Hello December

November was rough. Not only did I go through one of the worse flare-ups since I started this whole fibro/UCTD journey, but papers piled up and I got behind on writing and editing. I bowed out of Nano at 19K words–which hey, at least I got 19,000 words in TTWC! I’m okay with that. By Thanksgiving, I was coming up for air. Now, flare has ebbed, papers are getting graded, and I’ve had a moment of clarity in respect to Soul Mountain–something that was holding me back from completing suggested revisions. And in two weeks, I’m done with the semester. Rest and writing and family and cruise. Heck yeah!

December’s looking to be a great month–it’s already started that way! Look for lots of pictures of our cruise later in the month and this blog blowing up with posts temporarily. 😉

Then in January, I’m attending the SCBWI Miami Conference. If you’re in the area–or even if you’re not–it’s an amazing conference with industry professionals and authors, wonderful workshops, and fantabulous opportunity for meeting other writers and networking! I’m very much looking forward to it.

Happy writing, blog friends!

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Disney Cruise, Day 2 – Nassau

Monday morning we woke up around 9 am, much later than the usual 7:30 wake time for L, but who could blame him since it’d been around 10 pm the night before when we finally went to sleep and he’d barely napped the day before.

We got up, opened the curtains, and saw that we were arriving at Nassau. We had decided to stay on board instead of racing through Nassau with a toddler in tow and juggling nap time, snack time, and crankiness. Instead, we booked a relaxing spa treatment for couples, and the corresponding time in Flounder’s Nursery, all around L’s normal nap time. We threw on our bathing suits and headed to breakfast at Beach Blanket Buffet. This time, after piling all the food we could eat on each of our trays – eggs, bacon, Mickey waffles, Mickey chocolate waffles, biscuits, an array of fruits, and some other breads – we made our way with the help of the friendly staff to the outside seating area. With L in his Mickey high chair, we all delighted in the morning sun and breeze and the view of Nassau’s port. Atlantis was visible from our seats, so we snapped away as many pictures as we could.

After breakfast, we discovered the Cove, the intimate, adults only coffee/bar lounge area towards the front of the ship. There, they steamed some milk for L, and made me a Disney version of Starbucks’s caramel macchiato. Let me tell you, I’m a Starbucks fanatic, but Disney’s version was almost as good, if not better!

We hung out at the kiddie splash area since L is not potty trained yet, but he didn’t miss the pool. He had a great time, although at first he was reluctant to go in by himself. He clung to the border, shying away from any stray water that went his way. Within a little time, though, he was running around and laughing merrily while he got wet. He even tried copying the older kids and blocked the nozzles so that water would splash everywhere.

Soon it was time to head to the nursery. Unlike the first night, L was not having it and I had to go in with him. Eventually, he relaxed, and we went on our way to the spa for our couple’s massage, facial, and champagne with chocolate-covered strawberries. The massage was relaxing and much-needed, but I could have done without the facial. It was the first facial I’d ever done and honestly, I wasn’t impressed. I think I’d rather spend those extra 15 minutes on kneading over balled muscles. After that we headed into the rain room, which was basically a combination of steam rooms, saunas, and hot chairs, where our champagne and strawberries were waiting for us. I guess it’s fine for those that enjoy being sedentary in a room overflowing with heat, but being that I just need to step out into my front yard and get hit with the same force of humidity as was in that room, I quickly grew bored and restless and decided to head back out into the heat of the sun – at least that was partially dry heat!

I picked up L, and headed back to the Mickey pool along with one of the nursery care givers who was heading there with a bucket of toys. I made a quick stop at Pinnocio’s Pizzeria, grabbed a few slices of cheese pizza, and made ourselves home on one of the tables across from the pool. L went in and had more fun while I waited for J to leave the retreat of the rain room.

