Leaping Thought Wednesday

It's Wednesday, you know what that means - more bits and pieces of what's inside me.

1. I love sandwiches. In Spanish, we call them emparedados. This is how you pronounce it: em- (like your auntie Em) pa- (as in your father if you were from the rural south) re- (as in do re mi) da- (as in your rural Scottish father) do- (did I say do re mi already?) You got that? Em is related to your pa then she sang a song, went to Scotland where she do si do'ed. I thought I'd give you a little mnemonic help there.

2. Now I'm no etymologist, but this girl (though she might not conform to what we imagine an etymologist should look like) SURE is. Watch first and we'll comment later...

Isn't she a riot? Though what I should really be asking is, isn't she riotously funny? I've checked out some of her other videos at her site Hot for Words (the name just cracks me up) and I have to tell you, I keep learning new things. She's a really GOOD teacher, unconventional but good. I discovered Marina (that's her name) a couple of months ago on one of my favorite blogs The Medium which if you don't already know about, you should.

3. I've got no clue what has been going on in my head lately. My brain has gone on an extended vacation. My husband keeps speaking of things he swears to me we've spoken of before and well, I've either got an early onset of some nefarious disease coming on or I'm just more scatterbrained than usual because I can't remember a thing.

4. You didn't know that about me did you? Oh yes... I'm terribly scatterbrained and forgetful. I write most everything down in order to keep myself reasonably on time for things and as organized as possible considering that we are, after all, talking. about. me.

5. My husband is a lawyer. That means his mind is like a death trap. Everything goes in and stays in. He's awful to fight with. Remembers everything in photographic detail. It's almost like there's a mental stenographer inside that head of his. A positively frustrating (to me) particularity of his personality.

6. I lost 6lbs and now I'm stuck. I've plateaued apparently. The scale isn't budging. A lady at my gym was telling me how I need to push my body a tad further, just make it work a bit harder you know, just force it out of its newly reached complacency. I guess that means I have to kill myself because truly, I thought I'd done all those things already and it was soooo hard! I think I'll just plateau for a while.

7. Embarrassing mommy moment: I was at a store the other day and my boy saw an anatomically correct baby doll. Loud enough for those sharing the aisle with us and the rest of the store to hear, he yells:

Mami look! Nip-els! Then he pointed at my chest and yelled again,

Mami, nip-els! Dere it is! Mami nip-els! Mami, nip-els! and off he went into a sing-song-y song about my chest and my nipples.

I acted real cool. Gave a tight little smile to the lady closest to me and just went on about my business. Now that I think of it, real cool would have been if I had joined him in on the song. Maybe next time.

8. Here is a recipe for a sandwich I'm addicted to. In Peru they call it a Triple (pronounced tree-play). Which of course means triple because it has 3 slices of bread and uses three ingredients. That makes sense doesn't it? Pepperidge Farm makes a thinly sliced bread which works divinely well for this emparedado. Get a ripe avocado, a good vine tomato and a couple of hardboiled eggs together. Slice the avocado thinly, same goes for the tomato and the hardboiled egg (this last as thin as possible). Over a slice of bread place the avocado and tomato and as much pepper or salt as you'd enjoy, then add another slice of bread which you can slather with mustard or mayo (whichever you prefer or both) and on top of the second bread slice, the egg. Cover with the last piece of bread. Press down and there you go - heaven. I don't know what it is about the combination of all three but, I warn you that it's addictive. Have been eating a lot of these lately, maybe that's why I've plateaued.

9. I'm going to stop here for the moment. There is something that needs doing and as my Wednesday is almost over, I didn't want to default on my post time-wise. So I'll publish as is today and until next time, be well.


There is never too much of a good thing

Photo by viviloob

So I find myself forced to take it back. I'll admit that I was ever so wrong and do it graciously. For starters, let me clue you in on what I'm talking about. I mentioned in my last Leaping Thought Wednesdays Post that I was going to attend a Ladies' Luncheon for my son's school. I said that I worried such an event (my first ever as a 'school' mommy) would be a gathering of older blue haired ladies and feature not so exciting bingo play. I was wrong. No bingo, no older ladies. This was a collection of über chic chicks. A panoply of the well-preserved and the Bergdorf-dressed with nary a blue hair in the entire well-coiffed bunch.

