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.

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.

Lessening Screen Time With Sergio

Day 6 was a success! Sergio didn’t use the phone once, mainly because he didn’t have abuelita’s phone anymore. And also because I am loathe to give up my own phone so that he can look at YouTube.

Now, on day 7 we are making some real progress. The phone’s whereabouts have not been sought after and the hose is going full blast. (Indeed, a worm was just brought to me).

I’m not sure what the end goal will be for this trial. I’m not sure how much screen time my children will be allowed yet. And there are a lot of recommendations out there. I just want my children to have fun off the phone. I’m sure we’ll find a middle ground soon.

Or I hope so.

Lessening Screen Time With Sergio

Days 3 and 4 have been rough. I’ve won some battles and also lost a few. However, he had very little screen time on Day 3, even though when I awoke later than usual I found that my husband had already given him a phone.

Day 4 was full of arguments over the phone. By 9:00 a.m. Sergio was begging for the addictive device.

“It’s too early!” I told him.

Around 11:30 we went outside to play in the hose (an excellent tool for distracting children). Things went smoothly until the daily afternoon phone calls started coming in. Abuelita answered and tried speaking with a sibling of mine.

As my mother tried to speak on the phone Sergio became very loud, boisterous, and frankly, bratty. The phone call was cut short. Sergio asked for a cellphone. We caved.

Sergio promptly ran inside to sit on the couch with the phone, Marisol hot on his heels. Marisol likes to try and watch the phone with him but Sharing is not Sergio’s forte. I don’t mind that Sergio doesn’t share YouTube with Mari because she’s too young for it anyway. Soon she grew tired of Sergio’s stinginess and came back outside with myself and my mother.

While my mother, Marisol, and I gardened outside, Sergio watched his phone. We are always in and out eating snacks and such. Then, suddenly, at 7:15 p.m. (which is close to bedtime) Sergio came out onto the porch dancing and singing to a music video. Marisol carried a toy that sings Baby Shark (my. favorite. song.).

We all clapped and danced. I stubbed out my last cigarette of the day and hauled my ducklings off to bed.

As I laid next to my children in bed I started looking through my own phone. Then, from the darkness, came a little voice telling me to turn it off.

I smiled and did so. I guess we all need a reminder to turn it off once in a while.

Lessening Screen Time With Sergio

Day 2

Surprisingly, our second day of abstaining from YouTube went quite well. At 10:00 a.m. there had still been no mention of the phone and shortly after, the two babes went on a rare outing with S. to wash his work truck.

The day was not without its hiccups, however. When my family returned from the truck washing, S. offered Sergio the phone because he was being whiny and inconsolable.

“Let’s go outside,” I suggested, putting a stop the argument over the phone.

We ventured forth into the sun and spent most of the day outside. We had a backyard picnic and watered our garden boxes. Things went well.

Until around 4:00 p.m. when I considered giving in. S. had gone to the store, sending Sergio into a temper tantrum. Thankfully, S. returned rather quickly and the phone was forgotten.

Around 5:00 p.m. Sergio begged for the phone again. I ignored him.

Finally, Sergio got his phone from 7:30 p.m. to about 8:30 p.m. He laid in bed with it, relaxing until he fell asleep.

Ah well, we did our best.

Lessening Screen Time with Sergio

Being in isolation (nothing new to me), the cell phones in my household have been in use quite often lately. Though we don’t watch very much TV and the baby is allowed no screen time, Sergio is an adept YouTube scroller. However, it needs to stop.

Against my better judgement we let Sergio start playing with a cellphone about a year and a half ago. Now there are some days where he is on it for hours. Call it bad mothering, call it what you will. I call it a little screen addiction.

Anyway. I have decided to begin the process of removing the phone from his clutches. Here’s how the first day went.

Day 1

Sergio asked for the phone around 9:30 a.m. I firmly told him no. He firmly told me no to breakfast. Ah well.

I gave Sergio the phone at ten a.m.

At 10:30 a.m. tornado sirens could still be heard from the living room (he loves tornado videos).

At 10:45 it was nice enough to go outside. We played with the hose, dirt, mud, sand, and the like.

Around noon we ate lunch and the two ducklings played quietly (side by side) in the living room. This was shortlived and we moved back outside for the remainder of the afternoon.

S. was on his way home so rigorous bathing was needed. After letting the two play in the tub (with many Hotwheels added in) I scrubbed their hair, ears, and hands. Screaming and crying ensued but they were especially dirty and muddy last night.

