Stretching the candle at both ends…

is, at times, not a pretty picture. It’s not always taffy-pulling, shiny sweet or Silly Putty fun. Think Elastigirl from The Incredibles, but alas without the super powers, I splinter and ultimately snap.

I’m a late bloomer and an older mom, so I find myself launching my memoir (about becoming a mother) and our teenage sons into the world at the same time. The irony is plentiful.

I can launch Stretch Marks according to a schedule my publisher and I decide on. Not so with my sons, whose current stage of loitering has me in a state of panic.

I assumed that at this age, they would be tugging at me much less. I envisioned them out in the world a whole lot more while I relished the quiet my work demands. Instead our young men seem to be burrowing, marking their territory with intentions of squatting.

I think of my mother who raised eleven and told me point-blank, during one of her visits that it didn’t get easier as the kids got older. She’d stroke my hand with hers and reminded me half of my siblings had returned several times in their twenties and thirties.

But, I was different, remember? My sons would be different as well.

I regret not asking her if she, like me, panicked?

Happy New Year 2013

I long ago dispensed with New Year’s resolutions and instead follow one of my mother’s premium bits of advice in our loving and tumultuous relationship.

During  an ongoing argument, decades ago, when I was clamped onto the notion that my mother had to see life through my particular lens, she stopped me dead in my tracks. Armida Alicia Raptis reminded me who’d given birth to whom, then declared how fed up she’d been that I relentlessly steered the conversation into my lane, so that maybe, just maybe she’d recognize where she’d wronged me in the past.


We will never agree on the past. I will not apologize for doing what I thought was right at that time.

Enough, Elizabeth Ann.

The silence threatened to pull us further apart until she said two words. “Borron, borron.” Spanish for a clean slate. Mother speak for I’m sorry.

Those two words made it possible for us to move forward into a much richer and deeper relationship. We still disagreed, unintentionally hurt each other, and locked horns, but a “Borron, boron always gave us a graceful way out.

This bit of Armida’s advice helps me start each year afresh, reminding me to let go of the past and look forward to a New Year with unfettered optimism.

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.

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.”