600 of us women and 5 lone men (I counted), a representative half-slice of the school's total households, gathered at the impressively upper class Houston Country Club for a mediocre lunch and one superb guest speaker. There was much eye sport to be had. You know me, I love observing and there was a lot to look at but I'm getting sidetracked here because whom I really wanted to tell about was of Dr. Dan Kindlon, that special guest speaker I mentioned a moment ago. Now, I don't know if you've ever heard his name because I myself hadn't but what I had heard was the name of a book he co-authored. It's called Raising Cain.

May I use the word wow with regards to his presentation and not have you believe I lack descriptive skills? I thought not. How about If I tell you he was witty and engaging, self-deprecating and funny as hell, sobering in his explanation of his research and findings, ardent on the subject of childhood and of parenthood. In short, a convincing modern-day crusader for the raising of emotionally well-adjusted and character-driven children within the excesses, of what he terms an Indulgent Age. Dr. Kindlon convinced me that he knows what he is talking and without a doubt, he wowed.

Earlier, when I had thought I'd be bored to tears in no time, I'd prepared myself well for an early departure. Since I excel at extricating myself from where I don't wish to be, I accordingly sat with my back to the podium and in the most direct line of passage to the entrance I could manage. The plan was to do the pretty, comply with my fund-raising duty, maintain the yawns to a minimum and leave at the first possible opportunity. Imagine my surprise therefore when torticollis set in, three hours had gone by and I was still sitting in my place listening to this mesmerizing guru of child-raising.

I'll have you know that before and after the birth of my son, I've made it my business to read and read about child-rearing. My personal belief with regards to this kind of information is that good info equals better parenting; that there is no such thing as too much information since every little bit of knowledge might help and finally, that distilling the useful from the not so useful bears a direct correlation to how I can make it work positively for me and my child.

That's why I cannot understand how this guy slipped beneath my radar. He was absolutely amazing. You want to know what made him so good? He made sense. The best advice is often the simplest one, the one that speaks to the heart because the heart is eminently capable of recognizing truth. That sounds like a cliché I know but if certain things are repeated often enough that they become part of our daily lexicon then, why devalue them for their repetition when their repetition might be an indicator of their value? You might read someone like Kindlon or, you might hear him speak and feel the workings of some change occur within you as regards to how you go about your parenting but, you certainly cannot read or hear him and find yourself immune to the good sense and conviction of his words.

For my part, I'm carefully working my way through his book Too Much of a Good Thing - Raising Children of Character in an Indulgent Age which he wrote in 2001. I feel so convinced by every page of his words that I read, for the simple reason that he gives some darned good advice. I am ever so glad I attended my ladies luncheon. I would have even put up with bingo and blue hairs for the illuminating pleasure of hearing Kindlon speak.

Before I go, I'll leave you with some heavily excerpted paragraphs from the introduction to Too Much of a Good Thing. I know I've been speaking and speaking about how great I thought he was and yet, I've given no examples. So without further introduction, Dr. Dan Kindlon:

As parents, we do a great job in some areas but not others. Compared to earlier generations, we are emotionally closer to our kids, they confide in us more, we have more fun with them, and we know more about the science of child development. But we are too indulgent. We give our kids too much and demand too little of them... I find myself at the center of this problem as I try, with my wife to balance the two major tasks of parenting: showing our kids that we love them and raising them with the skills and values they'll need to be emotionally healthy adults, which often requires that we act in ways that can anger and upset them...

By our disinclination to set appropriate limits for our kids, we undermine their character development. Character is hard to define, but it's easy to tell when someone has it, or doesn't. People who have character know who they are; they are centered and have the courage to be honest with themselves and others. Having character means being honest, charitable, compassionate, and emotionally intelligent. When we stop blurring the line between friend and parent, we can help our kids develop healthy attitudes and good habits that are character's foundation.

We indulge our children at least partially because we can afford to. Ours is an affluent society, perhaps the most affluent the world has ever known. We want to share the good things in life with our kids; and we know that money can protect us from at least some of life's problems. As parents, we naturally want to extend this protection, and the advantages that money can buy, to our kids, But by protecting them from failure, adversity, and pain we deprive them of the opportunity to learn important coping skills; a realistic sense of their strengths and limitations...

