Thirteen things I learned in 2013

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morguefiles.com

Every year,  we hope to learn and grow from mistakes or experiences that hit us in the face when we weren’t looking – or even when we were.  At year-end, we reflect and hold on to hopes of having a better year to come.

These are some of the things I learned in 2013:

1.  Giving to others does not mean completely losing your heart and soul in the process.  You can only do so much for others before you have to get back to saving yourself.  This was a tough and painful lesson in 2012 and the beginning of 2013 when I took my troubled niece in to live with us.  The pain, ugliness and sadness I witnessed forever changed me and made me realize that I am not as strong as I thought I was.  I am however, proud of myself for trying and giving it my all.

2.  What a great idea it was to encourage my husband to volunteer to go on a service trip with our daughter in February.  Not only did they do a very good deed, but they bonded and traveled together through many states.  The bonus was that the guilt he felt for leaving me alone for that week was responsible for me sitting at the beach sipping piña coladas in Puerto Rico, getting spoiled rotten by my mom.

3.  That Jennifer Lawrence IS a wonderful actress even if I don’t love her short haircut.

4.  That Japan unveiled the world’s first “smelling” tv screen (what on earth does it smell like?)

5.  I learned not to start my own Ebay business since this was the year they began taxing online sales.

6.  That Bill Gates is back to being the richest man (72.7 billion) after losing in 2008. PHEW!

7.  I learned that my fear of train tracks and trains has quadrupled after all the derailments and train accidents in 2013.  There were at least 25 major train accidents around the world in 2013 (not to mention the smaller accidents).  AY!

8.   I was happy to learn that 6 states legalized same-sex marriage this year!  In addition, these countries joined the bandwagon: England, Brazil, Uruguay, France & New Zealand.

9.  Meanwhile not only did Vladimir Putin announce his divorce to his wife, but his loving country passed a law banning foreign same-sex couples from adopting children.   I hope Sochi 2014 proves to show the Russian government a thing or two about humanity and acceptance.

10.  That 2013 brought the first stem-cell lab-grown burger which was eaten  in London.

11.  I learned that financial aid is needed way before your Senior is accepted to college to pay for the ridiculously high application fees the colleges require.  In addition, next time I have kids, I will make the application fees paid by me BE their birthday and Christmas presents that year.  #feelingpoorbeforecollegebegins

12. That there is hope for us Catholics and humanity as a whole,  with the leadership of such an amazing man like Pope Francis.

13.  I learned what an incredibly fortunate person I truly am to be surrounded by such a loving family and friends and that it is possible to love people you haven’t even met – like all of you wonderful blogging friends.

Happy New Year!

Feliz Año Nuevo!

Memories of Many ‘a Christmas Mornings…

wrestlingwithretirement.com

wrestling with retirement.com

Growing up, my family had a fascination with bathrobes.  Since before I could walk, I had a bathrobe.  My dad and two brothers also had bathrobes (though they didn’t always wear them.)

The women in the family still love their robes.  They signify complete and utter laziness coziness.  On many ‘a day,  we have been known to throw our robes on in the morning, stay in them through lunchtime, perhaps through happy hour and heck, throw them off and jump back in bed at night.   We have a name for these special days:

We call them BATA DAYS!

 {Yes, bathrobe in Spanish is bata.}

There is simply nothing better than a Bata Day.

As you can imagine, Christmas mornings were and still are the perfect mornings for wearing your bata. On these special mornings, we would usually still be recovering from a night filled with wonderful Puerto Rican traditions like gorging on greasy pork, rice and beans,  fried pig intestines, fried everything else, flan, a lot of rum and singing and dancing while shaking our maracas, which in turn caused irreparable damage to our ear drums. What?   If that does not scream BATA DAY, I don’t know what does!

Undoubtedly,  besides having food and alcohol hangovers,  some of us were simply  not able to hide our crankiness on Christmas morning.   That would be… my older brother whose middle finger always managed to “photo bomb” our pictures and videos. My dad would have the Spanish music blaring and my mom the mimosa’s chilling as we would sit in the living room in a catatonic state, staring at the presents we would soon open.

