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.

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)

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.

All Was Connected

Psychosis, and the recovery time after, has a strange symptom. A sense of grandeur. A feeling as if you are spiritually connected to all around you. A feeling of telekinetic powers. For me, anyway.

During this time I met a horse. A neighbor of my father’s property in Tennessee. “A mean horse,” my father had warned. Well, with all the confidence in the world I walked down the hill and to the fence where the horse was standing.

It was sunny out, the middle of September. My heart had already been ripped from my chest and I was searching for an animal familiar to me.

The grass where the horse stood was nibbled short and he was trying to reach some of the longer, sweeter grasses on my father’s property. But barbed wire was strung along the fence, in areas where the horse might poke his head through.

His nose was scratched. Foolishly, I tried to pull the barbed wire loose. Nothing happened. So, I reached down and pulled up big handfuls of grass and passed them to the horse. Greedily, he munched.

“This is me,” I said, shaking my silver chain, which at the time hung round my neck with Bella’s tag attached. It jingled and the horse pricked his ears. I fed him more grasses.

Then, I kissed his nose.

I was raised around horses but generally fear them, which in turn makes them fear me. I hope this horse doesn’t fear me the next time I see him, because he was just the connection I needed.

Dogs Say Nothing

The day before we left that hotel in Arkansas Bella broke a nail. It had gotten caught in a grate that covered a drainage slope in the sidewalk near the laundry room. We were leaving the next day.

Bella refused to walk on her foot, so S. carried her. He loaded her into the truck and we left for Florida. He carried her into the next hotel, both of them resentful over their predicment. Bella was heavy and they never liked each other.

In fact, S. had been afraid only some weeks prior that she was going to bite him during play. See, Bella wasn’t really aggressive, but sometimes she would get a glint in her eye that was hard to read. I had told him to quit, because I hadn’t been sure either.

But they were reliant on each other while we travelled from Jacksonville, Florida (where I stood in the ocean while S. and his men swam further out; a rare day out for all) to Northern Michigan, somewhere near the Canadian border. I was as crabby as Bella, riding in the passenger’s seat and being four months pregnant or so.

It was late at night when we neared our exit. Bella was laying in the backseat while I manned the GPS. Suddenly, the signs on the road were telling us to get off now. The border was ahead.

“Get off,” I said.

“What does the GPS say?” S. asked, for the GPS hadn’t spoken up yet. The USA and Canada flags were painted on the next overhead sign.

“Just follow the fuckin’ pictures,” I had said.

“But what does the GPS say?”

“Take the exit,” the GPS finally replied.

Bella, as usual, said nothing.

A Reminiscing Essay

With the spirit in mind that this blog is a record, a series of essays is to follow, written mostly for my own benefit. Maybe they’ll strike you in some way. This is the story of the first meal I ever cooked. I was 22, engaged, and living in a hotel room while my fiance worked construction during the day.

I had no tools, no pots or pans. I take that back. I had one knife, a cup, a plastic cutting board, and an electric griddle with deep sides and a glass lid. Our spice rack resided above the television on a shelf of the TV stand/dresser. Peanut butter, coffee filters, hot sauce, and the like were stored there also. I was pregnant with Sergio.

Now, I had only cooked a steak once or twice and though I know how to throw a salad together under any circumstances, that was about all I knew how to do. I had just learned to make guacamole actually, so I had about two recipes under my belt. I decided to make steaks and guacamole. Also I made Angel’s food cake, but that’s a no-brainer; I don’t count it as a recipe anymore.

I marinated the steaks in Caribbean Jerk Sauce (it’s in the dressings aisle, I think) by filling a plastic bag with the meat and the sauce. Then I stuffed the plastic bag into the mini fridge that our room also included. Bella was alive then, and was roaming free in the room (we paid extra for that). She reclined in an arm chair while I diced tomato, onion, and cilantro by the sink. I longed for more space. But there wasn’t any to be had next to the shallow sink basin and our accoutrements of the shower pushed neatly to the side.

I seared the steaks in the griddle thing and they turned out okay. We ate the steaks and the guacamole on the double bed. Only I had dessert. Bella had some scraps. S. drank a beer. I laid awake that night with insomnia and a sense of pride for having served my first meal.

There’s a few changes I would make now, but that night we ate good.

Before the Postpartum

Judging by my postpartum experiences, one might expect that I had traumatic birth experiences. Well, I didn’t. I gave birth two both of my children easily. I received the epidural with my son when I was dilated to 7 cm and I received an epidural with my daughter at 9 cm (I should’ve skipped it but I was tired by that point). Each pregnancy and birth are different for each woman. I had two perfect pregnancies (except for the fatigue in the first trimester) and two easy births.

Postpartum depression doesn’t take that into effect, I guess, and according to Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, there is no one cause of PPD. Hormones seem to overwhelm my body and the chemical imbalances in my brain cause me to suffer postpartum depression (and psychosis with my daughter). According to the MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health, there is a spectrum of mental disorders that occur after birth including the baby blues, postpartum depression, and postpartum psychosis. The center also claims that 85% of women suffer from some sort of postpartum mood disturbance.

Postpartum depression and mood disorders are serious, but more common than you might think. I will be continuing my research and am participating in research through the MGH Center for Women’s Health with their study on postpartum psychosis. I am lucky to have support, medical care, and an outlet in this blog to help me recover.

If you, as a new mom, or someone you know is feeling guilty for no reason, has changes in sleeping or appetite, has obsessive thoughts about the baby, or has thoughts of harming themselves or others, call 911 or go to the nearest ER. This post is not to diagnose or treat postpartum disorders. The symptoms I have listed are from the MGH Center for Women’s Health website and from the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy.

The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy offers some suggestions for treatment but talking with your doctor is the most important. I advise that you speak honestly with your doctor as well, something that I was too ashamed to do when I suffered PPD with my son. The Mayo Clinic offers tips such as exercising daily, eating well, staying connected with family, and asking for help. Above all, talk to your doctor.

I Never Do This…

Goals. I never write any. So, with it being a new year and lots of goal writing going on around me I think I’ll make a list. Here are some tentative goals of mine for 2020.

Goal 1: Potty train Sergio. This is a big one.

Goal 2: Write one post a day, or at least twice a week.

Goal 3: Follow a skin care regimen.

Goal 4: Get involved with some kind of climate change group.

Goal 5: Create some Montessori materials for use at home.

Goal 6: Can something from the garden.

Those are some goals that I can think of and that I think are acheivable. Have you written a goals post? Let me know about it!