February 15, 2013
I dumped out of the blogosphere after only a few months. I don’t have any real excuses except I got busy with other things and never returned to it. I look at it once in a while and check my stats. I have about ten views a week on one post or another. That’s more than I had when I was more actively blogging. I wonder what people are Googling that brings them to the site?
I hate admitting that I can be a bit of a dilettante. I start off great guns on some project or other and dive in so deeply that I overdose on the obsessiveness and inevitably flame out. Most times those short-lived hobbies have involved exercising and dieting–activities that lose their shine awfully fast. Blogging involves writing, an activity I enjoy very much. I didn’t think I’d neglect my blog for as long as I have, but I did. The “before pic” is none too flattering.
Life lately has been full of experiences that are devastating, ludicrous, or pretty wonderful by turns. I’m not sure any of it is blog-worthy. I certainly can’t commit to blogging every day or even every week, but no one says I have to. I’m a writer. Even if I’m not a very good or successful one, I’m still a writer. I write every single day. I teach it. I study it. I do it.
I enjoyed a big, fat lunch today. So I’m snacking on homemade and healthy kale chips while I write this. And okay, I’ll probably hit the gym this weekend. I’ll give it another go. Maybe I’ll blog about it.
August 24, 2011
A person in the online class I’m taking said something interesting. It’s a course on the “Politics of Narration.” So as expected, we are discussing “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin. In the discussion one person said that she thought the character of Richards–the friend of Brently Mallard–was “feminine” and “like a woman” because he was a “gossip.” Actually, if you go back and read the story, the character says nothing. Certainly he has been the purveyor of the bad (or good, depending on how you look at it) news that Brently has been killed in a train accident. At the turn of the century, certainly the newspaper biz was a man’s world. But here’s my gripe. The idea that he is a “gossip” makes him feminine? That’s a bad rap for women. I often hear people describe gossips as “viejas.” That’s a double whammy of a bad rap if I ever heard one. And look again….A vieja? Is gossiping just a woman thing?
I decided to catalog the people I know given to chisme. The most unrepentant chismosos I know are men. The women I know who do partake in gossip are a kind of bully. They wallow in the chisme, spread it around good and thick, because they are so unhappy in their own lives. Oh, yes, I know this to be true. It makes me sad and angry at once. Is it oh, just so human to want to gossip sometimes? I don’t know. It certainly feels wrong when we do it, doesn’t it? But I’ve gotta say, women do it and men do it. By the way, mean people suck.
August 8, 2011
At a soundcheck for the Macondo Writers’ Workshop reading on Wednesday, the Sterling Houston Theater was dark. A tiny spotlight darted across the space like an apoplectic bee. A figure entered stage left and the light expanded to reveal a radiant Sandra Cisneros.
“That’s the theme of this reading,” she told my daughter and me. “In dark times, art brings us light. Writing is la luz, the light, that transforms the darkness.”
That’s the story of Sandra Cisneros inSan Antonio—the tireless champion for literacy in our town who organizes readings, donates books and her all-too precious time to schools and libraries, and mentors other writers.
In passing, she mentioned there is much to do before she leavesSan Antoniosome time in the next eighteen months. I hadn’t heard that news. My heart sank, and yet I felt glad that she’d just come out and said it out loud.
For as long as I’ve known her, murmurs and gossip and strange fabrications have swirled around this celebrity persona of La Sandra. She seems almost ignorant of that fact and unwittingly counters the chisme with her simple truths.
But now begins the speculation about her certain departure. I dread the next couple of years could be a time marked by an attitude of “What’s-your-hurry-here’s-your-hat” as far as our collective anticipation of this inevitability goes. It’s difficult not to start thinking about the unthinkable—a San Antonio without Sandra Cisneros. [To read the rest of this, please click on the link.]
July 22, 2011
I’m old enough to have celebrated a quinceañera three times over, but I’m not as experienced as you might think with the traditional Sweet 15 celebration observed by Hispanic families in the United States and throughout Latin America. New trends are changing the soft, supple features of the quinceañera as we know it, eschewing schmaltzy sentimentality for in-your-face millennial-generation merry-making.
I didn’t have a quinceañera. Before anyone asks me to surrender my Mex-Am card, the quinceañera was not en vogue when I was growing up; moreover, it just wasn’t a financially feasible family project.
