gone are the days

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Long ago, way before kids entered my world, before I became a mom, I actually drank.

Beer.

Cocktails.

You know, that kind of antidote.

Enough so that I got drunk.

Fun drunk.

Talkative drunk.

Wobbly drunk.

Dumb drunk.

And even sometimes what-the-heck-did-I-do drunk.

Oh, boy, were those the days. I actually knew how to salsa on those drink-filled nights.

Rudy would take me into towns were the music blared and the people laughed.

Talking wasn’t necessary, only the gyrating movements of our bodies.

I’d grasp my hair, pulling it up off my sweating shoulders, slow my pace, rock my hips to and fro, if only for a moment, so that I could take a swig of the drink that was passed my way.

Long Island Iced Tea.

Later, we’d come home, and fall face first onto the bed.

Carefree.

Wild.

And young.

 

 

tea and toast

IMG_4756When I was younger, I remember whenever I didn’t feel well, was sick in bed without the want to get up, with the blankets wrapped tightly around my sore noggin, and generally lacking the desire to eat, my mom, and sometimes my sister, would offer me a cup of hot tea and some buttered toast to soothe and nourish my aches and pains.

I loved those moments. Well, yeah, sans the sick part, of course, but everything about the love that came with the tea and toast. A gesture that held an abundance of meaning. One that I carried with me throughout my days, held onto to it, knowing that some day I’d get the chance to Pay It Forward.

One day Rudy and I met. A month or so later we were dating, in a very serious way. Within weeks, he was uncharacteristically ill. He had called me to say he wouldn’t be able to go out that evening. I told him I’d be right over. I found him stretched out on the couch he shared with his roommates. His dark-skinned cheeks were blushing from a fever. And he had no energy to move. I watered down a wash cloth with cold water, folded it onto his forehead, cooled him down.

And then. I made him a cup of tea and a slice of buttered toast.

He didn’t drink or eat my offerings, only because he really just wanted to sleep. And sleep he did. I waited until he woke again then made a fresh cup of tea and a new slice of buttered toast. “Thanks,” he whispered, his voice sounding hoarse.

Years later, when I was feeling out-of-sorts, Rudy walked into the bedroom, bringing in a cup of tea and buttered toast. “Paying it Forward,” he smiled.

Immigrant

IMG_5573Rudy was nineteen years old when he left Honduras and came to the United States for the first time. His dad had died a few years before and though he had no real reason to leave his homeland, and especially his mom, he knew the time had come for him to be proactive about his own future. Conversations began with a sister of his who was living in Shreveport, Louisiana, and very much willing to greet Rudy with open arms. Thus began the process of applying for a Passport and a Visa, which would allow him to travel out of the country. A month or so later, before boarding his flight, mom and son embraced, each feeling the weight of a heavy heart.

The Visa, stamped into his Passport, would expire four years from the issue date. But, within the four years he was only able to travel back and forth to the states in six month intervals. Meaning, he could not stay in the United States for the total duration of those four years, but rather use the Passport and Visa as traveling documents. After about five and a half months of living in Shreveport, Rudy decided he wanted to visit some friends in California for a few weeks, before heading back to Honduras. His sister helped him apply for an extension on his Visa, which would allow him to continue his travels until he heard back from them, either yes or no. Aside from filling out paperwork, Rudy was asked to send a copy of both his Passport and Visa and the original Immigrant Declaration declaring he was legally allowed to travel. All good, but also worrisome. Rudy was worried that without the mandatory Declaration to speak for him, if for some reason someone questioned him, he wouldn’t know how to explain himself. You see, his English skills were basic, at best.

Not to be deterred, Rudy boarded a greyhound bus bound for Orange County, California. At the immigrant checkpoint in El Paso, Texas, an authority figure walked up and down the aisle asking random people for some type of documentation. Passports, Licenses, ID’s and such. Two guys were taken off the bus, never to return. After that, the man-in-charge waved the driver on. Rudy felt relief, figured he’d make it through, no problem. Little did he know, he still had San Clemente’s checkpoint to conquer. But, because he wasn’t aware of what was going to happen, he slept sweetly.

“Excuse me, Sir?” he heard a voice say, loudly, as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “Sí,” Rudy answered nervously. He was asked to show his documents. He gulped, cast his eyes down towards his lap. Not because he was doing anything wrong or illegal, but because he was trying to figure out how to explain why he didn’t have his Immigrant Declaration paper. Rudy’s speech stumbled. Hand signals and basic words were how he communicated. But this didn’t help as he tried to explain himself to the officer. So, the authority figure waved his hand in a follow-me motion. Outside, in a small tollbooth-like office, a Spanish-speaking translator listened as Rudy told him about the extension for his Visa. There was no computer to check the validity of his story nor were there cell phones to make a quick call. But, maybe it was Rudy’s demeanor and honest tone, because the official cleared everything, believed he was in the process of extending his Visa, and wished him “Good Luck” in Southern California.

