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A Hotter New You for 2023!

There are so many reactions to this post, loved it! 😮😆 Thanks Mitchteemley

Mitch Teemley

Note: This commercial isn’t real.

And neither are society’s beauty standards.

“For me, beauty says nothing. It is a still image on glossy paper. I am fascinated by imperfection, it is neither ugly nor flawed, it is the expression of life!”
~Isa Millot

P.S. What do you think of my newly-enhanced profile pic? (I corrected my thinning hair and weak chin.) ~Mitch

The New and Improved Me! (mitchteemley.com)

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How To Discover discover your Ethnicity

This might be a bit of a “rambling on” post as I try to fasten on to “something” and find myself in the discussion of ethnicity. 

My parents are Mexican immigrants, and I, their 8th child, was born and raised in the United States. I have always called myself Mexican, I don’t say “of Mexican descent”, just simply Mexican born in the U.S, es muy facil. Pero, at the same time, my fellow Americans, like my cold blooded Englishman will ask “Doesn’t that make you American of Mexican descent?” Like I said, it’s easy, I am Mexican-American.

The Pocha Treatment

When I was in Mexico recently, after hearing me speak, the people I was around probed into my birthplace. My strong latina features could have settled the matter, pero my “American accent” (I didn’t know I had an “American” accent) pointed me al otro lado. De donde eres? Where am I from? Where exactly was I born? I’m from California, Porque? Why were they even questioning? Somehow that bothered me. Was I gonna get the “Pocha” treatment? Where there is an immediate disdain for American born “Mexicans” if their Spanish is not fluent.

One lady assumed that I was born in Mexico, not an outlandish assumption I guess, but then I spoke, y pues, if I’m from  America I will speak like an American, a Mexican-American that is. Are you tracking? I found myself explaining a few times that while I was born in America, my parents were from Jalisco, this was my Mexican card. There are lots of feelings that can arise in this distinction, a defensiveness about my Spanglish, a fear of rejection, a stubbornness that says, I love America. I’m different from the “real” Mexicans, but I’m not, it’s in my blood, my roots and my descendancy. 

I didn’t want to be treated as a Pocha, or criticized for speaking bad Spanish. When I’m speaking with Mexicans that speak Spanish fluently, I am very aware of my Spanglish. My brain works extra hard to translate English words into Spanish, I sometimes get frustrated that these Mexicans don’t “Spanglish.” After repeated attempts at Spanglish, it gets messy at times. I tend to apologize for my “broken Spanish.”

Gracias a Dios, that my familia and my friends were very gracious and patient. I didn’t feel disrespected or mocked, my “Americanness” didn’t keep them from connecting with me or embracing me. When we were cozy with each other, I appreciated when they corrected me and they enjoyed the Spanglish they picked up from me.

En Conclusion:

Those days in Mexico with my flaco, were much needed, our friendship flourished and our marriage covenant was strengthened. Mi esposo, did very well in Mexico. In full immersion mode, he enjoyed the hospitality of our Mexican culture and he used his gift of patience as he listened to the fast Spanish talk. He was able to understand bits and pieces and stayed engaged in the conversation. When things got out of his reach he asked me for help 🙂 After 34 years of being infused with our romantic language, he should himself be a fluent “Spanglisher.” Why hadn’t I taught him? Pero, I have always pushed that responsibility on him. My gringo felt the admonishment and so he practiced the few words he already knew and was rewarded with encouragement.

Embracing My Multicultural Life

While I was in Mexico only too aware of my language shortcomings, my familia didn’t laugh at me or criticize the many bloopers, they embraced this Mexican American girl and lavished a grand opening to their lives and welcomed me and my Benjamin with open arms. I am looking forward to further connection with them and looking forward to sharing with them how God has blessed me in my Christian, American and Mexican cultures; it is a rich life.

Mexican American Girl Goes To Jalisco

When I was growing up, I heard tiny little snippets about my parents’ lives in Jalisco, Mexico. I would toss these nuggets of information carelessly to a corner of my mind and file them away, like a receipt that might be needed one day. Luego, during those caregiving years of  la tercera edad, my apa at 80 years old was telling his life story. I was hearing him speak about things I’d never known. I took notes and fact checked him, asi es, I googled the info he was sharing, que sin vergüenza! As if google knows more than my apa!  

