Monday, October 17, 2016

A Toast to the Stayton's

(tapping on glass to get guests attention)

Hello!Good Evening,

For many of you who don't know me, I 'm Yasmin, one of Sarah's closest friends. In fact, if we had had the chance to chose siblings, I would have chosen Sarah. And, I know that if Sarah had decided to have a maid of honor, that would have been my role. And now, for the sake of sparing my feelings, I know she won't deny that.

(pause for audience laughter)

So, I want to say a few words about Chris and Sarah. I want to make this quick. because this night isn't about us. It's about this couple and everything they've done to organize this celebration. Many times, weddings lose focus, and I want to bring the focus back on them and the path that led them here, together, with us this evening. First, I want to thank you for having us be a part of your celebration.

(Sarah and Chris nod and smile at guests)

When Sarah first told me about Chris, we were sitting in my living room drinking margaritas.  She showed me a website he'd made for her. It was quirky and funny. It was Sarah. I thought it was one of the most thoughtful things that anyone had done for her. Now, I didn't meet Chris until much later, but the website stuck out to me, because I thought, "If he took the time to do that for her, and he's just met her, he'll do much more."

When we finally did meet, I could tell he was a little nervous, and I tried not to give him the steal-y Sally eye. After some time, though, there wasn't any need for the eye. And, Sarah can tell you I have the eye.

(Yasmin gives the eye to the crowd they laugh)

But, in all seriousness, when your best friend gets married, you hope and pray that he will be a good guy for her. You hope and pray that you get along with him, because in order to be a part of her life, you have to share her with a man you don't know very well. (yet!) Mostly and most importantly, you just hope that she will be happy. And when I see Sarah with Chris, I know she's happy. I see the way he looks at her. He treats her like the most delicate thing in the world, and I know that I don't have to worry anymore. I know that he will protect her. Take care of her. Cherish her.

Finding love with someone isn't easy. I think everyone in this room knows that. The path is bumpy and sometimes loops and turns and loops again. The fact that Sarah and Chris found each other isn't something we should just be happy about. Tonight, we aren't just witnessing a wedding, we're witnessing a blossoming bud of a new family. And if that isn't something to marvel about, I don't know what is.

 So, I hope that you all will join me in celebrating the Stayton's and watching them blossom.

(Yasmin raises her glass and mouths 'love you' to Sarah)








Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Switching Hats

All summer long, I've been a writer. I developed a schedule where I woke up at 8am every day, went to my boxing gym, came home by 10:15, had a protein shake, and wrote. I would write until almost 5pm. Some days were more productive than others. Even when I couldn't write, I refused to leave the seat in front of my computer. This often caused the hubs to hate my writer's block because I often You Tube'd DIY home improvement projects for us to complete on the weekend.

Now the summer is over. Now, I am no longer a writer. I am a professor. Repeat. I am a professor.

We all play different roles. For example, I am a

daughtersisterauntwifeniecefriendwomansisterinlawbestfriendcoworkerreaderelpasoan

writer. 

I am always all of these things. But this summer my main focus was being a writer. I've never had that opportunity before, and I liked it. It sort of made me re-remember why I wanted to be a writer in the first place. And although that isn't over, I have to switch hats. I am a 

professor

now. I have to put that first. Not only because I have students who rely on me and a job who allows me to be a writer only in the summer, but because I truly like it as well. Today, I taught a class and the energy was just there. It was perfect. They laughed at all my well-placed jokes and after watching The Art of Storytelling  they left feeling a bit inspired. (Their words not mine). And when I walked out of the classroom, I was floating on air. I felt taller. I felt like I'd made a difference and laid great groundwork for a thought provoking class. 

That was at 8:30am this morning. It's 1:30, and I'm sitting at a table on campus to help lost students find their classrooms. I am writing this. I am thinking about my roles. I am thinking about how I will balance these roles. I'm praying that professor does not become so tall that writer becomes a short squat shadow at high noon. 

Repeat this: I am a writer. I am a professor. I am a writer. I am a professor. I am a . . . 




