More wishes…

came in through phone calls where my girlfriends had much to say, their thoughts and stories impossible to capture in any form of correspondence.

Each conversation, some brief and some a half hour-long were all steeped with memory-provoking stories which, still resulted in me crisscrossing my legs and arms. Now laughter and gratitude peppered our talks as we also  buoyed each others’ new endeavors. Right before we hung up each one reiterated their wish.

“I wish people would simply shut up and hug the other person, I mean a real hug, a nice long one where the person can just fall into you.”

“I wish more people understood, that ‘I’m so sorry’ goes a long way.”

“I wish folks hugged more.”

“I wish for people to listen to each other more.”

I also received this comment on the blog (thank you!) and wanted to share it:

“I wish for any women undergoing infertility to find a support group, online or in real life to lean on, to hear her when no one else will listen. To not feel she has to smile through her tears or be made to feel terrible because she cannot sit through another baby shower. I wish that she remember her worth as a woman is not measured by her ability to conceive. I wish that she remember that she can still plan vacations and be romantic with her husband just because without having to monitor her cycle every waking second. I wish that she not waste hours upon hours Googling for the top 10 ways to get pregnant or every crazy potion on the market. I wish she could just love and appreciate what she has in the moment and not put off enjoying her life until she can have a child.”


Thank you so much to all of you who sent a wish!

Listen to your mother

Yes, you!

The listen to your mother show, is coming to the Bay area! Their motto being “Giving Mother’s Day a Microphone”.

“…Remember, regular everyday people with a story to tell make up the heart of LTYM. You don’t need to call yourself a writer. You don’t need any performing experience. You just need to share the story in your heart or on your mind.”Giving Mother’s Day a Microphone.”

Time to refine and rehearse the best of our stories and tell them to a live audience. Come on, how often are we aspiring  authors invited into the giddy nervous pleasure of reading our work out loud?

I can count the times on one finger, thanks to the utter devotion of the folks at The Monterey Bay Writer’s Studio, who showcased their students as budding local writers. I was hooked. I recall my instructor, prying my hands off of the microphone ready to announce the next writer, while I stood my ground like a petulant two-year old.

I loved the view from the dais. Row upon row of bookshelves framed a hefty and enthusiastic audience that made me feel like the famous authors’ photographs that lined the bookstores walls. I didn’t have a book to sell. Yet, but I would.

I do. I’m auditioning in February, how about you?


My wish to women going through infertility

I wish you shed off the filmy, suffocating label of infertile with more expediency than I did.

I wish that as soon as you can, you step out, one foot at a time, careful not to trip over the hem of your pent-up feelings, and toe that heap of uselessness away before you take another step.

I couldn’t do it for myself for far too long, even when I knew how to advocate. I instinctively grew claws when my sons entered elementary school and refused the set of labels the caring and concerned teachers and evaluators bandied around.

I countered with their background and that boys were ill-suited for sitting long stretches at a time. I’d blame the summer when my sons lived outside, like feral kittens, in a tent away from the house where they’d pee and contribute to the decimation of invasive shrubs, and shower from the hose. They came in to forage for food only after the parade of ants and beetles in front of their tent flap passed by. They’d settle down, I promised. Just wait and see, I’d smile, just wait, you’ll see.

That’s another post, for another day.

All this to say that only we can refuse any label, even infertility, when it feels glommed on like a facial masque, sucking out the moist juicy you and seemingly rendering our insides into ashes. But, it doesn’t have to define us. It doesn’t have to tattoo itself to our soul. We don’t have to pick it up and clunk it around either, like the Opus Dei, flagellating ourselves in penance.

I did. All of the above and more, but you don’t have to.

That’s my wish for you.

When all else failed in Ciudad Juárez…

to appease my fear while we had to stay indoors, I cooked.

While the streets were tormented by the cartels vying for drug territory and young women disappeared in daylight only to be found later raped and mutilated, I cooked.

When Manuel, the apartment super, arrived before I downed my first cup of coffee, newspaper flattened under his arm, I groaned.  He knew not to share the gruesome details with me, especially in front of the boys, but he insisted we not go out. When would I understand, he’d frown that I didn’t look Mexican, not even one from Sonora. I fumed, but relented and cooked.

It didn’t matter that the cooling system and fans circulated warm air or that the boiling pots and simmering pans would unmercifully raise the temperature inside our apartment. I cooked.

I’d consider my Oaxaca recipe for rich, dark mole that involved all day to concoct or my friend’s cream cheese flan recipe that included slow and meticulous browning of sugar and water baths for baking.

I’d play music to drown out the sirens even with the windows closed, and I’d cook as my sons played, ate, fought, made puzzles, watched videos, and napped.

When despair threatened to unleash my frustration, I turned to my  favorite meals from home, recalling my mother at her helm. One in particular, my mother’s Picadillo recipe, a savory stew with a tart kick from a handful of green olives.

I’d start by dicing a medium onion and when my oldest noticed my tear drops plopping on the chopping block, I had a built-in excuse. I’d sigh long and deep while I chopped a large plump tomato, taking my time, pretending my sons were cooking critics. I’d smash and mince two pungent cloves of garlic then toss it all into a large pan heated with oil that sizzled and splattered all over the stove.

My sons knew to step back while I stirred and let the trilogy wilt and meld into an irresistible fragrance then I’d turn the heat down low. I showed my oldest how to use the potato peeler and we celebrated when he carefully peeled and rinsed his first potato in ten minutes. A half hour later, I diced three small potatoes and added them to the pan set on medium heat with a shot of more oil.

I stirred for a long time until the potatoes turned a golden brown and fed hand-cooled nuggets to the boys. Then I added a pound of ground beef, using a wooden spoon to break it up into morsels that turned from red to pink to brown.

I lowered the flame, pulled out a jar of green olives stuffed with pimentos and methodically chopped a dozen of them into eighths while the boys popped one into their mouths, scrunching up their faces with delight. After I tossed in the olives, I finished it off with a few tablespoons of olive brine and let the stew simmer while I reheated frijoles and the boys set the table.

We’d say grace, savor our meal and I’d be thankful we’d used up hours of our time creating memories and traditions instead of letting fear rule our world.

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?

Stretch Marks release date

My learning curve has been steep. I have the callouses to prove it. And I smile when I state this.

The publication process is daunting. Holding the proof of Stretch Marks in paperback this week demanded I look uphill once again. While I was thrilled with the professional quality and the I’m a bona fide author sensation, I knew it wasn’t ready–sigh– for release.

I’m still, all too often, stunned when another one of my assumptions doesn’t pan out. Yet, I’m enjoying it, mistakes and all. The CreateSpace team is great to work with and My Man has my back on this one.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for releasing Stretch Marks this month.

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.

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