Now that I’m a mom — and one that self-identifies as Mexican American — my 13-year-old daughter believes it’s her God-given right to have the full Chicana experience, including a quinceañera. [---To read more please click on the link---http://plazadearmastx.com/index.php/culture/106-columns/1255-the-quinceanera-comes-of-age ]
July 15, 2011
Around here, most of us have heard the story of La Llorona. Maybe some of us have even prudently, if sadistically, shared the story to deter younger siblings from swelling arroyos after a storm. Maybe we’ve even considered the legend of the star-crossed wailing wretch during this summer’s unexpurgated, unabridged Casey Anthony Carnival Cruise. Fact is, with the tragic stories of filicide in recent history, La Llorona has become the go-to metaphor folks pull out as if it were some novel idea no one’s thought of. It’s become as predictable as tomorrow’s rainless forecast. The irony is that what we can’t foretell or even begin to comprehend is a mother murdering her child. [...MORE...To read the rest, please click on the link. http://plazadearmastx.com/index.php/culture/106-columns/1231-casey-anthony-is-no-la-llorona]
July 13, 2011
Last summer we received a letter from the state with a daunting directive. Seventh graders were required to have the Varicella (chicken pox) TDAP (tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular petussis), and the meningococcal vaccines.
I felt reticent to brandish my daughter’s bare shoulder for needles full of chemicals.We braced ourselves for weeks. The dread-filled pall of the doctor’s appointment hung over our heads, as did the amount of money we would be charged for all three vaccines—upwards of 300 dollars. Two words: necessary evil.
We’re in the blind-followers camp when it comes to the government. I’m less inclined to question and more inclined to follow the letter of the law. But this felt like a Big-Brother invasion of privacy—and an expensive one. For the first time in my adult life I researched a loophole.
That was my first mistake. I researched the diseases the vaccinations fend off—but not the CDC website itself. I walked around like a disease-ridden wretch, cursing the school, the state, diseases and vaccines. A little knowledge really is a dangerous thing. But information is power.
Lucky for us, our nurse practitioner was patient. My daughter chattered nervously with her for the duration. Before we knew it, she’d received all the vaccinations.
The nurse practitioner was where we received the best information one-on-one. She also directed us to the CDC website. My daughter asked a lot of questions and was suitably relieved that she’d not suffer unduly for her sincere efforts to follow the law. The nurse reassured us that the shots fend off untold troubles related to these diseases. Fortunately, my daughter did not suffer side effects. A little tenderness here and there was the worst of it. Priceless.
Now all that’s left to dread is high school. Ay, dios mio.
The CDC sponsored this post. Check out their website @ http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/who/teens/index.html
July 8, 2011
At the I-35 checkpoint between Laredo and San Antonio, I turn off the car stereo playing Marco Antonio Solís’ “O Me Voy O Te Vas.” I remove my sunglasses so the agents can see my eyes. I prompt my daughter in the backseat to put her shoes on and sit up tall. “Answer him clearly when he asks you,” I say to her.
“Okay, mom,” she replies, closing her book.
“And don’t say, ‘Okay.’” I tell her. “And no ‘Yeah.’ Say ‘Yes!’ Just like that.” I turn to my husband who is driving. “And, you, don’t joke with him,” I instruct. “Sit up straight, would you? Why didn’t you shave this morning? Oh, man, they are so gonna bust us!”
When the agent peers in, I feel myself transformed, my hair in two long black plaits, and my skin the caramelized pecan color of my forebears. “Please don’t shoot me,” I want to say. Instead I nod vigorously and squeak “yes” as if I’m responding for the first time to a new language. But it’s the same question I’ve heard hundreds of times before: “American citizen?” [...To read more, please click on the link: http://plazadearmastx.com/index.php/culture/106-columns/1207-crossing-the-checkpoint]
July 4, 2011
Backyard family barbecues during my childhood in Laredo,Texas happened on magically long summer evenings when a stubborn twilight managed to eke out its last gleaming even after 9:00. We wore no watches. It was summer. For the only time in our lives we didn’t have to worry about homework or fret about bedtimes.
On the radio blared the sounds of the Four Seasons exclaiming about that night back in ’63 or Timi Yuro imploring us to “Smile.”
We ran and screamed and played with only intermittent trips inside the kitchen to find our mother seeing to the pot of beans simmering on the stove. We scurried back outside with her to “check the fire.”
Ah yes. The summer Saturday barbecue. Or as we said it in those parts, the “Carne Asada.” That phrase named the meal but also the family gathering.
My dad would set up the huge oil barrel pit, pockmarked and rusty from years of exposure under our orange trees. He purposefully poured in the charcoal. He chopped up leña—the mesquite that made the fire smell so much better than the chilly November bonfires of the city’s rival high schools.
After that it was a frustrating coin toss. My father had a weekly battle with the fire. Adding fuel to that conflict was the fact that he didn’t care much for the grilled fajitas or beef skirt–the inexpensive but mouth-wateringly delicious cut of meat we craved and awaited patiently.