Now, as braggy as this may sound, we were known to many as a, “pretty” group of people – my family.  But on Christmas mornings, there was absolutely no sign of prettiness to be found.

My dad’s bata would be partially open exposing his Santa-like belly and tighty-whities.  His surviving strands of hair would stray from their usual position and stick straight up into the air.  My mom’s curly hair combined with the static electricity of the season,  had a life of its own – It too had a hangover. Her bata stains were reminders of the previous day’s grease fest.

I remember us kids suffering from either flat as a board bed hair or hair that had permanently set into our skulls with a different part than our usual.  This resulted in our hair hurting.  We were also blessed with pillow marks etched deeply into our faces that would take days to fade.  Our breaths could light the house on fire and my younger brother always smelled like fried eggs.

Ahhhhh….the memories.

gettyimages.com

gettyimages.com  This is NOT what we looked like.

Yet, for some twisted and probably narcissistic reason, we would take out the cameras  and document ourselves in this state, every Christmas.  Not that we showed the pictures to anyone else, in fact I still keep them locked up for safety in my basement.  They are a reminder of how fragile our good looks were/are and how quickly they can disappear into thin air.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at these beauties.  Faces were covered to protect the guilty: As you can see, we had brown batas, white batas, floral batas, pink batas, short batas and long batas.

I have learned a bit since those days and now brush my hair, brush my teeth, cover the pillow marks and wear a nice bata on Christmas mornings.  It is only then that I allow the all familiar *clicks to take place.

My childhood bata traditions must NOT BE REPEATED – EVER. I wish you all a wonderful Christmas filled with no hangovers, grease stains, pork breath or messy hair.  May your day be filled with the warmth and comfort of your batas.

Feliz Navidad!

The Wal-Mart Christmas Musical

Peg @ Peg-o-Leg’s Ramblings is hilarious describing The Wal-Mart Christmas Musical! You have got to read this!

Peg-o-Leg's Ramblings

Art lovers like to revisit their holiday favorites at this time of year.  Ballet enthusiasts flock to The Nutcracker and classical music lovers go to Handel’s Messiah.

Me?  I’m a musical theater buff.  Last weekend I caught my favorite show – perhaps you’ve seen it?  If not, there’s just one more week for you to catch a local performance of this holiday classic…

The Wal-Mart Christmas Musical

The entire play takes place in a Super Wal-Mart.  It is Sunday afternoon during the busy, holiday shopping season.

Here’s the story in a nutshell:  Our heroine is a young ingenue who looks almost exactly like me.    She has been sprinkled with holiday cheer fairy dust and sent on a quest in the Land of Wal-Mart.  She must find another strand of the same brand of lights she bought last year, to finish the string dangling 1 foot short of the bottom…

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College “friends”, College acceptances & Botox

DSCN5728 DSCN5731Telephone conversation with my twenty-year-old son:

 Son:  Mom, do you mind if I bring some friends home for the holidays?

Me:  Of course not honey, your friends are always welcomed into our home.  Will they be sleeping over?  Do they need towels?

Son:  Yea, they are sleeping over but they don’t need towels.  Eh…they kind of like to party at night, Mom and they can be a bit noisy (contrary to literature out there, some Gerbils are nocturnal.)

Me:  Well, I am sure they will be respectful and understand that we need to go to work and school.

 Son:  Yea, maybe…

*I am consequently now hosting, two of his “college roommates” who are partying it up like party animals do, chewing things up and getting ON my dining room table!  There is one word in Spanish that sums up perfectly when something is disgusting and that word is, FOOOOOOOOOOO!

**********

Conversation with my seventeen-year-old daughter:

 Daughter:  Mom, guess what?

Me:  What, dear?

Daughter:  I got accepted to Fordham University!

Me:  Oh my gosh, that is wonderful.  You must be so proud of your hard work.

Daughter:  I am!

*While she was at school the next day, this is the title of an article written by the NY Times sent to me by my sister-in-law – in a panic:

2,500 APPLICANTS GET FALSE NEWS OF ACCEPTANCE TO FORDHAM

Oh, SH**!!!!!

