All posts filed under: Blog

Cultural Perks & Comical Quirks…

Growing up in a Puerto Rican home had its cultural perks, as well as some comical quirks. The Salsa and Merengue music playing in the background throughout my childhood was definitely a perk… …While my Mom cooked dinner. As she stirred, mixed, and chopped the ingredients, there were times that her body would become one with the music, especially those hips of hers. They would sway back and forth. She was in her own world. …While my Dad washed his car on the street in front of our house. As he sprayed water from the hose, rubbed the sponge filled with dish washing soap, and dried the car with old torn bath towels, my dad would sing his heart out. He was in his own world. …While my Mom, Dad, sister and I, had our very own family dance off on a Saturday afternoon – usually triggered after  watching The Soul Train. As my sister and I watched our parents dancing, we would pay close attention to their posture: spine straight, chin up and shoulders …

Rags to Riches: My Grandfather’s Story

Saturday, January 15, 1986… It was a dark, cold winter evening in the Back of the Yards- neighborhood of Chicago. About a week past- on January 6 – we had celebrated my little sister’s birthday and El Dia De Los Reyes (Three Kings’ Day). For some Puerto Ricans, this day is more significant than Christmas. They believe that the 25th of December is a prelude, and the actual start of the “12 days of Christmas,” which ends on January 6 – the day the kings arrived bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. My family- mom, dad, sister and I – were sitting around our wooden dinning room table eating a typical Puerto Rican dinner comprised of carne frita, arroz blanco, habichuelas, y tostones (fried pork with white rice, beans and fried plantain slices). As I write, I can see my plate – the reddish brown sauce of the beans running into the white rice, the crispy pork pieces cooked to perfection, and the fried plantains sprinkled with garlic and salt. I can smell and …

The Ugly Duckling

Most of us have had a season in our lives that we would refer to as our awkward looking – or flat out – ugly stage. Some of us are so fortunate enough to have hard evidence- school pictures, year books, family albums and home videos – to show for it.  My artifacts have survived- relocating from house to house, places where dust bunnies and moths call home- attics, basements, and storages – and even the eight months of Chicago weather when they were in the trunk of my car. Years ago, my mom graciously and lovingly put together an album that contained all my childhood and teenage pictures. I take pleasure in browsing through the pictures of my younger years. But, when I get to my preteen years I cringe. I flip through the album quickly, until I arrive at a more pleasant time- my late teen years. During my preteen years, I was without a doubt an ugly duckling. I had tight, kinky curly hair that I had no idea how to control …

A Struggling Student, A Blind Teacher, and the Master’s Hand

I was sitting at the dining room table with wide-ruled paper, a corrected draft of my writing in front of me, and a pencil – which I faithfully had chewed on all day – in my hand. My pencil looked how I felt – chewed up and disposable. Night after night, I sat in that dreadful chair. I HATED doing my homework.  Regardless, there I was again having to rewrite another excruciating assignment. My second grade teacher’s red ink dominated my paper.  In the midst of all of the red, I could barely see my writing. It was being attacked by my teacher’s vicious red penmanship. The letters I formed, the words I phonetically spelled out – d a t (that) – and the sentences I created – I thought made perfect sense to me – were not pleasing to her. My paper depicted how I felt. One word – Defeated. I never had a chance. When it came to homework, it was my dad’s responsibility to help. Back then, I wasn’t aware of this, …

Breaking Barriers: A Mother’s Advice and a Daughter’s Dream

“Slow down. Men don’t like women who are smarter than them. And if you want to one day find a husband- you better slow down.” A few days ago, as I walked the halls of my alma mater – DePaul University – those words rung in my head. A little over twenty years ago, my mother had spoken them to me. Before jumping to conclusions and judging my mom, who loved me dearly, allow me to explain. After serving in WW2, my mother’s father returned to the pueblos of Puerto Rico. There he met my grandmother – who at age 14 was eighteen years younger than him. He married her shortly thereafter. After their second child was born, they moved to Chicago and settled in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. My mother was the fourth child of seven in her family.  She had three older siblings – two brothers and sister – that she looked up to, and three younger siblings – all brothers – that she absolutely adored. For my mom’s elementary education, …

