My Sally Fields’ Moment

When Sally Fields accepted her Oscar for Best Actress in Places of the Heart, I bet she never expected that one sentence of her heartfelt speech would’ve been taken out of context and brought on such ridicule.

“And I can’t deny the fact that you like me… right now… you like me.”

Sally Fields

Please, Like Stretch Marks!

 Muchas gracias for your company and support as I Indie-publish Stretch Marks! I’ve submitted the Book Cover Changes, Interior Layout, and the manuscript, which was proofed, again, by three different picky people, myself included. We were stunned to find   punctuation errors and extra spaces we’d missed. So, I proofed it again, just in case. If all goes according to plan, you’ll be able to purchase it by mid-February!

Reminder: Listen To Your Mother!

“A few weeks back, I alerted you to the Listen To Your Mother show, a national series of live readings by local writers in celebration of Mother’s Day.

I’ll be auditioning in San Francisco on either February 10th or 12th. No, I haven’t secured an actual spot yet. This is just one of many ways I psych myself up.

“There’s no place like a stage. There’s no place like a stage…” Do you hear my heels clicking?

I’ve refined the five hundred and eleven words of my entry until I count each one in my sleep. I’m honing it with the precision essential to nail a spot.

But until my audition in February on that stage, I’m reading my piece out loud to adjust the flow as I work to stay under the strict five-minute maximum. I’m reminded of Nana Herminia’s advice, when I’d read a book report out loud to her: “keep them wanting more”. This applied to my boyfriends as well.

Reading for a handful of minutes may not seem like a big deal, but it is another calculated step in accomplishing my goal as an author.

I grew up among a witty and bold brood of eleven where we auditioned every day for my mother’s approval. Luckily for us, best behaved was not a category my mother deemed important. Best dressed, best manners, and best Spanish ranked high, but funniest reigned supreme in her book.

A witty joke or humorous story prompted her to stop whatever she was doing and award us with the best prize of all: her laughter. My mother didn’t giggle or chuckle. She threw her entire body into a laugh until her eyes squinted. That was golden! That was the equivalent of Johnny Carson’s okay sign to an up-and-coming comedian at the end of their routine.

That’s really what I’m striving for when I submit my piece, to hear my mother’s laughter.

Spreading my wings

I’m overjoyed to announce that I’m now a contributing blogger on Mothering in the Middle and adding my voice and Latina perspective to Cyma Shapiro’s vibrant site, which celebrates midlife mothers.

It’s no secret that I’ve been on a mission to spark a discussion about Latinas and infertility and hope this venue will help light the fire as well.

Infertile. Me? No way, I’m Latina!

“I’m soon to be 60, raising teenage brothers who my husband and I adopted from Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua almost fifteen years ago. Being a Latina and native speaker definitely helped when we approached an orphanage in northern Mexico. Being a Latina also made it difficult for me to talk about it openly among my family.

I’ve noticed the same reluctance in Latinas to discuss infertility and IVF, as well as adoption. I follow many wonderful blogs where important issues concerning Latinas are showcased, but I have not yet found one that discusses infertility.

Why?…”

Read more of ‘Infertile. Me? No way, I’m Latina!’ at
http://www.motheringinthemiddle.com/?p=3607

Thanks as always for your company and support!

Blogging and the inevitable criticism

I lap up the advice from seasoned bloggers on their method of managing criticism and am secretly relieved when they admit to handling it as poorly as I do. I’d assumed these highly regarded bloggers, who have tens of thousands of followers, would dismiss the handful of criticism among the hundreds of gratifying comments. Not so!

The tips they offer range from taking deep breaths, going for a walk to sleeping on it, and consistently include a warning to thwart the overpowering temptation to respond right away.

Well, that’s child’s play for those who don’t have an evil twin sister, like I do, lurking over their shoulder prodding them to reply NOW!

I have to wrench her hands from the keyboard and wrestle her to the ground. She fights back with a seductive promise that in a matter of minutes she can compose a wicked reply to put the ignoramus in their place. How dare they disagree with me!

Sometimes I give in, but on the condition that my evil twin sister has to respond on paper, away from the computer, and the submit button. I give her diatribe ample time and don’t dare censor her bombastic remarks. I cringe while she gleefully pummels one of my followers with a thick red marker until she’s exhausted her rage. I only offer a tissue to wipe the drool off her chin.

