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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Cuban Girl…

This was submitted by Victoria Montoya

CUBAN GIRL…

It’s like being born with spices in your blood and being named after your
papi’s favorite cigars.

It’s getting diamonds pierced in your ears after five days of birth,
wearing Royal Violets cologne every day until age 15, (still do)
and throwing a fifteenth birthday party that costs your parents
more than your first car.

It’s loving Marti and hating Castro. Lighting candles at Mass for “La
Caridad del Cobre”;and having to kiss every Cuban cheek like you’re
related.

It’s looking European, but feeling Caribbean; And seething inside while
smiling politely when someone asks if you’re Puerto Rican. (ouch!)

It’s meals at every party; parties for every occasion.
It’s serving your skinny uncle piles of “lechon” on “Nochebuena”
while your three hundred pound aunt drinks creme de vie.

It’s having Turkey with white rice and black beans,
and flan with a slice of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving.

It’s eating the “cuban” birthday cake wishing you had also a scoop of Carvel;

It’s the “Little white boxes” at birthday parties filled with 1 pastelito
de carne, 1 tamal, 2 croquetas, a bocadito and maybe a toy!

It’s learning to dance merengue and salsa (before Salsa became a “dance”) from your
papi or tio or abuelito and knowing the difference between a guajira and a
guaracha.

It’s being able to sing The Star Spangled Banner and hum the Cuban National
Anthem.

It’s knowing at least four lines of the Guantanamera’s lyrics.
It’s having cafe con leche for breakfast, Burger King for Lunch, and
chuletas de puerco, arroz blanco y garbanzos or chicharos for dinner and a
slice of apple pie for dessert.

It’s loving the hot, humid air of Miami;
It’s drinking cortaditos;
It’s eating guayaba, cream cheese and crackers;
It’s knowing that “this never happened in Cuba”;
It’s dealing with chaperonas;

It’s a certain sexiness in the way she walks and the twinkle in the eyes of
any Cuban woman;

It’s talking too fast in English
and running your words together in Spanish.

It’s being born and raised in a free country and being madly in love with a
restless island you’ve never even seen…(Our grandparents would be proud)

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Cousins Know Best

My cousins, who were mostly older than me since my mother was the baby of her family, were one of the biggest influences of my life. They influenced how I talked, what I wanted to wear, how I wore my hair and the music I would listen to. They were also the most prominent impression that I had of my parent’s native land, Cuba.

My cousins Caridad and Barbara Prince were the ones that told me what it was like in Cuba. They told me how they thought that communism was going to be so good. They recounted for me how they would celebrate privately that no one would be poor and no one would be rich. Everyone would be the same. Caridad would tell me how she and Barbara would walk down the street talking pure gibberish in order to fool others into believing that they spoke English. Barbara told how they lived on a small island and that they had to row a boat to the mainland in order to go to school. I would daydream of how cool it would be, on the water every single morning, with an older sister to do all the rowing to school.

My cousins Loli and Barbara Gusman were really cool ones. They wore the really cool clothes and were up on the latest Motown sound. I guess they were hippies. I know that I started saying “man” after everything like my cousin Loli. She definitely got the blame for that. I still say man. Barbara turned me on to Cheech and Chong. I could listen to that record over and over again. I would laugh every time.

Man, the sister Mary Elephant was the best routine.

Life was great then. My family was close. We spent so much time together. If I wasn’t crashing with them, they were crashing at my house. Even when they grew up and had their own children, they still came around and continued their influence. That alone always made me feel so prized. They made me feel like I was an important element of their lives.

Of course time changes everything.  People get married, move away, and somehow we fall out of touch. That didn’t matter though. I can call Barbara Prince and say hey I’m in South Florida, meet me for lunch, she is there.

I can call Caridad and we can talk for hours, laughing as though no time has passed at all.

Loli is the same. I can phone her up and she is always there to listen, even if it has been years.

Barbara Gusman is my closest cousin. She and I have remained close most of the time. Even when there has been long distances between us we don’t lose touch. She has been there as I go through life’s changes and disappointments.  She never turned her back on me, no matter how crazy I got or acted.

I am thankful for my cousins. All of them, but the ones I name today were the most influential for me. They knew how rough things were at home for us. They helped us escape the madness, even if for short periods of time. They were masters at making that time seem like much more than just that. I know they didn’t have to, they wanted to.

I love you “Cuzzies” and thank you for loving me.