After drying off and getting cozy, dressed in PJs, it was bedtime. Sergio didn’t ask for the phone once during this time, which is rare.

Two sleeping babies later and Day 1 was a success. Let’s call it beginner’s luck for now 😉

Baking has Begun

Photo by Cathy Scola from Gettyimages

I have begun to bake! As a huge fan of the Great British Baking Show, I’ve had an interest in baking for awhile. However, I lacked confidence to begin.

Well, I have successfully baked two cakes recently and the feeling of having conquered my fears is great. I have a lot to learn about baking, but at least I’ve begun the journey.

Do you like to bake? What is your favorite treat to make?

SHOES

Yep, I’m gonna go be a photographer now. Isn’t that artsy? (I respect photographers and know nothing about it. Just bein snarky).

Anyway, let’s not hang around. I know you’re anxious to hear the rest of my story – why I’m in this dark mood. Ugh. I’m workin’ on it. I want you to understand well, so it’s gotta be good. I will tell you. And you can always tell me. Talking about trauma is supposed to help, right?

For now, I’d rather just listen to the radio though. So here’s the aux cord. Put somethin’ chill on.

Flirt or Flatter a Fan of Your Reader: A How-To

Let me entice you to come on my road trip. I’m sure you are doubting the wisdom of the driver and what direction I’m taking us in, or to (play on dirección – address). But I like a manual transmission, which means I really know how to drive. Sit back, don’t tell me how to use the clutch (do you know how?), and buckle in. We are going to a fancy restaurant. On a date, if you will. Because writing your own and/or reading the thoughts of another is an intimate occasion (sometimes more so than anything lust can dream up). And an intimate occasion deserves some flowery language, a soft light, a calm listener, at the dinner table of communication.

I’m not a bad flirt in real life, and I can definitely do it in writing. But only you decide how bold you want to go (in either realm).

Stay with me now. I’m not trying to splash rainwater from the gutter of your mind (If I want to, I’ve got the wheel and you won’t know when I’m going to veer off that curb). But writing is like seduction: you have to want to, you have to show your assets, and you must have some experience (the cliche write what you know is to be remembered here).

Okay, we’re in the car. I’m driving. We’ve just shifted into third gear. Do you look nice? Are you wearing a cologne? (Don’t wear cologne or perfume like the cloak of an aroma. Make your reader sniff it out).

If you are a writer, than you better know your damn vocabulary, sentence structure, pronunciation, spelling, and have a handle on your grammar (grammar is hard, so I won’t judge you for it. I’m not a Nazi in any of my beliefs). You’ve gotta know all of that before you take to punching the keys.

Got a date with your reader? Dress up! It’s a sign of respect!

When I’m getting ready to go out (hardly ever) I always start with my eyebrows. Mis cejas have always been thick – before anyone called them “bold” or “‘brows” – and the pain of plucking does not bother me one bit. I don’t usually fill ’em in. For what? I’m going outside to the garden to pick jalapeños. The point is this: edit. Edit as much as you can, what you know how. You will miss some (I always miss an eyebrow hair somewhere) but the effort to show your best self is what matters on a date, or in your blog posts.

To edit sucks. It’s not the fun part, I know. Editing (and eyebrows) are the bane of my existence. But, I’m not showin’ up anywhere with a uni-brow, and I don’t let my work take errors to the Reader page (if I can help it). Sometimes you can leave an intentional error – it’s exciting to the reader – just like one might decide to leave a beauty mark, or freckles, uncovered by foundation – also exciting (better be!) to the man or woman sitting next to you in this 5-speed of life (6-speeds are for luxury cars, which I have no use for).

Think it’s all about you? Not if you want a partnership. Dating, loving, marriage all require that you listen to your audience. Be it man, woman, or faceless reader.

Everyone talks about listening to their audience: it’s important – it takes two to tango. Well, then, put the damn phone down, look up at your listener, and say something. Say something for them. Say something that you want them to know about you. Just don’t say too much! No one likes a chatty Kathy, and mystery is the best genre for leading your reader on.

Set boundaries. Just as you would on a real first date.

Be funny, smart, honest on your date. Show some class. Show your wit. Just don’t make an ass of yourself. Don’t talk about your ex, or your bad habits. And please, don’t drink too much of that powerful poison that a few thousand followers can get you drunk off of. And don’t forget rule number one: use nice language and always ask for consent. (Also, a safe space requires the explicit instruction that slurs or insults are not to be used).

