Blog

How To Manage Mourning and Change

A Time To Weep 

Is there a clinical time allotted for mourning? I read this on the Center for Grief & Loss website, “Grief takes a long time. In fact, it never completely ends, because you will never stop missing the person who died. You will always feel pangs of grief over the absence of this person in your life”. For me, this is true. I miss my ama, apa, sister Lupe and these past few weeks I’ve especially missed Patty.  

My Rules for Mourning

En mi vida y corazon, I’ve established two rules of engagement for mourning, just to help my heart along. Primeramente, when their birthdays and “graduation days” (the anniversaries of their deaths) come along, I share a shout out with my sis Marina and we remember something good and tender. Segundo, I will not allow the dark memories to crowd into my mind. Even as I write, the memory of the day they passed and the emptiness I felt wants to take over. Nope! I will only allow happy memories.

When I keep these boundaries up, things go well and the grief passes like a strong wind, it ruffles me up and our beautiful shared memories are scattered on the floor of my mind. Pero, aveces, mourning surprises me. It either creeps up slowly and distracts me for a season. Other times, it slams me down and paralyzes me for a long moment. In that grief, the accusations sting me. 

No lo entiendo. It can be overwhelmingly confusing.  Is it normal to feel such intense grief after so long? Is it normal not to? Am I a selfish daughter and sister because I don’t feel sad consistently? Am I a selfish wife, mother, sister and friend because I still want to bring up my loved one and remember them always, with memories or memorabilia? 

I have so many things in my home, closet, jewelry box, and albums that tie me to my loved ones, but especially Patty. (A look inside my mourning box is a whole separate post) Once again I find myself facing this: If I remove “such and such item” from my life, will that remove Patty? I find myself painfully attached to these things and they paralyze me from making changes. Guilt screams and points its finger at me. A good and loyal sister would never “get rid of that” And usually I crumble and put off any changes.

Ben and I started some changes  last year. My kitchen is looking great! Mi esposo is a Macgyver!  He can fix, or make anything using his God given talents. He’s been busy and I haven’t had to face “getting rid” of those things that have Pattys fingerprints on them. Y ahora, in this new year as changes continue, I’m getting closer to facing the old worn things again. 

Name Brands

My sister Patty was a lady who enjoyed nice things. Even as a young girl she asked for the best and my ama was always exasperated at her “ricachona” tastes. How in the world did this girl have such rich wants? Somehow, my ama managed and Patty would acquire at least one name brand item of clothing or accessory and she was always classy on that first day of school. Y pues, she carried that ‘trait’ into adulthood. Only the best for Patty. Meanwhile, over on my side, to this day I barely know a name brand. Para que vean, Once I went to church wearing my nice hand-me-down handbag and as I set it down by my chair, one of the ushers said “Wow sis! You must have some money” I laughed a bit confused. Then he pointed to my handbag and said “That’s a Coach purse” I was still confused. He explained that it was an expensive brand. I wasn’t surprised, it came from Patty. For the record, I googled Coach brand, and discovered that Coach is considered a mid range accessible luxury brand! Que “accessible” ni que nada! Ridiculous. It was accessible to me only through my bougie sister. “Anyways” when she bought something new, I got her accessible mid range hand-me-downs and I was more than satisfied. The name brand things I now own are “My Patty Things.”

Because of Patty I have continued to wear Estee Lauder Pleasures and Calvin Klein’s Eternity. Bien muy muy.

When Change is Needed

So what am I getting at?  Over 20 years ago, my beloved sister gave me her nice, practically brand new couches and dining room table. Patty died (that was hard to write) over 15 years ago. I still own and use them. My couches have aged and worn down, I won’t describe how much. My nice sturdy single pedestal claw feet dining room table with ceramic tiles is hanging on, very durable. Pero, it is looking tired and maybe worn down, aveces, when the grandkids climb on it, like kids do, I worry for my table first and then my nietecito! Hijole. The tiles are faded and grout has been picked on . It is  just time for a change. Patty’s family and mine shared many beautiful gatherings. Great conversations happened at the dining table when we were sitting down properly at dinner time. My couches have been so hospitable to all. Patty visited me at full term pregnancy and struggled to rise from my couch. I got some help from the springy cushion to bounce her up on her feet. Years later, though my couches were old, they patiently waited when my 90 something year old apa struggled to rise up from the sunken cushions. Neither would admit that they were tired. 

En Conclusion

These practical pieces of furniture fulfilled their duty. It’s time for a change. They are part of the memories, oh how I struggle to part with them. I want change. It can be so refreshing and pretty. But the grief makes me believe that I’ll lose those treasured memories. That won’t happen, will it?  Will I change? Will I forget her? Where are my boundaries? How do I apply them here?

How to handle a Pocha experience

When I was young, I was called a Pocha, and through the years, occasionally, I’ve felt the sting of that reproach at times. Pocha Is a derogatory name used by “real” Mexicans who speak  “good Mexican Spanish” when they refer to Mexican-Americans, that would include me, who either do not speak Spanish at all or speak it “bad” and topped with an accent. 

Pocho, is  just a Spanish (Spain) word that refers to fruit gone bad or discolored fruit. If you will allow me to be dramatica. So the tree (Mexican parents) sprouted fruit in the United States and that fruit (the children) was compromised. Hijole, it faded into American culture and it is now Pocho/a. Native Mexicans will hear a Spanish word spoken by Mexican Americans and know that we are “del otro lado”. The other side being the U.S. Y pues, it happened to me again, I was found out!

Just the other day,  I got a surprise notification from my dear friend Raquel. She was coming with her family to Tijuana Mexico; aka TJ. It was a tedious business trip but she was hoping to plug in family and friend time while she was so close. In haste we scrambled, changing work schedules to make the time for our short reunion. We were off to Mexico!  My husband has his google maps Siri set to an English accent, entonces, trying to understand her as she pronounced the Spanish street names was confusing, pero, thank goodness that while I listened with a critical ear, he was following the map. Between the English accented Spanish names and my “watch out Ben” he managed to avoid the aggressive lunch traffic drivers and arrive at the meeting place on time, without a scratch or dent. Our heart rate settled pretty quickly, especially since it was a short drive. We met in a nice quiet restaurant in Zona Rio; River Zone, located in the modern business district of Tijuana Mexico.