 I felt like the scales had fallen from my eyes. I wanted to know more about my parents, my roots. Something in me was born. I gathered all the snippets in my memory and I asked my apa for more details. A longing to see the places my parents grew up in sparked. I desired to meet and reconnect with my family in Mexico. I wanted to organize the stories, to share them with my family. A flame of curiosity and discovery had been lit. I wanted to go to Jalisco, Mexico to retrace my fathers experiences and discover more about my mother.

The cares of his life and mine, minimized the fire to a smoldering wick, but it did not go out. De ves en cuando I would make comments about my desire to go to Jalisco one day. Meanwhile, I organized my stories and I gleaned memories from my tia Chepina and my tio Chuy. This kept me writing.  Ben would, in his cool manner, acknowledge that algun dia we might go to Mexico.  I tended to squelch the flame with “small minded” thinking. Es que, it could be too expensive and besides I didn’t really know my family in Mexico, it was just too much to hope for a trip with husband to Jalisco, a family reunion and romance, at our age? But the dream persisted.

As Ben and I have been facing the empty nest we have been working on our friendship. Ahora, now that we’re not so busy with raising children we are “getting to know” each other again. I’ve dared to be vulnerable and share my heart with him. He knows of my hope to write and publish my fathers stories. I’ve let him see and hear that yearning I have about going to Guadalajara and connecting with my family history. 

One nice practice that he has started, has been to leave me an occasional note as he leaves to work. Even though getting words out is hard for him, he knows I need them, so he strives to “dwell with me with understanding” He doesn’t want his prayers to be hindered. ☺️ Fijate, for being a cold blooded Englishman of few words, his notes always stir my heart. His last note is what re-sparked the flame in me. 

“I want us to plan this trip to Mexico as soon as possible. Before NH. I don’t want to put it off too much. I’m praying you can get these stories published and books”

Imaginate, my heart leaped as I noted his confidence in me and his desire to be in all of my life, including the long buried raíces of Mexico. Luego! As I was organizing myself for the day, we both got a text from our pastor asking us to pray for his upcoming Mexico trip. He was going to visit our Missionary couple in Mexico City; Misael and Elma Moreno and I responded in jest “take us with you” He opened the door and de repente!, while Ben and I were busy with our lives, focused on what mattered, like our marriage, the opportunity was before us. Like a whirlwind, the possibilities were stirring me up. Sera posible? When we talked that night, Ben was trying to slow me down, travel plans were not that easy to make, we needed to think about it first.  Pero, before we knew it, we were scrambling to find a family connection and rescheduling his clients. They were willing to wait for their house to be painted. Maybe we would also go to Jalisco? The obstacles were cleared out of the way, and we shopped for good deals on flights. 

The state of Mexico was our first stop. Our missionary couple needed some good ole fashion connection with their church family. I was excited to meet face to face some of the people I had been praying for. I had not expected to get connected with my Mesoamerica roots and before I knew it I was visiting the pyramids in Teotihuacan! 

Finalmente, I went to Jalisco. It had been over 40 years since I’d been to Guadalajara, the land of El Tapatio. there I would reconnect with mi familia.

I was anxious to visit Etzatlan  and El Amparo, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like, what would I see that connected me to my parents? I worried that at the last minute that part of the trip would be canceled, what torment that was! I hoped to see traces of the famoso  American Mining Company, the builders of my apas hometown.

En conclusíon:

Quizas it is silly that to me “going to Mexico” was such a big deal, people travel all the time, plans are just a click away. Yo soy ranchera, I get timid and I fall prey to fear. For me this trip was a pilgrimage. I uncovered some secrets, I found some missing pieces of my parents story, and even better I met family members I’ve never known. Finally, I am able to put a setting to some of the stories my apa told me.

A veces we pray, forgetting that our prayers, our petitions and our desires matter to God. In his timing He answered my prayer. There is a wealth of treasure that I came back home with and I’m excited to share my treasure and get back on track with my book writing. 

