Blog, Ramblings, Writing

Writing Warm-Up

Here’s the thing about writing: it really is something you need to do every day. Or, if not every day, then regularly and consistently. If you don’t, you begin to rust on the sides, to stiffen, so that when you do sit down and write again, each word comes out painfully slow with a silent umph as your mind adjusts.

At least, that’s how I’m feeling right now, and really, I’ve only had a small hiatus of about two weeks.

When classes ended, I cheered because I was going to finally have some consistent writing time during the week my son was still in school, before we left to Disney, before Christmas came, before the craziness of the holidays consumed me. And even in that craziness, I had been sure, so sure, that I’d get in some writing time. Unfortunately, life happened. My hubby was off and we had Christmas shopping left to do (which I will never again leave to the last minute–please hit me if I do). That week, I only had one day, about four/five hours, for writing, and those hours were spent on revising one leveled reader draft and writing another leveled-reader. I didn’t work on my novel. The following week, when we went to Disney, I didn’t write. I took notes in my notebook about an amazing restaurant we went to for a blog I wanted to write, but that’s about it. I haven’t written said blog. Last week, I had to stay up for a couple of hours and I did finally work on my novel. I reworked some of the scenes into chapters, but then exhaustion got the best of me and I had to put that down. And I haven’t been able to completely shake the exhaustion and cloud that have moved in on me.

So today, I said enough’s enough. I need to write. I’ve come upstairs, closed myself in my writing room, lit some incense, plugged in the ear phones, and poised myself to write. Instead of the words flowing out easily, though, I sat staring at the screen. What the hell do I write? The words didn’t come. I realized my mind is rusty, though I’m not sure if it’s because of the cloud that’s still hanging around or if it’s because of the small lapse in writing over the past couple of weeks. I don’t like it. And I hear the sage advice I’ve received about writing: just keep writing, every day, something.

So here I am, writing something, warming up. Please excuse the sweat marks as I get myself back in gear.

Blog, Ramblings, Writing

Christmas Eve Thoughts

There’s nothing better than spending Christmas Eve with family, except maybe spending it with family you don’t see often, along with those you see every day, in a manner that reminds you of your childhood.

I was blessed to have that kind of Christmas Eve.

We drove the almost-two-hour trek to my cousin’s house where this year’s celebration was being held. Making this Christmas that more special was the fact that family from Colombia and Germany were joining us. Though we were missing some family, this was the largest gathering we’d had in a while! I sat with my cousins, and we started with the “Remember when?” We giggled and laughed, and I swear time shifted and we were teenagers again, at my aunt’s townhouse, when she lived in Miami, sitting in the front steps and talking about boys.

Once everyone was there, we started novena. Colombians partake in novenas, where, for the nine days leading up to the birth of El Nino Dios on Christmas Day, we gather with family, sing villancicos (Christmas songs), and recall the story of the birth of Christ. The last of the novenas is read on Christmas Eve. Our family is no exception, and though I might not hold onto that tradition every day, I do try to make at least a few novenas, especially if there will be a large group. They’re one of my favorite traditions. This year’s Christmas Eve novena, though, was even more special. My uncles took out their guitars, my aunt passed out the maracas, panderetas, and other noise makers, and the signing commenced. We sand Tutaina, Los Peces en el Rio, Antontiruliroliro, A la Nanita Nana. We ate bunuelos, natilla, empanadas and arroz con leche. Then we passed around the book with the novena readings and those of us brave enough to trying out our rusty Spanish read our part. When it all ended, my aunt read some thoughts she’d penned earlier that day, about love, and family, and their mother (my grandmother) celebrating with us in spirit, and about never forgetting the love that was promised with the birth of El Nino Dios. It was beautiful, and most of us cried. Good crying. We were happy and blessed because we were together.

Isn’t that what Christmas is about? About the love that began because God sent his only Son to Earth because he LOVED us?

And so what if Christmas really didn’t happen on December 25. So what if the celebrating straddles the solemn and the festive. It’s a time to rejoice and love!

Yesterday, I was blessed because it was a day spent with family, first my husband’s, then my own. In each of these homes, the promise of family and love was present, and we enjoyed something more precious than any tangible gift can provide: we enjoyed each other and the gift of family, and love.

It’s days (and nights) like yesterday, when family comes together, that I’m reminded family is the thread that holds our past, our present, and our future together. I am grateful and blessed to have such an amazing family, immediate and extended.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!


Blog, Health, Ramblings

Fall, Back?

The weather in South Florida is finally starting to cool off. The stagnant heat of the summer has gone, and in its place is a cool breeze to offset the warm day, beautiful clear skies, and lower humidity. It’s awesome (though it would be even more awesome if the temperature dropped just a bit more. Our highs are still between 75 and 85 degrees.

But what I really love is that the cooler temperatures mean the start of the holiday season.  We start decorating with fall in mind since September. We bring out pumpkins, scarecrows, cinnamon sticks and our home is decked out in harvest decor. For Halloween, we stick to the “cutesy” decorations– having a four-year-old really makes me want to stay away from any gore and brains and zombies. While I might love my vampires, I don’t plan on exposing my son to these just yet. And I certainly don’t want nightmares and interrupted sleep (from him).