Yo si hablo español, the Mexican American “off brand” spanish. Usually, I don’t pay attention to the way I speak it, except when native Mexicans notice it. De repente, I was stumbling and apologizing for my spanish. 

There we all were, Ben and I, with the Munoz and extended family.  I was giddy with the prospect of a good visit, catching up and just enjoying the time. I showered her with my Spanglish, she responded in perfect Spanish, it is always very harmonious. When our husbands are with us, we throw in enough English to keep Ben in the loop of the conversation. That afternoon I did have to translate since Raquel’s mom was with us, she doesn’t speak English. No problem, it’s what I’ve done for 34 years. Vez, Ben no habla español. The waitress brought the menus and all was well until I didn’t understand one of the words she used! In my defense, she was wearing a mask. Masks muffle the voice, pero I definitely understood her “eye language” and mannerisms. Imediatamente, she was cold. She was impatient with me, choosing instead not to speak to me! Like I was too silly to understand. Por supuesto, that the self defense mechanism shot up when I’m in “defense” mode I think and speak English. In this case it made it worse. Hay si! Que sangrona verdad? Maybe I seemed like a rude,stuck up, “I think I’m better than you” Pocha in her eyes? Pero I kept this drama to myself, I didn’t want to make a scene by confronting it.  That strong latina woman in me rises up 😬 But in reality what I felt was, “Back up! Why do you judge me because of my broken Spanish? I’m doing my best!” Could it have been that she didn’t understand me? 😲 In any case, it got rude on both sides, it was all in Spanish and eye language which I thought only I was sensing. 

Lea, Raquel’s sister, felt the tension and recognized that common “Pocha judgment”  and stepped in to save the day. She strategically commented on the “not so good service” which did catch the waitress’s ear. Then, she gently explained what I already knew. Lea said “Rosy, es que. tu español, pues…” she said that my Spanish is ok but noticeably accented. She said that with an apologetic tone. It had uncovered that I come from the other side. But, I wasn’t trying to cover anything up? She explained that there is a mindset that Mexicans have about Mexican Americans. Some Mexicans assume that when Mexican Americans choose not to speak Spanish, they are Pochos, with a  pompous attitude that says “I’m Americana.”  Some Mexicans will sarcastically say “Con el nopal en la frente” “with a cactus on their forehead” The cactus is a prominent Mexican symbol. El dicho  implies that while Mexican Americans drop their Mexican roots, they can’t drop their ethnic look, dark skin and indian features.  It’s what I knew already, it’s a wrong assumption, but it’s what I’d felt before. What do you say to that? I was just glad that neither Raquel nor Lea had ever rolled their eyes at my broken Spanish with the gringo accent.

Thankfully, that whole incident ended well, The waitress heard the complaint and was nice again and I chose not to be offended. I ordered my meal using my Spanglish, feeling very Mexican, and we all enjoyed a great time. 

That Pocha experience was another reminder to me that I needed to affirm other Mexican Americans, or multiracial people, like my own kids, who attempt to use their Spanish or Spanglish. I needed to stop chuckling when their attempts sounded “off” and instead help them and fan their desire to practice Spanish speaking. After all, it’s a beautiful language!

My ama tried plenty of times to learn English and she struggled, to the point of tears at times. Learning a second language is not easy, even when the need and desire is there. Y, mi esposo, that cold blooded Englishman,  hasn’t been too motivated to learn Spanish as a second language. A common denominator for both has been the easy access to translators, why learn, just have your translator interpret it all for you.

Learning a language when you are chiquita makes a huge difference. When I was little I spoke only Spanish, immersed in it, it was my amas rule, something I can truly appreciate now. Then when I was five, in kindergarten, I learned to speak English very quickly. When my kids came along, I wanted them to learn Spanish, but it was hard to speak Spanish to them consistently. Ben only spoke English, I thought in English, besides, by then it was my first language. I found the help I needed when they turned five years old.  My great resource was the Spanish Immersion school I sent them to. Entonces, hispanic moms, some unsolicited advice is, try to teach them while they’re chiquitos.

Having both languages is a great asset, but if you don’t have both, it’s ok. If you speak a second language mas o menos, good for you!  échale ganas! 

How To Properly Box up The Old Year – Reviewing My 2022 Resolutions

Seven days into 2023, Feliz año nuevo! Yes! I love a fresh start with renewed vision and hope.  I’ve been on the New Years Resolution track, pero, all of a sudden I thought, why don’t I review the year and see how I did with last year’s resolutions? Throughout the entire year, though I prayed for strength and perseverance,  I drop the resolutions, then pick them back up, then drop them again, hijole! Lots of wonderful things happened last year in between the “resolving” of resolutions. 

January 

The one repeated resolution that is always on my list is weight loss, ya se, ya se. In 2022 I proposed to lose 25 lbs. Por supuesto que I needed to lose more, pero I needed to keep it real. Then, I Went to our Winter Bible Conference and had a wonderful time with God and the people of God. I ate too much. Heavy sigh, like the kind that says my gut is too full and another heavy sigh that says, I’ll get back on track, mañana

I also resolved to write more, write better, write transparently and focus more on my manuscript. I started writing on my other blog for a little while and I maintained my weekly post on this blog.

February  

Love was in the air. Proverbs 18:22 had become so personal to my sons life: “The man who finds a wife finds a treasure and he receives favor from the Lord” My second son, Emery had found the woman he wanted to marry and spend the rest of his life with. Por supuesto, that I saw this coming so I resolved to be a good mother in law to this new up and coming Mrs. Greene. I remembered my suegra, and how she welcomed me into the family. 

