The Life He Chose: A Father’s Day Tribute in Prose

Photo Fathers Day

Oh, what a novel your life would be
Filled with drama, intrigue and romance
An instant best seller you couldn’t put down
About dreams, daring and chance

Our swashbuckling hero is born in Hell’s Kitchen
Where only the strong can stand the heat
Tough and daring, devil may-caring
His education was life on the street

He scrapped and fought, sold on streets what he’d bought
Living hard, playing hard with his money
‘Til a war came upon us, this Latin Adonis
Joined the army to be all he could be

The lessons learned here; cold, raw, full of fear
Shaped the spirited boy into a man
In an Infantry Irish with only one wish
To make it home and create a plan

The man of the hour, filled with rage, but no power
Was in search of who he was in his life
Who’d think that by chance, after asking her to dance
That beautiful blonde would become his wife

So, now full of dreams (the hero with schemes)
The couple set forth together
She provides inspiration, he- sheer determination
There’s no port in the storm they can’t weather

With street education and blind dedication
His goal not to follow, but lead
Oh, wonderful joy; three girls and a boy
Now, his ego and six mouths to feed!

From your soul way down deep, when you can’t sleep
Comes a voice of both terror and power
Telling you to pursue it, you know you can do it
This is your shining hour

He had no choice, he succumbed to that voice
And our leading man went from rags to riches
But, it’s that lost Latin boy that’s brought others such joy
Helping others to achieve their wishes

 

Tea for Two and Other Heart Warming Rituals

Photo Tea

A lamp chop, a cup of tea and the sound of a tea kettle all have a kind of Pavlovian effect on me.

Beginning at age 4, I would spend time with my grandmother, enjoying my favorite lunch: a baby lamb chop, tiny baked potato and spinach sautéed with garlic (no PB&J for the first- born child). Then, at around 3pm, she would take out the good china tea cups (I had a special tiny size all my own) and make us a cup of tea. Sometimes she would take the time to serve from a teapot. We would sit across from each other at her dining room table and chat. It always made me feel very grown up and very elegant.

The ritual has continued to this day. My tea partners (you know who you are) and I enjoy a special closeness over that steaming cup. The kettle is filled, our favorite cups are chosen, the tea bag (still always Lipton) enters the cup and we eagerly anticipate the screeching of the kettle. The brew steeps for 3 minutes (yes, I time it). Milk or sugar? I add just enough milk to produce a caramel color and a dot of sugar that is similar to the waving of a bottle of Vermouth over a martini. Now, we can choose where we’ll sit and delight in each other’s company.

So, what is the difference between a habit, a custom, a ritual and a tradition? My grandmother began the daily routine of enjoying a cup of tea each afternoon (a habit). Soon, it became a practice (a custom). Once it was observed and repeated regularly, it graduated to a ritual. Passing it on to subsequent generations made it a tradition.

Here are some of my family rituals that I’m hoping will someday find their way to becoming traditions:

– The secret handshake, created after watching a late-night movie whereby the heroine suffered amnesia, was unrecognizable after an accident and her family was unsure if it was truly her.

– Spanish buzz words for “chill out”, and “not now”.

– Scrabble games.

– The morning shower message: a special occasion is immortalized in words, written on the shower wall with shaving cream (until the water is turned on).

– Preparing our favorite Latin foods at holiday time: Paella (chicken and shellfish with rice flavored with chicken broth, seafood broth and saffron), Arroz con Gandules (spareribs and garbanzo beans with rice flavored with beef broth and saffron) and Pasteles (pork-stuffed dough made from plantains and root vegetables). The youngest helper always adds the green olive to the finished product and the least culinary-capable is relegated to cutting the string that ties up the finished product.Te

There’s something very comforting about repeating an act (or series of acts) in a set, precise manner. I particularly enjoy the accuracy and the detail of the process. Looking forward to these little ceremonies of life can be so uplifting.

Our lives are full, time flies by and family and friends may not live close, but we can delight in the fact that we took the time to create one special moment. Each time it is celebrated, we’ll know that we were the ones that gathered up a small portion of our lives, held it close and wrapped it into an extraordinary gift that can be reopened over and over again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social Acronyms: An Abbreviated Analysis

Photo FOMO

You know who you are. You are at a music concert and find yourself tapping your foot to the music of the group that you just found out will be appearing next month. As you leave an event, you ask when next year’s dates will be announced.

FOMO is an acronym for Fear of Missing Out. Its origins are connected to social media and the anxiety that comes from your perception of how you are measuring up to others. Its negative connotations are said to derive from unhappiness and the continuous angst and regret the sufferer develops in all walks of their lives.

Even though this acronym wasn’t added to the Oxford English Dictionary until 2013, we all know that a form of it was in full swing years prior. Back then, we never thought about announcing to the world what we were doing, we just wanted to be doing it. It’s FOMO light, leaning more towards YOLO (You Only Live Once). Yes, my friends, I have come to the conclusion that we are LOBOs (Love of Being Out).