Back in the room, we prepared for Gala night. I dressed up in a 50’s inspired black and white dress with an empire waist (which I later realized was not very flattering); J dressed in khaki pants, a light blue buttoned shirt, and a navy sports coat; and L was decked in khaki pants and a checkered, blue and brown shirt. I kicked myself for not having taken his little suit, but at least he and his daddy matched outfits. We went to the lobby and had a photo shoot with Mickey and Minnie, both dressed in their gala attires: Mickey in a black and white tuxedo and Minnie in a radiant, white, glittery dress with feathers at her feet.

Dinner that night was at the Animator’s Palate. If anyone’s watched the Travel Channel (or traveled in a Disney Cruise before), then s/he will know exactly what I’m talking about. Animator’s Palate is designed to be the sketch-book of all the Disney classics. Hanging on the walls in black and white are framed “sketches” of scenes from Pocahontas, 101 Dalmatians, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and many other films. The waiters and staff are all dressed in black and white, and even the table cloths are decked in the contrasting shades. As the dinner begins, the lights dim a little and soon, the sketches on the wall begin to gradually transform into their full-color finales; then the paintings change into a completely different scene, again in black and white, and the process from sketch to full-color begins anew. Towards the end of the meal, the waiters disappear, and before you even miss a refill, they are putting on a show for you.

After dinner, we meandered towards the theater to watch Toy Story the Musical. It was cute, but we didn’t stay the entire show as L hadn’t napped that day and was extremely tired (and moody), and it actually got a little scared towards the end. So back to our room to call it a night it was.

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Disney Cruise, Day 1, Cont’d

The meal at Tritons was pleasant, and our waiters were superb. Zeldy, from the Philippines was our server and Danielle, from England, was our Assistant server. I’m not sure if it’s the same in other cruises, but it’s great to meet people from all over the world. Taking the line from one of Disney’s rides, “It’s a small world after all!” They were so nice, and they made us and L feel at home. On the first night at Triton’s, there was a small cup with L’s name on the lid, drawn alongside some Mickey ears. Once they knew he liked orange juice, L would have two cups waiting for him at dinner-time: one with water, the other with orange juice.

Our table, #57, would remain the same table throughout the cruise and Zeldy and Danielle would rotate with us throughout the restaurants. We did not share a table with anyone, and there were always plenty of alternatives, and crayons, to make dining a wonderful experience. And to end the night at Triton’s, they brought me a birthday cake and sang happy birthday. Granted, it’s early for my birthday, but this year’s a biggie for me – the big 3-0. So we took the opportunity to celebrate the birthdays on board. The cake was a yellow-cake with strawberry cream filling in the middle and whipped, buttercream topping. There was a piece of white chocolate decorated with a picture of the cruise ship and the words “Happy Birthday” written on the bottom. That piece sat on top of the cake. It was scrumptious! Before we received the cake, we had ordered dessert: creme brule with a cappuccino. Yum! And to top it off, the steamed some milk for L!

The night ended with a walk around the ship and a trip to Flounder’s Nursery, where L couldn’t wait to go in and play. We decided to try it out and left him there for an hour while we walked around some more and headed over to try and see “The Golden Mickeys,” the first night’s broadway-type show. Unfortunately, we were exhausted from the day’s trip, so we rounded L, met Goofy in a sailor’s suit along the way, and headed back to our room. We had a towel elephant on our dresser and some chocolates, along with the next day’s agenda on the Disney’s Navigator (or was it Mickey’s Navigator – I can’t remember right now). L had his bath time, and the three of us headed to slumber land on their queen bed.

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Disney Cruise – Day 1

We recently came back from our first Disney cruise. It was a 4-day trip to Nassau and Castaway Cay in the Bahamas, and it has been one of the best vacations we have take thus far. We’re relatively new to cruising, only cruised once before with Carnival, and we are absolute Disney freaks, so it just made sense to try this out as a way of celebrating our birthdays. Let me tell you that the magic, as cliched as it may sound, of Disney is magnified tenfold in the cruise. The attention to detail, the customer service, the drive to make sure everyone is happy is amazing. The food is delicious, and the activities for the kids, well, priceless. Here’s a recap with some pics.

