It should be a National Holiday*

  • 1 Comment

(with all due deference to NewMexiKen’s decision that today *isn’t* a candidate for National Holiday. Damn Domenici for busting up my day!)

And on this day, a Karen was born, and it was good.

Until she grew up a little and her family would beg to differ…

So when I was little, my mom was always willing to make whatever cake or pie the birthday kid wanted. I usually chose a cake, a chocolate chip cake. My mom would whip it up out of a box and it was oh so yuuuum. It felt special to have the cake made just for me.

In honor of the kindness my mother showed me all those years, I decided to make my own cake for myself this year.

Mom, you’ll note my layer cake is about as even as all the ones you and I made over the years.

Though in my defense, The Good Man and I have discovered our home on a hill built in the early 1940’s isn’t exactly level anymore. Doors don’t stay open (or closed, depending) and my two layer of cake came out of the oven looking less like a square and more like a right-angled triangle. Can one work a Pythagorean theorem on a cake?

But as I’ve learned over the years, frosting can make up for a multitude of sins. And add a few too.

Last night on Birthday Eve, I endulged in a slab of cake. Not a piece, a slab. And it was gooooooood. Chocolate with vanilla frosting. Yes please!

And I am planning to celebrate even more. I’ve shaken off the birthday blues and enjoying the day. I even scored a few presents at work. How ’bout that!

Looking forward to the surprises The Good Man has in store.

¡Feliz Cumpleaños para ME!

_______________________________

Oh, an update for the folks who have asked about the progress of Plastic Surgery Kitty.

She’s healing really well.

Here’s a photo from this morning:

The last of the scab came off last night and the wound has healed nicely, is pink and healthy. Looks like she’s come through it just fine! Much better photo than the last one I posted, huh?

Tastes Like Nuevo Mexico

  • No Comments

I have been reading a book titled “Tastes like Cuba: An Exile’s Hunger for Home” by Eduardo Machado.

I picked up this little gem off the “new” rack at my local library. I liked the title. Plus I have a total fascination with Cuba. This passion in past years has been fueled by the movie “Buena Vista Socal Club” which I saw in the theater, and own and watch often. It’s an amazing movie.

What lay ahead of me in this book, Tastes Like Cuba, was not something I could expect. I was excited by the form the book took, discussing Cuba through the author’s memories of food. Each chapter ends with a couple recipes for the food just discussed (which is a really cool idea). It was like food porn, and since I’m a big fan of good eats myself, it immediately appealed to me.

As the book progressed, it went from mild interest to speaking directly to my heart. Eduardo goes through quite a transformation in his life. Born and raised in Cuba, at the age of 8, just as Castro took over Cuba, Eduardo was shipped out to Miami on the now infamous Operation Peter Pan flights. He went from a life of relative luxury and wealth, surrounded by his parents and grandparents, to being poor and parentless in a new country with the added responsibility of caring for his younger brother.

When his parents did finally arrive some months later, his father moved the family to Los Angeles, a wild and wacky place for a young, sensitive, creative Cuban kid in the 1960’s. He struggled to identify himself. He wasn’t a Chicano during the power and protest periods in LA. He was not a Caucasian American. He was something no one could identify, not even himself.

To add to this lost state of feelings, in America he couldn’t get the food from home, the tastes that made him feel whole. Through growing, becoming more of an American, and exploring his creativity, he found a dichotomy. A man without a country, without the touchstone of his family that turned out to be more dysfunctional than he’d ever imagined (his father boldly admits, to his face, that he never loved Eduardo. How’s that for a mind f*@k?), and without something to identify with, it sent him down a spiraling journey into low self-esteem and depression.

What finally rescued him was the theater. First as an actor, and then ever more successfully as a playwright.

He wrote plays about his life, his family, his darkest fears, the ugly parts, the pretty parts, all of it. And though it scared him senseless to put it all out there, he still did it.

I started thinking hard about why this book spoke to me so deeply. Now, certainly, I’m no exile from another country, but I, too, was raised in a very culturally deep place with food unlike anywhere else in the world. And yes, I miss the food from my home. Daily. Did you know you can’t find whole, fresh roasted Hatch green chiles in California? And forget it about Indian Fry Bread.

And I often feel misunderstood here in California. Culturally, artistically and all the rest. It was profound when I first moved and still is something of an issue, some ten years later.

But, much like Eduardo, it took me leaving my home to be able to plumb the depths of my own creativity. Living in California has become a means to help me learn who I am, why things matter to me, and to be able to write, paint, and photograph about them.

I am a woman of two places. Like Eduardo, I’ve learned to love them both, while being conflicted at the same time.

My transformation has been on a much smaller scale than Eduardo Machado. But I guess in reading his words, I wish I could just tell him, “I get it”.

Because I do.

Minutiae

  • No Comments

I happen to be one of those kinda folks that often pays attention to minutiae in my daily life. I find it both exciting and aggravating that I’m like that.

But it’s never boring.

Take for example, this weekend. I wrote letters to my two godkids then walked over to the blue post box near my place to mail them.

As I walked, I pondered how utterly cool it is that I can write some words on a piece of paper, seal it shut, put a sticker on the front, and through the power of humans and machines in about two to three days it will make it all the way to Las Cruces, New Mexico. To my friend’s house on the outskirts of town. My words will travel 1200 miles and a human will put them into a metal box on a rural road.

Wow!

Ok, I realize the US Mail has been around for a long time and it was probably, like a gazillion times more amazing back in the days when some guy rode a horse for DAYS to get a letter to someone in a remote location…like, er, Las Cruces. But still, the fact that it usually just works so effortlessly is really, really cool.

