Adjusting

I kicked off November enthusiastic to write every day. Then the election came and I couldn’t muster any words.

I’ve consumed what can only be described as an unhealthy amount of news and opinion pieces since November 9th. It’s fascinating – to go on about my days as if nothing has happened while holding onto the frightening reality that America is headed into dark times. It’s a train wreck . I want to look away but I feel an obligation to every one involved to witness every excruciating detail. It is not a healthy state to live in. I’m still trying to figure out what day to day life will look like in the next four years.

I have no idea how to juggle the dreadful reality at large with the peaceful sanity of my daily life. Is raising strong women enough of a revolution? I’m not sure anymore. Can I be a peacemaker in a constant state of protest? I’ll have to learn. 

Thanksgiving drew a firm line for me. It snapped me out of my information spiral. I focused on my girls, family, and friends. I acknowledged how desperately I need to keep writing (sorry, NaBloPoMo, there’s always next year). I took comfort in knowing I have a wide circle of friends who are as worried as I am. I took a deep breath for the first time since the election.

After a reality shattering November, I’m stepping into December focused on keeping out the noise. The two weeks following the election left me spent but I will not start the long journey ahead in weariness. I’m taking inventory of what I consume and what I put out into the world. I’m spending my money with intention. I’m reaching out to our public servants. I’m getting creative AF about ways I can play a role in ensuring everyone is afforded the equal freedom. 

Here’s to December and the year ahead, may she be full of writing and stillness and the good fight.

The Proust Questionnaire

boat-water

As a little girl, you’d often find me talking to myself, pretending to answer interview questions with the likes of Oprah or Arsenio. I imagined one day I”d be a film star, media obsessed kid that I was, so practicing my interview skills seemed like a no-brainer. As much as I aspired to movie stardom, looking back I think I just liked answering questions. Maybe I had a hunch adulthood would be riddled with idle small talk. Maybe I believed my imaginary interviews were the only way I’d ever get to answer big questions. Little did I know I’d end up studying philosophy in college and get to play with all the questions!

In honor of that little girl, and because I still love answering questions, I’m sharing my answers to the Vanity Fair Proust Questionnaire below. Indulge me while I pretend I’m lying on my fainting couch while Orpah asks me these, ok?

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A day at the beach that turns into an evening at the beach around a fire

What is your greatest fear?
Getting stuck in routine and losing sight of what I’m capable of.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I often default to being nice at the expense of what I really want or deserve. I’m working on it. Divorce has made me much better at not being nice. 

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Arrogance, showing off, self-centered-ness…they’re kind of in the same family, I suppose. An inability to see beyond yourself might be the category these all fall under. 

Which living person do you most admire?
Michelle Obama

What is your greatest extravagance?
I live a pretty simple life by choice so dinner out or taking the family to the movie is it these days. On an unlimited budget it would be travel.

What is your current state of mind?
Snacky

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Being stylish – that counts as a virtue, right? 

On what occasion do you lie?
When my kids lose a tooth and all through December (only in regards to the man in the red suit)

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
My nails – I grew up around women who got manicures/pedicures regularly. They’d either go get them done or settle in for the night in front of the TV to do it themselves. And before nail art became a thing, they were doing reverse French manicures. I always loved watching their hands as a kid. They always seemed so elegant. They still do. 

What living person do you most despise?
He who shall not be named and who will no longer be in the spotlight come November 9th. 

What is the quality you most like in a man?
I love when a man has  a balance of both masculine and feminine energy, at the risk of sounding kinky, equal parts hard and soft. Oh, and a deep respect and awe for women…is there a word for that? The complete opposite of a misogynist? Let’s make one up. 

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
An inclination towards sisterhood, with an eye always on “how can I lift you up “

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“Did you hear me?” Because I’m with my daughters all the time.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My daughters and my abuelo…and stories. 