My parents have been my muse in all things LOBO. I remember them always dressing up and going out on the town with a big group of friends, not wanting to miss out on a New York Times reviewed restaurant, a Broadway show or a place to dance. My Dad took voice lessons, learning to sing with an orchestra, a la Frank Sinatra, while JC*was always planning her next trip. When she accompanied a friend’s daughter to the Dominican Republic for a medical treatment on a week’s notice and accepted a last-minute trip to Paris (alone!) from the travel agency she worked for, it made me wonder if she carried her passport in her handbag at all times, just in case.

LOBOs gravitate toward like-minded people who share their zest for life. There are no feelings of competition; rather, there is genuine happiness for a fellow LOBO’s adventures. The sharing of exploits develops into a symbiotic relationship whereby one LOBO’s quests fuels the other’s desire and imagination for more of their own.

Both FOMOs and LOBOs share in the pride of knowing that their social calendars are their mini life journals, reminding them of people, places and events. They both enjoy the feeling of hopping through life as if on a pogo stick, bouncing from one experience to another. But, that’s where the similarities end.

LOBOs are not fearful; they are proud warriors of life’s ups and downs and know that every day is a gift. They are confident in their own skin and set a great example for FOMOs everywhere, reminding them that the only reason their peers were able to develop personal computer technology in their parents’ empty garages (think Apple) was because their parents were out and about on another adventure.

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page

A Mother’s Day Bouquet of Insights

Photo Mothers Day

Dear Mom,

I realized that you were smart when I was unsure of Santa Claus and you sat me down and asked me if I truly believed that the entire U.S. Postal Service had time to pretend (still has me thinking).

I realized you were savvy when you said you loved avocadoes at my 6th grade Home Economics Mexican Luncheon (back then, no one knew what they were).

I realized you were cosmopolitan when, in high school, you took me to New York City and knew your way around. We went to Greenwich Village and the Upper East Side and I remember deciding that day that I would be an “uptown girl” rather than a hippie.

I realized you were my mentor when, much to the dismay of my great aunts, you suggested that a career in business, rather than teaching, better suited my personality. That one suggestion changed my life.

I realized you were fashionable when I’d see you looking great each day, dressed up and make up on, even when you were going out to do errands. You always told me “…If you’ve got it, flaunt it…”

I realized that you were sophisticated when I noticed that you could initiate a conversation with anyone you were introduced to. You are aware of everything around you and have a sense of adventure, a love of travel and that spark, that spunk that makes people want to be around you.

I realized that you were my hero when I would see you direct our family with a wonderful sense of humor and grace through life’s ups and downs. Knowing all there is to know about each of us, you have a way of gently suggesting, rather than pushing or scolding.

I realized that you were a great mother when I became a mother myself and could see just what it took to help a child develop, learn and grow.

I realized that you were my best girlfriend when I knew that you were someone that I really loved spending time with.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Farrah Before Farrah  

Photo Farah

I feel as if I knew Farrah Fawcett, even though we’ve never met.

Never needing an excuse to visit Austin’s Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum, we were quick to RSVP for two recent free events. After enjoying cocktails and hors d’ oeuvres on the patio and a walk around the gardens, we visited a new exhibit entitled “Mentoring a Muse: Farrah Fawcett and Charles Umlauf”, which included works by both Farrah and Umlauf, along with an informative lecture. We returned to the patio a month later, but this time we were treated to a presentation entitled “Friends of Farrah”, at which her nephew and her childhood friends, the “amigas” (Spanish for female friends), shared memories and personal stories with us.

Farrah, a Texas girl from Corpus Christi, attended college at the University of Texas at Austin and studied art. It was there that she met Charles Umlauf, the professor and mentor that she shared a lifelong friendship with. Her artistic talent, while incredibly impressive, was something that most never knew about. Overshadowed by her beauty, the only freshman to be named one of the “ten most beautiful coeds on campus”, she was soon discovered by a Hollywood agent and left before graduation.

She rose to international fame when the photo of her posing in a red swimsuit became the best selling poster in history. And, who can forget the TV show Charlie’s Angels? In 1996, she was named one of the top fifty greatest TV stars of all time. Four Emmy award nominations and six Golden Globe nominations later, Farrah was still the same soft spoken, sweet girl from Texas that her small circle of friends and family knew and loved.

Farrah’s “amigas” told stories of accompanying her into a venue, their amazement at the total silence that would ensue and Farah’s nonchalant way of making everyone comfortable. Scripts were always piled high on her bedroom floor, her phone was constantly ringing and she spoke of experiencing a constant emotional tug between being famous and longing for anonymity (especially when there was strife in her personal life).

Farrah remained a sculptor all her life. She and Umlauf seem to share a secret language, both becoming the other’s muse. With him, she was able to express the part of herself that she kept hidden from the world. Was Farrah’s deep connection to Umlauf the justification of her artistic side and her decision of a road not taken?

