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.

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.”

No words, this time…