Putin’s Anti-US Adoptions Bill takes me right back to Juárez

Same kick in the gut, different country.

My heart aches for every parent and child put in this abhorrent situation where a family, however fragile, has taken shape and begun to root, only to be wrenched apart.

This is the inner hell of adoption limbo where the fate of an orphan dangles in the whims of politics and bureaucracy.

It’s where children are yanked from parents’ arms and find themselves back in an orphanage. An institution. Their waiting tank. It’s where parents are clenched in a fetal position begging for mercy from inconceivable pain or raging like wounded grizzlies who drop dead steps away from their cub.

I recall the nauseating moment when this happened to us. We had fulfilled the requirements for the wrong passport forms. An entire season of work had to be done over.

It almost slayed us.

I can imagine what some families are going though and I wish with all of my heart that the Russian adoption impasse is resolved quickly to minimize the pain for everyone involved.

One thing is for sure…

the holidays just aren’t the same without parents. It sucks.

I’ve become accustomed to celebrating Christmas and New Year’s without my father. We lost him at a tender age.

Chapter XIV – July 1998

“…After our father died, we all but canonized my mother, and our goal was not to give her a reason to cry. Ever. My siblings and I took it a step further and choreographed Christmas variety shows, where every single one of us danced, sang, told jokes, played an instrument (one year, we added a ventriloquist act with Sammy, a Goodwill find), and did skits to fill up the long hours till midnight and presents….”

This is the second Christmas without the head of our household, my mother, La Jefita. Our matriarch. La mera, mera. And it sucks.

She loved everything about the holidays from her big, color-coordinated tree decorations to overseeing the making of her delicate, savory tamales. Armidita was happiest when we were underfoot, performing and telling stories, clapping and laughing until her green eyes sparkled with joy.

It’s just not the same without parents.

Warm wishes for a peaceful holiday



The B side of “This time of year!”…

is the Winter’s Solstice, which according to EarthSky.org

“For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the December solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of the year. No matter where you live on Earth’s globe, it’s your signal to celebrate. After the winter solstice, the days get longer, and the nights shorter. It’s a seasonal shift that nearly everyone notices.”

This darkest, seemingly most barren time of the year is when I, a Spring baby, burrow deep into a mucky sac of contemplation and reflection, ultimately reaching bottom where the most raw and honest writing floats to the top. I come out looking as if an undertow had spit me out, disheveled, and disoriented to be back among the living, but deeply rooted in my writing.

“This time of year!” is also cloaked with expectations, sorrow, and memories that seem to pull us under. A frightening, harrowing time that begs for each one of us to be gentler and kinder with ourselves.

Especially during the holidays.

I’d like to share with you, one of my favorite authors, whose books I lend and never get back. Alexandra Kennedy’s article on grief and the holidays.

May your Winter’s Solstice be peaceful!

When writing life and “This Time Of Year!” collide…

the holidays almost always win, hands down. Writing a novel, an essay, a blog, most anything can’t compete with “This Time Of Year!”.

As it is, each ordinary Monday to Friday, week in and week out, I ants-in-my-pants squirm almost every minute of every hour while I pound the keyboard until I settle  deep within a flurry of sentences and write like a savage beast. So, I don’t need an excuse not to write. I have a built-in ejection handle on my chair that can catapult me on to every other thing in my life including sorrow, celebration, fear, and guilt.

But “This Time Of Year!” gives me carte blanche to push away from the keyboard and ignore what’s grappling to get out.

Until I read tiny beautiful things Advice on love and life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed. This collection of columns is a gem, but the response to a whiney aspiring writer slapped me wide awake. Among the erudite and gentle advice she spoon fed this ailing woman, three sentences stood out. I now live by the last sentence..

“Don’t write like a boy.

Don’t write like a girl.

Write like a motherfucker.”

This infertile woman feels unhinged by Newton, Connecticut

much like I did when I barricaded our Ciudad Juárez apartment door with most of the living room furniture before going to bed. Every single night. For months on end.

No one was going to get to my boys.

