Archive | June 2012


It takes two people to make a baby, and in theory, it takes two people to raise a child. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Grandfathers, uncles, and mothers must step in to guide a child through life, in the absence of a father. My life has been blessed, I grew up with a father, two grandfathers, and a great-grandfather. As a kid I suffered through gatherings where old tales were told. I rolled my eyes and went out in search of my younger cousins. As an adult, I often wish I had remained and taken notes. So much of the verbal history of the family is lost forever because, as kids, we didn’t always appreciate what we had.

The men in my family didn’t always stay within the boundaries of male stereotypes. They rolled up their sleeves and cooked dinner, washed dishes, and cleaned houses. They were not just the disciplinarians, they were also the nurturers. They attended parent-teacher nights, not just graduations. They woke up at two am to soothe a nightmare. They changed a diaper even when the mother was available. They broke out of the box and taught us all how to be parents.

Mothers get poems, dinners, flowers; it’s time for fathers to break out of the Maury Povich script and demand equal treatment. In this past week, I’ve seen a divorced father encourage others to be there for their children. I’ve seen a son dedicate a music post  to his father and another son discuss the changing role of fathers . I’ve also seen a daughter thank her mother for being the father  she never had. One of my cousins said it best, “ I also think it is the right example for Fathers to give their young sons as they become young men heading into the world. They should never have to rely on a woman to feed them, wash their clothes, or any other domestic maintenance needs. I don’t have daughters but I do have a few nieces. I think it shows them that if they date or associate with a man who is unwilling or incapable of doing these things for himself then she needs to keep looking.”

So this goes out to Santiago Martinez, who delighted in our childhood antics and laughed at our awful Spanish with his cackely laugh. This goes out to Francisco Rivera who made furniture for my Barbie dolls and always made time for little girl questions. This goes out to Jose Santos who made us all feel safe on the rough streets of the South Bronx and then went into the kitchen to make an awesome pernil. This goes out to Eli Rivera who taught me to face life with my faith and sense of humor as a shield against harm. And this goes out to all of my amazing cousins who have become great parents because of the example we were all given.

Blessings Part One – Graduations

In light of the scandals in education and the high dropout rate  for Latinos, my family has many things for which to give thanks. It has been the second generation born on the mainland that has picked up the books and kicked butt all over the tri-state area. This year we have four graduations to celebrate, and we’re doing it up in style.

Kayla, a recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, is on her way to Georgia Tech for graduate school. She’s our little rocket scientist, and as quiet as she is, she rocks our world. She has to be little because she’s the only one that fits into the buggy at CMU’s annual competition.

Alyssa, our athlete, is a member of the Central Jersey softball championship team. When her team recently played the South Jersey team, she held her head up high and refused to allow hecklers, calling her the “S” word, to get to her. She’s graduating from Lawrence High and is on her way to Belmont University in Tennessee.

Saadia, our brain, is graduating from RC Ketcham and is on her way to Columbia University, with an impressive aid package. She’s had a year full of challenges, and has had to grow up very quickly, but if there is anyone I would bet on, it would be her.

Jacquelyn, is older than the other girls, and has overcome many obstacles on her way to beauty school graduation. The mother of two sons, her daughter is due in a couple of months, and once she recovers there is nothing that will stand in her path to success.

There are a few things that parents need to do for results like this. Encourage your child. Mentor your child. Tutor your child. Get involved in your child’s school activities. Talk to your child (even when they’re sucking their teeth). And above all, love your child (and show it).

Fifty Shades of Private

I have many vices, but one of the vices you may not know about, is my love of historical romance novels. They are not literature, they will never win a Pulitzer, but they make millions of women, like me, happy. My favorite authors have taken me all over the world and through several eras in history. More importantly, I’ve been a voyeur in hundreds of bedrooms. How could I write this knowing that my mother and daughters may be reading this? Very simple. I used to steal my mother’s Harold Robbins books when I was a teenager, and I have loaned my Bertrice Small books to my daughters. If you’ve ever read either of these authors, you know where I’m going with this.

I was late to the party with the Fifty Shades trilogy, but I must admit that once I started reading the trilogy, I also jumped on the bandwagon. It was a romance novel, without the romance, at first. A young virgin is coerced into interviewing an elusive multi-millionaire, CEO with a deep, dark secret. The first book, “Fifty Shades of Grey” introduces us to Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in an office building constructed with glass, steel, and white sandstone. Very cold and impersonal. Because the book is written from Anastasia’s point of view, the reader knows that she finds Christian very attractive and a bit of a control freak; what we don’t know, at first, is how much Christian is drawn to her.

Christian follows Anastasia home, and eventually the proposition is made. Turns out that Christian is a Dominant and would very much like to make Anastasia his new Submissive. Hmmm, words that aren’t exactly part of my daily vocabulary. Sex toys, an intriguing notion.

The book tempts us with intrigue, jealousy, murder plots, and lots of sex, but as we move through the three books we find a real love story, as twisted as that may be. We find two characters immensely drawn to each other and we, the readers, start to cheer their relationship on. Is Christian really emotionally stunted? Can Anastasia tame him, does she really want to? (Stop rolling your eyes until you read the books.)

What has made this trilogy of books a phenomenon? The simple answer is technology. As many of us have switched to reading on Ebooks, we’ve all found a bit of privacy. Our reading habits are no longer on public display. We have the freedom to read whatever we want, wherever we want. The trilogy appeared at the top three spots on the download list for months. Recommendations went from word of mouth to talk show hosts making parody videos.  A whole new world has opened up for those of us who try to hide the covers of whatever we’re currently reading.

Now if I could only find that list of books to read after 50 Shades!