 

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Cuban Woman

My parents are from Cuba. They immigrated here in 1962. Just in time for my birth. Yes, I was made in Cuba. I was the first-born American in my family. My brother was born in Cuba and all my cousins were born there, with the exception of the two that were born after me. I grew up in the typical Cuban household where the women take care of the men and in my view were subservient.

Growing up in Orlando in the seventies, there were a lot of Cuban Americans around me. First born like me, but still heavy on the culture. I gravitated toward them even though I considered myself Americanized and against some of the culture that interfered with my appreciation for the Woman’s movement of that time. I participated in many “Quinces” before I turned fifteen myself, and many after that. Participation in these wonderful celebrations meant meeting every week-end for at least a month to practice the routine that was going to be performed for the big party. That is where I really got the chance to compare my observations about my household and those of other Cuban-American youth such as myself.

My resistance to the whole “woman are equal” thing began to fade as I discovered the real role that woman of this culture played.

This is my top ten list of how the Cuban household is run.

1) Do everything your mother tells you to do.

2) When in doubt, do what your mother told you to do.

3) When you are sure about what you want to do, still do what your mother told you to do.

4) Tell your mother everything. (By everything, I mean everything that won’t piss her off.)

5) Honor your mother above all others

6) Love your mother above all others

7)  Be sure that everyone in your life understands that your mother has the last word.

8) Once you grow up, when your mother visits your house, she is in charge.

9) When your children are born, you are to go through your mother for child rearing.

10) Just do everything your mother tells you to do and you won’t have to worry about the rest of this list.

Being a woman in my culture turns out to be much more powerful than I ever could have imagined, and it makes me proud to be a Cuban-American Woman today. I am proud to be a Cubana.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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About the Book “HARDWIRED”

A view into the raw living that occurs daily in households across the planet is displayed in this personal memoir of an abuse survivor who is determined to collect the data required to sort out reality, survive and most importantly tread the thin lined edge of life that forces you to choose between following the blueprint set before you or to draw a new one.

Forty years after the storm of a dysfunctional family life, the victim finds herself in the position of full-time caretaker to her abuser. Now the shoe is on the other foot and the victim, armed with vengeance has the power to pay forward all the evil that was due in order to level the playing field. Not just for herself, but for her siblings and others who suffered at the hands of her sadistically, mentally ill mother.

How do you decide between revenge and forgiveness? What is the determining factor?

It is human nature to avenge. I’m hardwired that way.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Sign of Cancer

As a young girl I had difficulty understanding disease. I’m not sure how it started. My mother was always sick. She had three exploratory operations in order to find the source of her pain. They never found anything. It seemed to me that she was always having some sort of pain. Even though I understood that she was a Polio survivor, I wasn’t sure what all the rest of her complaints were about. I do remember that about the time that I was told my horoscope sign was Cancer; I began to have real panic attacks about disease.

Cancer in the seventies was considered a death sentence. I didn’t know what a horoscope was and always assumed that it was my death sentence. The sign of Cancer, what else could it mean? It became increasingly difficult for me to communicate with anyone about what was going on in my head. I can remember running to my parents in the middle of a panic attack and tell them how scared I was. I was afraid that I was going to die. They would ask me why I thought this and I would tell them that I didn’t know why. They never dug deeper and I just used them to comfort me or distract me until the attack went away.

It became increasingly difficult to see a doctor. I refused to give up blood, urine or any type of probe to look inside my body. Don’t look in my ears, don’t look down my throat. I was afraid that they would find something and hand me my sentence. I was also afraid that they would discover all the secrets that I had been keeping for a lifetime. Secrets that I was instructed to keep because it would get the adults in my life in trouble. I didn’t know that they were the ones that would get in trouble, I was more afraid that I was the one doing something wrong all the time.

There were always plenty of stimuli to bring on these panic attacks. Everything gave you cancer so what can I do? Die of cancer. The adults around me would reinforce this all the time.” Don’t bite your nails it gives you cancer. Don’t hold in your pee it causes cancer. Don’t pick at that because you’ll turn it into cancer.”

I held on to these ideas well into adulthood. Once I had my own child I was able to transfer the paranoia to her. I would take her to the doctor scared to hell that they were going to find something wrong with her; of course it would be my fault too. I didn’t verbalize this, but it was obvious in my body language that I was extremely uncomfortable. So now my daughter has the more subdued discomfort when she thinks something is wrong. I apologize to her all the time when she calls me in a panic about something that has changed in her body.

