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

An Invitation

bench

My divorce was brutal. Not because my divorce in particular was so hard; but because divorce in general is a massive clusterfuck.

Divorce and its aftermath have made this space incredibly quiet. Writing has always been my way of gaining clarity and direction. So not writing about it has been stifling. I have an abundance of stories to tell about this experience. However, when you’re living through something rarely talked about and deeply personal, it feels like a huge risk to say the things in public.

I’m fortunate enough to have a wonderful group of women online who are single mothers by divorce; and have provided me with a heart-centered space to talk about this journey. They offer me sisterhood. They are part of the story I tell myself about this experience. These women, and a handful of IRL friends, have been my sounding board.

What I’ve lacked, though, is the space to listen to me. I need to spend more time on the story I tell myself about divorce and single motherhood. In the beginning, with legal proceedings on the horizon, I wasn’t sure what was fair game to share and what wasn’t. Then when all was said and done, I didn’t know how to start writing without pointing fingers. I had to get over some emotional hurdles to get to a place where the story would be entirely my own. And so, here I am.

I’m taking back this space. Too few heart-centered words are written about divorce and single motherhood. Yes, divorce is brutal but what comes after can be as beautiful as I make it. The story I tell myself, the story I write heals the wounds and helps me face the light.

I don’t want to do it alone. Sisterhood and storytelling are powerful medicine. So this is an invitation to join me once a week to be inspired by writing prompts on divorce and single motherhood.

Every Tuesday I’ll share my own post and include a writing prompt for the following week. At the bottom of each post you can link up to your blog post.
Topics will range from the serious to the silly because it’s a roller coaster ride, right?

For November, because of #NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), I’m listing all four writing prompts today in case there are folks out there who are planning out their posts for the month.

11/8 – How do you spend your time while your kids are away? Some moms struggle with being away from their kids, while others relish in the time off. How do you deal with those feelings? How has it changed over time? Go into as much or as little detail as you want.

11/15 – Write an honest dating profile. You don’t ever have to use it but write down what you’re really looking for in a partner. Mine may just include a spooning partner for the winter months.

11/22 – In the spirit of the season, what are the lessons you’re most grateful for from your divorce?

11/29 – It takes a village, right? Have you found your people, online or IRL? How have you built a community of support for yourself? Or are you trying to figure that out?

Get writing!

NaBloPoMo November 2016

Did You Have A Childhood Pet?

Every Saturday in 2013 I’ll be sharing a post for the Mom Before Mom project. The goal is to tell the stories of life before motherhood, the stories which root the woman in every mother. So much of memory keeping is focused on capturing our children’s experience but what of our own? Who will capture the mother’s journey as a woman? Who will honor our journey if we don’t honor it first? Every week I’ll be answering a question, journaling my life stories. Read along or write along with the wonderful bloggers linking up every week.

mother's journey as a womanOriginal image by aussiegal via Flikr.

Prompt #9: Did you have a favorite pet? A crazy one? What were their names? Tell us a story about your animal companions or lack their of.

Chan-chan. My first dog, black shaggy haired love bug. He was more my grandfather’s than mine but what was his was mine. Chan-chan spent his days at work with my abuelo who owned a jewelry store. His wet, black nose would always peek out from beneath the counters. I spent many an evening standing on a kitchen chair next to my abuelo opening a can of dog food, carefully mashing it up into his bowl. I love that smell. Not so much because I think it dog food smells tasty, not at all, but because the scent reminds me of working alongside my grandfather to care for Chan-chan.

Years after Chan-chan died and I had gone through many other pets, I was reminiscing with my godmother about my beloved Chan-chan. She was perplexed. I explained to her about my gentle four legged pup from my early childhood. She laughed. Apparently, my dog’s name was Sunshine but my parents, in their rich accents, pronounced it chan-chan and so I was fooled, for a good portion of my life, into believing I had a dog named Chan-chan.

One afternoon after Sunshine passed away, I walked in the door from school to find my grandfather holding the collar of a lively golden beauty. I’m not sure what her mix was but she was long and tall with a beautiful face and the creamest cream colored coat. And this one was mine. I remember the excitement of picking her name. Her given name was buttons which just wouldn’t do. I lied on my stomach on my bed and on the couch and on the floor day dreaming names for her. I remember calling my abuelo up on the phone to ask if Gem was a good name. It didn’t fly. Somehow she became Cindy and it fit her perfectly with all her bounce and pep.

