One Step Closer To Feeling Whole

IMG_0601.jpg

brickhousechick.com

Every time I travel back to my hometown, I learn something new about my upbringing and my ancestors.  It feels like a piece of the puzzle, that is my life, fitting nicely into its proper place.  The dots are easier to connect and I can feel myself closer to becoming whole.

Even though I left Puerto Rico at the age of nine, the minute I step off the plane and into the warm and welcoming ground of this island, my heart does a happy skip and I am where I belong.  I feel at home.  The smells, the sounds, the people, the music and the food are like no other anywhere.  A place where the flavor and way of living are as unique as the people that inhabit it.

As I sat with my dear mother reminiscing about old times yesterday,  I learned more about the life she led as a child and the experiences she had growing up.

3510725909_2e0e08ca87-2

Lares flickriver.com

Her family lived about 2 hours from the metropolitan area of San Juan, high in the mountainous town of, Lares.  A small agricultural town in the western part of the island.  Her father (significantly older than her mother) owned acres of farm land where he had a coffee plantation, grew sugar cane and raised cattle.  His farm was a successful and lucrative business that allowed him, his wife and three daughters to enjoy a comfortable life.

I learned that he housed his farmers and their families on the land, in houses he built for them.  As a result, he had incredibly loyal employees that made sure the crops were well taken care of.  My mother remembers jumping in her father’s jeep with him as he surveyed the crops and worked along with his farmers.  She too would join in to help.

b83a84665bf6eaaf880e779dd0987a24

flickr.com

The process of growing coffee was an arduous one that required skill and the proper timing to protect the beans from decaying in too much moisture.  Every morning they would spread out the beans on cement glacis (a surface with a slope) to dry them in the sun.  They would rake the beans and turn them to ensure that all sides would dry.  My mother remembers that almost every day at noontime, it would rain.  She would help as the laborers quickly gathered the beans and put them into covered barrels before the rain began.  Once the rain would stop they would set the beans back on the slopes to dry some more.

images-6

archivofotograficodepuertorico.com

Maintaining the sugar cane and harvesting it was also time consuming and hard labor.  She recalls when fires would break out in the fields and the workers would rush to cut the leaves off of the remaining canes in order to save the rest of the crop from burning.  Her father supplied the coffee and sugar cane to various manufacturers around the island.

As the youngest of the three daughters, when she was not helping at the farm, my mother spent a lot of time by herself.  Her sisters were five and six years older and did not welcome their younger sister to join them in their activities, particularly during their teen years when  going to parties and dances was more appealing than playing with their little sister.  As a result, my mother had two imaginary best friends.  Mary and Bette.  She spent hours upon hours playing with them and including them in her daily activities all the while,  entertaining herself.  A skill that helped her later in life and contributed to her being remarkably resourceful in all aspects of her life.

Her mother was ahead of her time in that she had a vision for the modern and the latest fashions and used her talents to do most of everything by hand.  She was a skilled seamstress and would make her daughters beautiful gowns to be worn at balls and grand events.  She tells me of days when her mother would wait for her father to leave the house in the mornings, so that she could secretly make her daughters’ gowns in preparation for dances he had yet to give them permission to attend.  She kept a hidden trunk filled with her sewing machine and fabrics and would get to work as soon as he left the house.  As the event neared and the sisters waited for his permission (sometimes not until the very day of the event), if he allowed them to go, they had beautiful gowns ready and waiting to be worn.  An unspoken and unplanned agreement her mother and father had among themselves, each feeling satisfied that they had gotten their way.

Pasteurizadora

equindeca.com

Fresh milk from their cows was on their dining room table every day.  Unpasteurized and hard to swallow, the sisters would beg to pair their mandatory drink of choice with some sort of a sweet treat.  At times, their father would not allow for such sweets and watched to make sure they drank their full glass of milk.  My mother remembers being giddy with joy the day her father showed up from a trip to San Juan with a pasteurizing machine to be placed on their kitchen counter for their use.  Alas they could enjoy their milk.