Gathering New and Old Memories in Guadalajara

Since my days with my apa, a desire, more than just a dream, has been alive in me. I have wanted to go to Guadalajara Jalisco in Mexico. I want to see where my parents grew up and connect with my familia in Guadalajara. ¡Se me ha concedió!

The last time I was in Guadalajara was when I was 15 years old. And the only time I went further into Mexico than Tijuana was with Ben on our honeymoon to Mazatlán. Entonces, Mexican-American girl, went to Mexico. Así muy ranchera, timid about my Spanish which is mostly Spanglish, I went. My familia in Guadalajara kept saying “Que dices?” every time I slipped and “Spanglished” ¡Hijole! This strong Latina woman was too aware of my American accent, but I forged on. This trip was an answer to my prayer.

Beautiful memories were made as I visited my fathers youngest sister. Tía Consuelo is now 79 and fighting hard to stay at peace at home, her mind is betraying her. Then, I visited my apas closest brother’s family. Tio Antonio was 94 when he passed away in 2020 just before my apa. I was nervous about visiting his wife, Tia Camilla and her kids, mis primas. Tía Camilla is 96, and in a pretty good mental state. I love the friendly open manner in Mexican culture. “Mi casa es su casa” is practiced with such gracious love. I felt welcomed and the energy of reconnection was felt. Maggi, my cousin, is the primary caregiver to Tia Camilla and I compared notes about the brothers, our fathers. She truly wanted to know how Tio Manuel (that’s my apa) had lived. She wanted to know if my apa was as stiff and awkward about hugs and love like her dad, from my experience the Zepedas are a pretty awkward bunch as far as hugging and public displays of affection go, yet we are fierce about love and loyalty.

It was a wonderful reunion. I hope to stay connected, technology has removed many of the obstacles. 

I have walked away with some treasures and I’m going to share some with you here.

How to Get the Girl the Old Fashioned Way

Since we’re not so past El día del amor y amistad, I want to share a sweet short version of my tio Antonio and Camilla’s Cupid moment. This was her account. 

My apa and his brother  Antonio were on their way home from el Norte. The small colonia was buzzing with excited young ladies, they knew the hermanos were coming. Tía Camilla said that they all seemed hopeful to capture one of those brothers. She didn’t include herself in the “race” but her eyes twinkled at the memory. 

Camilla had an edge over the other girls since she was a favorite of my abuela Rosario. They both loved to garden and Camilla was always available for her when her flowers needed watering.

When Manuel and Antonio arrived, I imagine them walking very confidently with money in their pocket with the Levi jeans swag, Camilla was quietly present as they made their way around town toward the place where everyone gathered for swimming. Hijole! I forgot to ask her more details, like what did that look like. As I’m writing the warm fuzzy feelings of a love story are filling in all those details she left out. 

One day as Camilla was preparing food for selling at her puesto, she looked out her kitchen window y de repente she saw them. Here’s how I imagine the scene, cómo las películas. When she saw the two brothers were heading her way she made sure to be noticed. Antonio noticed and after a while he came to her window and asked, “aren’t you going to offer me something to eat?” “Pásale, come in” she told him.  She looked at me with that twinkle in her eye “after that we continued our courtship” and added a little later “All the girls were hoping to get their attention. Pero, mi and Chuy (mi ama) got it” These two sister inlaws became dear friends later. Tía remembered that Antonio never left al Norte again, “Que bonitos recuerdos son” She quietly appreciates the memories she has.

They were married for over 60 years, they had 14 children and raised 9.

En conclusión:

I am not going to lie, I was disappointed I wanted more, much more details, like how did you “feel” when you saw Antonio? Pero pues, I loved seeing her eyes twinkle with a smile as she remembered her youth which included my apa and ama and I’m grateful to have this little nugget for my treasure chest.

How Dementia Dealt With Us

I started writing this piece when me and my sister took care of our apa, in the throes of the battle against Dementia. It is a cruel disease. It provoked my apa to try to do things he could no longer do. Then when he tried and failed he was angry, because while his mind had him wandering around in his past he was strong and vibrant again. My sister and I could only watch him from the outside of that prison, dementia would lock him in. Every time we reached in to help our apa, he would pull us in and we felt that our father was against us.