One of the “amigas” told the story that when Farrah was diagnosed with Cancer and lost her hair (she passed away at age 62), she visited her and couldn’t help but think “…Wow, if she doesn’t have the most beautifully shaped head!..”. The “amiga” tearfully told the audience that there was nothing the beautiful Farrah would have wanted more than to be honored for her art. At that moment, the lights flickered, the microphone squealed, the audience gasped and I knew she was there with us.

 

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Un-Friend Me, Please; Unsure About Social Media

I am still harboring some old tech fears that I am dealing with. Once, when Big A* was a little boy and I was home alone on a dark, rainy afternoon, I heard mumbling sounds coming from his bedroom. Seems his “hungry” Tamagotchi (his handheld, digital pet) had awakened his Furby (his electronic robotic toy). My motherly instincts were at odds with the fact that these were not the most attractive of pets and I panicked.

Now that I am a Blogger, I felt that I had to get up to speed. Everything I read said that Facebook was my road to success. Armed with every idiot’s guide printed, and attending all the classes available (I am now on a first name basis with the entire staff at my local library), my Type A personality, which insists I know everything about a topic before I proceed, was not helping the situation.

But, then I thought of that old Nike slogan “Just do it!” and decided to proceed. I did get waylaid when I felt it necessary to check my phone and accidentally hit the FaceTime button, seeing my face, as I guess it looks first thing in the morning. I’m not sure how long it will take me to get that image out of my head.

I was not intending to get too chummy with Facebook; just create a business page for my blog and be on my way. But, it seems that in order to have a business page, you must first create a personal profile. With no way out of it, I put together a cryptic assemblage of non-information and still felt uneasy, hoping not to hear from the lunch ladies at my grade school or all the insurance salesmen I went to high school with. I thought it would be fun to look up a few people, but I felt as if I were peeking through their blinds and watching them without them knowing it.

Now all I had to do was convince my Facebook friends to like my business page and I was all set. My finger hovered over the friend finder, realizing that this one click would start an avalanche of friend requests, newsfeed posts, photos, videos, status updates, algorithms, etc. and I just couldn’t do it. Instead, I deleted my business page and my personal profile.

I’ve read that many celebrities have decided to sign off all social media (George Clooney said he’d rather have a colonoscopy). Some very successful bloggers have stated that they focus on what matters to their readers, forgoing social media, stats and follower updates.

I thought about a trend that’s caught my attention lately; the plus-size model who’s challenged the fashion world, the rap artist who gives away his music away on the internet free of charge. There’s an underlying inclination out there to not follow the rules. It’s not as much a movement, as an individual gut feeling of independence, of knowing yourself and what works best for you

Would you jump off a bridge if the one billion Facebook users did? Or, would you happily float, un-guided and un-friended, seeing where the current takes you?

Pictured: Seen on a wall in Panama City, Panama- “I don’t have Facebook. My life is real”.

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the Home Page

Static Cling: The Silent Predator

photo-static-elecricity

After having hung her coat in our hall closet the other day, JC* arrived home to find a hand towel stuck to the back of it. I still shudder to think what might have happened had she wandered into a Bed, Bath and Beyond store on her way home and was confronted by a Security Guard. It seems that this problem could be easily remedied by simply moving our laundry basket out of the coat closet, but as it turns out, it’s not that easy to combat this motionless force.

Some stories still haunt me. Years back, I remember reading about a Chicago man who unknowingly got on the 146 bus for his daily commute to work with his daughter’s entire Beanie Baby collection affixed to the back of his cashmere coat. Luckily, the story had a happy ending, as he was able to sell most of them and pay for his daughter’s college education before he reached his stop.

Then, there are those stories (actually, unconfirmed rumors) that lurk in the static cling underground. One tells of a Millennial, with a recent MBA from Stanford, confidently entering the office of a fortune 500 company for his final interview, which was abruptly cut short when the CEO noticed a pair of his girlfriend’s hot pink, Victoria’s Secret panties attached to the back of his Armani suit jacket. As the story goes, after this disastrous incident, Millennials banded together in solidarity in an effort to ban the in-person interview in favor of an on-line dialog. Soon after, LinkedIn was born and dryer sheet consumption was at an all-time high; coincidence? I think not.

In 2002, the New York Times reported that guerilla marketing tactics involving static cling were unveiled when butterfly decals were discovered on surfaces all around New York City to introduce a new Microsoft product. Extremists are now known to carry concealed wire hangers to assist anyone in distress (when the metal is wiggled against a skirt bottom or pant leg, it will release the static). Where will it end?

Static cling may very well be affecting your loved ones as we speak. This silent aggressor knows no boundaries and is lurking within every race and economic level. Let’s work together as a nation and find a way to eradicate it. Ironically, separating ourselves from static electricity may be just the issue we need to bring our country together.

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.