The Hastags Explained: #Latism14 & #TopBlogueras

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I'm not on a plane right now on the way to an event I've been looking forward to since last year. Turns out that sometimes it actually is just too hard to get from Point A to anywhere involving a plane when Point A is smack in the middle of nowhere.

#MexicaninMaine. That's me, remember? I am defined by the hashtags I have created to suit me.

#Dimelo. For the name of my Latina Magazine advice column.

#ChingonaFest. For my growing community and podcast supporting the spirit of the Latina women and our desire to raise the next generation to always celebrate their voices and their spirit.

#BitchRedefined. For the non-Latinas finding themselves drawn to the ChingonaFest community. I get it. I'm hyphenated and usually straddling the tightrope between both halves of my identity, never quite standing still long enough on either side to catch my balance. My Spanish is too choppy to be considered fluent and my English spoken in the same rapid-fire rhythm of the language I once didn't realize I thought in. My skin brown enough to arouse curiosity because What Are You seems to be considered an appropriate question to ask a perfect stranger while checking out the asparagus. My hair kinky curly enough for the person asking to step back, grin, and tell me that I do not fit their perception of who and what I claim to be. No way, they say. You're mixed, right?

I used to not know how to answer that question. Of course not, I'd think. I'm Mexican. That's what I'd want to say, but it felt like I was denying the unknown. I see my hair. I see my body. I know that when I tell people which area of Mexico my maternal grandfather was from, the asker will sometimes nod knowingly because they've now matched my appearance to the other side of the tracks in their minds' eye. Now, I just raise an eyebrow in silent warning to step away from the line in the sand. I may raise it higher and ad an eye-roll if the asker misses the first hint. Should they miss both, I feel justified in responding with many words considered inappropriate for mothers shopping with their little girls to be using. I'm not worried. My daughter is brilliant and is perfectly aware of the words Mommy uses verbally and in my writing and -- yes, I am bragging here -- she even knows which ones she is not allowed to repeat until she's paying her own rent.

I am mixed. Every Mexican is. And I live in Maine. Not every Mexican does that. In fact, I'm pretty damned sure I am the the first ever in my family to own a pair of snowshoes. That makes Eliana the second. Paths are being forged, my friends. We are pretty fucking fabulous at falling. That means we are even better at picking ourselves up.

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#SheSePuede. Because I can. Because I believe she can. Because we all can. Because I have to remind myself of my strength and pull myself up from the dark places that never have enough chocolate just as often as you do and because I know I always will. Don't be fooled by my resume. I will never have the five steps to unfailing happiness and self-acceptance because I am my history and my history is the Spanglish version of My So-Called Life. What I do have is a stubborn streak. I am bull-headed. I am determined. I am a realist. And a dreamer. I know I will fall again. I know I will pick myself back up. I share that because this is where we connect and relate and why it won't seem strange when we meet in person and squee and hug like we have known each other forever and really, in a way, we sort of have. So it's okay.

I'll be missing many hugs and Spanglish-lovin' this week as many of my friends and colleagues travel to Anaheim, CA. for the #Latism14 conference. I already am missing the party before the party I still can't believe I was invited to when I was named a Top Bloguera. I am honored and humbled and in need of a thesaurus, and I truly wish the four hours between me and the airport weren't an issue. The extra plane ticket I would have needed to buy for my daughter that just wasn't in the budget didn't help matters. One door opens. Maybe it closes. Another appears. I wish but I'm not. I am not but I was. And the sun will rise again. 1 of 100 selected of 400 applications. I suck at math an am easily impressed, but I still like what I see here.

I'll still be a badass. You'll still be a badass. And my daughter will still be working on my last nerve and saving my sanity at the last minute with a giggle and a smile. Thank you, Ana Roca-Castro. Thank you for today's reason to smile when you reminded us all that even if not at the retreat, the title is still ours to hold on to.

#TopBloguera. This is the one for which I thank you, my dear friends and readers. Because you read and you support and you share the words I write because we did that relating thing. Thank you. Let's do more of that, okay?

From Nothing

 

I tried planning ahead this year. Working from home while homeschooling and trying to keep up with the laundry usually means everything is last minute and so many things get pushed off until tomorrow. Or the next day. And then the day after that. I had planned to met my deadlines a week early and enjoy this week with my little family and some close friends. The house was going to be clean and the Christmas menu set and the food prepared so all I had to worry about was what to do with the leftovers.

We never got to that part.

I got the flu. The kind that came out of nowhere and hit my like a frat party hangover. Suddenly the world was spinning and my head was too heavy for my neck to lift. I sat there breathing slow and shallow breaths like the kind usually reserved for labor pains. The column I had started working on was put on hold as The Husband silently took away the Macbook and I shuffled off to bed. Tomorrow, I told myself. One day wouldn't change anything.

Three days later I was still sleeping more than I was conscious, burning up even when the thermometer didn't register a temp. Every breath felt like fire in my lungs. My body ached. The Husband took to sleeping in Eliana's room on her tiny little twin bed, hoping ti avoid the plague, while my little shadow crawled into our big queen and snuggled up next to me every evening. "I'm taking care of you," she told me. "Don't worry. I'll hug you all night so you feel better."