Due to our hectic lives, our kids are often neglected in ways that we as parents are unwilling or unable to see. We need to take a hard look at how our often work-obsessed lives affect our ability to be effective parents. On one hand, our children are the center of our lives, but, on the other, how often are we fully present when we're with them?

While most of the survey data and many of the interviews and anecdotes in the pages that follow focus on teenage children, it's important for parents of younger children to realize that indulged toddlers can, unless checked, become indulged teenagers who are at risk for becoming adults prone to many of the syndromes - excessive self-absorption, depression, a lack of self-control - that I discuss in the second part of this book.

My recommendations for dealing with indulgence are not based on moral outrage, and I don't advocate a regression to the harsh discipline and an emotionally distant style of parenting that has been common in the past. Instead, I give advice that tries to keep the best of both worlds - the emotional closeness and informality with our children that characterize parents today, as well as the ability to clearly comprehend and set limits entailed in building character. As a generation of parents, I think that we must ask ourselves what kind of adults we want our kids to be - what we think is most important to teach them. I hope this book will give you a clearer view, as it has me, of why we parent the way we do, and I offer it as a guide into the hearts and minds of our children.

For some video of Dr. Kindlon being tightly led by Katie Couric but still speaking about this particular subject matter, click here. For if you missed the extremely interesting NPR Morning edition Broadcast last week on the importance of letting children have free-play then click here to listen to or read the transcript. As you can see, I'm kind of obsessed by the subject of parenting and how to go about it. Hope I didn't bore you.


Reserving my hellos

Photo by WildImages

One time, I was out somewhere with a friend who happened to be Persian, when she stopped to ask me who was the person that I'd just said hello to on the street. I think I must not have been fast enough on the uptake that she went on to clarify how she'd been referring to the woman I had just greeted in passing.

Well nobody I know, I said.

-Then why did you say hello to her? (she seemed curious)

Because that is what I've been taught to do.

-In my country we don't say hello to people unless we've actually been introduced to them, she said.

Is that so? Well, in my country, we say hello to any and every person that brushes by us on the street. Irrespective of whether we know them or not.

-How come?

What do you mean how come? That's just the way it is. And furthermore I added, if you make eye-contact then you murmur a polite good morning or good afternoon.


Because, you want to be polite. What do you mean why? Just because, that's the way it is.

-Seems like you should be reserving your hellos for people you actually know if you ask me.

I hadn't really asked her of course but that is neither here nor there. Still, fast forward in time to this morning. I'm waiting to take an elevator and with me are about 6 people or so. Two of them are males, the rest all ladies going into one tiny crowded elevator. As I was the first person in, I punched the button to my floor and politely asked of everyone who trailed in after me (neither man waited for the ladies to go in first I might add) what floor they were going to so that I could likewise punch in their floor numbers for them. The ladies almost took it for granted that I asked though one did look surprised that I'd even bothered to offer. One male told me his floor and the other one, elbowed me gently to the side, didn't even answer, and just punched his floor number himself. I've recounted this episode for you in painstaking detail for a reason, so bear with me.

By the time I arrived at my own floor, only one person had gotten off before me which made me the second person to depart right? So, I turned just a tad sideways and I said to the group in general, Good day to you all. No one replied thank you, no one murmured a you too, the doors just closed in on silence. I really could have been speaking to an empty elevator for all intents and purposes.

You would think that after almost 20 years of living on and off in the US, that I would have learned my lesson by now with regards to this whole greeting thing. After all, this is most definitely not the first time this kind of situation has ever happened to me, and I am quite sure it will not be the last. WHY do I keep doing it then?

Frankly, the answer to that question is the consolidation of two inherent traits that make me persevere doggedly in my quest to greet humanity in general. I'm a creature of habit and I'm stubborn to boot. I ask you, what is so wrong about mumbling a polite hello to someone you do not know? Heck, I think it's better than screaming expletives to absolute strangers on the street because they blinked at you the wrong way. The question I always end up asking is, why doesn't everybody else do like me? I'm speaking in general terms of course since you do find some people who greet you in spite of not knowing you.