And speaking about marriage, I prayed for my own marriage. I resolved again to be a better wife to my flaco, I prayed so much more and asked God for wisdom. Jesus heard my prayer, he knew I would need much patience as we swatted down the cobwebs of a 33 year union. Cobwebs that form when complacency and neglect are allowed to squat. Watching my son rejoice as he courted his girl, stirred my resolve.

March   

We watched the love story unfold while we toiled in our own lives. Birthdays came and we celebrated. Then I had my chance to coach and play some volleyball, what an invigorating time it was, with a vengeance I picked up the resolution to lose those pounds.  

April 

Filled to capacity with activities, events, celebrations and emotion. Our second son was 25 and ready to ask for Monique’s hand in marriage. It was a whirlwind of events. I did have lots of writing topics for my blog. My manuscript was almost covered up with “other” writings of importance. She said yes and we all scrambled to get into the wedding mode radar. 

May-July 

Groomzilla emerges! In the midst of wedding talk, wedding plans, wedding expenses and wedding stress, the other pages of living did go on, just in slower motion. Stress prevailed and the pounds were falling off, does that count as part of my “resolution” goal? 

Y pues, what do I tell you about my other resolutions? Writing goals and wife goals seemed to hang in the balances. The mother in law dance was happening already. 

August

Wedding time. A Pacific Coast trip. Although this would be a life changing trip, unfortunately it wasn’t going to be a leisurely trip. We  packed our highlander as tight as we could safely manage and made the 20 hour trip,in 18 hours. It was a terrific trip, ladened down with a lot of work and not just a little anxiety. It was a sweet and beautiful wedding, my favorite wedding party participant was the wedding boy, Jeremiah Joseph, mi nietecito, bien chulo! At 3 years old, this had not been his first wedding you know, just two weeks prior he had honored another tio with his graces and dubbed himself “Wedding Boy” 

About my resolutions, I had lost 20 lbs. I was too stressed to notice though. I had looked over my manuscript outline several times, but the writing for my book was getting dusty. Pero, I was still married 😁 and I was still praying for wisdom, does that count for a “good wife”?

September-November

My Benjamin and I entered into our 34th year of marriage and life and circumstance had stopped us on our tracks. We were looking at each other, making time to invest in each other. After raising four kids we were rediscovering each other, examining, uncovering  and finding peace. We had remembered the spouse of our youth, I cried in relief, my cold blooded Englishman doesn’t do those things. Tears of appreciation for God’s wonderful mercy and grace. I love my flaco and he loves me. I rest at the fact that God is with us and hears our prayer.

December:

A glorious time. Pero,  I forgot my main yearly resolutions. In the words of Chimoltrufia, Chavo del Ochos friend and my apas favorite. “Paque le digo que no, si si” (Why tell you, no, when the answer is yes) That’s right. Yes, I dropped a couple of resolutions again. I have some good excuses, I was a different kind of busy still and I wasn’t stressed anymore and some weight crept back on. Pero, my mother in law dance is flowing along,  y Dios is helping me with wisdom in my marriage. 

En conclusion:

As I have packed up last year, before I close up the box,  I count all the blessings and encourage myself in the resolution successes I experienced, even if they are a work in progress.

My resolutions are refastened. Pienso que, these lifelong resolutions, are just that, lifelong. I am so grateful that God, Emmanuel is with me always through these resolutions. It’s a new year, a clean slate, clearer vision, Amen! Y pues, like my apa always said  Rosalba, here the words: “Echale ganas!” 

A Kiss From Ama

It was a busy Christmas season and as always things in my life came to a screeching halt and I hit the wall on Monday. I was dazed as to what I should do now. Por supuesto, things hadn’t changed, my housework, laundry, errands and deskwork were waiting for attention, but I didn’t feel the pressure that busyness with deadlines brings. Luego, as I was slowly getting back into some kind of rhythm I began to feel the cobwebs of neglect in my most vital connection; mi esposo. With Christmas over those warm fuzzy feelings were gone, our house was way too quiet. and well I realized I missed my flaco and I tried to hint at it. Luego, I just spelled it out, and still we struggled to connect. Imaginate! After a sweet Christmas day, in the last few days of 2022 I was feeling stranded. Pues, in my dramatic latina fashion I let him see my hurt, el dolor de mi corazon was all over my face, tears and all. Pero what did he show me? Confusion! What was going on? He wanted to know. Hijole! To quote Cornelia Bryant from the book series Anne of Green Gables “Isn’t that just like a man?” 

“Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.”

—Benjamin Franklin

And just like a woman I need to hash things out in my head. As I was doing that this week, I came across a conversation (I had written  it down) I had with my sis one day, not too long ago. It turned out to be just what I needed. I didn’t want my year to end on a sour note. My big sis came to the rescue again. 

Un dia, as Marina and I were chatting on the phone, comparing notes on how God speaks to us and shows us the concern he has for the littlest of details in our lives, we turned to talking about the most vulnerable and sometimes very difficult relationship we are experiencing, our marriage relationship. That relationship that God created for a man and a woman,God said that it was not good for man to be alone. Even though Adam was busy and preoccupied, God knew he needed Eve; his help meet. Por supuesto que my latina, novela driven mind always imagines what that first meeting must have been like for the man and his wife. Eve, innocent, batting her lashes and Adam exploding in wonder at the gift before him. No longer alone, a journey for two, oh what responsibility lay before him. Anyway, back to my story.

As women we yearn to express so freely our love for our husbands, to tell them, to show them, but circumstances, upbringing or baggage inhibit us. There we were on the phone talking about our need for our husbands love and how hard it is for us to get the message across to them when they are so preoccupied. Marina said, “Don’t you remember the way my mom always kissed dad on the forehead?” I was shocked, Que?! I don’t remember that? Of course I was gone a lot, sports dominated my teenage years so I never saw my ama kiss my apa, never!” Marina was surprised, maybe a bit sad for me because she saw it often. 