When and where were you happiest?
After the 1st Listen To Your Mother Providence, the cast and their families gathered at a local restaurant. I had the husband of one of the speakers come up to me and thank me (and my co-producer/director) for doing the show. He said his wife had come alive in a way she hadn’t in a long time and it made him so happy. It was beautiful the way I felt in that moment, that something I did had made someone light up and tap into their own magic. I’m still very proud of that moment. 

Which talent would you most like to have?
The ability to sing. I’d like big pipes so I could belt out tunes or a raspy, jazzy voice. 

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d love to be able to conjure up good comebacks on the spot. I suck at it now. I always think of the perfect thing to say hours, days, years later. 

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Raising daughters who are kind and brave. 

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what would it be?
A female version of Wolverine just so I could heal from anything and live longer.

Where would you most like to live?
By the sea

What is your most treasured possession?
I don’t put a lot of value on things. But it would have to be a toss up between my mom’s ring that has a giant blue stone set in silver that looks like it dripped into place. It reminds me of my childhood and the parties we always went to. The other would be keepsake boxes I have from my own childhood and from my daughters’ early years plus some photo albums of my family when they were young in Cuba.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
A world with no books or movies

What is your favorite occupation?
I found a woman online who is a family historian. She talks to people and captures their family story. Then she creates a book out of their stories. I didn’t even know this was a thing and now I just want to do what she does. That and being a minister who marries people and leads special ceremonies. I have friend who does it and I’m in awe that she gets to do that work. Both seem like the perfect way to marry my love of stories, words, and ritual. 

What is your most marked characteristic?
I’ve been told I have an expressive face, especially my eyebrows. It takes a great deal of self-control to not let my face do the talking. 

What do you most value in your friends?
Their loyalty despite the distance and time that goes by.

Who are your favorite writers?
I don’t tend to stick to authors. I follow the stories. But I did recently notice the books I haven’t been able to put down in recent years were all written by women, in particular women of color. Most recently Brit Bennett, Cynthia Bond, Jung Yun, Anita Diamant. 

Who is your hero of fiction?
Bethsheba Everdine because I’m a romantic. 

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Frida Kahlo, there’s something about her search for depth and her wild spirit that resonates with me. 

Who are your heroes in real life?
I’m still fangirling the Final Five and Leslie Jones

What are your favorite names?
I have a small obsession with names. I keep a running list, I’m not sure for what, but just in case. For boys, Balthazar and Ezra always win me over. And for girls, Allegra and Anais. My list is much longer but these are tops for me. 

What is it that you most dislike?
Complaining without offering solutions

What is your greatest regret?
I used to be one of those people who said I didn’t have regrets, only lessons I’d learned. Call it what you want, today I regret/have learned a lot from my first marriage.

How would you like to die?
Peacefully 

What is your motto?
It’s all love. You either choose love or you don’t. You either step towards it or away from it. 

Special thanks to Lindsey at A Design So Vast for inspiring this post. Her blog is one of my favorites to visit. If you’re a lover of words, you should definitely make your way over there.

NaBloPoMo November 2016

Prayer, Gifts, Gratitude, & Farewell

This is the post where I bid adieu to 2013, a roller coaster of a year. It started out as 3 different posts and as this last day of the year draws to a close has morphed into this novel. Long but from the heart, see ya later 2013. 

PRAYER

prayer
noun
a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship – Google

noun
it’s truth, it’s all prayer –Ann Lamont to Oprah while discussing her book “Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers”

noun
sacred vulnerability – Carla Molina, after a year of bumping into prayer unknowingly

It began with surrender, a word in a magazine article. It put a name to a necessary skill I had yet to master. There it was meeting me when I needed it most, answering a question I hadn’t asked (in words). And because I’m no ungrateful fool, I’ve carried it with me ever since. When life feels harder than it should, I pray.

Surrender? Surrender! Surrender. 

I’m not a praying person, at least not in the traditional sense. I spent the first 15 years of my life in the Catholic school system so prayer began for me as an exercise in memorization, recitation. All of it rooted in following the rules. Through their repetition, those Hail Marys and Our Fathers, despite my sometimes less than holy intention (autopilot, anyone?), those prayers became a blanket in winter.

