Archive | November 2013

Living a life with perspective

I swear that the person who has been choosing the NaBloPoMo prompts has been in my head lately. This week has truly been all about perspective.traffic

Perspective, a noun, meaning a mental view or outlook. I’m going to add my two cents here and say that it’s also a manner in which we maintain sanity. Life moves fast and we cannot always keep up. Work, family, home, friends, the whirlwind is never ending. Glitches in transportation, a crying child or run in your pantyhose, anything could send you into a tizzy.

Yesterday was a shitty day, just shitty. I left home early because I was in the mood for a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich from the cafe at my office building. With a traffic jam already mentioned on the morning news report, I took an alternate route to work. My normal twenty-five minute commute turned into an hour because someone got into an accident.

The rest of the day was a blur of court orders and police complaints. The day ended with two back-to-back meetings where I had to report off the cuff because I didn’t have any time to prepare my remarks. The last meeting ended just in time for me to grab my jacket and purse and run like there was someone chasing me out of the building.

I frowned at every red light and every motorist who changed lanes without using their signal. Succumbing to the sin of emotional eating, I stopped at Popeye’s and picked up some food. Once home, I popped open a beer and sat down to devour my chicken while eyeing an apartment that looked as if a hurricane had come through.

A big sigh and a small burp later perspective kicked in. I have a job that I love, a car with which to get there. I have food in my belly and a home that needs tending. So I got off the sofa and started tending to my home. A couple of hours later, my home was back in its normal orderliness and showing signs of a little extra loving care. The candles were lit and wine was poured for a more relaxing night. In the back of mind was the thought that had perspective not kicked my ass, it would have been a shitty night to top a shitty day. I took that thought to bed with me last night.

When I arrived at the office this morning I learned that a colleague was involved in the accident which caused yesterday’s traffic jam. She is fine, but her car is not.

Perspective.

I’m smiling and calm even though today hasn’t been any better than yesterday.

And I had yogurt for lunch.

You want to see confusion?

You want to see confusion? Just ask me to do some math. Period. I am horrible at math. If there was a word for worse than horrible, that would apply to me. I still haven’t used the algebra, geometry nor trigonometry that I attempted to learn in high school. If math were required when I went to college, I would still be there. That’s how bad I am. English, history, anthropology, and sociology were where my light came out from under the bushel. Like, my kids roll their eyes when the dinner check comes, when we go out to a restaurant. I just hand it over.photo-9

When reliving my trip to Rio de Janeiro, I remembered an outing to Ipanema, when my husband and I visited a Louis Vuitton store. In my defense, he is the one who dragged me in there, but I wasn’t fighting too hard. We looked at their wares. Naturally, all the prices were in Brazilian Reales, but I had a handy, dandy solar powered calculator. He pushed me to pick something, but again, he didn’t need to push too hard. I made my choice and calculated the rate of exchange. The display showed $80 USD, so I turned to him and said, “That one”. He smiled and told the employee to wrap it up.

As she was taking care of the order, I continued to peruse the goods on display. I’m one of those people who absolutely loves calendars, so I looked at one of the agenda holders. Since the purse was only $80 USD, I figured that he wouldn’t mind if I added an agenda to the purchase, after all there was no way it cost more than the purse. My husband asked me if I wanted it, after so many years of marriage he knew of my obsession with calendars and agendas, God knows I’ve spent enough on them. So I entered the figures into my handy, dandy solar powered calculator and the total was $200 USD. What?! I turned to my husband and told him I didn’t want it. I couldn’t understand how an agenda could possibly cost more than a purse and I told him so. He just smiled.

When the employee brought my husband the bill, and I saw that the purse actually cost $800 USD, I just about swallowed my head. Not just my tongue, but my entire head. I asked him, under my breath, if we could get out of it. He said that he wanted me to have it. So, he signed the credit card receipt making me the owner of a purse that cost more than anything I owned, besides my car and house.

Decimal points are so important. Who knew? Jeez.