For us, sundown was synonymous to confusion and anxiety. as dementia lurked in the shadows. Pero, aveces we managed to redirect our apa and dementia would scurry away, then we’d get confident that it was going to be a peaceful night and we’d let our guard down. On those days, Dementia took advantage of us all.

Caged

When are you taking me home?

Apa, you are home

Que? This is not my home

You think I’m stupid?

Where’s my wallet?

Where’s my keys?

They’re in your pocket

 Ya vamonos!

Where’s Lupe?

She died last year

Que? I saw her last night

I must be losing my mind

Where’s my mother?

She died a long time ago

Why didn’t anyone tell me?

Que memoria!

Where’s my wallet?

Where’s my keys?

They’re in your pocket

Ya Estoy listo

Where’s my car?

I can’t see my car

Apa, It’s right outside 

Y mis llaves?

Tell me about your family?

Your husband repairs tires?

My husband paints houses

How’s the tire business?

When are you taking me home?

I brought you home apa

Don’t you recognize the pictures?

Estas loca, Take me home. 

En Conclusíon

Aging was hard to see and deal with for sure. I hated seeing my father so fragile, it was unnatural to my “little girl” heart. Y, our own bodies were feeling a touch of that aging as fatigue enveloped us while we attended to apa. Aparte, the demencia, waited to pounce. It was a prison closing in on my apa. We learned to recognize the moments of clarity and enjoy his stories. Y tambien, we did learn to recognize when the tornadoes of confusion were approaching. Sometimes they pulled us in and we were exhausted. On other occasions we managed to avoid the chaos that demencia brought. On those days, we watched our apa in the midst of battle from the outside. Confusion, frustration and anger brought us to tears as we fought to un-tie our hands and help him.

Now as I look back, puedo ver mejor. I wish I could say, we won! We kicked that devil to the curb y apachurramos al diablo! I wanted his strength and mind to return, and see my apa whole again. Despite his frailty he stayed and fought. De repente, the faith and knowledge of God that our apa carried in his mind for 93 years, flooded his heart. De veras. At 94, 95, and touching 96 years of age when he walked through his darkest valley, he did call out to God, I had never really seen his faith revealed in such a manner. In the darkness God was with him and he knew it. God was with us too, through it all, that is how we managed, his name is God With Us.

Jeremiah Loves To Share

Mi nieto Jeremiah loves to share. Ya se, I’m gonna sound like that abuela that thinks her grandchildren are the nicest, cutest and smartest en todo el mundo. Y pues, asi es 😀

Jeremiah Joseph is 3, going on 15!  This mind is constantly working out ways to get the best and the most in any situation. He is a funny little guy. Since he hasn’t quite figured out how to hide his face, or he hasn’t discovered the poker face, we all can see his  carita thinking and scheming on ways to get “that” thing into his hands. So sweet and sneaky are his ways, that he’s turning me into an abuela alcahueta! I’ll have to define what I mean, porque when I googled it, I found too many “other” meanings. This term is used when a grandmother gives her grandchild what he or  she wants. Sometimes she will turn blind a eye to his sneakiness, as long as they are not in danger. Mira.

El otro dia, he left the booster chair he was playing on for a moment and when he returned his sister Rachel had taken over. Oh what indignation! He worked at pushing her off but being the only person in the house that Rachel can bully, she pushed him back and the drama escalated. I couldn’t enjoy my platica with their mom. So again, trying to not be an alcahueta, I said “Sorry Jeremiah, you left it and now you have to wait until Rachel is done.” Rachel gloated, because she won. I said, “In 5 minutes Rachel will get off” His eyes shifted as he studied what he heard, then he said, “Toe- K. Letmesee.” After the translation, I said “See what Jeremiah?” He pointed to my wrist watch and pulled my hand down. He knew it measured time and having no concept of time, he was bound and determined to wait those eternal 5 minutes.