Friday, July 8, 2016

I only found myself


Last night, I dreamt you. I dreamt you were an old man. You were the kind of old man I’d never imagined, though. Your hair had gone white and your barrel-shaped body thin, deflated.

You came up to me in a Kmart, a place I never shop, and asked if I recognized you. I didn’t. The only thing that gave me a hint it was you was the stark difference of your brown skin against a straw like white beard.  

                “I’m sick,” you said.

                “What do you want me to do?” I asked.

                “Be with me. Be there. For me," you said.           

How could you ask that of me? Laughter bubble up at the base of my throat. How could you?  Even in a dream, why would you ask that? My breath heaved until I was bigger. Full of anger. I looked up as if looking for God in the sky, but I only found myself. I created this dream. 
               
               “You stopped being there for me 30 years ago,” I yelled.

The words oozed from my mouth and held all the black fetid water that comes with anger. My voice quivered, and I grew taller than you. Bigger. You were in my shadow now.

You shrank from me as if I’d raised a hand to you. The words were enough I suppose.

I just did the math. It was actually 22 years ago. Twenty-two years later, and I still dream you. I dream versions of you because I haven’t seen you in fourteen years. I don’t know what you look like, and even in a city where six degrees of separation is smaller, I’ve never run into you.

I like that. I don’t like that.

The brave version of me wants to prove I don’t care. It thinks I would act as if nothing happened after. Maybe you wouldn’t even recognize me. The real version of me knows I will be brave but cry in the car like the day I left your house when I asked why you didn’t take care for me the way a father should have.

Last night I dreamt you. In the dream your family tried to make me feel guilty.

              “Es tu Papá,” they said, “Lo debes de cuidar.”

                I sneered, “You should take of him. You’re his family.”

My sister told me I should forgive you. She’s said those words in real life after Ita died, too. She said she didn’t want me to have regrets. My dream tells me if you die, that it will be sudden. I imagined the phone call in the dream. My mom calls. I feel sad, but then I don’t know the rest because you are a stranger.

I am angry at a stranger.

Last night, I dreamt you. It showed me that my subconscious thinks of you. It wonders what you have become. It wants to know if you care who I’ve become. It tells me that even though you are a stranger, the little girl in me foolishly loves you. It also tells me that the adult me wishes she didn’t exist anymore.  

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Sunday en Segundo


Sunny spring Sundays always brought the people out of their red brick apartments. The rows of doorways popped open and screen doors kept the flies out. Opened windows let in the fresh breeze and sunlight. The neighborhood knew to take advantage of it because there were only a few days like this in El Paso’s spring before the winds came.

            El Freddy walked down 3rd Street toward Stanton.  He’d just left from La Bowie where he ate a warm empanada. He’d passed on the cafecito even though he thought it always made the piña of the empanda taste sweeter, but it was too warm for café.

            As he walked, he passed some vatos who were riding around the barrio on their tricked out chrome blinding bikes. El Freddy nodded as he passed them and he heard their laughter as one of them hit the curb and almost wiped out. El Freddy didn’t laugh but just smiled. In the alley, he heard the sounds of chavitos as they kicked a worn soccer ball shirtless and barefoot up and down toward makeshift goal posts. He liked the sounds of his gente as he made his way to his compa Beto’s house. Cumbias spilled out of the windows and mingled with the vatos and chavitos laughter. La Señora Lupe was sweeping the sidewalk in front of her door and she nodded at him as he passed. Her eyes were steely and even though El Freddy hadn’t done anything wrong his gaze moved down toward his feet.

            Esa Señora era bruja, he thought and walked faster.

            El Freddy found Beto outside, like everyone else, sitting in his dark green Oldsmobile wiping down the dashboard with Armor All.  He wiped around a black sticker with white letters that said “Raza is Love”. Beto’s ruca had stuck it there one evening after they’d smoked because she thought it was beautiful.  He heard the easy notes of Malo’s Suavecito flowing out of the car.

            Laaaa-ah-ah, la-la, laaaa-ah-ah
Laaaa-ah-ah, la-la, laaaa-ah-ah

            That’s what today was. Suavectio. El Freddy leaned against the side of the car and shot the shit while Beto made sure the inside of his ride gleamed so bright it hurt the eyes of anyone walking by.