Living my dash

Birthdays tend to make us reflective, nasty thing that. It’s Friday afternoon, the western skies outside my windows are blooming in shades of blue, purple, and pink, and I’m home in my bata with a wineglass at my elbow. I should be out at some happy hour starting a parranda, instead I’m here being all emo, and shit.55 para o niver

Today’s NaBloPoMo prompt was evil, but I’m not feeling it, so off script we go again. When you work in the court system, you can’t help but see evil in all its manifestations. When murder and mayhem is your bread and butter, you don’t really want to reflect upon it in your off hours.

As far as lives go, mine has been blessed. My dysfunctions kept to a minimum. Yeah, ok, I straighten pictures that are hung crookedly and the first thing I do when I sit down at a restaurant is straighten out the silverware, but that’s minor. In the past I’ve written about my separation and subsequent divorce. I’ve given you the Readers Digest version of my life, I’ve written a love letter to aging, and I’ve even contemplated retirement. But today, as I was reconciling my time and attendance at work, I saw entries in my calendar that made me reflect upon my stage of life. The stage where you are attending more retirement parties and funerals than weddings and baby showers.

We acknowledge that death is a part of life; this year I had two family members die, women who were very important to me at different stages of my life. At work, I lost two co-workers with whom I worked for many years. Both of my parents have been hospitalized in the past twelve months and I haven’t been there. I hate that they’re so far away from me.

Of course, the flip side is that the family has had three babies born, I attended a beautiful wedding, and there are weddings and more babies on the way for next year. Life has balance.

I enjoyed a vacation in Puerto Rico with my parents and sister, something we hadn’t done together in forty years. Yes, we’ve had family vacations in Florida and Dominican Republic, but never just the four of us. We didn’t get to do everything on the agenda, but that’s ok, I got my first capicu and that has to count for something.

Professionally, it was a good year. Invitations to speak at a national juvenile justice conference and at a college’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebration were just the highlights. I continue to volunteer as a board member for an agency working with children and juveniles who have mental health issues and I continue to be a voice for the general public on the Attorney Ethics Committee.

And there was fun to be had. Birthday parties, the grown and the kiddie kind. Yankee games. Being Latino. United People for Latinos in Film, Theater, and TV. Happy Cancer Chick. Soledad Speaks. Monthly brunches with my ladies. Family gatherings and bbqs. Movie screenings. Concerts. My baby girl’s 30th birthday. Writing our Lives writing workshop. Crazy fun at video shoots.

It’s  been a good year. Every year is a good year when you get right down to it. If you are reading this post, you have been a part of my joy. I have prayed for you, I have laughed with you, you have been a part of my life no matter  what. And I thank you.

Tomorrow evening I will join with my family and famigos and we will raise a glass to my 55 years on this Earth. Many people haven’t had the honor of reaching this age. Many others have gone above and beyond. If you give me a thought tomorrow, please do it with a smile at one of my smartass remarks.

So here’s to double nickels, Bitches!

Rio for a week

Let me set the scene. It’s a cold day at the end of December. The Christmas festivities were coming to an end and New Scan 34Years Eve was hours away. I’m schlumping home from work, purse, grocery bags, bulky coat and all. My husband jumps out of the bedroom shouting, “Oye, Mamita! Nos vamos pa’ Rio de Janeiro!” After peeling my eyebrows away from my hairline, I ask for details. “I went to AAA today and they had good prices, so we’re going.” We had been talking about taking a vacation, but never in a million years did I ever think I would be going to Rio.

My husband and I had been working on our marriage. I was going to therapy and he was staying out of my way. We began taking childless vacations only three years earlier. Prior to that we’d always traveled with our daughters, but now they were either working, studying or taking their own parentless vacations. So, yes, I was ready for Rio.

We left for Brazil on a ten pm flight. Ten hours from Newark to Sao Paolo sounded doable when we discussed the trip. Thanks to a full day at work and a bottle of Tylenol PM, in my purse, I was able to get a few hours of sleep on the flight. A brief layover and then we were on a smaller place to Rio where we arrived at one pm (ten am in NYC).