I can’t say that I’m cured of this disorder. I don’t go into panic mode anymore, but still, I am not comfortable with giving up body fluids to be looked at closely. I can say that once in a great while, when I feel pain, I go there for a moment. It’s like a natural reaction to pain. I have to talk myself out of it. That is the difference now. Instead of going with it, I change it and take away it’s power.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

The Fifth Chair

This was written  by Kim King LaClair of New York.

When one enters into a relationship and creates a family how do you prepare when life throws you a curve ball and you are left with an empty chair at the dinner table? As you sit at the table looking at each chair you start to question the empty one at the end.  First you start to ask God, why and how it could have happened. Then as tears fill your eyes you wonder if anyone will ever be able to fill it.. Throughout the years the chair seems to get bigger and you start to question the relationships in your life whether they are here for a reason, a season or if they are “good enough” to fill the chair.

Every night as I span the dinner table I look at my 3 beautiful girls.  To my left I stare at my 5- year old big blue eyed, happy, laughing, cheerful Sydney and I feel her infectious happiness.  Next to her I look at my 8 year old goofy, smiling, fidgety Kiersten and I ponder what life has in store for her.  Across from them I look at my 12 year old Chelsea and I know with her strong will, her beautiful Spirit and her love of the little things in life she will go very far.  When silence takes over the table I can’t help but notice everyone looking at the empty chair at the other end.  Even though it has been empty for some time the pain of seeing it empty is very real.

As the seasons come and go I dream about the perfect person that will earn their way into our hearts, our lives and into that chair.  I know without a doubt the person in that chair has a huge responsibility and they not only need to love me but must openly and freely love the other 3 chairs. The person will need to be compassionate, spiritual, empathetic, patient, funny and truly enjoy the little things in life.  They will need to know how to pick out the Perfect Christmas tree, someone who will stay up all night on Christmas Eve knowing what smiles and excitement they will see in the morning, Someone who will lift up our youngest so she can put the Angel on the tree,  someone who will have a funeral and write a eulogy for a gold fish, someone who knows how to cut vegetables up really small to not be detected in food,  someone who can talk with children about friends, teachers, troubles, their bodies and boys, someone that will foster their imaginations, someone who will teach them about the little things in life, someone who will help create memories, someone who enjoys apple picking and carving pumpkins, someone who will  trick or treat if one of our girls are sick, someone who remembers what it was like to be a kid, someone who knows that family life can be hard, demanding, stressful and knows how to be calm in spite of it all, someone who will wipe tears from little eyes, someone who will not disrespect me as a Mom but will inspire me and help me to be a better one, someone who lives for moments, someone who enjoys tradition and family life, someone who will hang up their troubles on a tree before coming home at night, someone who is good at charades, someone who enjoys karaoke, someone who enjoys watching children perform plays, someone who enjoys family night, someone who enjoys the beach and riding waves with the girls, someone who enjoys teaching.  Along with all of that someone who makes me feel like a beautiful woman, someone who is humble, someone who even after a stressful day will hold me in bed, someone who takes over being the caretaker when I am sick, someone who will pick up the towel when I want to throw it in, someone who inspires me, someone who wants to grow spiritually and emotionally as a couple, someone who will take the time to listen, someone who wants to help me transition 3 beautiful strong willed, loving girls into 3 loving, compassionate, sensitive, strong, independent women,  someone who wants to sit with me on our front porch, holding hands watching the sunset, someone who can stop everything to make love, someone who can look at me and through their eyes I feel their love, someone who wants to kiss me goodnight and make love to me every morning.  In return with my love and all my girls love we will fill your life with eternal love, take care of you, hold you, inspire you, bring tears of joy to your eyes, make you feel alive, make lasting memories, fulfill your dreams and help you chase new or old ones, love you today, tomorrow and forever, openly and willfully share every part of our life with you- the good times and the bad.  Someone who wants to Grow Old with us and without a shadow of a doubt knows they have made a difference in all our lives.

After years of praying the chair at the end of our table now has a face and a name.  Her name is Sherri and she is the one I have been preparing for my entire life to come into our lives and make a difference.  Because of you our hearts are filled with love and our fifth chair has now been filled. Because of you we feel happiness and joy once again.  Because of you our home is now complete.  And, rest assured we will never again have tears in our eyes as we look at the end of our table.  I will forever be eternally grateful for all your experiences, pain, joy, love, friends and family that have helped prepare you to fill our chair……. You my dear are answers to all of my questions I have been asking God. I will Love and cherish you till our last breath and even then you will live on in each of us…Thank you for being the one……

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Dreaming of Paradise in 1992

This is a color dream.

