The house was getting chilly. #365feministselfie

I love me a good hashtag. It took a bit of convincing to get me on board for the #365feministselfie movement, but my friend Galit Breen as a way with words. The eye-rolls have been replaced, every day that has passed since the first one, with just the tiniest bit less bullshit and slightly more unapologeticness. Because that’s a word, right?

Martial Arts Mom #365feministselfie

The ringleader of this little Love it Or Hate it project is Veronica Arreola and I’m thinking we’re gonna be hanging out lots at BlogHer14 in California this year. I happen to think anyone who can convince a bunch of random women — who for the most part don’t know each other –  to plaster the selves our significant others don’t get to see until at least one good round of crazy sex has to be made of magic. Especially when you stop to consider how much work we put into getting naked to begin with, what with the perfectly applied makeup, hair that took hours to curl, and  lingerie that cost way too much for the amount of time we actually spent wearing it before it got tossed to the floor … hell, you guys! I think it was six months of dating The Husband before I was comfortable enough to fart.

All this to say that I have issues and we all tend to keep up whatever appearances during our little courting periods before we stop trying so hard.

Russian Red. #365FeministSelfie

Maybe we start out with the bells and whistles. In my case, I wasn’t about to turn the camera on myself unless I didn’t look like shit. And by “look like shit”, I mean no bra, no make-up, no clever Instagram filters or photo editing…

 

5 am.The child has been awake 3 hours. It took me 5 hours combined to write a 500 word column. And I don't care what my face looks like because it doesn't hurt anymore. Oh,.. And an orange did this to me, I think. #365feministselfie

I’ve seen some chatter here and there referring to the #365feministselfie as self-serving and a sad reality for feminism. Now, I want to make it clear that until very recently, I hadn’t even stopped to consider myself a feminist. But I guess writing columns about raising a self-respecting Chingona automatically got me in the club. And I’m okay with that. I figure I have to be if I’m announcing to the world my intention to encourage my little girl’s hell-raising ways.

No red lipstick. I'm okay with this today. #365feministselfie

I also want to make it crystal clear that there is nothing self-serving about this. I’m not posting selfies so you can tell me I’m pretty. Every one of us is taking our own journey throughout the coming year. We each came to it with a predetermined level of individual comfort and we will each have the comfort level challenged as we progress. There’s no way I’d have started off with a no-make-up-full-face-allergic-reaction, even if I instinctively knew my friends and readers would come to my ego’s rescue and tell me how brave and beautiful I am for sharing because that’s not the point.

Mexican in Maine (on a cold day) #365feministselfie

 It’s about dropping the facade, digging deep, letting go of our own self-judgement, and that defining moment when we hit that share button after taking one last big breath. After we pin it and hit publish and share and send on the singular images that, when when combined, reflect who we really are.

You can tell me I’m pretty. You can tell me I’m not.

I’m more interested in what I tell myself as I share that which I would normally hide.


 

What does one buy her husband to make up for the general craziness of the writing/blogging/freelancing life putting the sex life on the back burner when Important Things Are Happening that Must Be Attended to Right This Minute? I’m thinking the man-equivalent to Something Shiny and Sparkly.

Don’t say a Ferrari. I’m freelancing. That Writer-Speak for “Looks Good On Paper Only” with “Fucking Broke” understood to be the most accepted translation. Besides, it’s not like I came home smelling like another man’s cologne or something. That, my friends, would require what normal people tend to refer to as “Free Time”.  I have been told this “Free Time” is something one can only find outside of The Internet and requires the separation, if only temporary, mind you, of self and laptop. Always interesting, this learning about the habits of the Non-Writer.

The other night, after a frantic nod to, um, Quality Time, (and a “Was That Good For You? Yes? Good!,” exchange as I bolted out of the room and into my email to reply to a revision request from my editor, I realized I’m married to a saint. I mean, I knew that before Oh Husband Whom I Know is Reading These Words, but sometimes, the little Aha! Moments tend to jump out and say You Have No Idea How Difficult You Are to Live With Sometimes and Why is Pinterest Giving His Penis a Complex?