Another time, JeJo asked his dad for soda and the answer he got was no. His mind worked on how to get a yes. No problem, first he comes to me whining for a drink and of course I stop and listen. How is it that his need for a drink hasn’t been met? Can’t they see his distress? I get him water, and he whines that I didn’t give him soda. I make a stand, I will not be an alcahueta! And I get really tough and say, “stop whining, change your voice.” Then I ask him, “What did daddy say?” His mind is processing, I can see it in his shifting eyes. He carefully, with a big boy voice says “Daddy said no, but D’ma I need a drink. Of this one. Please.” 

That soda incident landed him in a 5 minute time out. I fought off that temptation to ignore his dads command and say, “tenga mi amor” Daddy didn’t mean it. His push back was too much, I sent him to my room for a “5 minute” time out. A strong latina woman, with a “chancla hypothesis” in her roots, resorted to a time out. Hijole! That smells alcahueta-ish. Time outs were not in my parenting handbook so I definitely used that tool wrong that day. Mira lo que paso.

Jeremiah went to the room, after his several attempts to tell me how sorry he was for crying, ves how he used his words. He wasn’t crying, he had been whining and getting louder to the point of a temper tantrum. I simply rescued him before that mess and sent him on a time out.  While he was in the room, I was busy, I didn’t notice how quiet he was, eventually, more than 5 minutes later I said “oh! Jeremiah you can come out now” He comes out sheepishly saying. “D’ma I want to share” After translation (I have a better  tool than google translators; I have his big sisters or mom), Jeremiah had discovered his D’pas candy stash and was quietly enjoying his time out. I said, “that candy is D’pas, you need to ask him for it.” His eyes again were calculating. He went to his apa, who was relaxing on the floor and handed him the candy. He sat on his legs and declared to his apa that he wanted to share. He asked everyone to raise their hands if they wanted to share. Everyone did, except D’pa. Case closed.  D’pa must share like everyone else, especially he should share with him. Jeremiah got a portion of the candy and then he decided D’pa had not shared the right way and asked for the bigger piece.

En conclusion:

When Jeremiah finds a treasure for his use or consumption. He just wants to see it, touch, share it, then keep it and honestly now that I’m in abuelahood, I totally think that it’s ok for him to be cute.

A Lesson On Nicknames

Latinos love nicknames. They are second nature to us, a quick assessment of a person or situation y de repente a nickname is formed. They roll out almost as soon contact is made, whether it’s a friendly connection or not. My apas favorite show, El Chavo del Ocho, every character is nicknamed and they aren’t necessarily cute or appealing nicknames. La Bruja del 71 the “Witch in Apt. 71” earned her nickname because she was a scary old maid.

Nicknames are muy especial but they can sound goofy. A nickname is birthed from an emotion that comes from within. I allow myself to give way to this with sweet little babies. That feeling will roll around in my head, simmering, de repente, I’ve given that little baby a nickname, and most times it comes out for all the world to hear. 

I remember  my ama with her grandchildren. In her arms as she stared at the baby the nicknames were forming. It started in her eyes, her heart bursting with love. Murmurings and noises mixed with words came from deep within her and out of her mouth. I was six (feeling very grown up) when my first nephew arrived. Once in a while she would pull us in and love on us and talk in “that ” way to my little brother and me. It was mushy gibberish and though I really really enjoyed it, I couldn’t let her go on too long, after all I was a big girl now. Even at that age, I too felt the need to call my sobrinito those sweet names. I loved my amas baby talk, “Hay que Cosafina. Que Chulo esta el” If I translate it, I’ll kill it. 

Phrases that make no sense, and yet, they make total sense. My sister Patty and I came up with our own cuddling words for the baby or our perrito Chapo, it didn’t matter. We got as close as we were allowed to get, then we changed our tone to “baby gurgles” and said sweet little murmurings like “Kernitos” it was silly gibberish, to the “non baby gurglers” speaker. Kernitos meant sweet, desirable, squeezable, cuddly little thing. It was the official name me and Patty used for all the cuddly babies that we adored. Comprendes? 

Many of the people I know have nicknames. Some of them try really hard to shake them off, erase them off the face of the planet but after a while they become part of a person’s DNA, ni modo, those “sweet nothings” have stuck, sometimes you’ll hear a grown man addressed as “Papas” Hijole!

.