I was dreaming that I was in a house that was not familiar to me. Inside the house was dingy, dark and was decorated generously with wood. The wooden floors and stairs would creak when you walked on them. There was a final set of stairs that led to the top floor of the house. I had not seen this floor and I was told that no one has or should ever enter the highest level of this house.

I hung around the house, with my curiosity of the top floor. I really wanted to see what was up there. I took advantage of a moment when no one was around. I crept up the rickety stairs that spiraled as you climbed them. I was anxious to see this mysterious room. When I reached the top of the stairs I was surprised to find that the door to this attic room was ajar. I couldn’t believe that there was no safety measure to keep anyone from a room that no one was allowed to enter.

I opened the door slightly to look in. The room was bursting with light. There were windows all over, letting in the bright rays of the sun. I noticed an old wooden box on the floor that seemed like it was dilapidated and falling apart, even though it was tightly locked. I had heard of this box along with the warning to never enter this room. This box was never to be touched. It belonged to a man who was dead. He had built the box and nobody was to disturb it. Of course, I was already in the forbidden room. What difference would it make at this point to touch the box? I picked up the box to get a good look at it and maybe shake it when the box fell apart. I was nervous about it, but I tossed the pieces of box that were left in my hand because I was drawn in by a glass door that led out of the little attic space.  I got to the door, which was also ajar and I opened it completely. I walked out onto a large white patio deck which had an overhang held up by large white columns that reminded me of Greek architecture.  The patio had stairs that led down to a large body of water, like an ocean. The water was a blue-green combination that I had never seen nor could describe. It was so spectacular that I had to stand there for a while to take it in. In the distance I could see the skyline of a downtown of sorts. I remember thinking

“This must be Brazil.”

I sat at the bottom of the stairs to soak my feet in this magnificent ocean. I wanted to watch the sunset from here. I decided that I should share this moment with someone. It was selfish of me to keep this all to myself. I ran down the stairs to find someone to come back up with me and see this marvel. I ran across a strange woman, whom I did not know, and asked her to join me, worried that she might hesitate due to the strict warnings about the attic. She agreed to join me.

When I returned with the woman I led her by the hand to the patio to see this view of paradise, but the water had turned murky and dirty. The sun was not shining.

I told her to sit on the stairs and wait with me because she too would see the beauty that I witnessed just a moment ago.

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Price of Gas

When I created the blog I really wanted to engage an audience.  I came up with the tabs at the top of the page to give everyone a chance to express their selves regarding these subjects. I have blogged about my thanks, lost love and the dream. I haven’t done anything under the “I’m sorry” tab. The more I thought about having ignored the subject the more it bothered me that I couldn’t come up with a couple hundred words to express an apology.

First I needed to come up with a name. Who could I apologize to? One name kept coming into my head over and over again. There is only one person that I can think of that I haven’t cleaned things up with.  There is one person who I can look at with all my resentment and still never express how sorry I am that our relationship has suffered for almost forty years.

It is my brother Luis. I made a vow a very long time ago to act as though he didn’t exist. I was twelve and he was thirteen.  The details of this are in my book and so without giving too much of it away I would like to extend a long overdue apology.

My brother and I were close when we thought we were cousins. There is more about that in the book. When I returned home at the age of seven none of us knew how to handle it. My brother and sister where already bonded and I was the outsider. Lola was far more open to being my immediate family, but Luis was not impressed.

As an adult I can say that I did try to get closer to him and our lives were so different that we just didn’t have anything in common. He was a Christian and I was a lesbian. No room for negotiation there. I was going to hell and he would watch from the seat next to Jesus’ throne.

We are fifty years old now and I think it’s time to address this issue. I am sorry Luis Pedron that I have never reached you. I am sorry that the last couple of times that you visited my home have ended in disaster. I always meant to mend our differences, but I couldn’t see past our childhood to show you the love that I really have for you. I have wanted to say this so many times before now and every time I think it’s a good time you do something like fart in my presence. I am stubborn and yes I detest the gases that are excreted from my own body, even more so when it comes from someone else’s body. Why mention the fart? Because it set the stage of how you just do something that everyone in the world finds disgusting. I can see how you think that it could be funny. That isn’t the problem. The problem is that should someone show a dislike for something you do, you fly into a rage and begin defending it to the death.