Let’s discuss, shall we? Or would it be easier to just get a calendar and a Sharpie and circle the other days of the month indicating:

  • Deadlines
  • Twitter parties
  • Sherlock
  • That blog post I REALLY need to write about that thing that just went viral that I’ll go to my grave swearing a tiny part of me wasn’t convinced my brilliant response would go viral, too
  • General stabbiness because ten different bloggers TOLD me I’m a much better writer than that two-bit hack that went viral only because she got lucky (after I asked them, of course)
  • My fictional characters in that novel I’m writing just acted out the next scene inside my head I have to write RIGHT now or I lose it all
  • The kid drove me nuts all day
  • PINTEREST
  • Live-tweeting Downton Abby
  • I got in a phone fight with his mom
  • I got in a phone fight with my mom
  • We’re out of chocolate
  • We’re out of wine
  • We’re out of chocolate-flavored wine
  • The hours I need to comb through blog archives in search of THE PERFECT PIECE of literary wit to submit to –
  • A) Listen To Your Mother
  • B) Blogher Voices of the Year
  • That Facebook quiz I need to take to figure out what character I’m most like in Harry Potter, which leads me to the one about what kind of French cheese I am
  • The dishes in the sink that aren’t gonna do themselves
  • The fifteenth online book launch party this month for yet another friend I can’t let down
  • The twitter argument I have to finish with this idiot who has no fucking clue who they’re messing with
  • The planets are out of alignment
  • Mercury is in retrograde …. Again
  • File another invoice while secretly cursing the chick with the 300 Sandwiches and the book deal
  • I’m busy buying 19 more URL’s for ideas I’ll never get to…just in case
  • Frantic text conversations with the online friends I’ve yet to meet in person discussing Important Things like how many pairs of shoes to pack for that conference none of us have actually purchased tickets for yet
  • My 1,000 word goal for the day is still 989 words short
  • The NEED to Google my blog Alexa rank RIGHT NOW even though I still have no idea what it means
  • Which, obviously, is to be followed up by checking my Klout score
  • *Googling “Does Klout Matter to People who don’t think in 140?
  • I haven’t yet taken 30 selfies from different angles, narrowed it down to the perfect one, and thought up a witty caption for that #365feministselfie thing and posted it EVERYWHERE before I even THINK of getting naked
  • That important email I’m waiting for that will show up right now if I keep hitting refresh
  • The conference call I’m waiting on in east coast time with everybody else in west coast time
  • The kid drove me nuts all day & we’re out of chocolate-flavored wine
  • The writing and scheduling of next week’s blog posts
  • When I was frisky while he was at work and I was home alone and I took care of it myself already because I was being proactive and really should be congratulated for thinking ahead to free up my night to …
  • Pick any of the above

Damn. Poor guy puts up with a lot, doesn’t he?

We writers are a special bunch. And the people who are nuts enough to love us deserve their own reality shows, I think. Because when we make it big? That’s when we make it up to them and they can proudly tell the world they knew marrying the crazy lady would totally pay off in the end.

Just let me finish up this chapter so I can write this blog post and hit Publish because dammit, this one’s gonna go viral.

I just know it.

 

 

No crazy shenanigans over her, y'all.

* We stayed up all night cooking for our tiny Thanksgiving with new friends.

* Eliana decided to help Mama with the split ends I’ve been meaning to cut but haven’t had the time.

* Thankfully the child has so much hair that it was next to impossible to see where she actually snipped off a good three inches of her curls.

* She’s still grounded until she’s 40.

* Pumpkin pie is possible even if you are egg, gluten, grain, soy, corn, and dairy free. And it’s fucking fabulous.

* The Christmas tree is up.

* The Elf on a Shelf Eliana has named Etsy (shut up, she’s clueless) has arrived for a month’s worth of Hide & Seek.