Scan 28Summer was just beginning in Rio, so shorts and flip flops became our uniforms for the week. The coats hanging in the hotel room closet reminded us daily of what we left behind. Of course we had an ocean view room, but only if you plastered your face against the window and looked up the street. It’s all good, we’re in Rio! With only a week, we had to take advantage of every moment. We hit the streets right away, checking out the promenade along the beach, making note of where the restaurants were, and just drinking in the local flavor.

An excursion to Sugar Loaf ended with us walking along the red sand beach and finding a beachfront restaurant favored by the locals. We spent hours speaking with the Cariocas. A friendlier bunch of people I’ve yet to meet in all my travels.  Steak dinners and several rounds of Brahma beer later, our bill came to thirty U.S. dollars.

We hit a local rodizio, where we almost ate our weight in meat, and then went to the pre-requisite Samba Show. AfterScan 29 all, you can’t go to Brazil without supporting one of the local Samba Schools as they put on shows to raise money for the upcoming Carnaval performances. As tourists, we were allowed to take free Samba lessons before we sat down to what was almost a Vegas-style revue, Capoeira and all. You could feel the vibrations of the drums through the seat of the chair as these statuesque women, with feathers and headpieces, danced all around us and hard-bodied men flew through the air. An absolute feast for the senses.

Speaking of feast for the senses, it was summer, so we took our pastey butts to the beach. And yes, all women in Rio wear thong bikinis. We even saw babies with thongs over their diapers. I had to remind my husband to put his eyes back in his head a couple of times. The best part of the beach was the gorgeous guy bringing me caipirinhas as if they were glasses of water. What’s good for the goose…

Scan 31A rainy day found us shopping in the business district in Ipanema. We hadn’t bothered going there because we were having too much fun in Copacabana. Both districts are separate and distinct, each with its own flavor. Ipanema boasts many luxury shops and tends to draw the tourist with extra money in their pockets. In Copacabana, we found many artisan shops, and that’s where we spent our money.

As the week went on, we wondered why we saw so many groups of, let’s say not-so-attractive, single foreign men. A trip to a local club answered the question. While we stood off the dance floor, people watching, we saw groups of men sit down and start to order drinks. While they were sitting there talking and drinking, women would walk up to the edge of the dance floor and start dancing. Let’s also just say, these women invented twerking. This time the husband got an elbow to the ribs. We didn’t know that prostitution was legal in Brazil but apparently those hordes of single men we’d seen already knew that. While we spent some time on the dance floor, we gave up when my husband was sandwiched a couple of times. Not that he was complaining. I later had to save him from a group of women, when he went to get us some drinks. I called it a night and said it was time to return to the hotel.

Scan 32No trip to Rio is complete without going to see Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado. We could see it from the hotel’s rooftop bar, but we had to see it up close. We wound up making two trips to Corcovado. Our first trip was on a cloudy day. We had hopes that the clouds would break, but they never did. The second trip was on our last day there. Instead of paying for another excursion, we just hired a taxi driver to take us. We agreed on a fair price, also promising to pay in U.S. dollars, and we were off. As we climbed staircase after staircase, huffing and puffing, we could see the escalators they were building. Darn. We finally got to the top and found ourselves in awe of both the statue and the majestic view. And then the camera batteries died. Really?! Now? We had a taxi driver waiting for us and a flight home in a few hours. So I ran 220 steps back down to the base, paid an exorbitant amount of money for a new battery, and ran 220 steps back up. It was worth it, sooo worth it. There would be a price to pay, of course.Scan 30

Scan 33

The flight from Rio to Sao Paolo went off without a hitch. Once we got on the last leg of the flight home, I reached for my purse. The Tylenol PM was missing. Ay Dios Mio! I didn’t panic. I figured that I was already so tired that I would knock out on my own. Hour after hour of feeling the pain in my legs, after climbing and descending Corcovado twice, had me near tears. Everyone around me snoring and making happy, sleepy sounds. I wanted to kill everyone. Starting with my husband, who had the nerve to complain that my fidgeting was interrupting his sleep.