We had the time change two weekends ago, right after Halloween, and while I normally grumble about dusk coming earlier, I’ve actually been enjoying starting the day a bit earlier. It means we’ve been on time to school and work! My son is going to bed slightly earlier, and I’ve had some more quiet time at night. And in the mornings, we’re up by 6:30, which gives us enough time to handle the morning tasks without falling behind.

This semester has gone by faster than previous ones. It’s bittersweet because I have some great students, and I’m going to miss the classroom interactions after the term is over. I always hope students keep in touch because something that makes me love my job as a teacher is seeing them move on, seeing them graduate, get jobs–succeed. It makes me proud.

I’ve also been, in some ways, more stable (health-wise). I think I’ve learned to listen (for the most part) to my body and I rest when I need to. The medicines and extra vitamins have helped, too, and so I’ve been able to get part of my life back. But my body keeps me in check. Just when I start getting too comfortable with a certain routine, it reminds me I need to take it easy. This has been a day-by-day process, but I’m relieved I am feeling better than I was this time last year. The only hiccup now is that I have gallstones (eeek!), which explains some stomach-related issues, so now I wait for my follow-up with the gastroenterologist. Gotta keep things interesting, right?

On the writing front, I’ve been on an adrenaline rush because I’m ecstatic that I’ve been able to keep up. I had my doubts, what with the stress of the semester, but I’m almost done for this term! And I’m going places with my project that I had only hoped. It’s really let me appreciate the creative process when it comes to longer projects. My characters surprise me each day, and the satisfaction I feel when I finish writing the scenes, even if they’re not perfect or I might not keep them, is overwhelming. I am making progress. It’s taking shape. I understand why this process is likened to giving birth: because after you’re done, you feel like you’ve created life, with blood, sweat and tears (clichés, anyone?). You are given the role of creator, and once you’ve created, you follow your characters as their story becomes clear through writing and rewriting. It’s beautiful. And painful. And frustrating (especially when you go from the euphoria of a particularly smooth scene to the agony of trying to write during a block).

I wouldn’t change this for the world.

Blog, Ramblings

Moment in time

Though I don’t like working late, I do like that I get to witness how the sky turns pink and violet as the sun sets, and how the black birds fly in bursts, then rest on the power lines. If I lower the windows to the car, I hear the familiar cawing and shrieking; it reminds me so much of my late afternoon walks with my mom, when I was a child, as we passed by the “bird hotel,” like my mom called it, because in those late afternoon hours, the only sounds and sights came from the birds. Those were simple, sweet times, moments in time that I cherish…

Blog, Ramblings

The end of an era

There’s not much different about today. I’m sitting at my usual Starbucks, watching the steady stream of people walk in for their morning fix: Americano, cafe late, white chocolate mocha, salted caramel mocha frapuccino, iced (or hot) tea. I see them chatting with the baristas and the manager. I take breaks, too, and talk about classes and books, and then turn back to my computer as the next group comes in.

But there’s a thick scent of sadness that tinges an otherwise beautiful, and crisp, Friday morning. Today’s their last day open.

The news, taped to the door about a month ago, came as a shock to most of us who’ve been faithful customers over the last decade. We shook our heads in disbelief, murmured how such a thing could be– this place was always full. In the mornings and afternoons, when you’d most likely find me here, the line many times passed the door. Their tables were almost alway occupied.

But still, we came. Because of the people that worked in this Starbucks. They are the reason this Starbucks rocked, why we’re sad its closing. I often think of the TV show Cheers, and the theme song plays in the back of my mind:

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.
You wanna go where people know,
people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows
your name.

This is my place. I’m going to miss it. I can get my coffee somewhere else, sure– that’s not what I’m going to miss. I’m going to miss Bo, Victoria, James, Ethan, and all the other friends I’ve made in this place. I’m going to miss talking about books and religion and life. I’m going to miss the smiles and jokes.

It’s the end of an era.

Blog, Ramblings, Writing

Ear-deep in anxiety

Nothing like mid-semester to bring on the anxiety. Part of me is wondering what the hell I was thinking… classes, papers, grading, writing, critique groups…. and doctor visits, anxiety attacks, pain and fatigue. Fun stuff.

But another part of me keeps saying I can do this, and I need to do this.

I started writing scenes for my story. I finally moved past the character sketches, past the talk –I’m finally in. And it feels great. So I have to hold onto those moments that push me forward and glide through this term.

Here’s me holding on…

Blog, Ramblings

Another birthday passed, a better year in sight

I’m normally a huge birthday hog. I love them. Perhaps it’s my attempt at making up for all the birthdays that passed with just a simple chuckle from my dad. “We didn’t celebrate birthdays in my day,” he’d say, year after year. “Everything was simple. The boys would get new pants. The girls would get a new dress.” That’s it. Of course, this is what I remember from my preteen/teen years. There are pictures that show, when I was a child (anywhere between 1 and 8), I did, indeed, have birthday parties. And my dad was part of them. I don’t actually remember these parties, though. So year after year, I make a big deal of my birthday. I don’t want to celebrate one day; I want a whole birthday month!