Not sure what consent is? Or how to give it? Then you need to go read something else. You’re pretty far behind. I’ll stop at the next Road Ranger, and you can call a different ride.

Consent in real life is a must. Consent from your reader is a bit more fluid. You won’t know if they’ve given consent until they’ve read your words, commented, or closed out of your site’s home page completely.

A rape of the mind is committed through writing in the form of propaganda. Consent is not given or asked for by propaganda. Propaganda is a genre that seeks to cheat on you, lie to you, make you feel stupid. But that’s a bit heady. Let me roll the window down for you.

Whew! I can breathe much better with that fresh air comin’ in. What were we talking about? Oh yes, dear, you.

There is a way to ask for consent in writing. It may trigger an un-follow. But guns are always goin’ off in the Wild, Wild West of the internet. So saddle up, cowboy(girl). Or, hold on to the grab-bar. I’m about to downshift.

Be upfront about some of your beliefs. Vagueness creeps into writing of any form – long, or less than 140 characters. Not being truthful will creep out your reader, and then your date. Be yourself, because you can’t be me. Or anyone else that you may admire or adore.

You have to be you, and change your opinions of yourself if it will help. Here’s a cliche I don’t like: love yourself before someone else can. Ah yes, love yourself. It’s a worthy aspiration. But how do you love yourself if no one has ever taught you how? Not all of us have been taught. And that’s why I’m teaching you.

A marriage is difficult if he voted for Trump and she voted for Hilary. A marriage is difficult if one likes la fiesta, and the other wants to stay home. A marriage is difficult if one is a lustful carnivore, when the other is a simple vegetarian. A marriage is difficult if you’re the same, let alone different. (Skin color or differences in appearance do not make a marriage difficult – just want to make that clear. Life gives all people difficulties to bear).

Set those boundaries in your blog, with as much dignity or grace as you can. Don’t get up and leave the table, spilling Merlot all over the white tablecloths. Just don’t forget to mention the things that will always divide you and your reader (or date). Some people are not our perfect match. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s always a “one” (shout out to MTV again and AYTO?. “This year, your perfect match could be anyone.” I love it!).

Don’t mislead people, though (See? Had to edit something that was published. But only because it was an important distinction. Updated). Don’t write something that you don’t actually know. We will be able to tell. Readers can spot red flags, and already know that red flags eventually turn vermilion. Maybe you put up a red flag on purpose. I would. To scare off a stalker or trollish commenter. You can’t sleep with everybody, no matter how much you may want to (anyone remember the Great Tunechi’s Every Girl In The World?). Look out for the flags your readers throw up, too. And don’t ignore el rojo. Red usually means stop. And so does the word “no” – one of the easiest to hear, say, write, or recognize.

Leave your reader with something to think about. Show a little skin, but leave your body to the imagination.

Decide what you want to show. Your assets? Your wit? Your views on the bittersweet world that we live in? They say not to wear short-shorts with a tank-top or a mini-skirt with a halter. Pick one, they say: arms or legs, humorous or grim outlook. Try to keep it consistent, and use some organization. I have messy hair and all, but I put it in a braid if I’m going out to eat.

Oh, the check is coming. Did you have a nice date? Was it fun? Did we learn about each other? No, no. No kisses on the first date. And no, you cannot come home with me.

Remember that reading and writing are chances for connection. I swear, it is intimate. But don’t judge a whole person by one logged blurb of their life. Take some time to read them well, look at their creation, and think about how you might answer that come-on. Only then might you ask for a kiss, to go up to their apartment. Words do affect, so be careful which ones you choose. It’s always nice to ask for that kiss, rather than lean in unannounced.

Okay, boys and girls. Before you leave this sex-ed classroom, can you tell me what you have learned?

I don’t care if you have learned or not. I’m not a real teacher. Understanding is impossible to measure, anyway.

I’ll spell it out for you, then, my poor, sweet thing. As a writer or a reader, of books or of blogs, you should always dress it up, discuss consent and boundaries, lead ’em on a little, and pay attention to bright red flags.

You just might get a second date. And then a third or fourth. One of those dates just might lead you up a flight of stairs, into a private place, to one of the best reads you’ve ever had in your life. Writing and reading are fun, just like that three-letter word is supposed to be. That one little word that I have just referenced oh, so sexily.