She was my buddy and the closest I got to a sibling as a kid. I talked to her for hours and pet her to my heart’s content. She hated to be left alone and tore the house apart when we left her for long periods of time. She’d pee all over the floor with excitement once we got home. She was with us for a good handful of years, if not  more. I adored her. She really was my best friend for a long time. Before I discovered diaries, I had my Cindy. She kept all my secrets and dreams and wonder.

Cindy suffered from seizures. It confused me and hurt my heart every time she had one. Just before I got to high school, it came to the point where a decision had to be made about whether or not to put her down. I left for school one day and when I returned my parents told me they’d put her down. They never talked about it with me. They never asked me about it. They just wanted to protect me and went ahead and did it anyway. I was shattered. It was the first time they hurt me. I didn’t talk to them for days.

In the interim, there was Spike, my godmother’s bulldog who was a big ball of bubbly. The most chill dog I ever did meet. And such an appetite for my mother’s Cuban food, no wonder he was such a butterball.

I love animals. I was blessed to grow up not just with dogs but also with a godmother who lived on a farm. She raised sheep and her neighbors raised cows. I spent a lot of time feeding sheep and goats, cleaning up cows for the 4-H fair. It was simple and beautiful. I was a city kid and it was a gift to connect with nature on her farm.

I never wanted to be a vet like so many kids dream. I’ve always just been a fan of having an animal companion. As a kid I always wanted a few dogs to call my own. I’m hoping that dream comes true one day.

Next week’s prompt: 3/16 What did you want to be when you grew up? Do you still harbor a desire to be that? When did you realize your dream was or wasn’t possible?


What Were Sick Days Like As A Kid?

Every Saturday Once a week in 2013 I’ll be sharing a post for the Mom Before Mom project. The goal is to tell the stories of life before motherhood, the stories which root the woman in every mother. So much of memory keeping is focused on capturing our children’s experience but what of our own? Who will capture the mother’s journey as a woman? Who will honor our journey if we don’t honor it first? Every week I’ll be answering a question, journaling my life stories. Read along or write along with the wonderful bloggers linking up every week.

mother's journey as a womanOriginal image by aussiegal via Flikr.

Prompt #8: Who took care of you when you were sick? How did you spend sick days? From soup to ointments to old wives tales, how did your family teach you to heal?

I didn’t get sick very often as a kid. I attribute it to two things. First, every morning my parents made me take vitamin C and cod liver oil pills. Every day I was expected to take them without question. When I wanted to understand why it was necessary to take something that made my burps taste like fish, I usually got one of two answers – because they’re good for you or because we said so. I wanted to not take them so badly but by nature I’m a people please-er so down the hatch they went. The other thing that kept me healthy most of the time is my parents ability to will away any sickness from getting near me. I’m not sure if this last bit is true or not but if you know my abuelo, then you know the man can move mountains just by thinking about it. So go with it.

For a healthy kid, though, I took lots of medicine. When I was really little, any cough or sneeze and my mother would rush off to fetch the children’s Tylenol tablets. She’d dissolve the dosage in a spoon with water. I liked the chalky sweet flavor and was a little heartbroken to outgrow the children’s Tylenol. As I got older, my mother fancied herself some kind of pharmacist. She always had the pharmacist give her an extract refill and our medicine cabinet was always full, particularly of the bright pink antibiotic. Cough, sneeze, fever, chills, over exhaustion, stomach bug, any ailment in my parent’s house could always be cured with something out of a medicine bottle.

On the rare occasion I did find myself under the weather and home from school, you’d find me in front of the television sprawled out on the couch. I was a glutton for daytime television.

The only ritual I hold dear is a prayer my mom would whisper over me at night. She’d come in if I wasn’t having an easy time sleeping, a fever usually, and she’d recite the prayer in a whisper and do the sign of the cross over me several times. I loved it. Her hushed voice, the grandeur of the sign of the cross, the darkness, not really knowing what she was saying. It seemed mystical and magical.  I have a copy of the poem tucked into our medicine cabinet for when my girls get sick.

That’s as romantic as my sick days get. My parents were all about take your medicine, quit your belly aching and get better. Tough love was their prescription to kick a cold to the curb. None of my wishy washy Whole Foods medicine cabinet healing crap-o-la. Either way, we alive and healthy so there’s something behind each of our kinds of wacky medicine.