But this year, I was content in smaller scale celebration. No big party for me; no drinking, no late night. I didn’t even harp on everyone the way I normally would.

First of all, I can’t (or rather shouldn’t) mix alcohol with my meds, and second of all, I’m just too tired. My birthday was Wednesday, and after working all day, the last thing on my mind was going out to party. No sir. Instead, we went to my mom’s house and had a beautiful dinner with my mom’s signature dish –lasagna– and relaxed, talked, and laughed. It was perfect.

The day was actually one of my most relaxing birthdays, and though I was tired from my son’s recent night wakings, I really enjoyed it. I was surrounded by love. My students, the day before, surprised me with a small cake and sang “Happy Birthday.” My husband and son started my day with gifts, cards, big hugs, and a sweetly sung “Happy Birthday.” Friends and family called and left messages on Facebook. At every moment of the day, I felt loved. And that’s what birthdays are for, to celebrate the life of those we love, and to celebrate a year passed and to hope for a brighter, better year.

So I’m thirty-two now. The last two years have been a fast-moving, nausea-inducing ride. There have been too many unwelcome changes in my health that have hurled me into a third-life crisis. But this birthday brings with it hope for a better year.


Blog, Ramblings

My newest music obsession: Adele

I’m usually late when “discovering” new artists across genres. This is no exception. A few months ago, while flipping channels, I came across the music video for her song “Rolling in the Deep” and I was hooked. I frantically switched through radio stations to find her songs. I added an “Adele” station on Pandora (and, by doing so, was introduced to amazing artists and songs that I had somehow missed up to this point). And I purchased her most recent album, 21.

Her music is a wonderful mixture of jazzy, soulful notes, and it’s been my perfect companion for writing or drowning out the world around me.

Out of all her songs, though, my favorite is “Rolling in the Deep” -something about the rhythm and beat of this song just gets me every time. It’s one of those songs where, if I’m driving, I’ll open the sunroof (or lower the windows), raise the volume, and just let the music consume me. It’s got attitude.

Editing this post to add:

While my husband and son sleep, I sit in the still, quiet morning with my headphones on, listening to Adele’s recent album, and it hits me while listening to “Someone Like You” –her songs remind me of heart ache and passion, and they remind me of someone sitting in a (coffee) bar, writing to make sense of the world and herself. They also remind me, in some remote fashion, of the canciones de cantina from Colombia that my father and grandfather listened to. These were the songs in the local bars, where men would go drown their sorrows. “Senora Maria Rosa” is one that comes to mind right now. But that image is the only thing that links these two.

Perhaps it’s the strong keyboard presence in the music.

Perhaps it’s the lyrics.

Or perhaps it’s the hue of sadness that paints these songs.

Blog, Ramblings, Writing

4 AM Musings

Hello insomnia. Again. I want to be angry, but I can’t. Too tired.

I awoke at 3:30 from a combination of my sheets being tugged and my son whimpering. They woke me from a glorious dream: the agent I had recently queried about my picture book manuscript had answered my query with a yes, and that feeling of elation lasted me all of two minutes. I did what any other normal writer with a recent submission who wakes up in the middle of the night with such a vivid dream would do; I checked my email. No email.

I went back to bed and urged myself to go back to sleep. I turned left. I turned right. I flipped on my stomach, then to my back. Nothing. Sleep dissipated and left me stranded, so I called on the muses, hoping to get some good writing done. Unfortunately, it seems like they’re asleep, oblivious to my predicament.

So I’ll scribble and grade until I get tired or inspired and hopefully, I won’t be hating life too much later today.

Blog, Ramblings, Writing

Rude, Obnoxious People

We’ve become a nation of obnoxious, rude people.

I see it on the streets. Cars swerve and skirt around others cars. Drivers yell obscenities and make crude gestures I’m glad my son doesn’t yet understand. I sit behind the wheel and fume, careful to keep it to myself because the last thing I need is for road rage to kill me the way it did the man in the news, where his murder was witnessed by his eleven-year-old daughter.

I see it in the stores. Restaurants, retail–it’s all the same: customers demand without manners. They shove to get to the register first and then treat employees like last night’s leftovers. At Starbucks, voices rise and patrons spit out things like, “I said I wanted it heated to 150 degrees. This is not 150 degrees – do it over!” Of course, the demands may vary, but the tone and body language are always the same.

I see it on TV. Shows like Bridezillas market the idea that rude, obnoxious people are funny and make money.

I see it in Little League, where grown men scream, punch, throw objects and kick, like toddlers having tantrums, because their son hasn’t proven their manhood by being the best.

Perhaps it’s always been this way. My father used to say this was a “primero yo, segundo yo, tercero yo” world–first me, second me, third me. I didn’t believe him then. I thought he was overly sensitive in his old age.

But now I’m not so sure. Maybe it’s just South Florida. Maybe it’s a big-city thing. Regardless, this is the world in which my son is growing up, and it scares me. I worry that no amount of “please” or “thank you” or of modeling behavior will save him from these rude, obnoxious people.