I watch lots of old movies. Take a look at an old black and white film and you invariably see gentlemen inclining their heads at ladies in greeting or tipping their hats to passersby on the street. What I can infer from this celluloid reflection of real life is that obviously, greeting for greetings sake did take place before but somehow, no longer. Why is that? How did we here in the US, lose the habit of greeting perfect strangers, of observing certain patterns of polite behavior to the degree that when someone like me does greet someone she doesn't know, in this day and age, this action is viewed as archaic, strange, somehow unexpected and wrong. How did that happen?

I really don't have a full explanation for it. All I know is how things are where I come from. Like I was telling you, back home in Panama we greet every Juan, Pedro and Maria on the street. But here in the States, the norm is that we only greet those whom we know.

I've always thought the world would be a better place if we all treated each other with a bit more courtesy. It's harder to shout bad words at someone whom you've said hello to, don't you think?

I get a sad little feeling in the pit of my stomach sometimes if my kid, whom I raise as closely in behavior to the way I myself was brought up, says hello to a child or an adult and gets nothing in return for his sweet piping voice and small hand raised in greeting. Everyone should be taught to greet each other even if they didn't come out of the same womb or have had a previous acquaintance. Most definitely, everyone should greet a child who says hello no matter if the child is unknown to them.

I will persevere. I won't ever reserve my hellos for only those I know. And I hope my son continues to learn to give his own as freely as he does now. I feel this is a service I do for myself, for my child, and for the rest of my human brethren.


Leaping Thought Wednesday

For those of you who are new to my blog: Every Wednesday, I let my thoughts just take a leap. No reason, no plan. The banal, the trite and the me come out. I post these thoughts numerically until I get tired from writing or my brain goes dead. Whichever comes first.

Here is another installment of

1. I received a call two days ago from a friend who is like a sister to me. In nine years of knowing each other, she'd never told me things as sweet as the sentiments she expressed to me the other day. How strange. I knew she loved me as I love her and that we both figure prominently in each other's lives, I just... well I'd never comprehended the degree to which I figured in hers. Now I know. I'll always carry inside me what you said Ale. Thank you for this gift. To say I am glad things are coming together at this point in your life, does not even begin to plumb the depths of my happiness for you. A toast to our friendship and always being there for each other. You mean so much to me.

2. I limit TV time strictly in this household. Though my son might cry, I turn the television off and that's it. I think children need play time of the kind where they have to invent games for themselves. I had my own little world as a kid. There were no limits to what I could do in it except, those limits which my knowledge of the world imposed.

3. I once jumped off a stairway with an open umbrella pretending I was Mary Poppins. I soared (if you could call it that) all of two steps before I tangled in it. Quite the miracle I didn't poke an eye out or pierce something. I did get banged up real good though.

4. I'm not that much into musicals but this is one of my favorite musical movie moments: Julie Andrews playing Victor in Blake Edwards' Victor Victoria. In this scene, James Garner's character is instantly smitten with Julie Andrew's only to discover that the woman he is starting to like is in truth, a man. Great expressions on all the actor's faces when everything becomes clear. Especially from Leslie Ann Warren's character. She is James Garner's blond lady friend. The dance number is beyond wow.

5. I've discovered a very funny blog. Apparently, it's like an outlet place for the writers and artists who work at Hallmark cards. This is where they express themselves outside the Hallmark box. Of course, that's just MY interpretation of it as they hardly give any background at all. The blog just is. There are echoes of Saturday Night live, John Stewart and Gary Larson all rolled into a one in this fantastically funny place. It's my new fave. Here are a couple of funnies to whet your appetite:

The Wisconsin and Hawaii
primaries have handed Barack Obama his 10th consecutive victory over what's-her-name.

U.S. forces plan to try
shooting down a failing American spy satellite. It's very tricky to pinpoint a satellite in space, so Vice President Dick Cheney has recommended a "shotgun approach."

Six unused cases of recalled beef will be thrown away by schools in Maryland and Virginia. Said a school spokesperson, “Now that we know what it is, we ca
n no longer call it mystery meat.”

Here are 9 simple steps you can take to help sell your home. Step #1: put it on the market 2 years ago.