* Naughty elves and crafty elves and Smore-Making elves are not allowed in my house unless they come with a house-keeping elf to clean up after, a blogging elf (with it’s own elf-sized smartphone and laptop) to document the shenanigans, and a creativity elf who’d sole responsibility is to think up and set up tomorrow’s escapade.

*There are presents to buy and wrap and mail, Christmas cards to order and address and send off.

* Tomorrow we decorate the tree. In four weeks we wake up to Christmas morning and surprises from Santa. In five we welcome a new year.

* Sometimes I stay awake at night just to hold on to a few extra pieces of today before it fades into tomorrow. Right now, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

 

I promise to write something funny tomorrow. I may even swear gratuitously just to make up for two days of Sad Stuff. I know.

You’re welcome.

But for right now, I need to share this. It’s my mom’s birthday and my father’s death anniversary. I think I’m forgetting his voice (No, I’m not), or maybe it’s still in my memory (but it’s more of an echo now). I don’t want to not remember.

So I’m sharing this post from November 26, 2010, about his last breaths. I’ve been told it’s sad and beautiful and it is perfectly acceptable to laugh because one of the funniest things that has ever happened is forever tied to the saddest thing, too.

Come to think of it, I’m off the hook for tomorrow. I think my dad would be proud.

 

 

I make sad things funny. It’s a coping mechanism, I am sure. But it’s also an engrained part of my culture.
Sometimes, though, sad things make themselves funny. Like when my aunt told my father to look into the light.
As he lay on his death bed.
She didn’t mean it that way. But English isn’t her first language. So while my sisters and I were fighting tears and laughter for two separate reasons, my father’s sisters were rallying my him to stay with us as they rubbed his hands and patted his feet and reminded my father of all the reasons he needed to focus on living.
He was 50 and had gone into the hospital to have heart valve replacement surgery (the original surgery a result of rheumatic fever he suffered as a child). Being the cocky stereotype he was, it hadn’t really entered his mind that he might not come home. And because we all believed him to be the strongest man in the world, we had only focused on making fun of him while he recovered.
But problems arose after the surgery. And after a few close calls, the doctors finally told me and my mother to call everyone to the hospital. He wouldn’t make it more than a few hours.
There were only a few people to call. If you break your toe in my family, we are required to turn the waiting room into an ethnic stereotype. Every tia, tio, prima, and primo within driving distance is called to appear at the hospital, waiting for the afflicted to emerge, triumphant and cured. I am sure the hospital staff groans when we all arrive; a Spanglish three ring circus. Even as the doctor quietly urged us to notify friends and family, he looked around at the standing room only crowd already present.
Five daughters.
Two son-in-laws.
One Godson.
One grandfather.
Two brother-in-laws.
Three of four sisters.
One Niece.
One (or was it two?) long time friends.
One uncle who had flown in from Texas.
One aunt who had delayed her trip back to Mexico.
One wife of thirty years…who just happened to be celebrating her 49th birthday that very day on November 27, 2007.

But we made calls. My in-laws were at my house taking care of 5 month old Buttercup, but everyone else we could get a hold of did their best to arrive before my father left us. And while we waited for the inevitable, my aunts continued to rally my father.
“Rene! Rene! Stay with us! You have your daughter’s Rene. Pauline, Veronica, Sonya, Maria, Patricia! Stay with us, Rene! You have the grandchildren! Nicholas, Caleb, Aiden, and Buttercup!”

“Rene! Dorothy is here, Rene. It’s her birthday, Rene. She needs you to take care of her, Rene!”