Nicknames come in different sizes and sounds. A nickname will roll off a tongue easily, musically, with words flowing together like “Chiki Chiki Boom Boom” That was the nickname my SIL used for her sweet baby. Thankfully he graduated to a more acceptable nickname, although sometimes she likes to remind him of that nickname. 

Nicknames that Point to Physical traits:

Asi es, when a trait stands out, we call it, if it’s safe to do 🤨 Mi familia:

  • Flaco, that’s one of the names I call my Benjamin. Porque? Well because he’s thin, and I’m not.
  • Flaca is what I call my friend Lucy, she’s always kept her slim figure after three kids. She never had to work at weight loss. I shake my head at the unfairness of it all!
  • Guero is what my sister in law calls my son Thomas Walter because he has light skin compared to me and my brothers. 
  • Chaparro is what my apa called my brother Fernando because he was the little guy of the first 3 sons. It means short in stature.
  • Chapo was our dog. A short loyal little mutt. This nickname was a short version of Chaparro.
  • Pelos: that was my apas nickname as a kid. Porque? He had a wild mane of hair.

Shortened names 

  • Cita my niece by marriage, was probably once called Sierracita.
  • Meño, Cita’s husband, is Emmanuel. He used to be Chiki Chiki Boom Boom!
  • Cassi is short for Cassandra… 
  • Mari is Maricella. She started off as Mari Munga (Moonga). I saw my first granddaughter looking like she had a mean mug on a sweet face. It just rolled out. Thankfully that didn’t last..
  • Lala is not the yogurt, but mi hija Daniella with an extra La.
  • Yaya is also Daniella. My nietecito Jeremiah calls her “tia Yaya” 
  • Vey is short for Nevaeh, my second granddaughter.
  • Jejo is my grandson Jeremiah Joseph
  • Mas is my nephew Tomas.
  • Turi is also my nephew, Arturito
  • Mundo is my tio Reymundo.
  • Lupe is my big sister, she was Maria Guadalupe.

Classic Mexican Nicknames In My Familia:

  • Chuy was my mothers nickname for Maria de Jesus. It was also my tio Jesus, my apas brother. 
  • Cuca was my tia Refugia
  • Chuyito was my cousin Jesus
  •  Chepina is my tia Josefina. This is the female version of Jose who is sometimes called Chepe. 

The Nickname That Would Not Be Left Behind:

Sometimes nicknames are born because a small child pronounced it with a twist.

My ama loved telling the story of my youngest brother’s nickname.

I used to be the baby of the family, until I wasn’t.  There I was,1 year and 13 days into my babyhood, when my ama came home with another baby!  I had to face the hard reality of being bumped off the “baby throne.” Me imagino, that I wasn’t taking it too well sine my ama had to convince me that he,the new infant was the baby now, such a hard blow. She would tell me “Mira el chichì”  (Chichì is a nickname for a baby.) She said Chichì and I repeated “Chicha.” One day when our oldest brother Angèl heard  it, he laughed and liked it so much that he christened the baby Chicha. That’s what he gets for bumping me into big sisterhood way too soon. We all called him Chicha. The tios, tias and primos, the neighborhood kids and the little league coaches. It’s well over 50 years and my sweet little brother, Hector Manuel can’t shake off that apodo

En Conclusíon:

Not everyone gets a nickname, sori. My nickname is Rosie, but in highschool it was also Shorty, the physical trait nickname. Gracias a Dios that I wasn’t Cejas, because I can have bushy eyebrows, or Gordita, I’ve got enough complejos! More hang ups about my weight are unnecessary. 

How about you? Did you get a nickname? 