As I listen to more accounts of my mother’s childhood, I cannot help but feel a deeper understanding of why I am the way I am.  I have a better grasp as to the influences that shaped my mother and in turn, her children. The stories leave me wanting further insight into the lives of my ancestors who left their mark on this beautiful island by contributing to its growth and livelihood.

No place is perfect and God knows Puerto Rico has its problems and challenges, but in spite of the uncertain economic future it faces, there is a past and a present that cannot be overlooked.  A land rich in culture and pride where family comes first and where outsiders are welcome with open arms so they can share in the beauty and uniqueness that is, Puerto Rico.

I have another week left of my visit and I look forward to learning more about my past and getting closer to understanding what has made me the person I am.

 

 

 

 

Earth To Trump Followers, Do You Copy?

file301243123568

morguefiles

Houston, we have a Y-UGE problem!

You-hoo,  I am talking to you. Right over here buddy, look at me. No, not over there look at me right here, babe. That’s right, yes. Don’t look away,  just stare right here at my eyes. Easy…that’s right.

Hi there. You are safe now, I got you. I know this is hard and scary but stay with me. Don’t let those big eyes of yours wonder. Come to mama, that’s right. Now, listen veeery carefully. It is going to be okay; you are safe now. I am not letting go of you, ever.

You were temporarily brainwashed by a very sick sick narcissist who has been promising you a rose garden surrounded by a tall wall of hate. I know that sounds crazy to you now but it’s true. He had a grip on you so tight that you became as frightening and delusional as he is. Yes, you. I know the truth hurts but I’ve got to be honest with you.

Look, if it makes you feel better you are not the only victim. There are thousands out there that have been swayed by his charm, his humor and his cojones.   He is a popular TV personality and is the lead in the most real reality show there has ever been. It’s called life; real life and he thinks he’s getting an Oscar.

Except that he’s starring next to real people. People who intuitively know that kindness, tolerance and integrity are what we all strive for but that have been brainwashed during a vulnerable and unstable time into believing that we must fear the different and that hate is the answer.

I don’t know you very well but you can’t possibly want that. We are all guilty of following the crowd at some point in our lives and wanting desperately to belong to a group and feel accepted and understood, even if we know deep down it is not a good group. The mob mentality kicks in and we do it because they are doing it and if they are doing it, it must be okay. It’s a fascinating and often devastating phenomenon that takes a life of its own and is incredibly hard to break.

Are you still with me, friend? I’m not letting go.  I am here with open arms to welcome you back to sanity. I won’t judge you, I promise. I will however, ask for your help in saving others that are still entranced and blindly swimming in a sea of lies and hate. They need us. They need you to help them see the light. To help them dig deep and find the compassion and love that exists in their hearts that they are temporarily blinded to because the are overcome with fear.

I don’t know what the answer is and can’t tell you which candidate is the best presidential candidate but I can tell you with certainty what can’t win. Hatred can’t win. Bigotry can’t win. Dictatorship can’t win. Greed can’t win.

You can’t possibly want that.

Now, open up that kind heart of yours and let it guide you, here on Earth.

1421164706sgnzy.jpg

morguefiles

 

 

I’m Dreaming of Balls With Power

Woman-Daydreaming-Eyes-Closed

dailyplateofcrazy.com

Rachel  at  Misfits of a Mountain Mama wrote a very funny post about how much she is enjoying dreaming about winning tonight’s astronomical Powerball  drawing, now up to 1.5 billion (in case you’ve been living in a different planet.)  Check it out here.  I don’t think Rachel and I are alone in imagining what we would do with this or any big lottery winning.  Nothing wrong with dreaming, right?

In playing this pretend game, I found that my brain could not get past the very detailed part where I find out I am a winner.  The state of shock and disbelief is too overwhelming for me to imagine what I would actually do with the money.    

My day-dream goes something like this:

{Harp music playing in the background}

It’s Wednesday night, husband is in bed because he has a huge meeting on Thursday.  Daughter is out with her friends.  I am on wine glass number 3 and getting ready for the 11:00 news, after having watched the Chicago Fire,  Chicago Med  and  Chicago P.D  crossover event. I am holding my soon-to-be winning ticket consisting of three  Quick Picks.