For Marina, after all these years, that sweet kiss has been a great tool that our ama used generously. Y ahora, she too pulls out that magic kiss and it pulls her through whatever wave wants to knock her down. When things are turbulent and difficult, the walls of isolation want to stubbornly climb higher and higher. That’s when she’ll do like our ama did and look at her busy husband, without even interrupting him, she goes over to him and kisses him on the forehead. Ese besito covers a multitude of hurts, it helps her. And although, “just like a man”, my brother in law probably doesn’t realize it, I believe it helps him too. 

I was humbled again at my mothers strength. I appreciated her perseverance in the most difficult relationship she chose to maintain. I told Marina that I too was going to use that kiss to break down a wall. I left that conversation so incredibly blessed with the kiss my ama gave me. 

Feliz año nuevo, y que Dios los bendiga with much prosperity and may you feel his strong love, like a soft kiss everyday.

How To Survive Christmas Cookie Baking With Your Grandchildren

Baking with grandchildren sounds like a Pinterest worthy, picturesque, memory to make. Aqui, I need to be honest. I will not sugar coat my experiences. Brace yourself as I share some pretty gruesome realidades of my cookie baking experiences with my grandkids and the things I learned. It will shatter that beautiful image of sweet grandmas patiently and lovingly flouring the counter top and guiding their quiet and content grandchild as he cuts his gingerbread man with cookie cutters. Primero, I need to be very clear that I am not a sweet grandma. I am a strong latina abuela and while I do not reach for the chancla, they know I still am flexible enough to do so. 

 I had avoided making cookies with my nietas almost completely and I was feeling rested. I did have a real close call that first weekend of December when I was thinking about my flaco and decided to make him some gingersnap cookies. Fijate, not just any recipe, but his grammys recipe. My granddaughters happened to be visiting and Nevaeh, the middle nieta says she “loves” to watch me cooking or in this case baking. Oh oh! I pushed away that little hint. Pero, Rachel, my youngest granddaughter loves to help and is quick to offer. Hijole! I made my corazon duro and said no to her when she sweetly asked if she could help. Por supuesto that I had a good reason. Apa would be home soon and he would be tired and I needed to hurry up, not waste time so that I could fill the cookie jar. Yikes, I feel the indignation still, “waste time?” Really Rosalba? I caved and Rachel was ready. I allowed her and Jeremiah, my 3 year old grandson to cut one cookie, mission accomplished. I sent them away to play while I finished making cookies, and of course shared some of apas cookies with my grandkids. Come on! I’m not that cruel. That should have taken the weight of “Cookies with Ama” off my back. Pero no! It was still heavy. I had to be strong and ignore it. 

I was so close to the closing of the season and I was finding quiet time in my days at home. I was finished with my own baking, the shopping and wrapping was complete. Heavy cooking wouldn’t start for 2 days. Stillness is a rare phenomenon in our home, I was finding that at Christmas time the house shouldn’t be tan calladita, it needed to be bursting with activity, like baking cookies with ama.  Pero, with flu season in full force I hadn’t seen my grandkids very much. They needed to rest and I really didn’t need the chaos. It was too late anyway, o no? There were still five days to go. Did I really want that much chaos?  I called my daughter in law Denise. In an instant, we had a date, and before I knew what I was doing I texted my daughter Daniella to invite my grandsons. HIJOLE!! The whole brood was coming over to make cookies with ama. Immediatamente my heart rate increased.

I had to prepare.I knew what was ahead.  I had to avoid certain ‘impatience’ triggers. I was already hearing the girls planning. 

Mari: D’ma can I break the eggs into the bowl?

Ama: come on Mari, the shell isn’t that hard to break.

Nevaeh: Yes, and I’ll go second D’ma

Ama: Ok Nevaeh, you don’t have to be that slow, just be careful not to spill the sugar

Rachel: Nevaeh, why do I have to be last? I need to do something too D’ma

Ama: I know Rachel. You’ll add the flour. Hurry Nevaeh!

I know this is going to sound bien dramatica, but I didn’t want the cookie ghosts of Christmas past to ruin our day. I’m believing God for the wisdom that he offers so that I can demonstrate honest patience. I believe that’s a calm voice and a slow reaction to mishaps when sharing experiences with my grandchildren. 

I shook that conversation out of my head and asked God to help me and give me wisdom. I’m believing in God to be able to demonstrate honest patience. A calm voice, hay si! and a slow reaction to mishaps when sharing experiences with my grandchildren is a good start. 

Nope. I made all the dough the night before. 

Christmas Cookies With Ama

The boys were early and the girls were late. Like primos do, they played hard outside while I grabbed the cookie cutters and my whits together and adjusted my hearing to ‘appreciate’ the clamor of my inheritance. When I was ready we called them all in to wash their hands. From underneath their nails all the way up to their elbows they were supposed to wash. After inspection and some rewashings we got to work. I distributed little round balls of dough and they attempted to roll it out and cut cookies. Here’s how it sounded.

Braye: How many will we get to make?

Ama: You can make a few, but you must share your cookies with someone.

Rachel: I need some dough D’ma

Ama: here Rachel, add a pinch of flour to the surface so it won’t stick.

Nevaeh: I’m ready to cut D’ma

Braye: Me and Jeremiah are going to share this cutting board. How are we going to roll it out?

Jeremiah: It’s mine.

Braye: No, were sharing.

Ama: Jeremiah you better be nice!

Daniella: I’m getting some plastic cups for you to use Braye.

Rachel: Look D’ma! I made a hand!

Ama: good job Rachel.

Nevaeh: Can you put my cookie on the cookie sheet D’ma

Ama: Braye, you’re rolling it too thin, that’s why it keeps falling apart.

Rachel: Look D’ma I made a glove!

Ama: Good Job Rachel 

Judah: I’m done.

Daniella: Do you want more dough to cut another cookie.