Day 1 – Embarkation day at Cape Canaveral
We had to drive up to Cape Canaveral on the same day the cruise left, so it was a race to the Disney finish line. We left a little later than expected and had to stop to get lunch for a cranky toddler, but amidst all the rush, we made it at the port with time to spare – barely. It was 2 and we needed to be on by 4pm. We arrived and went quickly through the check-in-process, got our pictures taken by smiling “cast members,” and held our breaths in as we crossed over the planks that connected us to the hotel on the water. As we approached the entrance, there were rows of men and women in sailor’s uniforms greeting us. One young man stopped us, asked us our last name and where we were from, and then proceeded to announce our arrival into the ship via loud speakers: “The A family has arrived all the way from Miami!” All the white and navy uniformed men and women clapped and we were ushered in, flustered and smiling, while the next family received Disney’s version of the royal treatment.

Once onboard, we took a few seconds to look around and made our way to change our dining time. We had been allocated the 2nd seating, which was at 8PM, much too late to have dinner with a toddler. Thankfully, the change was no problem, and we were freed of the unwanted time. Our new dining time was 5:45 – much more reasonable.

We headed to the cabin, and again briefly looked around; we had to hurry or we wouldn’t make lunch. As soon as we walked in, we noticed the two bathrooms on our right. One contained a sink and toilet, the other a sink and bathtub. Yes, bathtub. From what I hear, very few cruised have bathtubs. This tub was a savior for giving L his bath because it also contained a shower hose that we could bring down and “hose” him down. I’m not sure what the correct term for that is, but I’m sure you get what I mean. After the bathrooms was the bed, a royal-blue-covered queen bed, in which all three of us ended sleeping, limbs nestled between limbs. Beyond the bed was the sofa, which also converted into a bed, a desk with a mini-fridge, TV and vanity mirror, and the window – a large port hole that provided ample light and scenery when we were close to land. The room was a good size compared to other cruise cabins, although like with all cruise cabins, they’re not good for those who are claustrophobic.

We dropped off the stroller and our day bag, and made our way up, with welcome papers in hand, to the 9th deck (we were on the 2nd) where the Beach Blanket restaurant was serving lunch for the next 15 minutes. The Beach Blanket was a buffet eatery that became our breakfast place of choice over the next couple days. This day, for lunch, they had a varied selection of sea food, chicken, and beef. I had some fish and chicken, J had some chicken and beef, and L had some chicken and mac-n-cheese with fruits. Oh, and sodas are included in the cruise! That was a pleasant surprise! We ate inside, quickly, but savored the moment of rest. We were finally on board and there was no more need to rush anywhere.

After the meal, we meandered a bit but made our way back to the room to throw on the life jackets for the mandatory drill at 4 pm. It was funny walking around with the neon orange flotation device sitting awkwardly over the shoulders and around the chest, and we weren’t sure where exactly we were going, but we saw many orange dots bobbing on the 4th deck and assumed we were in the right place. We were. After the drill, and after leaving the life jackets back in the room, we went back up to deck 9 for the sailaway party. There, some cast members along with the characters danced and sang, while the horn on the ship tooted the “When You Wish Upon A Star” melody. All passangers were watching, dancing and taking pictures or video. Many had their swim suits on because they’d been smart and arrived at noon to take advantage of the pools. Others, like us, were walking around in part-beachy, part-traveling clothes wrinkled by sitting too long. A young boy caught my attention. He was about 7 or 8, with a bald head, holding the hand of a woman. His shirt read “The Make-a-Wish Foundation Made My WIsh Come True.” I stopped breathing for a moment and my eyes welled up with tears. I said a prayer for him, and thought how much fun and excitement he must feel knowing that he got to do this before… it really made me stop in my tracks and ponder the meaning and justice of this life.