Suavecito, mi linda
Suavecito
The feelin’ I have inside for you
Suavecito, mi linda

They checked out the chavas as they walked by and laughed when the girls rolled their eyes at them. They were laughing so hard that El Freddy almost missed her. A mamacita he’d seen around a few times but never talked to was getting out of an old Buick across the street. He stared as she bent at the waist, arms against the window frame, to talk to the driver. Her tight bell bottoms hugged all her curves and he couldn’t stop staring at the jean clad corazoncito facing him.

            “Ay,” he said to Beto and jutted his chin in her direction.

            Beto turned to look, shook his hand fingers flapping freely and said, “Esa ruca, man. Tiene un culo,” then bit his lip.

            As she straightened up, she turned to look behind her and saw El Freddy and Beto staring. El Freddy froze, lips parted, but no sound came out. She smiled at him, flipped her dark hair, and disappeared toward the corner tienda. The Buick roared off.

            Never, I never meet a girl like you in my life
            I never, no, no yeah
            I never meet a girl like you in my life

            “Andale,” Beto said toward the store.
            
            El Freddy looked at Beto, smoothed his hands on his faded Levi’s, and nodded.   




Thursday, June 23, 2016

She was Fierce

I once knew a woman who was fierce. She stood at the helm of her ship every day, dark hair flowing in the ocean breeze ready to face whatever the sea held for her.  She manned her ship in the vast open ocean and always managed to keep the small ship from capsizing. The ocean, not always friendly to sea goers, seemed to regard her with respect.  She worked hard on her ship and even when waves and storms crashed against the sides of the boat, she held quick to helm in even the darkest skies. 

At night, she would stare up at the stars and plan for what was next. The pinhole lights against the stark black background held all the wishes she made every night. She lived like this for longer than anyone knew. Her boat was always moving back and forth across the sapphire seas. Until a storm that not even she could handle rolled in unexpectedly. The bright blue skies shifted into darkness. Try as she might, the boat capsized.  She fought and swam but the waves threw her to and fro. Hours later, shaking and worn she somehow floated on the surface of the now still water.  She cried, her tears adding to salt in the waters, alone in the ever-moving waves, but she seemed to stay still. She stayed floating above the waters of her sunken ship. And even as the waves tried to shift her toward land, she would not move. She heard them whisper to her, “We will move you to shore”, but she didn’t want to leave her ship. Even when the waves managed to shift her a little closer toward solid ground, she swam back, her heart knowing the location of her beloved sunken ship. 

I once knew a woman who was fierce. I once had a mother who was fierce. She blazed fire from within and was always in danger of scorching those around her. She taught me to fight, to be brave, and to never give up. She was the captain of our ship and always managed to steer us to safety. We all looked to her. A small tribe of four aboard a ship, we knew she would never let sink. Until one day, a storm none of us saw coming almost capsized the boat. The storm raged on and we worked hard to keep the vessel afloat.  Wet, shivering, and exhausted we realized we had lost one member in the chaos.  The last three of the tribe, we tried to keep ourselves safe, while my mother lay down and curled into a corner of the deck and slept. Even after the storm had passed, we tried to wake her, but she simply shook her head and fell back asleep. 

We watched as our lost tribe member floated off into the horizon. We mourned. For months we floated aimlessly and took turns crying at the helm not knowing where to go. And my mother? She slept. She stayed pressed against the small space of the deck and slept, and each time we tried to wake her she simply shook her head and smiled.

“I’m just so tired,” she’d say.

We three watched as she stayed in the small space curled into a tight little ball. But, the waves of the ocean kept moving. When we tried to travel to shore, she would wake long enough to point us toward another land, and another.  When we asked when we she would wake, when we could travel ashore, she’d nod and smile.

“It’s fine,” she’d say.  






Thursday, June 16, 2016

¿Y la Prieta?


My grandma, Ita, called me Prieta. She called me this because my skin is toasted brown. When I was born my mom says I was light skinned, but she knew “que iba ser morena” because the inside of my little baby thighs were already darker than the rest of me.