The local newscaster (wearing an out of style suit) announces the numbers and shows a picture of the winning numbers on the 5 white balls and the one red ball.  I look at the TV screen and quickly write the numbers down on a piece of paper.  I then begin to check them against my numbers.  

The first quick pick is a dud.  I look at the second set of numbers. The first white ball number matches my first number.  The second white ball number matches my second number.  I start to hyperventilate and my heart is skipping many beats.

{Organ music now playing in the background} 

I shift in my seat and crack my neck from side to side.  The third white ball number matches my number.  HOLY SHIT.  The fourth white ball number matches my number.  THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING.  I begin to shake and tell myself that I must be hallucinating.  

The fifth white ball number matches my F-U-C-K-I-N-G number.  I scream knowing that I have won a million dollars (but let’s be real, one million dollars gets you nowhere these days).  Then it’s on to the 6th number.  The RED power ball number.

 IT’S A FUCKING MATCH!

I drop the glass of wine and it spills all over my nice living room rug.  I knock the lamp next to me over.  I stand up.  I grab a paper bag and breathe into it three times. I look at the numbers again. I start feeling dizzy and sick to my stomach.   I check the numbers again.  

I check the numbers again.  

I check the numbers again.  

All this, while breaking the record  for the number of times I have ever said these words:

FUCK!!

NO!!

ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?

THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING!!

HOLY SHIT!!

FUCKITY FUCK THE FUCK!!

Coño, Carajo, Puñeta!!

THANK YOU LORD!!

I am now on my knees looking up at the ceiling (which needs a new paint job) talking to our Almighty, asking Him what I have done to deserve this fortune.  I try to control the amount of F bombs I am dropping while talking to Him but under these circumstances, I think He will forgive me.

After hours of worshiping Him, kissing our dirty floor and swearing profusely, I am exhausted and collapse right on the floor.  I begin to laugh out loud while shaking my head and having seizure-like spasms.  I am convinced that I have wet my pants but continue laughing because I can buy 10,000 pairs of pants to replace the ones I am wearing.  The ceiling is moving, or is it the wine?

I fall asleep right there on my dining room floor.  I awake after 45 minutes and look around.  I pinch myself to make sure I am alive.  Rapid noises escape from one of my orifices, further convincing me that I am indeed, alive.  DEAR GOD, did this just happen? (the winning, not the gas.)

I get up from the floor (no easy feat) and stumble to the kitchen to grab a sponge.  I begin to wipe up the spilled wine on my rug and suddenly break into another laughing fit.  WHO CARES ABOUT THIS DAMN RUG?!

I pick up the winning ticket, I kiss it passionately leaving lipstick marks on it.  SHIT!  No one will be able to read the numbers now!  I skip brushing my teeth because, who needs their original teeth when you can afford a whole new white and shiny set of porcelain veneers?  

I head into the bedroom and see my husband sleeping peacefully on his side.  I take off all of my clothes and jump in bed.  I place the ticket in the top drawer of my bed side table, next to my Chapstick, my tweezers and my miniature book of Sex For Dummies, and settle in.  

The room is spinning.

 I fall fast asleep.

 

The End.

This is as far as the day-dream goes.

I guess we will have to wait until I win to find out what I will actually do with my fortune!

 

Keep on dreaming and best of luck tonight!

 

 

 

 

 

A Latina Grinch

maxresdefault-2

FA LA LA LA LA, LA LA LA LA

Those are usually the words that come out of my mouth when I am feeling cranky during the holidays.  Except that I say them with a heavy Spanish accent and using a very low and monotone voice.

In reality, I have nothing serious to be complaining about.  I have no business whining or being bratty.  But let’s be real here, it gets exhausting faking jolliness all month-long.

FA LA LA LA LA, LA LA LA LA

I am suffering from a severe case of the, “I don’t wanna’s”.  Have you ever suffered from this?  It can be very serious and highly contagious.