Over a decade later, prayer has shape shifted. Not so much into something completely different but more into itself, what it was always meant to be. The beginning of my life knee deep in “prayer” taught me the mechanics, how repetition and routine can be the calling card of comfort. A comfort called love/faith/hope/whatyouneedrightthissecondtokeeponkeepingon. A good deal of living thereafter, I let go of the formal practice of prayer and spent time in murky waters figuring out what prayer means to me. And this I admit I did rather loosely, in fits and bursts of inspiration. As a mom of two young children, I’d venture to say I thought about prayer maybe twice a year.

This last year, however, has been, subtlely, a return to prayer. I’d read a concept or quote and be hit with knowing I was meant to pay attention. Like the souls I meet in life, who present themselves when I need them most, I believe the same is true for ideas. Sometimes the messenger is a person and other times just words on a page or screen, lyrics in a song, a scene in a movie. It’s a beacon for something I already know, leading it out of spiritual storage into my present heart.

In childhood, prayer was about paying homage to something greater than myself. Today it’s about a relationship, a conversation with the universe (yep, I went there).

Prayer is a sacred vulnerability to be where you are. 

So today I wanted to share the prayers that found me this year, over and over again, that I’ll carry well into the new year and beyond.

Gratitude Prayer
When I find myself turning away from love, not rooted in kindness or patience, when my kids have worn me down to my last straw, when shit hits the fan, when everyday feels like a Monday, I give thanks. I give thanks until I’m rooted in love again. The roof over my head, the smile from a stranger, a friend’s phone call, our dog in bed every night, my daughters’ laughter, a good hair day – from the minuscule to the magnificent, be grateful for it all and everything before seems quite trivial.

How Do I Want To Feel Prayer
In the same instances I call on my gratitude prayer, I find it helpful to also question how it is I want to feel. In motherhood, career, relationships, at home, in the day to day, in all of it, how do I want to feel about these moments that make up the whole of my life? Never underestimate the power to reframe situations; it’s the difference between a good day and a bad day, a life well lived and one regretted.

Be Where You Are Prayer
Sometimes it’s not about changing anything but simply being where you are. Surrender. Life is a simple journey that we complicate for ourselves. It may not all be a walk in the park, but we can certainly make the challenging times easier by resisting less. Let it be. 

prayer is sacred vulnerability

GIFTS & GRATITUDE

These prayers were amongst many gifts I received in this year of highs and lows. From my daughters to our new home to my family to our new pup, I have much to be grateful for in 2013. However, what has stayed with me the most is the love that embraced me after my separation. Friends, old and new, near and far, came to me in kindness; it floored me. Friends I haven’t spoken to or seen in years, reached out to remind me of the friendship between us. Friends, who are really just a bit more than acquaintances, reached out to me in random moments, often with nothing more but an “I’m thinking of you” or “how are you and the girls?”  Every time it brought me to tears; it still does.

It made me realize how important it is to have a community, to stay connected. How every life we touch truly stays with us, how no kindness goes unnoticed. How this is no solitary journey and if it ever felt like one, it was my own doing. 

So thank you, friends, for holding space in your hearts and thoughts for me and mine. It’s a kindness that heals and illuminates all that is right. 

FAREWELL

This year still has a few hours left so I won’t wish it away making any claims for what’s ahead (that’s tomorrow’s post). Simply, I will sit with the lessons and gifts of the last 365 days and give profound thanks for the experience.

You were a bitch, 2013, but there is too much light in my life to focus on the shadows. So long, farewell, auf wiedershen, goodnight.

Supporting Belle

Things here have been quiet but everywhere else they’ve been bustling. Moving, producing, directing, homeschooling, writing. It’s a wonderful season. Today I’m sharing something very close to my heart.