That’s when my mother would charge out the back door to the barbecue pit toting a pitcher of water in one hand and in the other a large swatch of cardboard from some box long ago discarded. She was quite expert at it. She waved it over the fire, fanning some imperceptible ember, and then squinted as gray ribbons of smoke blew all around her. She waited patiently in a glowing serene vigilance.
My father protested saying he didn’t want to “quemar un palo” (which translates to “burn a stick”) just to be able to eat. He was inevitably distracted in the backyard by all of the other self-imposed chores he saw around him. He pulled weeds or edged the sidewalk. He hauled branches to the back of his truck or toiled in his workshop. He just couldn’t slow down long enough to wait for the fire.
My siblings and I were regularly recruited to assist in these impromptu chores or in the cooking happening inside the house. Mainly we played and turned up the radio if “Wooly Bully” or “La Bamba” came on; we smiled and swelled with pride over hearing Spanish lyrics coming from the top 40 station.
My mom came to the barbecue rescue not because she is such a brilliant cook. She is. No doubt about that. My mom corrected the stalling embers because she understands fire.
She was forced to forge a quick and trusting relationship with the element when she was a migrant worker. My grandmother, a single mother of eight, traveled with her brood up north to places where gradations of climate weren’t limited to warm, warmer still, and hot. Sometimes my granny cooked even the family breakfast over an open campfire before she and the children set out to meet the hard physical work of the day. Even in their little house back in Laredo, a small gas heater glared in the front room where they all huddled close and slept together on long winter nights that unexpectedly blew in.
My daughter is an only child. I wish for her these days a screaming, sweating swarm of siblings—even brothers like mine who were merciless in those endless, goal-less chases, scraping past tree branches, scratching at mosquito bites, plucking the stray thorny sticker clinging to our skin. Believe it or not, I wish that for her—that adrenaline rush abandon maybe only athletes can relive as adults.
Because of this summer’s merciless drought, I’ve not grilled much at all. However, in recent years I was indeed the keeper of the flame at my house. Maybe it bordered on pyromania. It used to be a weekend thing, but the addiction rendered me weak. If we scratched our heads over what to have for dinner, I could usually entice my little family into some small grilled feast at least a few times a week. The neighbors must have thought we had no stove.
In some strange way, taking on this role makes me feel more grown up. A kid can pull out a tiny cake from an Easy-Bake Oven, scramble eggs, or mash up the potatoes while mom checks on the pot roast. But children don’t have a very big part in the barbecue production. My brothers used to dare me to toss twigs into the roaring fire, but I didn’t dare tease the gods–or my mother–with that kind of horseplay.
Those endless summer nights decades ago were some of the happiest times of my childhood. They involved no rewards, no presents or toys or privileges. They were just times spent out-of-doors with the people that mattered most.
At the end of those nights, bathed and pajamaed, I made the rounds to finally kiss my folks good night. Dad busied himself with the outdoor clean-up and mom washed up the last dish. They hugged me tightly, and I carried the lingering scent of the summer night to bed with me, the last strains of an old song barely audible above the soft insistent whirr of the fan.
July 1, 2011
Amigas, when last you tuned in to “Toma Mi Corazón,” handsome Arturo Enrique Barrigón drove drunk and recklessly in an effort to reach the church where he is to wed his true love, María del Agave. Will he get to the church on time? Will he be stopped by the police, fail the breathalyzer test and be thrown in the hoosegow? Will he die in a fiery accident that also takes the lives of innocent victims? Oh, amigas! An exciting chapter awaits you this evening! But first, a word from our sponsors, the Texas Department of Transportation. [Please click on the link to read the rest of the story...]
June 24, 2011
As I write this, a steady rain is falling just outside my window. Gone from our radars for over a month now, it’s a welcome relief from weeks of the oppressive pall of heat and the resultant drought that has turned lawns across the city into desiccate wastelands.
Perhaps our summer vegetable garden will return to its springtime lushness. In the first part of May it yielded early bumper crops of tomato, cabbage, lettuce, and even fennel and celery. We have chickens, too, and happily rummage with an open searching hand in the dark, cool compartments of their nesting boxes for the incredible, edible fruits of their labor.
Toting our basket of eggs, Roma tomatoes, red onions, green beans and zucchini in from the backyard, for a fleeting moment I consider the incessant doom-and-gloom reports of looming worldwide food shortages and feel like we might emerge from it unscathed.
To coincide with today’s rainfall, the G20 will convene in Paris this week bringing together the agriculture ministers of the world’s largest economies. At the top of their agenda: food security, which refers to the availability of food in a household. The household is “food-secure” when occupants do not fear starvation.
[I hope you'll click on the link to read the rest of the story. http://www.plazadearmastx.com/index.php/culture/106-columns/1160-the-global-food-crisis-comes-home-to-roost