only beginning to surface (like icebergs. Because no, I don’t care where you’re flying to in your private jet, or what kind of flooring you have). We’ve got a White House full of chuckle-heads, shooters at festivals, concerts, malls, schools from Florida to California, Ohio to Texas. There are people questioning other people on their whereabouts, with skin color as the only probable cause. The LGBTQ community aren’t allowed to decide who they want to like or love, and there are others that think sticking to one language is better than knowing two (or more).

You might think but Alex, you don’t know any of the answers. I don’t know ’em all but I know how to research on Google (and what makes one source fake, and another legit). You need more sources of information if you don’t believe in climate change. You need more sources of information if you aren’t aware of patriarchy and all of it’s dangers. You need more information if you think there’s only one religion, one god.

I’m disabling comments on this one, because I’m not asking for an argument. If you want a conversation, go outside and listen to the trees. Because they’re all starting to fall.

If you really want to talk about this, don’t go trash my other posts’ comment sections (I know what the trolls do). Post a response and tag me in it. #inventmyplace. I’ll read it. I have no qualms with listening to the opinions of others. And that way, you just might contribute to the discussion that’s happening all around us, rather than be stuck at home in awe and fear, confusion or rage, like I usually am. Celebrities have much louder voices than everyone else, and those of us that don’t speak make even less sound.

Trying to Hear the Tulips

This is an example post for the first challenge to flower talk. See rules here. Genre style is this: narrative (include your genre if you wish). I also hope to offer an introduction of some kind as well.

This was our first duplex. The rain always puddled here, in this space between my porch and my neighbor’s. We made a garden of it.
A pink Gerbera adds a pop of color to this shot. My favorite, lamb’s ear, puts forth its flowers in the background (the purple and pale green thing that looks kinda like a weed from a distance)
Tulips were later planted in this make-shift garden (no, the landlord did not help, nor seem to care. But that’s not why we did it). You cannot see them (they hadn’t bloomed). I doubt that they are still there.

Quiero platicar con los tulipanes (dígame si tulipanes no es la palabra correcta). Pero están durmiendo en sus camas de tierra.

I want to chat with the tulips. But they are sleeping in their beds of dirt.