Mari: Ok, I’m ready (did I mention that they have a new puppy who needed her undivided attention first?) Can I make cookies tia Lala?

Daniella: Yes, mom, did you turn on the oven?

Judah: I’m done.

I was done too, but that was the first hurdle. Then they proceeded to decorate their cookies before baking. I had some simple instructions: Use your finger and dab butter on your cookie so that the sprinkles can stick. One rule:  Do not use too much sprinkles on your cookie. In one ear and out the other as fast as it came in. 

Daniella: Aaaahhh! The noise! I can’t hear! (she was shaking her head)

Ama: What did I get myself into again?!

Denise: I know! That’s why I don’t do this.

Ama: I think I’ll be done. No more making cookies with my grandchildren. This is crazy!

Emery:  (who happened to be there for something else) What?! You can’t stop ma, you’ve got more grandchildren coming. 

That entire cookie cutting, decorating and baking session lasted all of 30 minutes. Like a whirlwind, it happened and all was calm again. The kids went out to play while they waited for their cookies and I had survived Christmas cookies with my grandkids. 

Like I said, I’m not gonna lie, it was rough! Cookies with the kids for me, is a terrible and wonderful experience and every year is the last year. I always say that I’ll never make them again,  until Christmas comes around again.

Through the years I’ve grown quite fond of Christmas. Le doy Gracias a Dios for the years he’s given me and the beautiful experiences, even the cookies with my grandkids.

God bless you all and remember on this Noche Buena, that Jesus is why we celebrate, CHRISTmas, I’m so grateful for his daily reminders of his love and especially thankful that I do have Jesus in my life long after Christmas has passed and through the year. 

Our Multicultural Christmas Memories

The other day, while we were working on Christmas projects, I asked my younger sons when people ask you what ethnicity you are, what do you say? I wanted to know. After a quick glance at me, like I was confused or forgetful, they both responded, almost simultaneously “White and Mexican.” Y pues I smiled because it’s exactly what our American family is and they embraced it! 

My cold blooded Englishman and I, his strong Latina woman, have accepted God’s gift of hope and salvation; Jesus. We use the tools he’s provided. We have worked hard at building our life, home and family and with time, our differences; race, culture, economic status and traditions have blended well together. It has helped that our similarities; Born Again Christians and American have kept us united. We’ve pulled into our own family the traditions from our childhood and created some of our own and our kids gobbled up the moments. They rejoiced, especially during the Christmas season.

I have to admit, at first it was awkward to hear about Ben’s Christmas fun. Hijole, I don’t want to sound like “que pobrecita” but it’s just that it was foreign to me. How was a mom able to give so much time to a project with the kids? I would immediately chalk it up to something “los gringos ricos” did. See, I had never seen my apa or brothers get involved with Christmas details, it had to be something that only the rich white people did. Ben talks about things I only saw en la tele. Somehow, instead of telling me about his Christmas traditions, he practiced them with me. 

Our first year of marriage, we weren’t sure how Christmas should be handled so we bought a little mini fake tree and put it on our coffee table. Por supuesto que, the traditional tamales and champurrado meal would be our first Christmas experience, I was sure of that much at least. Then, the following year Ben announced that we must have a real Christmas tree. Como? Could our tight budget be so extravagant? We didn’t pull out our mini tree so for much of the season we didn’t have a tree up, they were just too expensive. Then one day very close to the end of Christmas he passed a lot that was closing up. To his delight he got a medium size tree for a clearance price and his Christmas tradition was fulfilled. Decorations were scant, as I look back now, it was like Little House On The Prairie and their humble Christmases. A real live Christmas tree! beautiful! I was comforted and hooked on this tradition.

This opened the door for him to introduce other sweet traditions at Christmas,most of them I have enjoyed and continued, like decorating the house, filling Christmas stockings and sourdough pancakes on Christmas morning. Pero, one that was too much for my uncreative mind was the gingerbread houses. Hijole! I felt the pressure, so I attempted to make a gingerbread house with my kids. Pero, I kept it real, like the other side of the tracks real! Graham crackers, candy canes, marshmallows and frosting, after tons of frosting to hold the casita together, I called it a day when it was barely standing. Ben’s gingerbread house recollection was quite different. His eyes lit up when I asked him to tell me about his casita. 

First they designed their house on paper, like their architect father would have. Their Gingerbread house was elaborately laid out on a cookie sheet covered with powdered sugar icing for snow. They made walls from rolled out gingerbread cookie dough, glued together with melted caramel candy. The house had windows covered with shutters made also of gingerbread cookie dough, as well as a chimney.The roof had Hershey’s M&Ms for shingles. The trimming of the house was lined with gum drops. Luego, out in the yard, asi es, they erected a nice 3-dimensional tree, cut out with a tree shaped cookie cutter, painted with the powdered sugar icing and glued with the melted caramel. Green gum drop bushes in the yard and the Gingerbread boy standing tall. After all that work and beautiful architecture, the end of the holiday season came and then, Ben and his brothers were allowed to rip pieces off the house and eat them. Chunks of cookies, caramel and chocolate candy was their demolition delight! Y ahora si, they opened gifts and then traveled to grandma’s house on Christmas day. All I can say is that I’m glad my kids were happy with their gingerbread sugar shack!

As much as I grumble about the constant activity and work, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The rush to order Christmas cards, Thomas and Cita’s baking marathon, my bread baking, decorations, tamales with my cuñada, the Ornament Exchange party, our Scrooge Dinner, Grammys cookies and of course los regalitos that do not go under the tree until Christmas morning. Es Navidad, and I love it!  At the end of every year, in December, I like to look back and see all that God has done for us and I love the whole reason for this season; Christ was born!

Feliz Navidad, y que Dios los bendiga.

Update On Rachel Greene

Rachel Greene, my youngest granddaughter, has been reminding me since September that her birthday was coming up soon. Por su puesto que, her other siblings needed to be acknowledged first. Her big sis Neveah had her birthday in September, check. Then Uriah had his first birthday in November, check. Y ahora si,she hugged me on Monday night and reminded me one more time.