An amazing group of Rhody bloggers have come together with La-Z-Boy to host a sit-a-thon for Belle a sweet, fiesty and lovable two year old I’ve known since she was a wee babe. Quiet appropriate for the blogging bunch, don’t you think? Sitting for a cause? The weekend will be filled with lots of family friendly activities and every penny from donations and our auction  will be given directly to Belle’s family. You can find a line up of the weekend’s events here. This is her story.

On New Year’s Eve just this past December, I called a friend of mine to see if we were still going to the movies to watch Les Mis. Her daughter, Belle,  had a terrible stomach bug and had  been sick on and off since Christmas, like so many kids that time of year. I wanted to make sure she didn’t need to cancel to nurse her baby back to health. When she answered her voice was shaky.

Leukemia, crying, me sobbing, are they sure, she’s staying in the hospital for the next month, spinal tap, chemo, she’s just two.

I didn’t know I could be so instantly shaken by a phone call. I had to pull over. Wasn’t Belle just fine a few weeks ago when we had a playdate? She was fine over the summer at the playground. She’s been fine the entire two years we’ve known her. This can’t be. Her mom cooks everything from scratch and cloth diapers and believes in feeding her kids healthy and sneaking in a cake pop here or there. Her brother is fine. No child deserves this. Not her. Not them.

I went to the hospital that night and saw their brave faces. No tears just strength in the face of the unthinkable. The beauty to emerge from this has been the overwhelming support this little girl’s family has received since that fateful day.

Meals planned for months on end, bracelets sold in her name, fundraising events, prayers, visits, donations, a photography session, toys, clothes, love.

It is inspiring to witness a community rise to the occasion for one of its own. And by community, I don’t mean just individuals who knew this family but strangers whose only tie to this family are a compassionate heart and, perhaps, being a parent themselves or knowing someone who has fought the same fight. The road is long ahead of them and, unfortunately, expensive.

Cost of hospital stay
This is the cost of a one month hospital stay for a two year old with leukemia. This family is more fortunate than most because they have health insurance. However, and it’s  a big however, they are still responsible for a portion of the expenses incurred. After her initial one month stay, Belle went home and adjusted well to life back in familiar surroundings. Then she went back into the hospital, caught a fever and needed to stay another week. She went home again and today finds herself once again in the hospital, with no idea how long her stay will be. This is Belle’s family’s new normal. The cancer will not up and leave one day. It’s a long, arduous process of helping her body fight, day by long day. Doctors tell them it’s at least a 5 year journey they’re on before they can, with any certainty, declare anything our hearts are wishing for.

To put into perspective the financial needs of a family fighting cancer, you have to consider all the expenses they face. There are the expenses they’ve always had – a mortgage, insurance, food, clothes, fuel, car repairs, home repair, pet care, school needs for their kids – all the things us non-cancer fighting folks always have to deal with. Add to that the cost of cancer – out patient chemo, unexpected hospital stays, medications, time off from work, unforeseen procedures and complications, unexpected arrangements for your other child while you take care of your sick daughter, and a list of things I can’t begin to imagine.

Rhody Bloggers for Good are determined to help Belle’s family by raising money to support them on their journey. We’ve set our fundraising goal high and believe every single donation counts. There are two ways to lend a hand. First, come on down to our sit-a-thon the weekend of April 6th. There will family friendly activities and an amazing array of auction items. The other way is by making a donation to Belle’s donation page.. Every single penny counts.

Donate Here

The Nightclub Life After 30

This weekend, on the first full moon of 2013, I celebrated an amazing friend’s bachelorette party in the city that never sleeps. We had an incredible time chatting over amazing food and dancing the night away. I met a few of the bride-to-be’s good friends, reconnected with an old friend and reminded my body it’s good to dance. Here, in no particular order, observations of a night on the town by an almost 32 year old.