Next week’s prompt: 3/9 Did you have a favorite pet? A crazy one? What were their names? Tell us a story about your animal companions or lack their of.


What Was Bedtime Like Growing Up?

Every Saturday in 2013 I’ll be sharing a post for the Mom Before Mom project. The goal is to tell the stories of life before motherhood, the stories which root the woman in every mother. So much of memory keeping is focused on capturing our children’s experience but what of our own? Who will capture the mother’s journey as a woman? Who will honor our journey if we don’t honor it first? Every week I’ll be answering a question, journaling my life stories. Read along or write along with the wonderful bloggers linking up every week.

mother's journey as a womanOriginal image by aussiegal via Flikr.

Prompt #7: Walk us through your bedtime routine as a kid. As a teen. Anything you still do now?

I don’t recall a bedtime routine but I do have a string of memories…

-Every night I’d kiss everyone good night. After pecks on the cheek, I’d climb into bed and turn on the TV. I don’t remember anyone checking up on me to make sure I was asleep or to turn the TV off. None of the strict bedtime rules of my own house now. When I got older, I read books until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. I remember being so enraptured by a book that I’d fight sleep. My eyelids too heavy but  the story in my hands too good to put down. Sleep always came easy.

-Aside from the TV when I was very young, I always slept in silence. Until college when I got in the habit of falling asleep with music playing softly to lull me to sleep. It started when I got my own dorm room as a resident assistant. I realize it was a way to comfort myself. I’d never lived truly alone before and in some way the music made it feel less so. I still like to sleep with some kind of sound. Having grown up in the city, the silence of the suburbs irks me.

When I was a little girl, I remember getting scared in my room for no good reason other than it was huge and I was tiny and it was full of toys. Not just any toys but dolls, a My Buddy Doll, stuffed animals – lots of little fakes eyes watching me. I remember thinking they all came to life when I slept. Some days that thought was exciting to me. Others, it terrified me. To get to sleep, I’d cover my head under the blankets. Now, I can’t stand to have my head covered!

-I was a pretty neurotic kid, now that I think about it. I remember lying on my right side and getting freaked out that something was going to get me from behind me. So I’d turn over onto my left side only to worry about the same thing. My solution? Sleeping on my stomach. Why I didn’t consider something coming up behind  me, I’m not sure.

I stopped sleeping with a pillow in high school. YM or Seventeen ran an article that mentioned how sleeping without one was good for your back. I’m not sure of the science behind it but I tried it and never looked back.

-I loved scary movies and my grandfather didn’t really get the movie rating system. This means I saw a lot of scary and inappropriate movies when I was really young. Freddy Kreuger, anyone? On nights when we’d go to the movies to catch something scary, without fail I’d get into my mom’s bed. My mom isn’t a particularly affectionate or warm person but she always ushered me under the covers without complaint.

-I kept dream journals on and off. I’ve read some since and wow were they completely random. Brad Pitt, anyone? I had one recurring one for years. I was walking down the street and suddenly a group of people start chasing me. I run, turn the corner and go towards a house. Next thing I know, I’m in a room in the house looking out onto the street. The window is one giant piece of glass. I turn around and someone who was running after me before is behind me. That’s it. For years I had this dream and then one day I realized I hadn’t had it in years. Crazy how I still remember it.

-I almost forgot. Every night when I went to bed I’d kiss my grandfather goodnight. He always wished me off to sleep by saying, “Que suenes con los angelitos.” A direct translation would be “May you dream with angels”. It’s the Latino version of sweet dreams but also a little more – a blessing, a wish. I say it to my girls every night.

I’m a night owl. I love staying up late and don’t require much sleep. I’ve always been like this. I go to sleep because my body needs but truly because I love mornings. I love the freshness of a new day.

Prompts for the month of March:
3/2
Who took care of you when you were sick? How did you spend sick days? From soup to ointments to old wives tales, how did your family teach you to heal?
3/9
Did you have a favorite pet? A crazy one?What were their names? Tell us a story about your animal companions or lack their of. 
3/16
What did you want to be when you grew up? Do you still harbor a desire to be that? When did you realize your dream was or wasn’t possible?
3/23
How did you choose what to do after high school? Did anyone provide valuable advice which influenced your decision?
3/30
What was the first piece of music you couldn’t stop listening to? What was the first piece of music you bought?