7 Habits of Optimistic People

Oh happy day! February 2nd is National Optimist Day. A person who tends to be hopeful and confident about the future is an Optimist. They can see good things even in bad situations. Today I’m celebrating optimism and Optimistic people

Optimists practice good habits. Fijate:

  1. They are grateful, even on bad days. (When I give bad days too much emotion I reach for the obvious and thank God for his provision. I’ve been practicing a gratitude journal for a few years, ever since I read the book called The Gratitude Diaries . Two rules for myself- Todos los dias, recognize two things that I’m grateful for and write it down. It keeps me mindful of Gods daily blessings, especially on the “not so optimistic” days)
  2. They give to others: time, money, work. (We’ve all been given talents to use. I do some of my giving through cooking & serving food)
  3. They are interested in others (I love to talk, and when I talk with my sister, siempre, we talk over each other, but we also enjoy hearing what good things others have to share)
  4. They surround themselves with upbeat positive people (I love my family and my extended church family, we are a “well rounded bunch” as God is growing us)
  5. They Don’t listen to Naysayers (I have to turn them off or I get dragged through anxiety)
  6. They forgive others (Jesus helps me here, he holds my hand, leading me through his example)
  7. They smile. (I grin mostly, but it’s hard to tell with my strong latina woman seriousness. Does that count?)

Optimists  choose to be optimistic consistently. They show their good side almost always and even in times of crisis, they choose to believe that  “this too will pass”

Those 7 habits are good goals to aim at. Y pues as a Christian the Holy Spirit is working in my heart. I can be grateful, giving, concerned, positive, forgiving and smiling. When pessimism comes around and wants to sit at my table I have to be intentional and push it off. Asi es, on those bad days I must do like the Optimist and look beyond the situation, control my thoughts and move forward, especially because I know where my hope lies. 

My Optimistic friends:

 I surround myself with optimistic visionary people that I love and respect. They are an anchor in my life. They always come with victory in their steps. Here’s just 2 examples, like the younger generation says “they are goals!” Two couples that absolutely shine in life.

Mike and Inez: She’s mi fiel amiga, and he got to make her his wife.  Inez is one of those people that seemed unreal to me. My first encounter with her was unbelievable, there I was ready to make her feel welcomed and loved at church because that’s what you do when new people come to your church. Inez made me feel quite loved and welcomed!  I walked away thinking “This girl can’t be real! She’s too sweet.”  Hijole! Con mucha pena, I must admit that I was already a Christian, pero God knew I needed some good influencers in my life to get me on the optimist track. 

Inez is friendly, outrageously generous, a good listener, compassionate, honest and loyal. She makes me feel wanted and special. When Mike, her husband came along he swooped her off her feet, now together, as one, they fuel each other’s optimism. They are “pioneering” a church, the vision of our fellowship. I am eternally grateful for the pioneer who brought the gospel to my life. Pioneering  comes with much sacrifice, Pero you wouldn’t know it seeing the constant smile on their faces. 

Misael and Elma, one of my favorite couples. They are people magnets, drawing people to themselves, making it look so easy to be happy all the time. 

Misael is always smiling, de veras. His smile isn’t necessarily contagious, because by now I’d be smiling regularly, verdad? Pero, Misa, as we all call him, definitely affects you with his smile, it’s a friendly smile that starts at his eyes. Then there’s Elma, his wife. A spicy, hot tamale Mexican woman! She is always laughing and making you laugh with her wisecracks. She really is never uptight about things. She works with what she has, flows with the punches or punches right back, with a grin of course. They truly enjoy life and invite you into their joy, they make room for people in their lives, practicing those habits of the optimist. Recently they answered the call as missionaries, back into their homeland! Having been raised in the good ole U.S.A. they do miss the comforts and liberties they had here, but with joy they left it. De veras. Y ahora, they are having the time of their lives as God enlarges their borders.

Mis Amigos, even when their not posing that smile is always shining 🙌

En conclusion:

Have a happy day, make time to thank the optimist in your life, they really do know how to do life well. Gracias a Dios for the optimists in the world that know how to lighten the load of a heavy day, y que Dios los bendiga.