Rachel:  “D’ma my birthday is in two days. I’m going to have two parties” 

Me: “Wow! Two parties?! Will I be invited to them? 

Rachel: One is for me with my friends and the other is for family. 

She said that to explain that since I am part of her family I could attend the family shindig. 

God Still Does Miracles!

Aqui mero, I’m going to be one of those abuelas culecas that pounce on any opportunity to show off.  Rachel is now three days into her sixth year, she’s a sweet and shy little girl when there are too many people, pobrecita, that’s rough, because we, her family is a growing crowd. I’m not showing Rachel off so much as I am my God’s omnipotent power and bountiful grace. Jesus still does miracles today!

 Es que, Rachel at three months was healed from an excruciatingly painful condition of a hemangioma and a possible life threatening condition called PHACE. “PHACE Syndrome is the uncommon association between large infantile hemangiomas, usually of the face, and birth defects of the brain, heart, eyes, skin and/or arteries. It is an acronym that stands for the medical names of the parts of the body it often impacts:”

 Mi nietecita is completely healed, Rachel Greene is without pain! The lingering scar shows up occasionally, usually to uncover her emotions. When she’s mad her bottom lip turns a shade darker and when she’s frightened and crying it goes into the purple shade. 

As she’s getting older she has noticed it, mostly because others have pointed it out. It makes her uncomfortable and self conscious. Last year, I got wind of another little girl pointing it out and saying something like “too bad you’re not pretty like Mari” Que! Por supuesto que my first granddaughter Maricella is absolutely beautiful, but so is Rachel.  I wanted to jump on my helicopter, you know the ones that moms use and hover over their kids with. I wanted to hover over her life to intercept the stupid things kids and adults say! And protect my lil guerita. Needless to say that Rachel now sees the pink little spot and dots on her beautiful face, and doesn’t like it. Pero pues, God is faithful and he didn’t heal her so that her mind and eyes could get caught up on this as she’s growing up. Life can be tricky sometimes, and this healing miracle will be a source of comfort to her as she continues to grow. We see that scar as beautiful, a mark of God’s hand covering her.

 I’m confident that when she sees all that God has done, she will embrace her heritage and open the door of her heart when Jesus knocks to sup with her. Then, she’ll be truly amazed at his beauty through her.

Mientras, I rejoice in her, our little gift before Christmas. I’m grateful that God healed her and is giving her a solid platform to stand on. 

Grief at Christmas time

Going to a funeral is always awkward. In my experiences, I go and watch and watch and then try to move toward the family. This week I went to a funeral again, death is part of life.

Andrews First Loss:

When my sister Patty passed away almost suddenly in 2008, she left behind her son Andrew. He was three years old at the time. He didn’t understand what was happening. One day, he went to his grandmother Mary’s house, but he always did that on Mondays. That Monday Patty went to the hospital and Andrew never saw his momma again. When he asked for her and cried for her, he couldn’t grasp the reality of never ever seeing her again. 

I don’t know what it’s like to grow up without a mother, gracias a Dios I had the privilege of having my ama throughout my childhood. For the next 14 years Andrew had his dad, Deidra and his grandma Mary. Aside from his emotional meltdowns at the sight of me and my sis he has done very well. He is a handsome and sweet young man who strives to excel. 

I knew Andrew’s grandmother through Patty’s daughter in law experience. Mary loved my sister. She pulled her into the family and Patty was so grateful for a mother in law that helped her and loved her. Mary made herself available to Patty when she had Andrew, in her recovery and her return to work. She treated her like a daughter and me and my sister Marina rested in that. I’m pleased to write here that Patty loved Mary right back and was grateful to her. We, my sis and I loved Mary too for stepping in for Patty and helping to nurture our sweet nephew. Mary was 92, she hung on participating in Andrews extracurricular activities as much as her body would allow her. Gracias a Dios, Andrew had his grandma almost into adulthood.

Andrews Second Loss

A couple of weeks ago I got one of those calls from David, Andrew’s dad. He was to the point, “Rosie, I’m just calling to let you know that my mom passed away this morning” I was so sorry to hear that, what about Andrew I thought? Pero, I collected myself and gave David my condolences “David, I’m sorry” What else is there to say? He asked if I would let my sister and family know and I assured him that I would. I had to know how Andrew was, David said he was ok. I texted Andrew, I wanted to call him, because I should pick up the phone, yet I knew Andrew wouldn’t talk to me. In time Andrew responded to my text, usually we second guess a person’s mood on text, but I could almost feel his lonely heart through that text.

Then I called my sis, her concern too was Andrew. How is he? When’s the funeral? I didn’t have answers, Dave would let us know the details.

Another funeral

We drove to the funeral with that heaviness that death brings. Everyone was standing around outside, waiting. The big black hearse which carried Mary’s body was surrounded by her grandsons and great grandsons. They stood very close to the carroza waiting for the signal to move her into the church. We went to Andrew and when he saw us, he gave me a half a hug. I said, “give me a real hug” We both embraced very uncomfortably.

Catholic mass or misa is a quiet affair usually, but for Marys mass the family had hired Mariachis, music that is rich in culture and emotion. One song they sang was one of my amas favorite songs. The words brought life in the midst of that funeral. It was hard not to clap in appreciation for those beautiful lyrics, mira: “Senor, me has mirado a los ojos” did the others understand? “Lord, you’ve looked into my eyes” My goodness! I remembered that beautiful day that I actually noticed when Jesus looked into my eyes and I was changed from that day forward.Thank goodness nobody could hear my thoughts, still I looked around because they were like fireworks going off at the memory of my beautiful conversion experience.

Ashes To Ashes, Dust To Dust

At the burial, I was awkward as always. My sis, she’s very thoughtful to participate and give her condolences. I didn’t want to do it. As I watched the interesting burial traditions of releasing the doves and tossing earth onto the casket I ruminated on the crooked paths death takes at times. 