Shortly after he arrived to my birthplace, Rudy and I met, and began to have serious feelings for each other. Soon after that he got a call from his sister stating she had received an answer to his request for an extension. “They denied it,” she told him. And then, Rudy told me the truth. That he was no longer legal in the United States. Not surprisingly, I honestly didn’t care. In my opinion, in those early days, I felt immediately that Rudy was an honest and loyal person. And I completely trusted him when he told me I meant a lot to him. And, anyway, at that point, it was the romance that meant everything.

One day, as we were driving to my brother’s house down south, Rudy noticed the very familiar San Clemente checkpoint. He stared at those officers scanning cars, looking for people entering California illegally. He swallowed hard, just as I realized I had made the mistake of thinking my brother lived further north of the checkpoint. Rudy spent most of the visit taming his nervous ticks. But, luck was on his (our) side. He now jokes that it was my blond hair and my cute ’67 yellow Volkswagen Bug that allowed us to sail right through the span of immigration officers, without a second thought. We married about a year and a half later, not because getting him an Alien Resident card was our priority, which was a definite plus, but because we knew we were meant to spend our lives together.

Seven years ago, after we had been married for twenty-one years, with the encouragement of myself and our children, Rudy finally became a US citizen.

 

Ernesto “Che” Guevara and San

signature of Guevara,Che.svgHave you ever been sitting around just chatting with someone and the conversation goes off into various directions? I bet it’s happened to you more often than not. And when you have these kinds of conversations, do they usually start off with one subject and end in a completely different mode of thought? You know, like you might be talking about the walk you just took and end the drawn-out conversation about a revolution? Well, that is exactly what happened this afternoon, upon my arrival home, after exercising my way through the local hills. Rudy and I casually began our conversation with “Man, the blister on my toe is killing me!” into “Seriously, Che Guevara gave him his freedom?”

Well now, Ernesto “Che” Guevara is one of the most controversial figures of the 20th century, one of the few men trusted by Fidel Castro. Lots of people think he’s pretty awesome, especially those in Cuba. So much so, that his face is on the 3-peso note. His admirers are all about the fact that he stood for freedom from imperialism. And he was one idealistic dude. I mean, really, the guy had a love for the common man. Sadly for him, and his followers, Che died for his beliefs.
Yet, on the other hand, there are a ton more people that despise him. Che was a murderer, overseeing the execution of Batista supporters. His critics say he failed in representing the communist ideology and had a hand in ruining the Cuban economy. They weren’t spilling any tears when word spread that Che had been executed, having been shot by a sergeant in the Bolivian Army.

There is a ton of information out there about Ernesto “Che” Guevara, none of which I had ever even heard about. I admit it. I have been clueless about this guy and where he stood in society. There is even an award winning movie, The Motorcycle Diaries, from 2004, based on a book he wrote about his travels through South America. Which is at odds with the fact I have heard so much about Fidel Castro.

Anyway, this guy’s name, Che Guevara, came to my attention, for the first time ever today, when Rudy happened to mention San, a gentleman that he was acquainted with several plus years ago. San claimed that Che gave him his freedom from Cuba. That one day, while at work as an engineer, Che, who had been told that San was a brainiac, stopped by, unexpectedly and asked – or told – San to do something with something, about something. Something that somehow involved Fidel Castro. (Yep. That’s the best description I have of what San was asked to do. Weak, I know). “If you help me, I’ll help you. I will buy your freedom,” he allegedly stated. Well, of course, San conceded, and therefore, true to Che’s word, San was quietly and quickly given papers, shipped out of Cuba, and began a new life in the USA.

Even though the information is hearsay, I believe what San told Rudy. Which means I also believe that this tiny piece of nugget is one part of a much bigger story. One I wish I had access to. I mean, come on, if I had San’s whole life story, including his interaction with Ernesto “Che” Guevara, I could write a really cool story. I am sure I could. I’d write about the life of an ordinary man, intersecting with a powerful one, and how his freedom was given for completing… something.

San? Are you out there?

tangled

IMG_0571The windows are shut tight, yet, the faint rhythm of music that gently flows from someone’s radio is swaying over the ivy-covered walls, seeping into the crevices of the window’s frame, into our home. Other than that, the outside world seems shut off from inside this small room. Peacefulness is felt, but it’s wrapped tightly around angst.

I am at peace in the quiet confines of my sanctuary, but I worry because my son worries. He’s concerned that Rudy and I are arguing because of something he did. Something that should not have happened. But I assure my son that the anger has nothing to do with him but everything to do with hopelessness.

Rudy is drowning. On some days. Floating on others. His mood is all over the place. Aimed at everyone. And no one. And all the while I am simply trying to figure out how to hold it all together. To maintain a sense of balance so that my son will believe that everything will be OK.