This Puerto Rican Grinch is at the peak of her illness and needs medical attention (or a good slapping) ASAP.

Here are examples of how this ailment is manifesting itself: 

1. There are rotten bananas liquefying on the kitchen counter and a decision needs to be made.  Banana bread would be the logical solution.  My response:   I don’t wanna, no quiero, I don’t wanna.

2.  After laboring over placing a fake garland with lights attached to it on the mantlepiece and ensuring that the lights worked prior to using it, the lights don’t work.   New lights would be the logical solution.  My response:  Sh#%&*@^!!!!  I don’t wanna, no quiero, I don’t wanna!

FA LA LA LA LA, LA LA LA LA

3. My in-laws need my husband and I to stay at their house overnight to help out while my mother-in-law goes to a Christmas show two hours away.  The logical and usual response is to do this lovingly and with no hesitation.  My response:  I don’t wanna, no quiero, I don’t wanna!

4. My Puerto Rican mustache is in dire need of waxing.  We are talking Señor Brick House!  The logical solution:  wax the hell out of it.  My response:  I don’t wanna, no quiero, I don’t wanna!

FA LA LA LA LA, LA LA LA LA

5. I have mad amounts of Christmas shopping to do.  I even know what to get my loved ones.  Some gifts take two seconds  and a simple click of the submit button.  The logical solution: buy the frikin’ gifts already!  My response: I don’t wanna, no quiero, I don’t wanna!

6.  By this time, I have usually indulged in Puerto Rican no-good-for-you fried goodies and have listened to festive (and loud) Puerto Rican Christmas music to get me in the mood.  Logical solution: go to freezer, defrost said no-good-for-you fried goodies, fry those suckers, eat them, press play on your Christmas play list, grab your maracas and güiro and dance the merengue ’till you pull a muscle.  My response: I don’t wanna, no quiero, I don’t wanna!

FA LA LA LA LA, LA LA LA LA

PLEASE SEND WELL-WISHES FOR A SPEEDY RECOVERY!

FELIZ NAVIDAD TO YOU AND YOURS!

 

One More Day

1418038468zek07

morguefile

I am convinced that I have gained more strength and wisdom in the past two days than I have throughout my entire life.

I can only describe it as a sort of awakening and clarity that has jolted my senses and filled my heart with hope, love and understanding.  I can feel my soul rise above me and watch me take it all in, in amazement.

The beauty of it all is so vividly apparent and pressed right up against my face.  Like a flashing billboard on a moonless night, it is luring me in all the while wondering what took me so long to grasp its invaluable simplicity.  

So very simple.

As I wallowed in my insignificant thoughts of the day, I remembered a commitment I had made to the woman who cleans my house.  She has worked with me for years and in spite of her less than ideal past, has transformed herself into a caring religious adult.

As a result of her illegal and reckless behavior as a young woman, she was diagnosed with the HIV virus twenty years ago.  She is fortunate to have access to top medical care and is optimistic about her future.

In honor of World Aids Day today, her church was hosting her and celebrating her successful battle with the disease and her spiritual transformation.  She would be speaking at this event and thus invited people in her life to join in on the celebration.

I did not want to go.  Although I respect her and her accomplishments, it was cold and rainy out and the last thing I wanted to do was to go to a ‘strange’ church filled with people I didn’t know and sit through the two-hour program.   I went as far as texting her to ask her when specifically she would be speaking so that I could skip the rest of the event.

Then, I resigned myself to the idea that I would be going and  stopped to pick up a bouquet of flowers for her.  I drove myself to an unfamiliar location in the cold rain and sat in the last pew at the church.  I figured it would be an easy escape once her speech was over.

The ceremony began with a beautiful song sung by the choir.  A song titled, One More Day.  I settled in my seat opening my mind to what lay ahead.  I listened to the beautiful words and music.  I felt my shoulders relax and my breathing slow down to a resting breath.  

Verse one:   

I woke up, early this morning
And I saw, a brand new dawning , When I got up, I opened my eyes, I said Lord I thank you for keeping me alive.