Sleep meant patrolling the five rooms two or three times a night, hovering over my sons pretzeled bodies until their breath filled the room with layers of pungent sweet stinkyness, I swear, only boys exude.

During the interminable day, I busied myself while on patrol and took inventory of all minutia outside our kitchen window as I kept vigil on my boys and at the same time prepared meals, cleaned up, or held on to the kitchen sink praying for a sliver of my grandmothers’ backbone.

By the end of the second month, a chant seemingly attuned to my breathing, echoed throughout my day,  I just need to get home. I just need to get home. Ijustneedtogethome. Ijustneedtogethome.

I am home, but at times like these, I’m back in Juárez.

No words, this time…



















A lighter moment in Ciudad Juárez

I still like to rib my niece about this…

Chapter XV – August 1998

When we arrived from our morning swim on the third day we rousted Claudia off the sofa with an offer for lunch. I wanted her to sample a true burrito: a freshly made, fluffy, hubcap-sized tortilla filled with chile Colorado or delicate green chile relleños without the mushy rice, lettuce, sour cream, cabbage, or other fillers that Americans used to make their “Super Burrito.”

I put the boys in the shower and as I bent down to lather them up, I felt dizzy and light-headed. I hadn’t eaten my usual pan de dulce with my coffee.

“Claudia,” I called out as I rinsed Ricardo. “Do me a favor?”

She stood by the doorway, brushing her hair.

“I’m feeling a bit dizzy. Would you dry and diaper Ricardo while I get a drink of water?” I grabbed a towel and wrapped it around his little body and helped him out of the shower stall. Agustín was entertaining himself by blowing bubbles with a mixture of snot and soap.

“Sure.” Claudia took my place.

I left for the kitchen while Claudia danced with Ricardo into their bedroom. I pressed the cool glass against my forehead, when I heard a loud gasp.

“Oh, my God. I cannot deal with this.”

Had Ricardo peed or poop on her while changing his diaper?

“His penis. Something is wrong with his penis.” She stood in the bedroom doorway with one hand covering her eyes.

I squeezed by her and ran to the bed imagining the worst. Why hadn’t I noticed while I was giving him a shower? Had he hurt it in the pool? Was it bleeding? Ricardo was sitting up, drooling on his chest with the diaper laying flat next to him. His penis looked fine.

“What’s wrong with it, Claudia?”

“Look.” She refused to remove her hand from her eyes. “Look at it.” My niece pointed an accusatory index finger at Ricardo’s chubby thighs.

Then it hit me. His penis wasn’t circumcised. He had extra flesh covering the tip. I explained to her that most Mexican boys didn’t have their penis circumcised.

“No way!”

One of the many surprises and false assumptions that lead to unintentional hurt feelings with my family during the messy, tender, sticky moments when they witnessed me becoming a mother.

A mother hyper alert to any one dissing her babies. Now fourteen years later, not much has changed.

The B side of movie night…

I don’t always skip out of the house with my goodie stash and reveling in my productivity. There are nights I bolt out the front door without a purse much less a cheddar cheese canister. In the most efficient set of movements I stuff my wallet and cell phone in my pants or coat pocket, swipe the first set of keys I find and shaking, heart pounding, mouth like drywall I walk out the front door and run to the car.

Once inside, I lock the car doors in case the testosterone, dense and ornery, oozes out into the deck, towards the driveway threatening to smother me like The Blob.

I drive away, hands clutching the steering wheel, and my eyes darting from the road to the rearview mirror.  Once down the road, I stop. At times, in the still of the night, I cry in utter frustration or shriek in anger, mixed with regret and sadness. This pity party is all mine.

I wipe my face and head downtown without a clue or plan. I buy a ticket for whatever movie I haven’t seen whether it has already started or not. I don’t buy popcorn, root beer, or Milk Duds, instead I march straight into the theater, find a seat, and burrow.

Some times, I can’t even remember what movie I saw, other times I’ve cried in the darkness then fallen asleep. I have awoken to the credits rolling. On rare occasions, I indulge in a double feature and stay out until midnight when I can return home and count on a dark house.