I immediately called Fordham to confirm that she is NOT one of the 2500.  They informed me that they could not give me that information (aren’t’ I the one paying?) but that if her notification was sent via the Fordham portal and not a separate email, then the acceptance is legit.

GULP.

Do you know what it is like to think about having to tell your Type-A 17-year-old daughter that the acceptance was a mistake?  Let’s just say that I had a major hot flash at that very moment.

Thankfully, the GODS heard my cries and all the planets and stars aligned perfectly and she is indeed, accepted.  

PHEW.

*She got a couple of other acceptances from her early applications and now we wait for the next round of applications to be sent. JOY!

**********

Conversation with GI doctor about esophageal problems I have been experiencing (can’t swallow, feels like something is stuck):

Me:  So Doctor, if the endoscopy showed that there is no obstruction, no GERD, no cancer and no other issues AND the MRI showed that I do not have bone spurs poking my esophagus then, WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH ME?

Doctor:  Well, it could be a motility issue where your esophagus goes into muscle spasms when you swallow food.

Me:  But I already have all kinds of weird ailments and vagus nerve issues that affect my “movements” and even my hair hurts sometimes!  Why do I have this strange motility issue?

Doctor:  Let me consult with my colleague at Mass General in Boston to check if there is a correlation between dysphagia (problems swallowing) and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Me:  In the meantime, how do I do what I do best? Eat?

Doctor:  I will call you on Monday.  One thing we could do is to perform another endoscopy but this time inject Botox into your esophagus while we are in.  Botox can relax your muscles in your esophagus and its effects will last several months.

Me:  Oh, goody!  This idea thrills me immensely!  What happens after a couple of months when the much wasted on my esophagus  Botox wears off?

Doctor:  If the muscle spasms do not stop, we give you some more Botox.

*I will accept the gerbils, and the almost mistake with a college acceptance but please, give me back the glorious joy I feel when swallowing all the foods I love (and there are many!)

scary-botox-19853111

My Big Fat Puerto Rican Christmas

travelpickr.com

travelpickr.com

It’s a bit of a challenge to celebrate your childhood holiday traditions that are meant to take place in the warmth of the Caribbean, when you are living in arctic-like conditions and are no longer anywhere near that sunny oasis (why have I not moved back yet?) Not only is the weather a factor but it is difficult to find all the delicious typical fried and fattening foods that make the holidays what they are. I have such fond memories of Christmases in Puerto Rico.  I lived there until I was nine when my parents we decided to move to the Northeast, to freeze to death.  As you might have guessed, I haven’t recovered from the move yet.

First of all, almost everyday from December 1st to January 15th in Puerto Rico, is a holiday!  Nothing is open and you can’t get anything done( I’m exaggerating just a tad.)  This leaves you no choice but to party like an animal and eat like one too. Although I enjoy  traditional Christmas carols, frankly, they tend to put me to sleep.  They are not exactly get-down type of tunes, unless there are moves to “Come all ye Shepherds” I don’t know about.  Many of the Puerto Rican aguidaldos (Christmas songs) are great party songs.  It is not possible to stay still while listening.  The beat and rhythm of the songs take over your body and ignite the, Elaine from Seinfeld in all of us. Take a listen to this medley (really do click on it before reading on, I promise you will enjoy.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=jJAPPPWIfLY

If you are not dancing around your office or kitchen right now (after listening) then you must be dead.  The music just perks me up and makes me feel like I can do anything (sometimes I vacuüm to it).  Fortunately, living in “Iceland” has not impeded my ability to continue this tradition.

This next tradition is a bit tougher to sustain.  Because the music is so festive and makes you want to drink and eat more, it’s only natural that you would want to share in the celebration with your friends and family.  So you go on a Parranda.  

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google.com

Parranda is a gathering of a group of people with fun instruments like maracas & guiros that go from house to house singing together.  Except for, it is not soft angelic music and you don’thave hot chocolate afterwards.  You “surprise” (asaltar) a suspecting or non-suspecting friend or family member in the middle of the night by showing up at their front door, singing at the top of your lungs and begging them to let you in to give you drinks and food.  Then, you kidnap that person and take them along to the next house.