We landed in Newark at six am. By the time we hit the customs desk, we had been sniping at each other for a while. Sniping so badly that we got pulled out of the line. Oh great, I thought, now they’re going to send us to a private room. Sending him dagger looks, that he naturally ignored, I explained to the customs officer that we were just over tired and hadn’t slept a wink on the flight home. It must happen a lot because she just stamped our passports and pointed to the exit.

Our daughter picked us up and knew immediately that something was wrong, we weren’t even looking at each other. All I kept hearing was, “You always this” “You always that”. Ugh.

A silent ride home, a very silent ride. A stop at a diner for breakfast, where we were joined by our younger daughter,  perked us all up a bit and the thaw began. We began telling our daughters all about our trip, the good and the bad. The near disaster at Corcovado. The thong bikinis on the beach. Their father’s superstar status at the club. The natural beauty of Rio. All were laid out for them to experience with us. Even the incident at the customs desk. Sleep was next on the agenda.

Would I ever go to Rio de Janeiro again? Yes, in a heartbeat, but only if I fly first class. Since that is probably never going to happen, I pull out my photo albums and remember when I was a fool for Samba, blue topazes, and Brahma beer.

Thanks NaBloPoMo for the opportunity to relive my trip.

Answer the question

As a kid I admit to standing in front of a mirror, album liner notes in one hand, hairbrush in the other, and singing to my heart’s content. But I was also the person who looked at my reflection in the kitchen window, as I washed the dinner dishes, and made believe that Johnny Carson was interviewing me on the Tonight Show. At that time, his show was the ultimate, you didn’t get to sit on his sofa if you hadn’t already made it. Being invited to sit in a chair across from James Lipton on Inside the Actor’s Studio, by this morning’s NaBloPoMo prompt, sparked that memory.james lipton

The interview might go something like this:

James Lipton: What is your favorite word?

Mariposa Social: Bacon. Those two syllables make me smile. The word remind me of the days when bacon was expensive and we only ate it for special occasions. While I don’t eat it as much as I talk about it, it reminds me that I’ve come up in the world.

JL: What is your least favorite word?

MS: Now. I tend to be a procrastinator, always was. Hearing the word ‘now’ reminds me of my mother yelling ‘NOW!’ up the stairs. I’m sure I used it on my kids, but it’s not my favorite word at all.

JL: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

MS: I love seeing good things happen to people. Seeing a friend have a book published, have a show be successful or a recording get good feedback, all turn me on, especially if I supported them along the way.

JL: What turns you off?

MS: Anger. Angry words turn me off. There are some people who thrive on anger, I can’t. It makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and it turns my stomach. It’s probably one of the reasons why I run away from conflict.

JL: What is your favorite curse word?

MS: Anyone who knows me could answer this question for me, it’s fuck. Fuck in all its variations. I grew up in a household where jerk and stupid were considered vulgar, so as soon as I thought I was grown I expanded my vocabulary.

JL: What sound or noise do you love?

MS: For me there is nothing that sounds better than a baby giggling. Babies laugh with their whole body, there is no pretense with them. If something is funny they’re going to laugh.

JL: What sound or noise do you hate?

MS: I abhor the sound of the dentist’s drill, like many other people. It’s like two steps above hate. The runner up would be a vacuum cleaner. Both are just annoying sounds, one causes anxiety and the other reminds me that I need to vacuum my living room floor.

JL: What profession would you like to attempt?

MS: I wouldn’t mind getting into show business, but not in front of the camera. I would like to be a script supervisor and make sure that eagle-eyed people, like me,  have fewer errors to find. I enjoy finding errors like shadows that show on the wrong side than the previous scene or a character drinking from a coffee cup that has a closed vent.

JL: What profession would you not like to do?

MS: Anything that has to be done out of doors. Utility workers, Cable installers, newspaper delivery are just a few I can think of. I like my creature comforts and don’t like being too hot or too cold, both make me cranky.