Again I was glad nobody could hear my thoughts, my tears escaped. I cried for Andrew. I was busy regretting Pattys death, tan joven, she died at such a young age, especially when she had a toddler to raise. It is the natural order of life to bury our elderly when they reach a ripe old age. My apa was 96 when he died and while it is so lonely and painful, we make our brains kick start quicker into living again. I ran back to that day when my sister died and Andrew had no idea that the most important woman in his life had left him without notice. That day I didn’t even think of Andrew, I was lost in my loss, but as Andrew buried his grandma this week, now I could weep for him. He worked really hard at mastering his emotions or at least his tears. He flared his nostrils, his nose red from secret tears. I wanted so much to hug him again and tell him how sorry I was and so I did. Pero, Andrew had to be strong, his primos were around him and I was awkward some more. I just asked “Andrew, where is your mom’s gravestone? (Mary was buried very near Patty) and I had to go there, it had been a long time. I didn’t like going there, it was a reminder of the pain, and besides I knew she wasn’t even there.  Andrew pointed and said “She’s just over there by that big tree” I guess he didn’t see that there were many big trees. Eventually we found her gravestone. Marina talked to her, getting on Patty  for laughing at us as we walked in circles trying to find her. I prayed for Andrew there at his mothers graveside. Then Thomas took a picture of us during our short visit. 

Our Hope

 My apa, ama and sisters are in a better place, Jesus  was Lord of their lives. I didn’t feel right to participate in the ceremony, perhaps I should have, no se, my brain keeps arguing that all those touching traditions don’t soothe, they hurt. I loved Andrew’s grandma Mary and I was glad to support Andrew and my brother in law. Andrew sent us a sweet text thanking us. 

Funerals are so final, I miss Andrew’s mom and I’m certain he misses his Grandma Mary and yet we must go on. I came home to finish the Christmas season. Por supuesto, that it is sad and lonely to experience death at Christmas, es obvio that funerals can put a “wet blanket” on Christmas. It is my choice to replace it, with a cozy throw of peace and joy. After my respectful condolences have been given, I choose to rejoice at Christmas. It is a beautiful season for me, I pull my loved ones in close and to anyone who will listen to my joyful Christmas pasts I give them an earful 🥰 Gracias a Dios, that while I wait to see my loved ones again, the ones we’ve buried, I have these beautiful memories to enjoy and share.

Twenty two days until Christmas, I wish and  I hope to see Andrew again soon and bring him some Christmas joy. 

Que Dios los bendiga, enjoy the hustle and bustle 🙂

My Emotional Ties With Thanksgiving Food

I was awake muy muy temprano all week. It’s always like that with all the hustle and bustle of the Thanksgiving and Christmas season and all the birthday celebrations between. Today la familia will be celebrating mi mas chiquito grandson; Uriah Benjamin, 1 year old. What a wonderful way to end a Thanksgiving and enter into Christmas verdad?  

With that thought, as I was waking up today, I considered the wonderful Thanksgiving feast we’ve shared every year for the past 34 years. Rich in carbs, calories and fats. It’s not anything extraordinary really, pero this morning, the years of tradition in these simple foods overwhelmed me with appreciation. I went down my list:

Yams for Patty and me, nobody else appreciates them in my home. Yams, brown sugar and marshmallows. These remind me a bit of the camote my ama used to buy every morning when we were visiting Tia Angela in Guadalajara. The vendor would roll down the street on his three wheel bike equipped with a huge basket of delicious sweet camotes, yelling in a deep voice “camote” and we’d eat them drenched in leche. Today, I make a very small casserole dish of yams, since I alone partake of them now. I thank God every Thanksgiving for those years Patty and I shared the “gringo camotes” 🙂

Green beans with almonds for Ben and Rosie since our kids avoid veggies like the plague.

I’m gonna choose to avoid the ‘bad mom’ stares. Ben doesn’t have a stomach for green bean casserole and he stated that very clearly from the beginning of our voyage. I was glad because what was just the word ‘casserole’ intimidated me. Instead we enjoy fresh green beans stir fried in butter, diced garlic, sliced onions and almonds. Just for my flaco and I. It almost makes it our romantic thanksgiving side dish.

Stuffing for everyone! It’s the only time of the year I can get my sons to eat veggies. Finely diced onion,carrot and celery. Extremely disguised into the stuffing with the sausage and breading. I was pretty sure of myself, until I wasn’t. This year, My daughter in-law Denise asked me to share my stuffing recipe, because she was making some at home. Y pues, my shoulders straightened as I proudly began to share my recipe. When I said make sure to dice bien chiquito the celery and carrots, she interrupted me. “Actually, Jon asked me to leave out the celery this time.” Que! All these years despite loving my stuffing, he was so quick to alter it as soon as it was out of my hands. Luego, the worst thing that you can imagine happened! Asi es, a Thanksgiving tragedia.  my stuffing was…not good! my traditional stuffing was off and I hated it, and my sons didn’t fight for it.. I threw my hands up in total defeat, what else would change this Thanksgiving? I love feeding my family and others, and even as I write I feel the weight of that stuffing fumble, pues, I can’t have my sons not fighting over who gets more stuffing, verdad? Ok, think good thoughts, all my children and grandchildren were thanking God with me.

Desserts in our house. Classic San Diego Greene style. Cookies and Pumpkin pie are not traditions in danger of being removed. Until they don’t appear. Not one cookie, ni uno! And pumpkin pie? Daniella came filled with a desire for pumpkin pie. I prepared with the cool whip and proceeded to assign someone else the task of pumpkin pie. I can’t even say it, my brain isn’t wrapping around the fact that there was NO PUMPKIN PIE!  My newest daughter in-law Monique Greene introduced a pumpkin roll, y pues, it was delicious, we barely had enough of it. I’m impressed at her ease en la cocina. I can already tell that my lil Flaco, her flaco is putting on some weight. …but tradition took another hit. 