Sean “P. Diddy” combs will re-create the Sidney Poitier role in a TV version of “Raisin in the Sun.” In other entertainment news, Gary Coleman has been signed to play Michael Jordan in an upcoming bio-pic.

Dog the Bounty Hunter is back on the air! If you don't know who Dog the Bounty Hunter is, you are very, very lucky. We envy you.

Good news! Kirstie Alley is introducing her own, personal, weight loss plan. As is the case with all celebrities, it features having your own surgeons, chefs, trainers, hair and make-up teams, and insisting on the best possible lighting. So it's for everybody!

Hasbro is developing a global version of Monopoly, featuring cities from around the world. Winning tip: Always hang on to your get-out-of-Guantanamo-free

Amy Winehouse will give her first public performance since leaving rehab at the British Music Awards, hosted this year by Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne. So tune in ‘cause it promises to be a pretty big three-way train wreck.

6. I heard it directly from my mother this morning that the deal had been closed on the sale of their apartment in Panama. They are moving to a bigger pad somewhere still close to their old one. As happy as I am that it's all wrapped up since I know they wanted the change so much, I can't help but feel down at the news. I lived a large portion of my childhood and growing up years in that apartment with my sister and parents. It holds many memories for me. Strange to think that the last time I set foot in it (about 8 months ago) I had no idea that it would be for the last time. That's okay. I'll get over it. The new one is bigger, better and as my mom says, will fit both daughters and sons-in-law, the existing grandchild plus all the grand-babies that are still to come. She's a wishful thinker as you can see.

7. Read what is below and tell me this is not one of the most touching collection of wishes you ever heard. I found it on a great blog called Half Past Kissing Time. Make sure that you read on the side bar the origin of Half Past Kissing's blog's title. She says:

Whether you remember Paul Harvey or are too young to know who he was, you will appreciate this wisdom, which was written by a man named Lee Pitts and popularized by Mr. Harvey in a 1997 Broadcast:

These Things I Wish for You:

We tried so hard to make things better for our kids that we made them worse. For my grandchildren, I’d like better.

I‘d really like for them to know about hand-me-down clothes and homemade ice cream and leftover meatloaf sandwiches. I really would.

My cherished grandson, I hope you learn humility by being humiliated, and that you learn honesty by being cheated. I hope you learn to make your bed and mow the lawn and wash the car. And I really hope nobody gives you a brand new car when you are sixteen. I hope you have a job by then.

It will be good if at least one time you can see a baby calf be born and your old dog put to sleep. I hope you get a black eye fighting for something you believe in.

I hope you have to share a bedroom with your younger brother. And it’s all right if you have to draw a line down the middle of the room, but when he wants to crawl under the covers with you because he’s scared, I hope you let him. When you want to see a Disney movie and your little brother wants to t
ag along, I hope you’ll let him.

I hope you have to walk uphill to school with your friends and that you live in a town where you can do it safely. On rainy days when you have to catch a ride I hope your driver doesn’t have to drop you two blocks away so you won’t be seen riding with someone as uncool as your mom.

If you want a slingshot, I hope your dad teaches you how to make one instead of buying one.

I hope you learn to dig in the dirt and read books. When you learn to use those newfangled computers, I hope you also learn to add and subtract in your head.

I hope you get razzed by your friends when you have your first crush on a girl, and w
hen you talk back to your mother that you learn what Ivory soap tastes like.

May you skin you knee climbing a mountain, burn your hand on the stove and stick your tongue on a frozen flagpole. I hope you get sick when someone blows cigar smoke in your face. I don’t care if you try beer once, but I hope you don’t like it. And if a friend offers you dope or a joint, I hope you realize he is not your friend.

I sure hope you make time to sit on a porch with your grandpa and go fishing with your uncle. May you feel sorrow at a funeral and the joy of holidays.

I hope your mother punishes you when you throw a baseball through a neighbor’s window and that she hugs you and kisses you at Christmas time when you give her a plaster of Paris mold of your hand.

These things I wish for you--tough times and disappointment, hard work and happiness.

7. It's a lazy day here in Houston. The kiddie is playing pirates on the floor in front of me. Little moments of silence are punctuated by blood-curling aaargrrrh aarrgrrhs and off-sounding aye aye! mateys! It boggles the mind that my three year old even knows such expressions. He's a bit of a ghoulish kid. Lately he's been stabbing me with a little two inch plastic sword that belongs to one of his pirate dolls and when I pretend I'm mortally wounded, he jumps and squeals for joy. Then he does it again. Ouch! That thing is pointy.