JL: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

MS: Heaven does exist, and I hope I hear, “Come right this way, we have a mansion waiting for you and some people who have been eager for your arrival”. I believe that faith, forgiveness, and God’s grace will one day reunite me with the loved ones I’ve lost.

The scents of life

As I sat on my sofa, beginning to write the lists that would make my Thanksgiving feast manageable, I received my email with today’s blogging prompt: Food for the Soul (and Stomach). How appropriate!sofrito-1

In Latino households, people will be busy making sure the most essential part of food preparation is ready. Yes, I’m speaking of making sofrito. That magical, green, richly scented concoction that no one should ever cook without. Sure Goya offers a frozen version, and in a pinch it comes in handy, but no self-respecting Latino cook goes into the holidays without a fresh batch of homemade goodness.

For those who don’t know what sofrito is, I will give you the easy version:

four large onions

four large green peppers

a package of small, sweet peppers

four heads of garlic

recao or culantro (depending on what country you’re from)

Chop and clean all the ingredients, making sure no seeds make their way into the bowl. Place all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and ‘chop’ and ‘mix’ until you end up with a thick, liquidy mixture. Add salt and black pepper. ‘Mix’ again, and you’re done.

Yes, it sounds easy and yes, it is easy, but it’s a bit labor intensive during the process. It normally takes an hour to make a supply that keeps me in sofrito for a few months (less when my kids come and take some containers home with them).

The end result is always food that tastes like you put some love into it. When you pass through a Latino neighborhood and the scents make your mouth water, you have fallen under the spell of sofrito. A tablespoon of sofrito makes it into arroz con gandules, stews, soups, spaghetti, lasagna, beans, and almost any dish that has a liquid or ground meat base. When I puncture my turkey, I put sofrito into the holes, because let’s face it, turkey is boring meat. Liven it up with sofrito or garlic and it becomes a pavochon. Way better than anything the Pilgrims ever made.

Enjoy and Buen Provecho.

 

Of life and mortality

Throughout this National Blog Post Month challenge, I’ve attempted to stick to the script, as they say, and come up with imaginative ways to incorporate a topic into my writing. This evening, I’m going off script.white_rose_and_candle_posters-r8478b72a80b446e090c8716e7a3a9342_j8cg_8byvr_512

Call it a rough week at work, attribute it to emotional exhaustion, maybe we could even make it positive and say I’m conserving energy for a busy weekend ahead; wherever we choose to point the finger, the truth is that today has been a pensive day.

In the last couple of weeks I lost a beloved aunt, a co-worker, of many years, died in her sleep, and a cousin lost her brother. Sudden deaths hurt, they make you wonder if you will be ready when your name is called.  Death is a part of life. This we know but we don’t always acknowledge it. We read books on death and dying, and try to learn the proper way to grieve. The healthy way to grieve. Give that up. There is no proper way to grieve. There are personal ways to grieve, individualized to your needs and your talents. There is no clock on grieving.

This morning I read a Facebook status that reminded me of my grandmother’s illness and death. My grandmother was ready to go, but we were not ready to let her go. She told us, “Dejen me ir” (Let me go, for the Spanish-challenged). There was always someone taking care of her. Feeding her. Bathing her. And she slipped away as soon as our backs were turned.

We celebrated her life and we taught our children, her great-grandchildren, what being part of a family really meant.

When I got home from work today,  I found an envelope sent by my mother, with poems that were shared in her church on All Saint’s Day. So I leave you with what may seem cliched words, but tonight, they meant something to me.

It was beautiful as long as it lasted

The journey of my life

I have no regrets whatsoever

Save the pain I’ll leave behind

Those dear hearts who love and care

The strings pulling at the heart and soul

The strong arms that held me up

When my own strength let me down.

At every turning of my life I came across good friends

Friends who stood by me

Even when time raced me by

Farewell, farewell my friends

I smile and bid you goodbye

Shed no tears for I need them not

All I need is your smile