Next, she must read it out loud to me at least three times. She laughs at her snarky remarks and pouts when I don’t high-five her skewering the poor soul. We pin it up on my bulletin board and stand back, shoulder to shoulder. I thank her profusely. She beams at me. She’s satisfied and goes off looking for trouble elsewhere.

Only then do I respond with humility and gratitude that this person is following my blog and taking the time to offer their opinion.

I find this helps keep me sane and prevents me from making a fool of myself.

I was insane…

I mean infertile.

I wrote those words without equivocation, in a writing trance when nothing else but the truth and I existed. Writing Stretch Marks required mining my past: some nuggets I held up to the light, others I’d leave in the darkness, and many required a pickaxe to unearth.

I’d already written three drafts. This revision had the additional pressure of crafting a prologue. When I’d written those last six words, I’d admitted far more than I’d ever planned on, but it was the truth and what, I believe, holds true for countless women.

When a woman wants to have a baby, heaven help anyone or anything that gets in her way.

I remember my Ob/Gyn at the time, looking at me crossed-eyed when I told her we were still trying. “Why? You’re almost forty!” I fought the urge to kick her on my way out. I changed doctors and charged ahead.

Now, looking back, she was right. Even though I was healthy and fit, my eggs were seemingly in retirement. I disregarded every naysayer and resolutely forged ahead.

I’m glad I did and went in with my eyes wide open. I expected my body and bank account to be pushed to the limits, but I was unprepared for the emotional extremes that seemed to test my sanity.

I garden at night…

when silhouettes and stars accompany my nocturnal weeding, watering, or lately, covering delicate trees and plants against the frost. I retreat outside to think without the Matrix like miasma of testosterone lurking right outside my office door and bouncing off every wall in every room. A boombox of sorts.

My sons don’t follow me either like they tend to do indoors, because there’s no WiFi in the garden.

It’s just me, my thoughts, and the stillness of the garden where there’s a wide berth for rehashing, considering, regretting, and letting go of the bits and pieces of my day.

When I caught myself talking out loud to my mother and grandmothers in the moonlight as if they were sitting at a table, drinking coffee and lighting a cigarette, in a corner of my garden, I froze.

A long ago memory of Nana Herminia swooped me up. I was still in elementary school.

My paternal grandparents lived next door to us. From my bedroom window, I had an eagle’s eye view of her garden where during the day, she wore a pith helmet to guard against the desert sun and a cigarette dangled from her lips as she tended to baby roses and olive trees.

 

Late one night, on my way back from the bathroom, I looked out my window and spotted a teensy tiny light. A speck of a glow. It moved. It stopped. It moved. It became brighter. Lightning bugs? A fairy? A prowler?

 

As my eyes became accustomed to the dark, I recognized the orange glow was attached to my grandmother. I carefully opened the window and heard the water gurgling from the water hose as I followed her.

 

When my older sister woke up, startled, I explained in an apologetic whisper that Nana Herminia was out in her garden watering.

 

“You’re dreaming. Go back to bed.”

“I swear, she’s out there.”

“Then she’s crazy. Go back to bed.”

Nope, she wasn’t crazy at all.

Vetting and The Unexpected Outcome

Earlier this week, I wrote about my dismal attempts to have my sons read my memoir before it’s published this month  – Vetting works much better than bribery.

My eldest son when armed with a mission to vet my memoir, passed on watching The Daily Show with us, and instead took Stretch Marks and went to his room. I wouldn’t have been surprised if, as I switched off lights and reset the thermostat before turning in, I had found the paperback left on the bottom of the stairs or on the dining room windowsill.

I didn’t. I also didn’t ask him the next morning.

Later that afternoon, I was so anxiously caught up in finalizing the proof and book cover design that I forgot to ask my eldest if he’d read any of it.

I didn’t have to.

“I liked it,” my eldest said. I cocked my head at him, I thought he was talking about some cold leftover he’d just wolfed down.  He laughed. “Your book, I liked it.”

“Really?” I sounded sixteen.

He nodded. “Impressive, your writing, I mean.” I took a very long deep breath and sipped some tea. My knees shook.

“I finished it last night,” he said.

I choked up and thanked him. I forgot my previous anxiety and fought the urge to channel Sally Fields during her awkward Oscar acceptance speech and blather, “you like me, you really like me!”

Instead, I started by asking what had surprised him.

Everything he’d forgotten about in Ciudad Juárez was his answer.

 

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.

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.