Unlike the solemn mood of the songs at the church I occasionally attend, I was enjoying this inspiring and upbeat gospel piece.  

Chorus Lead: Thank you Lord,
Choir: One more day
Lead: For one more day
Choir: One more day
Lead: Lord you been good to me
Choir: One more day
Lead: For just one more day
Choir: One more day

After numerous speakers told their stories of lost loved ones, talked about the stigma that still exists for AIDS patients and the lack of worldwide rhetoric about a disease that killed 1.2 million people in 2014 alone, it was my friend’s turn to speak.

To say that I couldn’t wipe the tears off my face fast enough is an understatement.  She told of her many struggles, of the costly mistakes she made, of the number of people she used and lied to and of her terrifying diagnosis and death sentence she received 20 years ago.

She expressed her gratitude to her loved ones, her church and all the people in her life who chose not to judge her.  Who chose to accept her in spite of her past and who made her feel that she mattered.  Once she saw that others loved her, she stopped thinking of herself as unworthy and began to love herself.  

She repeated the words, one more day and expressed her gratitude for having the gift of life.

Verse 2:
Lord you kept me, from all hurt and harm
Lord you kept me safe in the cradle of your arms
Lord I want you to know, I won’t complain
Everytime I think of your goodness, I gotta praise your name
opportunity to live one more day

I saw hope.  I saw hard work.  I saw love.  I saw gratitude.  I saw forgiveness.  I saw the value and the blessing of, one more day.

How self-absorbed and petty I was to try to get out of attending this event. How presumptuous of me to assume that I was doing this person a favor by going, when it was obvious that I received much more than I gave.

A situation yesterday where I met with my niece who has chosen to live a more wholesome life after a tumultuous past,  combined with having experienced this beautiful service today has enlightened me so significantly.  It has given my hardened and at times cynical soul a reason to believe again.  

To believe that people can change.  To believe that love can overcome almost anything.  To believe that there is always hope.  To believe that with hard work and devotion, happiness and peace are possible.  To believe, that even when putting all religion aside, gratitude for who we are, what we have and for every new day we live, is imperative to achieving a fulfilling life.

One More Day.

So very simple.

 

 

Love Has No Timeframe

I realize that I have written about my mother’s second marriage here before, but as I sit and watch her and her wonderful husband hanging out in my living room with me, I can’t help my desire to want to shout out their story and tell it over and over again.

My mother.  A beautiful and caring woman who has been my life line, my strength and my inspiration.  Someone who has taught me to accept what is, to make do with what one has and to persevere when the desire to quit is lurking nearby.

In her mid 70’s after having lived as a widow for twelve difficult years following the death of my father (her childhood sweetheart),  she met a man.  A man she was not looking for.  A man she was not interested in meeting.  A kind, intelligent persistent widower who had heard about her via mutual friends.

He lived in California, she in Puerto Rico.  Friends insisted they talk on the phone.  He gave her his email address, she purposely lost it. He had family in Puerto Rico and used that as an excuse to go meet her.  She reluctantly accepted his dinner invitation.

They dined, they talked, they laughed.  They dined again the next night.  And the next.   They laughed some more.  A month went by and they continued to ‘secretly date’.  Not a word was said to family or friends.  Not a word to their kids.

She traveled to the States to care for me after an operation.  While at my house, she behaved strangely.  She giggled often.  She texted a lot.  She smiled. She sang.  She skyped.  She was more giddy than my teenage daughter.  What was going on?

My husband caught her skyping in the middle of the night.  Who was she taking to?  She answered texts while at the dinner table with her grandkids watching her.  She was in her own little world.

Finally, I demanded she tell me what was going on.  She smirked, hesitated and blushed.  She informed me that she had met a ‘nice man’ who lived in California. WHAT??

After interrogating her, alerting my siblings, conducting a paid background check on him and google earthing his home,  I sat wide eyed with a dropped jaw, in disbelief.  She was flying to CA to visit him.  WHAT??