In the sun, I turn a darker brown. I get even more Prieta.

It was a term of endearment. My sister, who has a light complexion, was called guera or guerinchi. When I tell people who don’t speak Spanish what Prieta means, dark or the dark one, their eyes open wide and a small gasp escapes. I see the offense they feel for me sprinkled on their faces like the freckles I will never have. When I try to explain, the offense still shadows their eyes.

That is the problem with Spanish. Wait, maybe, that is their problem with Spanish. Even when I explain, they are suspicious. Their faces ask, “Is this true?” as if I am setting them up for a joke. But how can I explain the cultural and literal meaning of a word at the same time?

How do I tell them that when I heard Ita say Prieta I felt the caress of her strong hands on the top of my head as she braided my hair? How do I tell them that I never knew what Prieta really meant until some light skinned Mexican kids laughed at me and said I had to be more Mexican than them because I was “bien prieta”? How do I tell them that when they said the word it turned ugly, and I called them wetbacks in response? How do I tell them that now, even after the cruelty of children Prieta means love? That each time prieta fell from her lips, I learned to love my dark skin.  

No one calls me that anymore. I miss how her words sounded aloud.

My Ita called me Prieta. Eight years ago, she died and took the name with her. 





Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Somewhere Between Blue and Elated

Sunday was the first day that I was able to relax since finishing the first draft of book two of the YA series, Love Letters, I'm writing. My bestie from another mama was in town. My bestie editor, reader, confidant had just returned from a trip to O Canada! Sunday I rested. I watched movies. I  got sucked into Netflix series Love.  I didn't want to do anything, but I wanted to do something. D asked if I wanted to go to the pool, and I did want to go, but I didn't want to get dressed, pack our pool gear, drive to the other side of town, then back. I stayed on the couch.

Monday, I pressed snooze instead of going to boxing. Two days in a row, I broke my 30 days of fitness goals. I slept in the with Faustino the dog and watched DVR'd Bones episodes. D left for work. I was annoyed with myself for still not wanting to do anything, but still didn't want to do anything. I took a shower. I put my phone on silent. The world was loud. I thought about writing and my hands preemptively ached. I sorted laundry and watched Blindspot.  I wanted comfort food so I made picadillo with sopita. When D arrived home from work he saw that I'd only moved from the bed to the living room. He said hi and I just smiled.

I hadn't spoken since the morning.

When he got home from boxing, I was posting stuff online to sell. When he asked what was wrong, I said I just didn't feel like talking. In fact, I didn't even want to talk to him, which never happens.

I am naturally a chatter box. I can talk to almost anyone. I say almost because a girl has to draw a line somewhere.

Tuesday, I felt better, but small things irritated me. The way a friend answered a text. The list of things I needed to get done, which was really not very big. I went to boxing thinking the exercise would help. It usually does, but it only helped a little. At lunch, I met another friend for wings, beer, and lesson planning. I went to Target and bought summer shorts and funny tees. My mood was lightening. When I got home, D looked at me his eyes weary. They said, "Is she still weird?" I apologized for not wanting to talk. In all my mood swing weirdness through the years that has never happened. I text my bestie from another mama and told her I'd been a grouch since she'd left back to Austin. She was having a bad day too. I felt better. Why do two grouches make a peas and carrots combo better?

Today, I am myself. On the way to a doctor's appointment, I sang my heart out in the car to the 90's grunge station on Sirius radio. I felt light. The lightest I'd felt in days.

This is what it is like to be creative. At least for me. I binged all the juice out of my brain and then I crashed. It is almost a manic episode, but it only happens when I write. This happened to me before, when I was writing about Ita for Por Un Amor, but that time I thought it was because I was writing about my Ita. My dead Ita. Various versions of this have been said, "If you want to live forever, marry a writer." It's true.

Even when I'm writing fiction the besties are there in various forms. D is there. I am there. I work so hard to make everything real, that I pour myself on the page. I thought writing YA romance would be easier. The last three days have proven that's not true.