  1. Club clothes aren’t as slutty as they used to be. Far less boobage. More fashionable, less whore-y. Pants a plenty, mini-skirts in the minority. Sure the freezing temperatures might have something to do with it but you know cold weather never stopped me from pulling out my skimpiest clothing.
  2. While clothes are less slutty, smart phones have made everyone dumber. It’s almost an oxymoron that they should be called “smart” phones when they cause the complete opposite effect on people. For example, one girl posed with her hand bag cradled against her chest like a withering rose from a lover while eye f*cking her iPhone camera. I found it bizarre the first time. I was convinced they were shooting an SNL sketch by the 8th time.
  3. I got offered free coke. The yeya, folks, not the red can kind loved by polar bears and St. Nick. I wanted to lecture the kid on how I’m a mom & threaten to call the cops but thought the better of it and just told him to get lost. Apparently I look more gullible now than I did in my younger days. I blame it on too much smiling.
  4. I’m convinced the full moon has magical powers to make me nearly invincible or at least stay awake forever. I started my day at 8am and ended it at 4am. I drove three hours through four states and made half a dozen stops then finally hit the town and felt amazing. No Red Bull or energy crap drinks here. So now I know to plan all my big party nights during a full moon.
  5. In college and pre-kid years, I prepared for a night out drinking by drinking. This weekend I prepared by taking shots of echinacea and swallowing horse-sized pills of an herbal wellness remedy to keep my cold at bay. The packie then, Whole Foods now.
  6. To date myself – the entire time the DJ played house music I was waiting for someone to break out some glow sticks. Either the local party store sold out or they’re no longer “in”.
  7. Either I think too much like my parents or I’ve seen too man Lifetime movies but I made lots of decisions based on the least likely route to not get attacked. I don’t mean this to be funny because it’s no laughing matter but just really to showcase my neurosis. Looking for parking? Choose the most well lit easily viewable lot with plenty of foot traffic going by. Need to go to the bathroom? Never solo, always recruit someone to tag along. Taking a cab? Better keep an eye on the street numbers to make sure he’s taking you where you asked and not some remote location. Yes, I actively thought about these things.
  8. I’ve had my share of crazy bathroom moments in nightclubs. However, this one was either brilliant or entirely creepy; I haven’t decided yet. To get to the bathroom you have to go through a door into a dark hallway (sign #1 this might not be a good idea – easy place to get attacked) then go down stairs (sign #2). When you’re downstairs you don’t see any bathrooms just two black parallel walls with white penmanship on them. Quickly you realize the doors are camouflaged into the walls. Just when you think you can just go in when someone steps out, an attendant in the hallway shouts at you to wait because it’s not your turn. They have system for hustling people in and out of the bathrooms. It’s incredibly efficient but also kinda creepy to take a strangers word as they open a door into a wall for you.
  9. A private booth with a stripper pole is not for strippers or raunchy dancing at all. Stripper poles give drunk thirtysomethings something to hold on to while dancing. I suggested next time we bring rock climbing belts and just hook on.
  10. One thing that hasn’t changed? The DJ never plays enough R&B/hip hop/90s pop. Wait. Does this mean I have to go to oldies night?
  11. I can dance until the sun comes up. Really.

I’m turning 32 tomorrow and this weekend was one of those glaring moments reminding me of my age. Not in a bad way but in a very funny “don’t you forget” way. It was a worthwhile reminder and I’d do it all again!

This post is about our dancing adventures but my favorite part of the night might have been dinner. We met up at this quaint restaurant in the Village. The cab driver pulled up and I thought it was a joke because all I saw was apartment buildings. I was convinced I was going to have to get another cab to get to the right location. Literally two steps and there was this very secret garden type door. I descended the two steps down towards the door and the quiet of the street was swallowed up by the heat and energy of a bar packed to the brim. It was a classic New York restaurant scene – not an inch to move, groups of people enthralled in conversation, couples, friends, reunions, first dates and then me slithering my way through jabbing strangers in the back with a giant box of cupcakes. Classic. Then just as you think the endless sea of faces won’t end the bar leads you to a dinner space equal parts rustic, romantic, medieval and cozy. I’d go into the food but then you’d hate me. Alta. Go.