So why am I apologizing? Because despite all this you are my brother and we have survived so much more than a stupid fart. I think that we just never resolved the old issues that tore us apart. I’m ready to say that while you were defending your actions, I too was letting my buttons get pushed to the point that nothing mattered except that you admit you were wrong and stop farting in front of me.

I love you Luis and I’m sorry that I have allowed a lifetime to slip by without ever expressing how much I care for you. How sorry I am that nothing has been able to bring us back together so we can be a family. I’m sorry that I didn’t get the chance to get to know your kids. I’m sorry that we couldn’t laugh with one another anymore. Most importantly, I’m sorry that I was never the sister that I could have been to you. I have been so busy judging you that I forgot who I was to you.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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When Mami Stalked Papi

My mother and father divorced when I was ten years old. All I really had  to go by were the stories that my mother would recount about their courtship. A few years ago my father told me that he was dating a woman that he knew from Cuba. I asked her name and he blurted out something like grebluatous.

I asked him to repeat it and I still heard grebluatous. I didn’t ask again. I talked to my mother and told her hey, Papi has a new girlfriend. He says he knew her in Cuba. She asked me her name and I struggled to repeat what I heard. I told her that I didn’t understand what he told me but it sounded like Grebluatous. Call him, ask him yourself and see if it’s someone you know I encouraged her.

Turns out that the woman he was dating as an old man was a someone he attempted to date when he and my mother were on a break. Once she began to tell me the story I remembered that she had told me this one sometime ago. She bragged that there was no way that she was going to let him date anyone. He was going be with her and that was the end of it.

The woman’s name was Gretel. My mother followed my father as he picked up his date. My father took his date to a theater to watch a movie. My mother bought a ticket for the movie and sat directly behind them. My mother told me how she would kick the chair in front of hers where my father was sitting and he wouldn’t even look behind him to confront her. She resorted to lighting a cigarette making sure to blow the smoke right into their faces and still no response from either of them. My mother continues the tale of how she would ash the cigarette in my father’s hair and when she didn’t get a reaction she began flicking the ashes in Gretel’s hair. Still no one would turn around much less say anything. So then she decided that she would laugh really hard during a sad scene and wail uncontrollably during the happy ending.

I asked my father if he remembered that night and he did. He tells the same story as he laughs about the dreaded date that would never be repeated, until now when it was safe. To this day when my mother asks about Gretel, she asks “What about Grebluatous?”

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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A Dream in March

March, 1992

Green dreams. The only color I have ever recalled clearly and repetitively in my dreams has been green.  This dream falls under that category.

 

I dreamed that I had been ironing clothes for what seemed an eternity. The items that I had ironed were on a long rack that went on forever and ever. An old man came to me and began to complain about the work that I was doing. He was not satisfied with it. Apparently he was my boss. I got angry and told him to pay me what he owed me and cram the rest up his ass.

As payment he handed me a set of keys and pointed toward a large parking lot. I had to look for the car myself. I took his keys and headed for the lot. I tried door after door in an attempt to unlock my treasure for working so hard. I looked up and noticed that an interstate overpass was just above me. I figured that I could make my way up to it. I could perhaps catch a bus out of there. Traffic was busy and bustling. I couldn’t get the bus’ attention. A man stopped his car, got out and stopped the traffic so that I could catch the bus.

The bus door opened and the driver was Billy Crystal. Next to the bus was a tractor-trailer with a plain white trailer attached. A bright green spot on the trailer began to appear and as it grew it began to morph into a face. It oozed and dripped even after taking the form of the face. I got closer to take a look. I wondered if the brilliant green stuff could have been radioactive. The lips of the face started moving and it sounded like it was trying out different languages in order to communicate with me.

It spoke Spanish and then it finally asked me “Do you speak English?”

“Yes!” I answered

“That’s it. Now that you have seen me, you will see all things brighter.” It said to me as it closed it’s eyes to conclude our communication.

I doubted the green blob and looked around me. Everything was exploding in brilliant color. The cars were beautiful. The earth was beautiful. The trees were the greenest green I had ever seen before in my life. The buds on the flowers were promising colors that I could never describe.

I decided to walk home.

I woke up and made some coffee. While I waited for the coffee to brew, I opened the front door and the sun’s rays came directly in the door. I couldn’t help myself. I pulled up a lawn chair and sipped my coffee on the first warm day in months

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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