 Yea, no.  My parents tried doing a parranda one year in our quaint little New England college town but the neighbors called the police – cutting short the festivities.  We were just a group of people keeping with our traditions.  Had we been in Puerto Rico, all the neighbors would have joined us.  Sigh.

Lucky for my kids, this has never stopped me from doing a parranda indoors in the comfort of my living room.  All visitors that walk in get an instrument handed to them and are forced  encouraged to join in.  I admit that I too hated it when I was a teen but now, it’s a big part of their tradition.

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“Before” picture
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I know it looks gross but this is one tradition I really miss! Navidad is not Navidad  without charred swine to munch on.  Deliciousness and juicy fat dripping in your mouth (oh, sorry).  Seriously, you slowly “rotisserize” the pig right in your back yard (or front yard it you want to make your neighbors jealous) for hours until it is just perfect.  Then you serve it (pernil) with arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas) and some sweet plantain. Ay, ay, ay!

"After" picture foodspotting.com

“After” picture
foodspotting.com

That tradition, my father managed to sneak through in the privacy of our backyard (probably in the snow and sleet) a year or two without a visit from the police.    

Other foods I miss and love are, pasteles made with a masa dough combining yuca & plantain stuffed with pork, beef or chicken and boiled in a plantain leaf.

Pastel gourmetrix.com

Pasteles
gourmetrix.com

These are hard to come by in this bone-chilling area but every once in a while my mom brings them with her from Puerto Rico when she visits for Christmas.  Deliciosos.

My kids immediately took to celebrating, Epiphany or Three Kings Day,  (the 12th day after Christmas when the Magi arrived bearing gifts for baby Jesus) on January 6th, after figuring out that they would get even MORE presents.  Since they were little, the eve of Epiphany, we take a shoe box for each child (yes, they still like to do this), we fill it with grass (if we can find any under 5 feet of snow) and carrots and leave it under their beds for the night.  While they innocently sleep, the Three Kings and their camels trek through the snow (the poor things are used to the desert or tropics and now have to endure the winters in search of children who moved away), and put small presents in the shoe boxes.  At 20 & 17, my kids still love this tradition unlike Mr. Brickhouse who reminds me that we are not Magi and don’t have extra gold and frankincense lying around the house after Christmas, to give to the children.

The truth is that I cherish these traditions and enjoy passing them down to my kids in hopes that they appreciate them and continue to celebrate them with their own families.

*You can take the girl away from her culture,  but you can’t take the culture away from the girl.

  I will leave you with the recipe to a must have beverage when celebrating a Puerto Rican Christmas or any Christmas.

Coquito

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google.com

(Similar to Egg Nog but with Bacardi Rum)
30 ounces coconut milk
14 ounces condensed milk (you can use light condensed milk if you prefer)
1 cup Bacardi rum
½ cup water
pinch of salt
½ tsp. cinnamon

Mix all ingredients in the blender. Taste and add *more rum if you like it stronger. You need to add the water because it will get thicker later in the fridge. Pour into a bottle and refrigerate well. Make ahead for richer flavor. Serve in small glassware.

Salud & Feliz Navidad! 

Fa la la la la – la la la la

A little Holiday Humor to keep us sane:

dailymail.co.uk

dailymail.co.uk

Deck the house with junk made in China,

Fa la la la la, la la la la

‘Tis the season to pretend you’re happy

Fa la la la la, la la la la

You don’t have time for all this nonsense

Fa la la la la la la la la

Bank account will soon be empty

Fa la la la la la la la la

Fighting with family while decorating the tree

Fa la la la la la la la la

When you’re done the tree tips over

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Why didn’t you just get a fake one

Fa la la la la la la la la

Vacuuming needles into April

Fa la la la la la la la la

Buying junk that no one needs,

Fa la la la la la la la la

If you get one more damn Snuggie blanket

Fa la la la la la la la la

You will hit someone with your Chia Pet

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Eating cookies drinking egg nog

Fa la la la la la, la la la

Getting fatter by the minute

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Now you go return your presents,

Fa la la la la la la la la la

Make resolutions you’ll never keep…

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Please Oh God can it be over,

FA LA LA LA LA, LA LA LA LA!

* I really do love the holidays, just having a little fun! 🙂