Not all that Glitters is Gold…

As I looked out the window of my dad’s two door, antique green, 1971 Camaro, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  My abuelo’s (grandfather) old, wooden porch no longer looked dull and colorless with gray paint chipping off of it. One word came to mind – RAINBOW! The railings were yellow and blue, the stairs were alternating in colors – red, white, and green. Back then, I was seven years old, and even though the porch didn’t depict an accurate rainbow  – red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple – it was nonetheless a rainbow to me. The porch looked like a child had gotten into some paint, and had a field day with it. It had no boring adult paint rules. No colors matched, instead they swirled in and out of their neighboring colors. They melted together under the sun’s heat. My grandfather’s run down, big house looked like a circus. Before today, he portrayed himself to be a stern, serious person, but the “rainbow porch” now made him the circus’ ringleader. “Dad, isn’t it …

Exceptionally Perfect Mom…

A few days after we rung in the New Year, I made a good hearted decision. My family should have a “blessing jar” and a “prayer jar.” And like all the great, inspirational, “I can do that” ideas in this world, I saw it on Facebook.  But of course, my jars had to be just as cute, or even cuter. Unfortunately, like most of said “great, inspirational, “I can do that” ideas”, it wasn’t that simple, and it should have come with a disclaimer – “do NOT, I repeat do NOT attempt to do this with your 6 and 8 year old, especially the last night before returning to school from a two week vacation”. I know that statement comes across quite harsh and unloving, but creating those jars with my children brought out the “ugly mommy” in me. Before I share this  “mother of all messes” – a peek of me in the raw- it is fitting for me to give a cent of my two cents on Motherhood. I am a mother of …

Synchronicity: Dancing and Living

Recently, a dear friend of mine had a surprise 40th birthday Gala Celebration- compliments of her wonderful mom. The venue was strikingly beautiful with large glass windows looking out into the terrace, where a view of trees with Christmas lights awaited us. The décor was Parisian- a sculpture of the La Tour Eiffel, the waiters & waitresses wore black and pink berets, there was a large canvas backdrop depicting Paris scenery – a cafe with tables outside on a brick paved street – as well as a mime, caricature artist, and a delicious assortment of macaroons. Tunes of  the 80’s and 90’s filled the air, like “Who’s Crying Now” by Journey to House music and “It’s Time for the Percolator” by Cajmere. Then, the Salsa music came on – and of course – the dance floor demanded my presence, especially since the deejay was playing Marc Anthony’s latest hit. You see, my mom adored Marc Anthony.  Before becoming famous his band played a few times at the Tropicana Night Club- located in the north side …

The Start…

I’m thankful for God’s faithfulness. In August, I hosted a worship and prayer meeting at my house. One of my prayers was should I move forward in his endeavor of becoming a writer. I didn’t want to be out of God’s will for my life, or pursue something selfishly. Shortly after the meeting, my husband- unaware of my prayers-  shared an email he had received from a publishing company.  The next day a wonderful friend at work- whom I respect as an educator and writer- introduced me to the 2 day Storyline conference. In October, I took two days off of work to attend the conference. The speakers – Shauna Neiquist, Donald Miller, and Glennon Melton- were a breath of fresh air. I left the conference wanting to go above and beyond the mundane, assured of what God can and will do through me, but most importantly I had my answer- I was going to write. I was going to write despite my insecurities, despite my lack of faith in this area, despite my fear …

Thinking Back, Looking Forward…

Like most Puerto Ricans I know, I grew up in a home that was loud, rumbustious, and interesting – to say the least. We fought hard, but we loved dearly! The following sentence may seem like an overstatement, however, it comforts my heart and soul that my childhood can be summed up with three routine events that I still practice religiously. They are: The morning smell of coffee brewing and big breakfast cooking. My mom sitting at the kitchen table waiting to stuff my stomach before I start my day. I enjoyed waking up to my mom’s food. Occasionally, she would have rollers in her hair, a somber face, and would respond with a harsh and raspy “good morning”. But behind the rough exterior she was a good mother that provided and loved me. When she smiled, when she laughed, when she loved- it was beautiful! When she took off those rollers and put on her dancing shoes she was exquisite! But what I remember most is her telling me with all certainty and heart …