This year Thomas, our baker, made delicious cheese cakes, recipes he learned from the bakery he works at. Muy dalishious! Another change for my “anchored in tradition” heart to endure. We have always made Philadelphia’s classic 3 step cheesecake. It was right up my budget and my “teaching the kids” ability.

The Peanut butter, chocolate and cool whip pie that Emery has made for years, the “Terni Pie” because the recipe was shared by our dear friend Ternisha, remained in its traditional place. He always remembers it almost too late to share with anyone.

Gracias a Dios, I was worried that he was too much in the honeymoon clouds to worry about a silly pie. 

Ya se que change is inevitable, I’m learning to unlatch myself from the old ways when I must, and embrace the new things.

My pastor preached last Wednesday that everyday could be a day of Thanksgiving, “Gracias te damos Senor” everyday? Amen! good preaching indeed.  If we choose to practice Philippians 4:6 (NLT) Don’t worry about anything (not even the changes).Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. (Jesus, you’ve done so much for me, I cannot tell it all!) Then you will experience the peace of God, which exceeds anything we can understand.

At times it takes focus and grit to not go down the lonely path of losses and “what ifs.” Even the losses, like no pumpkin pie or mediocre stuffing can be made into a beautiful thankful moment. I hope you all had a beautiful Thanksgiving.

Have a beautiful Christmas season, y que Dios los bendiga

View Post

Reminders to be Thankful and Pick up the Phone

It’s Thanksgiving season and I’ve been doing some gratitude research. Learning the science behind gratitude has been an eye opening, or maybe reopening experience, a wonderful reminder of how good it is to be grateful. 

When I was little and I happened to be in the house taking a break from playing hard outdoors and it was novela hour, I had to be quiet or else! Since novelas are so dramatic, body language so extreme and words so powerful, some of it will still ring in my head at random times, like now. “Que Ingrata eres!!” in english it’s not that powerful “You’re so ungrateful!” Or isn’t it?

Holidays tend to want to make me focus on the voids in my life. I’ve been making a mess of my memory treasure box trying to find the perfect Thanksgiving memory. Pulling out all kinds of stuff that is great, or sad or hijole! That stuff that you don’t ever bring up again. Asi es, I miss my ama, my apa and my sisters, I miss Thanksgiving with them, I’m grateful for the ones I did have.  I do want to go into that lonely place and just remember.

Then it hit me, right between my ears, knocking over the memories. Chilindrina, my apas favorite little girl always said Si seras! I’ve got so much here, on this earth journey to be grateful for. Pero, digging further is appreciating the things I wouldn’t normally give a shout out to. Ahora, while I can and while I still have these tangible blessings I’m going to count a couple of them out loud.

DIY Thanksgiving Wreaths:

I’ve had 4 children that brought home so many crafts from their school days. Can I say, without them hearing me, that I had so many school projects I dreaded them. Shhh, it’s not supposed to be said out loud. Asi es, and through the years I’ve had to minimize my DIY treasures.

Pues, the other day, my grandson Marcus sent me  a Thanksgiving wreath, made by his own two little hands. Y ahora, I realize that those treasures only come for a short season, I’m so blessed that he decided to give it to his ama.  Immediatamente I said, I’m gonna get my phone and take a picture and send it to Daniella to share with Marcus, with a text, saying “I love my wreath, thank you” Pero, I got distracted and didn’t pick up my phone to take that pic and send a message. 

How To Appreciate A Phone Call:

So this big brother of mine, Fernando, apa called him Chapparro, is very good about keeping in touch with me. All through my adult years he’s mostly been connected and concerned for me. He calls me to check on me, then we chat about his favorite topic, politics. He fills me in on all the bad news of my state and at some point our conversation will always get animated. We are both blessed with our mothers vocal chords so it gets to be a loud interrupting conversation. My son Thomas loves to hear us talking, or is it shouting? He says it’s a novela. I am thankful for these phone calls, I’m so glad to have a big familia and sibling experience.

I am guilty as charged. My sister Patty was always frustrated with me. “Why do I always have to call you?” Por supuesto that I always had perfectly good excuses, and I rarely admitted my fault and gracias a Dios that she always forgave me and very impatiently continued to be the leader and make the calls to me. 

Then, for a short season, my older sister Lupe would call me every morning on her drive to work. “Good morning Sunshine” was her greeting. Sometimes I was sunshine, other times I just hoped she wouldn’t hear my morning rush voice. I mean, a little sister doesn’t mess with her big sister in the hierarchy scale. It was a short chapter in our lives, maybe six months or so. My sister was a brand new Christian, esperate, she always believed in God and respected her religion, but she had never known about repentance and inviting Christ into her heart. Wow! She had a radical conversion. Her hurt and pain were immediately replaced with joy and curiosity of this new found friend in Jesus. These phone calls were critical.  Thankfully with her, I never did face the truth that I didn’t pick up the phone to call her, I didn’t have to, morning was coming soon enough.

Through the years, picking up the phone and making a phone call has really been an issue for me. I have to be prompted by a “premonition” or just something extraordinary, like Holy Ghost conviction 😭 to make a call and even then, I put it off. Unfortunately, I have faced this uncovering with my sister Marina. She takes this neglect personal, except that it isn’t. Mira Rosalba, It’s just a phone call, it can be done while you pack Bens lunch, it can be done at any time, but it isn’t. And, here’s where I’m grateful for mi hermana. Thankfully, as much as it hurts us both, she makes me aware of my neglect and like Patty she is frustrated with me and we work through the offenses. Also, thankfully she doesn’t cancel me out of her life or herself out of mine. I know I have her loyal and strong support and I believe she knows she has mine too. 

 I am grateful for my patient and sometimes impatient siblings, we are family and they love me y le doy gracias a Dios in this Thanksgiving season that they keep on calling me. Y por supuesto that I am grateful for the DIY works of art that will come my way again through my sweet grandkids.