A Visit to Los Angeles

I went to Los Angeles last weekend. Usually L.A. traffic keeps us away, pero I’m glad I didn’t stay away last weekend.  We picked up our friends from San Pedro Port of Los Angeles, after a world class cruise in Mexico. We planned to spend the day as their tour guides, except that our East Coast friends were much better informed about L.A. than we were. For many relaxed San Diegans, L.A. is mostly about Disneyland, LAX, smog and traffic congestion. Y para mi, it’s also about my tia Chepina

Whenever I know I’m going to be in Los Angeles, I’m anxious to check on her. She and her husband, my tio Raymundo, aka Mundo, live alone. He needs 24 hour care and supervision. My cousins work together and help with his care, but she’s the only one who is constantly with him! Es mucho. My Apas hermanita,  is now 82. Tia Josefina is mostly known as Chepina. We Mexicans, and Mexican Americans have a love of creating nicknames for people and things. As I investigated the “science” behind nicknames I was hit with words such as syncopation and apheresis, imediatamente! I had nicknames for these words; cinco y fer! Except that they didn’t necessarily follow the rules of the definitions. Por supuesto que I’ll have to do a blogpost about Mexican nicknames and the variations used in my family. 

Tia Chepina keeps me connected to my apa and she has been the glue of the Zepeda family, keeping her 3 brothers and their families in California connected to the family at large in Jalisco, Mexico. Honestamente, if it were not for Tia Chepina and my primos,  I would avoid L.A. altogether, except for the occasional LAX drive. It turned out to be a beautiful day in Los Angeles. 

Turistas

Our friends had one request for us as we prepared to see un poquito of the big city. George wanted to visit the grave of the man who was instrumental in the Azusa street revival; William J Seymour. Meanwhile Margie, his wife, had wondered about Hollywood and the Walk of Fame. These would be new experiences for us all. 

San Diego and L.A had been experiencing a torrent of rainy days, aunque any amount of rain for us Californians is a lot, I was anxious to see our sunny California weather y gracias a Dios it was a beautiful day. We walked along the Port enjoying the sun and breeze, then we headed to Evergreen cemetery in East L.A. It was a solemn moment. We rejoiced and hoped for the day that California would see this kind of revival again and right there among the gravestones we agreed in prayer, asking Jesus to bring salvation, hope and peace to our families. 

After the cemetery we decided to go to Azusa street, I didn’t realize how close we were to my tias house, but I had yet to make my request known. I felt silly to bring my friends with me. Derepente! Our car starting making a terrible scraping, scratching sound. Hijole! The brakes were screeching! Ben was confused because usually we hear and feel minimal symptoms to warn us that it’s time to replace them. After he checked them, not really sure which needed replacing, we googled the nearest auto parts store and very carefully drove there. We were in East L.A., we figured Ben would right there in the parking lot do the job. Pero, we had to drive somewhere else to do it, hijole! We didn’t know what to do. Luego, I said “Well I could call my tia Chepina, she might not be too far away.” She was delighted to hear from me. We were all so relieved, but we still had to get there. Again, back into L.A. traffic. Ben was being very cautious, but now we were not hearing the scratching and screeching. Hmm? As soon as it was safe Ben tested the brakes, it didn’t feel good, but it had to be done. No awful sounds, no dangerous skidding. When we arrived to her house he checked them more thoroughly. It was strange, but the brakes were fine, Ben speculated that maybe a small rock had gotten in there somehow. Margie and I chalked it up to God wanting me to check on tia

It was a beautiful short visit. She had made posole  for my primo but he wasn’t coming after all and I was thrilled to take his portion. Ahora si, George and Margie were going to have some authentic Mexican food, they used to think Del Taco was a good place for Mexican food. Neither Margie nor George were very hungry, but I warned them that you cannot refuse a strong latina woman’s food. They were glad they didn’t. 

Siempre, when I am with tia, she remembers my apa, that big brother who was so handsome in his blue jeans and cowboy hat. Quizas I’ve said it already pero, I love hearing it. My apa was a handsome vaquero. She loved remembering her own childhood, and  I soaked it all in. She was very attentive to my friends, hearing about their travels to Mexico and affirming  their love of La Costa, where they enjoyed those famous beach resorts.  My tio interjected with his  jokes and they laughed with him. It was a sweet moment. Tia needed the break and I needed to see that she was ok. It worked out perfectly.

En conclusion 

Los Angeles, The City of Angels, definitely felt like that last Saturday. It was a beautiful day with friends and laced with family. Y pues, we didn’t make it to Hollywood, sori Margie, but for me at least,  Tia Chepinas cooking and conversation was better than any sightseeing. Gracias a Dios for his protection and his attention to the details of our lives.

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?