After the characters and cat members sang, they introduced some of the Disney Channel stars: Michel Musso and Jason Earles from Hannah Montana, and two others. It was pretty cool, although I laughed quietly because here I was, an almost-30-year-old mom getting somewhat excited about Disney Channel stars. I mean, I watch the shows and they remind me of younger days, so I thought it was pretty cool meeting/seeing them.

Once that was over, we made our way back to the cabin to get dressed for dinner. We had dinner at Tritons first. Tritons is a restaurant “under the sea,” inspired by none-other than The Littler Mermaid. Several enchanting mosaics depict King Triton’s underwater kingdom and family. There are columns throughout the restaurant featuring circular tops, reminding guests of bubbles. The fare is French, with many traditional French dishes, such as escargots and creme brule. I got brave and ordered the escargots baked in a garlic sauce. I’ve always wanted to try them, and this day, I felt brave. When the appetizer arrived, it looked more like a dessert dish than slimy, crawling critters. To my surprise, there wasn’t much distaste. They were rather good! The texture was not bad – think softened gummy candy, but a little less chewy. The taste, well, it was garlicy. That’s really all I could taste – the garlic. I gave some to L to try and would you believe my son ate the pieces I gave him and kept opening his mouth for more! This little one won’t eat eggs, but he’ll eat onions, lemon, and escargot! Go figure.

That’s it for now, but tomorrow I’ll continue (day 1’s not over yet!).

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I hear the quiet murmur of the cool-mist humidifier through the baby monitor and its sound is smooth and trance-like. I can see why it helps you sleep. My eyelids, too, are slowly closing to that hum and I have to shake my head to wake myself. It amazes me how delicious sleep is for you, it’s nourishment really, and I yearn to sleep like that again. The eight-interrupted-hours-a-night just don’t compare to your ten-plus hours a night and the two-and-a-half nap-time hours. That siesta time is the greatest escape; I especially thought so when you were still developing in my womb and I could partake in a siesta at my then-office. I would close the door and surrender to the lull of pregnancy exhaustion for a good fifteen minutes. That was enough to lift the fog and renew my strength for the next few hours.

My father, your grandfather, used to take a daily siesta once he had to stay home. He was sick, you know. He had many heart, circulation ailments, and they soon impeded his ability to work. So, he was the stay-at-home parent and would always pick me up from school, walking, when I was in elementary school since it was a walkable distance; later, when I started middle and high schools, he would be home when the bus dropped my off since then we lived farther away from my schools. During the summer or holidays, I would stay home with my father, and every day, after lunch, my father took his noon-time siesta. I usually welcomed this because that meant that I had at least an hour of uninterrupted me time. I could watch tv, I could read, I could play and let my imagination soar. When I got older, I sometimes would take advantage and hop on the 71 bus all the way to International Mall where I would spend an afternoon of window shopping and trying on clothes I couldn’t afford. I would take a book with me for the bus ride, and in between words I would peek at my fellow bus-mates; I would imagine what lives they held and who they were.

Along with the siestas, my father loved music, as I see you do, too. When I was younger, he listened to Piero mostly, among others like Garzon y Collazos. Many of Piero’s songs detailed the type of life my father yearned for, a life of the simple past he called it – when everything was not complicated by technology or laziness, according to him. A few of his favorites were De Vez En Cuando Viene Bien Dormir (Every now and then it’s good to sleep), Fumemos un Cigarrillo (Let’s smoke a cigarette), and Mi Viejo (My Old Man). These were staples of his life.


Solitude’s Company

He lounges next to me at breakfast as I stare at
a glass bowl of cinnamon raisin oatmeal.
He’s waiting for the mathematical equation of
hunger plus thirst divided by sleep
equaling congruent fragmentation of the brain
to surge into attack of my arterial passage,
leading the way, quietly, into a revolution of nerves.

At lunch I feel him breathing hard, laughing,
quite erotically, as the sun decides to overlook me
within a crowd of coffee addicted students.
He pokes his fleshy fingers at me, crossing my eyes,
making me see all sides of the parallelogram,
until my vision ripples into three dimensions.