By focusing on me, she was letting herself forget the suitcase she had packed in her room. The one full of randomly selected clothing and toys and even her toothbrush and toothpaste for her "trip" to see her Guela in Detroit. My mom had moved with us to Tucson when Eliana was 18 months old and lived with us for three years. When she moved out, Eliana was lost, but the presence of a very close-knit friendship circle did wonders for soothing her anxieties. Then we moved again and this time, Eliana was old enough to miss those we left behind and want so very badly to wave a magic wand and instantly recreate something out of nothing in our new home. Northern Maine is beautiful. We love it. But it can also be a little lonely when it's time to explain to a child that making friends takes time. Making friends that become family takes even longer.

So she packed her suitcase and pretended she was taking a magic airplane to see her grandma and would be back on Christmas morning in time to open gifts. I was the flight attendant. Her daddy was the cab driver. And then for the entire day before I got sick, I was my mother and our home became her home and I wished so very badly for Santa to fit a new friend-family under our tree. And then I couldn't move without the world spinning and her make-believe was forgotten because Mama had the flu and Daddy was either working or trying to help out when he got home and she dealt with it by comforting herself by comforting me and I love her for it.

Day four was better. I was able to get out of bed. The world was still again. My body ached and I moved slowly, but I was out of the woods and still planned to get those fucking deadlines met and out of the way. We were going to make cookies, dammit. And drive around to see Christmas lights. And play board games and listen to Christmas music and drink hot chocolate. And then on my birthday, we were going to drive the two hours to Bangor for the sales and a movie and a birthday dinner. That was the plan. Then the plan changed again.

Both Eliana and The Husband got knocked senseless by the same flu I had just weathered. My laptop sat open and waiting as the laundry piled up and the sink over-filled with mugs from tea with honey and hot toddies and broth. I didn't shower because I was too busy shoveling snow, carrying more logs inside to keep both woodstoves piping hot for heat, and making sure my husband and daughter stayed hydrated. I took their temperatures and grabbed my keys to drive to Walmart for Nyquil for The Husband and more albuterol for Eliana's nebulizer and learned I wasn't going anywhere until I shoveled away the snow the plow driver had piled four feet high against the garage door.

Christmas did happen, though. They opened their gifts from the sofa bed. Santa was nice this year, even if he didn't get a chance to tackle that last request from me. Eliana was well enough to get out of bed and play with her new toys but the suitcase stayed packed because she's not done imagining her grandmother closer.  And The Husband apologized for not being able to take me out for my birthday. I told him to shut up and just feel better.

Today was my birthday. I spent it taking care of my patients and picking up more prescriptions. We ate leftovers and the sink is still full and the laundry untouched. Then I made homemade pumpkin ice cream floats and they sang Happy Birthday to me before our ice-cream melted and we watched Mary Poppins and my laptop sat, waiting just a while longer, while plans were ditched in favor of The Moment that was right there for us to grab on to.

"I'm sorry about your birthday," The Husband told me before he dragged himself back to bed.

"Don't be," I told him. "We're together."

Because Every Writer Needs an Entourage

I'm at that weird place where I'm finding myself at a loss for what to post here. This space used to be my only outlet after leaving the newsroom to stay home with Eliana six years ago. Now, the soapboxes I once stood on and the She Said WHAT stuff that once were automatic blog fodder are now the columns and commentaries that I save for Latina. It's not a bad problem to have, I know. And I'm grateful for it.

Last week, The Husband, Eliana, and I packed up the truck at drove over seven hours from northern Maine to Stamford, Connecticut, where we caught a train to the Grand Central Harlem station. the purpose of the trip was two-fold and one of those folds I can't tell you about...yet. The other was to finally go the the Latina Magazine offices and meet the amazing staff and my favorite editor in person. We Did Lunch while The Husband took Eliana to FAO Schwartz to dance on the giant piano, and the next day we packed up to hop on the train for home.

 

It was exhausting. And except for the projectile vomit thing that happened in Massachussettes on the way home that forced a hotel stop for Eliana to rest (and us to clean out the truck), it was amazing.

Eliana and The Husband were invited to visit the Latina office with me. I loved that. So did they.

 

And then we drove hours and hours to our little sanctuary so far north I'm no longer impressed by the fact that Stephen King lives in Bangor. i'll be back in New york soon enough. But it's good to be home.

In Which We Travel the Solar System

We're finishing up a lesson in social studies and geography for Eliana's Oakmeadow homeschool lesson this week. The idea was to pick a destination on a map and take a roadtrip following the planned route. We've already learned how to use a compass, find our way to and from the neighbor's with it, located our town and county, and made a drawing of the state of Maine, so I wanted to make this one fun. My neighbor, Joan, happens to be a teacher (and the grandmother of Eliana's new BFF, Lucy), so my original idea to drive to the children's museum as scrapped when Joan suggested we make the drive through northern Maine's solar system model. One road. Multiple points on a map. And the girls get to speed through the entire solar system scaled down to a 40-mile long route in one afternoon?

Bring it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joan told me the earth rotates at 6,040 miles per hour and orbits at 67,06 miles per hour. At its core, the solar system rotates at 514,000 miles per hour and the Milky Way at 1,340,000 miles per hour. That means that if we could travel as fast as the universe, we could circle Earth on foot in about two minutes.

A half tank of gas. 80 miles round trip just for the solar system route plus the drive home. Two best friends laughing-shrieking-sometimes fighting-sometimes perforating our ear drums with excitement when the next planet came into view. It was incredible. It was exhausting. It was unforgettable.

And also exhausting.

Lack of wine and the inability to drive faster than the car in front of me makes me wish I was the Milky Way.