She flew to him.  She remained the moral and assured woman she had always been.  She stayed at a hotel near his home.  They dined, they laughed, they talked.  She called me to tell me they were engaged.  WHAT??

Who was this man?  Was she in danger?

Within a week, he had flown back to my home with her.  They were engaged and beaming with glee.  At a luncheon with my siblings where he proclaimed his love for her and his desire to marry her, we too were instantly smitten.  What an amazing person.  What a kind, loving and respectful man.  How he cherished my mother.  How happy they seemed.

On December 4, 2015, they will be celebrating their 5th year wedding anniversary.  They are by far, the sweetest, cutest and happiest couple I know.  They hold hands, they kiss, they watch out for one another, they travel, they dance, they dress up, they live and they love.

They say love is patient and kind.  I see that it is also within anyone’s reach, no matter the age.

Wishing them both many more years of love and health!

10534632_10204180846182448_948556167904493690_n-3

 

All Names Matter

egr.vcu.edu

egr.vcu.edu

 

Did you know that George Foreman (former professional boxer) has 12 children?  And did you know that his five sons are also named George?  

They are, George Jr., George III (“Monk”), George IV (“Big Wheel”), George V (“Red”), and George VI (“Little Joey”).  Imagine if they didn’t have nicknames?  How on earth would they know when they were being addressed?

I can sympathize with all the Georges.

I was born in the 60’s and at that time, Mary and Maria were two of the top 3 names given to baby girls.  I was also born in Puerto Rico where almost everyone is a Maria.  In recent decades however, it has become more ‘acceptable’ to use less biblical names which means there will be fewer Marias in our future (oh no!)

Speaking of biblical names, I have decided to reveal my full name for you today (I know, it’s so exciting!) Once you see what it is, you will never think of me in the same way, especially if you thought my name was really Brickhousechick.  

person-holding-rosary-beads-9660143

Once you know my given name, you may feel the urge to bow to me, carry rosary beads and definitely pray.

Ready?

 

 

My birth name is….

 

 

Drumroll please…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is:  María de Jesús 

 

We’re talking Mary of Jesus, people!  Yes, of THAT Jesus!

(You can start praying now)

To add to this most epic proclamation, I will tell you that my mother has the exact same name.  She too is Mary of Jesus.  

Will you believe me if I tell you that my sister is also a Maria?  She is María Luisa, as is a cousin of ours.   Two other cousins are both named María Rosa and others are, María de Los Angeles, María del Carmen, María Milagros, María Consuelo and María Concepción.

This is what my Maria's should be like

Hello, my name is Maria

 

You may be wondering how we function and interact with each other while sharing the same name.  The truth is that we do what George Foreman does.  Everyone has a nickname.  It’s like an Oprah giveaway, “You get a nickname and you get a nickname and you get a nickname!”

In fact, we use our nicknames so much so, that I had to do research for this post in order to find out their real names!

Some of our nicknames are common for our given names but most make absolutely no sense at all.  

We are: TUTI, CACHI, TITA, CUCHI, LULU, FIFA, CONCHI, CUCA, CUCH.

(If you need a cigarette after that, I’ll understand)

As for the Puerto Rican men in our lives, many are named José with a second name to follow such as, José Luis.  Their nicknames, I find, do not accurately represent their stature, strength and particularly, their machismo.  Well, judge for yourself: 

PEPITO, PEPE, TITO, PEEWEE, XUANCY, WISO, KIKO, ÑITO, PAPO, SAPO, CHU

(Not exactly RAMBO type names)

When I started this blog, I decided to call myself Brickhousechick because I didn’t have enough names attached to me already I thought it more closely depicted what I am all about; strongly solid on the outside yet somewhat mushy and soft on the inside. If you are wondering what in the world to call me now, just know that you can continue to call me Brickhouse unless you feel inclined to call me María de Jesus The Mother of God’s Son, which I will gladly respond to.

All names matter except when you all have the same name, in which case, all nicknames matter.

drawasamaniac.com

drawasamaniac.com

 

What’s your nickname?