8. I think Spongebob is such a rude show. I never let my son watch it. My husband however, did. Just the once mind you and now, all he wants is Spanch-Bab all the time. I pretend I don't know what he's talking about when he asks me for it.

Mami? Spanch-bab?

Who's that R? Mami doesn't know any Spanch-Bab.

Is that your friend?

Yea, yeah, here (he points at the television screen)
Mami, here! Tele! Spanch-bab!

What? your friend's in there?

Yea! yea!

No R. There is no friend in the television.

Yea! Here!

I give him my skeptical look.

He drops it 'cause he knows he's going to go nowhere with this.

And eventually he gives it up but only for a little while. The kid's tenacious, no doubt about it.

9. I'm going to an event for my son's school on Friday. A ladies luncheon. I don't know quite why calling the lunch a ladies luncheon makes me feel so much older than my years (which are a lot but not quite there yet). I have pictures in my head of sweet blue haired ladies sitting at tables playing bingo under clouds of hairspray fumes. Why can't we have a ladies club night or something? A mommy pow-wow? A razzmatazz gathering? I feel so passé.

Photo by ivegotthejamsinmypocket

10. That's it for thought-hopping. At least until next Wednesday. Thanks for stopping by.


A Sultan, some chaos, Lala's answer and a meme for good measure

Photo by Trytophan

Some years back, I made a wonderful friend who is originally from Argentina, and on a trip to visit her in her home country I was introduced to a whole clan's worth of her family members (we Latin Americans are totally family-centric). It seems unfair to say so but amongst so many nice new people I was being introduced to, her grandmother who was one of them, shone like no other. Lala has to be the coolest grandmother I have ever had the pleasure to meet. She lives in a little house by a lake all by herself, but within a car ride's distance from all her children and grandchildren and nieces and nephews. In this little house, so warm and picturesque, there is one of everything. One kitchen, one bedroom, one bathroom, one tiny living room and yet, I remember that it seemed like the kind of place that gave the impression of layers. Of things hidden that could not quite be seen. Of more rooms and more space than bigger homes have by dint of sheer size but that her own home had, because it felt like it lived. I loved it. I thought then that should I ever get to Lala's age and still be by myself, I too would want a home like hers on the edge of a lake whose second name means Peace. The Lake Carlos Paz.

During my trip I had unfortunately too little time to get to know everyone better but I've often remembered my friend's grandmother over the years. She made quite the impression on me. Today, I am writing about her because of a meme. A new friend I've made through my blogging has tagged me for one. More about the meme later but a little bit about my new friend now.

She calls her blog Vie Chaotique, which literally translates from the French into English as Chaotic Life. The blog is an extension of her marvelous store in Charlotte, North Carolina. A place I hope I might someday visit. Vie Chaotique showcases whimsical and practical finds in a wide range of products (I'm not making a plug-in here, I'm just telling it like it is) but more than that, she is an insightful, obviously well-read and conspicuously un-chaotic writer. She says that she and her husband Mark use the term Chaotique as an alternative to the word eclectic and her tag line says that from chaos comes beauty. That statement speaks to me. I don't know if it speaks to you but here is where this post will coalesce from chaos into some form which perhaps, though not beautiful, will hopefully make more sense to you.

You see, Lala (my friend's grandmother that I was telling you about previously) had a ritual. She explained it to me thus: I ask myself a question almost on a daily basis about something that I need an answer to and then, she said, I take a book, whatever I am reading at the moment, I let it drop to an open page and where my eye falls on a particular sentence, then that is what my answer is. But Lala, I countered, that makes no sense. What if what you ask has nothing to do with the sentence you read?

She gave me one of those sage looks that interesting older ladies who have lived a been there, done that kind of life can give, and she answered that I would be surprised at how many good answers to her questions she had gotten in just such a fashion. Sometimes, she added, it might not make sense initially but it works itself out in time. That moment I shared with Lala and her literary magic eight ball philosophy, has since remained stuck in my head and I am sharing it with you today because of Vie Chaotique and her meme. Here's what I am supposed to do:

1. Take a book I'm reading.
2. Go to page 123.
3. Skip through the first five sentences on the page and,
4. post the following three for you.