Dinner at eight thirty, Solitude becomes three
irrational and compulsive characters:
my guests of honor. Wise men traveling from
the corners of his imagination, I become
their hostess and entertainer. He thrusts
the threads of creativity into captivity.

I try to leave him, but he follows
attached to the weight of my ankles,
the pressure of my chest, the blur of my eyes.
I ask him why he bothers stalking me,
we both know he’s not wanted here,
but he remains silent, tapping his toes.


When We Were Young in South Beach

We skimmed through the newspaper
for the Magic City’s night charms,
then renounced sleep
because creases on our skin did not
own us, and tomorrow
was still an abstraction.

Sleepily, we doused ourselves
with Starbucks Sumatra coffee, extra bold,
until the last musing of sleep was gone,
then dressed in our evening’s best
ready for El Grupo Niche and Jay-Z
to move us, like melting wax.

We skipped lunch to make room
for dinner at Joe’s, where
we filled our stomachs with
crab claws and Cole slaw
and our wallets were emptied
of Jackson and Grant.

Arm in arm we flirted
through the discolored sidewalks
of Ocean Drive, passing blurred faces
staring at us from the sanctuary of
their dinner tables. Lobster tails, churrasco
and rice pilaf decorated their plates.

We forgot the meanings of
no, can’t, won’t,
refusing to employ double negatives
and preferring to stick with
si, siempre, of course,
like El Zorro and Superwoman.

En route to Washington Ave,
we passed aspiring musicians
in crazed street corners
crooning off-beat one-hit-horrors
fit for an American Idol stage
and Simon Cowell.

We ignored the groans of our joints,
the headaches of neon and bass,
then threw our heads back and
consumed Nyquil with gin.
We ran through the sand
and laughed at the moon.

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Look who popped in this afternoon

After the rain cleared up, we took a stroll in our backyard. It was the aftermath of rain: lemon yellow and black spotted butterflies made their rounds through the bushes and trees, ants emerged from crevices on the broken cement, and lizards came out of their respective shelters to see what the options were for dinner. This particular one is Laura the Lizard. She lives alongside Lorenzo the lizard in our small decorative fireplace. There’s a lone piece of “wood” under which, at various times of the day, one can find them lounging around. Laura is the smaller of the two, as you can see in the picture below. Lorenzo is a larger lizard, who looks as if he’s had one-too-many insects to eat. Lorenzo is usually not keen on human attention, but Laura curiously watched me approach her, camera in hand. She allowed me to approach enough to get some close-ups using the camera’s close-up mode, and I only wish I’d taken more advantage of that allowance.

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Where I Want to Be

The day creeps by as I wait for night to get here. The morning has seen torrential rains, with the continuous drumming of the drops on the roof lulling us into a hypnotic sleep. The sky outside so dark that we are confused as to whether it really is morning, although our trusty digital clock screams in neon green: 10:34 am. I’m silently thankful, though, that the rain is now, and not at 10:34 pm because then that would mean I would have to open the gates to our two close-to-a-hundred-pound dogs (who I secretly think sported feathers and a beak in another life) so they can join us upstairs, having the clackity-clack of their nails on our pergo wood floors provide the beat to the air purifier’s purring and the rain’s drumming. Right now, Baxter sits close to our feet as the rain is joined by thunder and lightening, his hind legs trembling. Buffy doesn’t mind as much, although if Baxter gets started enough, she is right there following his example. Great. So, I’m sitting here, going through my pictures, and found the one place I’d love to be right now:

I can just see myself under that umbrella, basking in the sun’s warm rays, taking in all that vitamin D (with protection of course) that we usually lack because we’re stuck indoors between sterile walls. Next week, I will be there!

It’s cleared up somewhat now; the clouds have parted and the soft breeze is making our bougainvillea and backyard trees dance to its rhythm. I see blue again, mingling with the puffs of cotton that decorate the sky. There’s also light again, which means I can go back to saving on electricity and using good ol‘ mother nature.