His signs were fading.
The beeping was slowing.
The tears were flowing.
I kept my eyes closed. Easier to block the tears that way. I needed to stay focused on catching my mother before she hit the ground when the last beep would eventually fade away. And that damned light over his bed was harsh enough to sting my already tired eyes.
I stood in between Pati and Sonya, with one arm around each of their shoulders. Being six inches taller than both of them, I was able to offer them a place to rest their heads while I used them for support to keep standing.
None of us spoke. We just let my dad’s sisters cry and wail and toggle between English and Spanish while they tried to break through to his spirit. His body may have been failing, but his spirit was strong. Maybe strong enough to make the impossible possible. If only they could reach him.
“Rene!” One of his sister’s cried out. “Rene! Look into the light, Rene! Look into the light!”

My eyes shot open as my face crumpled into a pained expression that had nothing to do with my father and everything to do with what had just been uttered.

“Really? Really?”

She, of course, meant the light over his bed. The one harnessing the power of the sun. The one we would have joked was bright enough to wake the dead had my father not been dying.
But a chuckle, which came out as a muffled sob, escaped one of my sisters. Sonya and Pati, tears streaming down their cheeks, both looked up at me. They wanted to laugh. My father would have laughed. He would have laughed his ass off.  But it wasn’t the right time. Later. We could laugh after we got home. After we had signed off on the autopsy. After we got my mother into bed. While  we sat huddled together waiting to leave for the funeral home. After we got home from the service. We could, and would laugh about it often. All it took was one of us to dramatically call out, “Look into the light!” But not now. Not yet.

I pursed my lips and silently shook my head slowly. It was as much an admonition for them as it was a reminder to me not to lose it. Because good fucking God, I needed to laugh.

“Rene! Look into the light!” She cried out, as the beeping slowed even more. “Look into light!”


My father had never listened to his sisters. He never listened to anyone. But as the beep, beep, beep finally drew itself out into a heart-wrenching “beeeeeeeeeeep” until one of the nurses (thankfully) turned off the machines, as I let go of my sisters to catch my mother before she fell to the floor…I had one thought.

“Damn it, Dad! Fifty years! And you listen to them now?”

 

My parents on my wedding day in 2002.

 

My mother’s birthday is tomorrow. She’ll be 55.

My father’s death anniversary is tomorrow. That makes things awkward. It probably always will.

Six years ago my father went into the hospital for heart surgery. All signs were good that he’d be in the hospital recovering and bitching about the crappy Thanksgiving meal and begging us all to sneak him in some of the good stuff. But signs can sometimes be misinterpreted. Or maybe they weren’t and fate just decided to throw us a curve ball.

Either way, our family stood beside his bed while he took his last breaths. Then I caught my mother before she hit the floor.

They’d been married 30 years and he’d just turned 50 that year. I know that because I was just 6 weeks short of my 30th birthday when he died. I’d always kept track of my parents’ anniversary and ages by adding 20 to my age for the anniversary and my dad’s birthday and then subtracting one to get my mom’s age.

That’s how old they were when they got married and welcomed me into the world before the ink dried on their wedding certificate at the courthouse. Nineteen and 20.

So young, everyone said when my mother dropped me off at school.

So young, everyone said when she became a widow, quite unexpectedly, at 49.

I want to send her flowers for her birthday but flowers make me think of death. I want to send her something sparkly and frivolous but that makes me think he’s been gone long enough for it not to hurt so much anymore. It’s the same struggle every year. And I still feel guilty for being thankful no matter what day Thanksgiving falls on now. Pretty sure I always will.

The year my dad died, Thanksgiving happened to be the day before his heart stopped working and my mother celebrated her 49th birthday. Ying and Yang and good balances with bad and the world spins round and round. It’s Thanksgiving week in 2013 and I learned of one friend losing an uncle just moments before I learned another lost her home and everything she owns in a house fire last night. Even her purse.

I breathe. And I remind myself that for every bad thing in this world, there is good. And that the good balanced out the bad. That equation works both ways. For every last day, there is a tomorrow.

Flowers. I’ll buy her flowers, dammit. Flowers mean spring and life and a cheap vase my mom is never going to use again but never get rid of after the bouquet finally gets thrown away because she will always see it and know that is the vase her birthday flowers came in.

And she’ll smile every time.

 

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