Even cooler, I recently got a package from a friend in London. How far out is that? I mean, I got a package from someone in a time zone eight hours ahead of mine. When I go to work he’s going home for the day. And he sent me a book, and it came halfway around the globe (ok, not *quite* that far, don’t go getting all literal on me while I’m blowing my own mind). Sure, that was UPS that made it so, but still.

Wow!

I know the interwebs make communication more instant, but there is still something really cool about a written letter or a package from a friend.

It’s been great to watch my two godkids grow up and come into their own. Through their written letters I learn a lot about their personalities, the people they are becoming. I could get that talking to them on the phone, but it’s fascinating what they choose to write about.

Makes me proud. And I love writing them back, too.

Thanks to the simple magic of the USPS, my relationship with my godkids grows by each postmarked letter, line by line.

Hey Mr. Postman? Thanks for that!

Memories

  • No Comments

I am quite thoughtful today. It is an anniversary of sorts, but not the happy kind.

It was three years ago today that my dad passed away in Albuquerque. In some ways it was like yesterday, how fresh the hurt is. But in other ways it seems like a million years ago.

It wasn’t a surprise when he died. It was expected. He’d been sick and we knew it was inevitable. It was, actually, in many ways a relief when it did finally occur.

Losing a parent is, in my opinion, among the hardest things an adult must deal with.

I didn’t have much of a relationship with my dad, but he was my dad, after all. He was cranky, cantankerous, Type A, driven, rigid, incredibly intelligent, hardworking, a loyal friend to his friends, never lazy, handy, proud, insecure, funny, a thinker, and unstoppable.

In other words, an imperfect human.

For me, the things that needed to be said were said before he moved on. I don’t have any open issues there, and I count myself lucky in that regard.

So today, I feel a bit of sadness, a bit of thoughtfulness, and the drive to keep moving ever forward.

Countin’ ’em

  • 2 Comments

*sigh* Monday. It’s Monday again. Why God why?!?!?

I guess cuz it has to be.

Granted, I had today off. Not because of the holiday. My company doesn’t give us that one off. Nah. I took a few days vacation.

I was honored, over the weekend, to have a visit from my best friend. She lives in Las Cruces and made quite a long trip to get here. Should have gone easy, but due to inclement weather somewhere or other, she languished in the unfathomably ugly Phoenix airport, cutting short our visit time by several hours.

We hadn’t had the chance to be together in person for quite a while. October, I think, was the last gathering in New Mexico. She hadn’t been this way for years.

The occasion of her visit was to begin her duties as my Matron of Honor (what a terrible thing to call a nice married lady…”matron”, feh!).

Those duties included 1) calming my ass down, 2) helping me look at wedding magazines without crying in anxiety and 3) going with me to choose a wedding dress.

It is that last one, the wedding dress one, where she earned her combat pay.

Despite having been in several weddings, I’ve never had the, uh, agony, pleasure, of going with a friend through the whole dress buying process.

Through the recommendation of a work friend, I found a place in San Francisco (right off Union Square) that you can choose from their “menu” and they make you a custom fit dress. The friend that made the recommend doesn’t have a model perfect bod, and I saw her wedding photos. She looked *stunning*. I figured these were the people to work some magic.

Let’s review. 1) wedding dress shopping, 2) in San Francisco, 3) off Union Square, 4) getting measured.

I. Was. Terrified.

The good news is, as of this year, my friend has been my best friend for, count ’em, twenty years. Yup, met back in 1988. Oh the lives we’ve lived since then.

So I felt comfortable in the presence of The Good Man and The Best Friend to say, “I’m scared.”

And bless them both, they talked me down, fed me breakfast, told me I’d be great and brought me to the fifth story, blonde-wood floored dress shop feeling strong and confident and loved.

As an aside, let me tell you this bit of Too Much Information. At the shop, they hand you a strapless bra, some really awful gold lamé shoes, tell you to strip down and we’ll be right back with dresses for you to try on.

I wore a pair of steel belted control top hose to try to better my chances. So there I stood, shivering in a billowy curtained dressing room wearing black hose, a strapless bra and gold shoes. The urge to wheeze, “anyone want a cocktail” like a Reno waitress was too much to bear.

I stood there, horribly nervous and horribly uncomfortable and I looked over at my friend. She gave me an “it’s going to be ok look” and all I could do was bust out laughing.

The laughing stopped when they slipped the first dress over my head. Who knew I had a waist? Who knew I could actually pull off a strapless?

My friend was brutally honest with me on each dress we tried on and after an hour and a half, I think we’ve settled on a good one.

After that, the rest of the weekend was easy. We did sightseeing and had good eats. I got the rare chance to spend several days with my two most favorite people in the world. And was so gratified to see how well they got along with each other, as well.

I choked back a lot of tears this morning dropping her off at the airport. She has to get home to my two gorgeous goddaughters and her husband as well. I’ll see her again soon, but tonight my heart aches.

I miss my best friend, each day, very much.

Together she and I have learned a lot of lessons.

The most recent, from the dress shop employee.

The key to femininity is:

Spanx and a sash.

And she’s not lying, that sh*t can work wonders!

Most people in this world, if asked to make a party list, can fill a page with a list of friends. I cannot. I have very few friends, but the friends I do have mean everything to me. They are more than friends, they are family.

For that, I am grateful.

Add to that, my friend carted a bag of Hatch grown green chile out here and whipped up a batch of rellenos Sunday night that would make you cry (and I think The Good Man and I did weep, just a little, in gratitude). THAT is love.

Photo below to make you drool.