Wednesday, July 30, 2008

the ever present Toni Morrison

Most people read The New York Times, but I should not assume. My father, James, taught me what the word 'assume' suggests when you divide into three parts. So, I won't. But, this article is for those of you who are not familiar with Toni Morrison, her sky-opening novels, or her goals not to allow the history of slavery "go forgotten." The beauty of her movements is not about shoving slavery in the face, but about truth and remembrance of the many lives stolen and lost.


Monday, July 28, 2008

moments passed

It's saturday morning. I'm standing in the kitchen opening a papaya melon for breakfast, reflecting the week. Gera's sister is gone for the weekend to prepare to sell at the flea market on Sunday: forecast 104 degrees. Humid. Throughout the week, she and I had conversations (in Spanish; unlike, Gera, she does not speak any English, whatsoever--I'm teaching her). Words that haulted our sharing of stories (words I could not translate): would ashes over. Words she taught me: amante (lover), I know "sancho" or "sancha" for this, cenizas. There were many others, but the communication was clear and coherent. The week passed ever so slow. We spoke extensively about our dead children.

Gera is sitting at the table preparing a sketch for an entertainment center he needs to build for a returning client. It will be a sinch, but he still underestimates the value of custom-made. I think. He walks past me in the kitchen, touches me firmly in a common place then takes a piece of papaya. We aren't talking very much this morning---it's like that whenever he is creating and I am a tad exhausted of speaking. In fact, today, we will each go to our separate little caves and surface around lunch time---chicken milanesa, salad, sopa, a glass of wine and a cold beer. He will disappear to his wood shop and I will finish reading a novel, knowing quite well I should be working on my own.

Favorite line from The Tenth Circle "The tears you shed over a child were not the same as any others. They burned your throat and your corneas. They left you blind."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

from Eather’s estate

My best friend, Tracy, always called me Aunt Jemima when I woke in the morning; my hair is known for attracting sorts of attention. That characteristic about me she associates with the name “Aunt Jemima”---clearly Aunt J wears a wrap at all times. The nickname was never a complement, but an utmost endearment.

These sassy little ladies come directly from my great grandmother’s house. They are so old. She had them in the same place, in the same kitchen, in the same house--before I was born. To me, they appear very gossipy, but far from clich-ish. The paint has worn with age, but most of their lettering is still legible: Spice, Cloves, Cinnamon (of course), Ginger, Thyme, and my favorite, Nutmeg. They sat for many years on top of a frail wooden shelf with hand painted hens in red and black. Unfortunately, when my Auntie gave me the complete set, the little shelf was broken. Gera’s planning to repair it, but you know, it’s just never the same even when restored with the best love and care.

I’m thinking I might get Gera to—instead—make a wooden shadow box, carefully place them behind glass (make sure they each have elbow room) and hang the box on my kitchen wall. They will be my little goddesses, the spirits that will hopefully help me become a better cook.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Here's an oldie but goodie, a short story I wrote fours years ago (started six ago). I know, I'm supposed to practice, write something new, but at times, I'm still stuck on old ideas that just didn't yet fly. I still find it exciting to re-read, re-visit some of my earlier characters.


All thoughts, opinions, comments, suggestions, advice: ENTHUSIASTICALLY WELCOME.

Monday, July 14, 2008

uneventful weekend

This weekend we got new carpet. Gera got the itch and so it went--out with the old--in with new. I, on the other hand, sat away from him as he worked magic. I did offer to help (I swept chips of wood from the base), but I was working on that dreaded to-do list. Only 9 things scratched off—so far. Too many more to go. Too many to-dos currently added (eek!).

I did manage to snap Mr. Odell from my living room window. Though there are many many cowboys in my rural neighborhood (we still have metal fences and wooden telephone poles, no curbs, no sidewalks, stretching distance between houses), many ranches, many horses trotting up and down the street every day: morning, noon and evening, Mr. Odell is the Notorious Cowboy. He’s the only one who dares to gallop with speed on the slick sleek street; he knows horses like nobody else. This day, he was tired and pretty much beat down by the sun. It probably didn’t help that he started drinking big cans of really cheap beer at about 10 a.m. He is one of the few drunken cowboys we like.

Gera tried to take a picture of me hanging out a few pieces of clothes, but I didn’t want to. He snapped anyway.

Then he tried to adopt a baby kitten and I said “absolutely not.” He pleaded a tad more and finally gave up. (Kitten released back into the neighborhood--still shows up from time to time because Gera fed it tuna from a can). I don't think he's supposed to do that. He did this to aggravate me. UG!

Then the livestock came over to feed on green grass. They aren’t very friendly. Glad the horns aren’t fully grown! One of them gave me his back side---with treats!! (eew!)

Hopefully next weekend, something eventful will happen. If not, I hope to have more to-dos scratched off the list. Ongoing…

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

follow up : things to do

Alas! I finished my little niece's blanket and booties. Shower is in one week. No time to waste. Haste haste haste!!!

the colors

the trim

blanket (full pic to come at baby shower)

beginning a bootie

a bootie is not a bootie without ruffles--it's a girl!

bootie finished--one down, one to go

Thursday, July 3, 2008

rhina espaillat

One of my Asian students today reminded me of how the struggle with adjusting to a new culture, a new region, a new language is, for some, quite challenging and for others a true battle. I learned from my Vietnamese students that there is a level of snobbery from the young who speak perfect Vietnamese as opposed to those who have nearly assimilated. I remember reading Maxine Hong Kingston's story and others'. In my house we speak both English and Spanish and sometimes we get things crossed up but always seem to know what the other means. I have had to push my way to the fronts of re-learning and learning Spanish. When I am in a setting with Gera's family, I have to either dive in or sit like un mudo. Gera has had to learn the southern--rather heavy--dialect (in between the myriad 'cuss' words) that my Auntie sounds out. It's a challenge but we're not afraid. Nope. We do it and when we make mistakes: he sounds out the 'w' in 'answer' and I call my sister 'my sister in half' instead of 'my half sister'--we laugh at each other, remember, and move on. Sometimes our mistakes are hilarious, but we are too consumed to laugh and just want desperately to get it right. I still can't remember how to say "water hose" and he has told me the Spanish word more than enough times. I failed to put it on the dry erase which is like a security blanket for both of us. He continues to forget words like 'teenagers' or doesn't know when a person is saying fifteen v. fifty (which I understand how the latter can be a problem, just say the two; they almost sound identical). When I go into the panaderia (bakery) for teleras or bolios (bread), I get antsy because I need to know how much to pay. They tell me in Spanish. When Gera drives up to the Sonic Burger (50s style, you order outside and they bring the food to you--outside), he says, "give me two burrrgrs" and looks at me hoping they don't say "can you repeat that". Ahh, but the beauty in the struggle to learn, speak, read and write another language not your own is an amazing ride.

by Rhina Espaillat

My father liked them separate, one there
one here (allá y aquí), as if aware

that words might cut in two his daughter's heart
(el corazón) and lock the alien part

to what he was--his memory, his name
(su nombre)--with a key he could not claim.

"English outside this door, Spanish inside,"
he said, "y basta." But who can divide

the world, the word (mundo y palabra) from
any child? I knew how to be dumb

and stubborn (testaruda); late, in bed,
I hoarded secret syllables I read

until my tongue (mi lengua) learned to run
where his stumbled. And still the heart was one.

I like to think he knew that, even when,
proud (orgulloso) of his daugher's pen,

he stood outside mis versos, half in fear
of words he loved but wanted not to hear.