The ceiling fan spins slowly, round and round, tossing puffs of air towards me. Cooling me and my thoughts. But then, suddenly, I hear a door slam from somewhere at the other end of the house. And that’s when my toes curl, my feet stiffen, and my heart seems to skip a beat.

A moment later a child laughs and a puppy barks. Over and over. So much so that my mixed emotions fade and I’m tuned into the wonderment of what’s happening beyond my life.

There’s an Angel on my shoulder, sitting right next to the Devil

IMG_5519While life is full of obstacles, things that happen that challenge me, I do what I can to jump, to improve, to move forward. Optimism is my middle name. Or, it was. I used to consider everything with the idea that my life is mine alone. That the path I have chosen is the right one. The solid one. The road that will take me to everlasting happiness. I would see things in a positive light, even within a negative situation. But somewhere along the line, I lost a piece of my goodwill feelings, honing in on what’s not right. What’s bad. What’s wrong with our world. And I’m concerned, about me.

The Devil sits heavy on one shoulder, tells me not to care, while my Angel reminds me that life is what I make it. The Devil says life sucks, why bother. The Angel counter-argues that it’s worth the effort. All the while, I simply listen to their opposing arguments, taking in what each has to say, roll their thoughts around my heart. Where normally the Angel would shine as the true winner, as of late, on occasion, more times than I’m used to, it’s the Devil who makes more sense.

My writing has suffered because of my lack of optimism. Not because I don’t want to write, I do, I know it’s the way for me to project my voice, to be heard but, my thoughts and my hands aren’t communicating because, well, I feel depleted of energy. Focus. And desire.

I have so many things to say, but haven’t. I have a story I’m working on, a chapter book for children, a kind of a mystery, but one full of love, forgiveness, morals and values, a story that turns bad to good. The narrative swirls around my mind, fills my head with its characters, the setting, the motive, and the triumph. It’s there, all of it, waiting. Waiting to come to life.

My blog, my stories, also wait. Until, like today, I find my voice spilling onto the page.

Yesterday, Rudy and I took a walk along the Southern California coast, in Laguna Beach. A soothing, no-nonsense, salty-air, full of happy people kind of place. And I felt invigorated, renewed, and happy. I felt my optimism hug me, reminding me, whispering to me, that it’s the Angel who speaks the truth. That the path I have chosen is the right one. The solid one. The road to everlasting happiness.

I’m an Introvert.

IMG_5263There’s an article going around on Facebook, you know the kind that always have a number in the title, like this one, 23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert by Carolyn Gregoire | The Huffington Post.

Well now, I zoomed right in, only to confirm what I already knew. I’m an introvert. And it’s no secret, unless of course you don’t know me, then well, maybe it is a secret, by default.

The article basically explains to the reader how to spot an introvert, that they aren’t always so obvious, and it even goes on to say how an introvert may not know they are indeed introverted. So here I sit, wondering, How is it that someone who’s shy, or withdrawn, or engaging with an inner hidden feeling of anxiety due to socializing, doesn’t know they are an introvert? I am guessing here, that the first ones to read such an article do so because it relates to them. Meaning, an introvert reads this article because it’s fun to read what they already know. Everyone enjoys things that pertain to them, personally. Right?

I’ve known forever, or at least as long as I began socializing, that I am an introvert. In my younger years, I was very uncomfortable with the prospect of being in situations with groups of people. Rather than engaging, I stood back worrying what everyone else was thinking and anxious about joining in. But as the years have passed, and though I still consider myself drawn-in, I socialize, hold conversations, and am overall content around others. Yet, rather than trying to be a person I’m not, someone others would probably feel more comfortable around, I have embraced my listening skills, rather than trying to overuse my voice. I now understand it’s okay to speak when I feel like it, rather than talking because others expect me to.

As a child, almost all my teachers told my parents I was too quiet, that I needed to participate more (that’s probably when I began to feel I wasn’t as awesome as everyone else seemed to be). And because of that, as a teacher of young kids, I never tell a student he or she needs to ‘come out of their shell’. They will discover their own voice, in their own time.

I remember being invited to a birthday party when I was about 10 years old. It was a sleep over, my first. And even though it should have been an exciting time, it actually brought out a tremendous amount of anxiety. Having to socialize and talk nonstop, tell secrets and giggle, was way too difficult for me. I never wanted to participate in that kind of gathering again. And I don’t think I ever did. Now, take me back to that time, but with the grown-up me, the person who now understands who I am, what I have to offer. I would have made the most of being an emotionally in-tune person. Also, time and again, it seems so many people are striving for what I, and many introverts, possess. Simply, quiet calmness. Someone who is balanced. A person who can interact with others when deemed necessary, even if it’s not always easy, but who is also comfortable being alone.

I suppose the article is simply bringing an introverts traits into the limelight, to our attention, so that we – well, not me – can be sure to understand the personalities of the quiet, or not so quiet, ones; the obvious introverts and the hidden kind, and make sure they are not overlooked but rather included, graciously.