What you make of the following three lines, I would simply LOVE to hear. Do tell.

None of the grand vezirs could bring order to the chaotic regime, and eventually all parties agreed that Mustafa must be deposed and replaced by his nephew Murat, Kosem's eldest son. The end came on 10 September 1623, when representatives of all factions confronted Mustafa and convinced him that he must give up his throne in favour of his nephew, who ascended the throne as Murat IV. Murat was aged fourteen years and twelve days when he came to the throne, after having been confined to the Old Saray since the death of his father Ahmet I nearly six years before.

This excerpt from a book titled Inside the Seraglio - Private lives of the Sultans in Istanbul by John Freely which I have been reading in fits and spurts for the last two weeks.

Did you notice how it contained the word chaotic in the very first sentence? Is that chance or something else?


An inner melody

In the stairhouse of the Franz Liszt Musicschool in Weimar he seemed to be listening carefully to some divine music that the rest of us couldn't hear. Photo by Dalla

My mother tells a story of finding me once standing outside the balcony of our apartment in the middle of a thunderstorm with my arms outstretched pretending I was conducting the weather. Bach's Toccata e Fuga in D minor played loudly from our stereo inside the living room. The way she tells it, I had set the needle to the record player, cranked up the volume real high and with my stage all set, I stepped into the pouring rain. That's how she found me. Grinning from ear to ear while getting soaked. Later, while she dried me out, she demanded to know what I'd been thinking. The truth was that I had wanted to pretend I was Mickey Mouse, like in the movie Fantasia, in that scene where he directs the water while Dukas' the Sorcerer's Apprentice plays. All I had wanted was to be like Mickey. I wanted to command a storm. Could the music I chose to do so have been any more appropriate?

Music, has always been a decider of moods for me. I place great weight on what I choose to listen to daily because invariably, it sets the tone. I put it on, but whatever I play, conducts me, commands me. Does this make any sense?

I've always felt that music of any kind has immense power. I must be about the gadjillionth person to say so but that doesn't make it any the less true. We listen to music for pick me ups, for let me downs and everything else in between. Raise your hand any of you who cannot identify some moment of your life with one unforgettable melody. Should it be dissonance and noise, even that is an identifier. You don't exist do you? Unless, you who reads me, is someone who can truly, not hear.

I love my ability to sense, taste, see and touch but I think that should I ever lose any sensorial capacity, perhaps the one I would miss the most, would be my ability to detect sound. Sound guides and paints for me. All sound really. Even its lack thereof. Sometimes, I hum myself internally to sleep. That is the best kind of oneness with myself, the one that leads me into silence.

I love to sing. I love harmonies being put together, many voices working as one. I love surges and ebbs in melodies. Great oceans of tones melding and separating. I love great and small silences and the short respite of empty spaces. Music is one of my greatest joys.

What brought this reverie on? My son too loves music. That makes me incredibly happy. It will help and hold him all his life and I truly believe, that this is a blessing like few others.

To hear my voice reading this post, click here.



You know how every Valentines I pour my heart out on a card for you? Well here it is. The card I mean. The pouring out comes next.

Dear love: I really don't know what possessed me to address you this way but your private self will have to deal with it. Lately, this blog has been absorbing pieces of me. In this partial repository I speak some of our son, more of myself and hardly any of you. There's a reason for that which you know - your own personal request. Before I continue further, I'll have you know that I am honoring it even as I write. This is not about you, but about us and I want to, for this one time, perhaps not the last time depending on how this goes down, tell of you and me.

Eight years into knowing you, more than six of them loving you, I do not know what our future holds. This envisioning puts me in mind of what Alejandra A. once told me about that couple who were friends of hers and who'd been happily married for years and years. One time, when she asked them what the secret of their marital bliss was, the woman looked at her husband and said: We take it one day at a time and turn that day into another. When I first heard A.A. tell this story, I remember that I didn't even know you but I perked my ears because all girls with dreams of happily ever afters listen up when tried and true advice about good marriages is freely handed out. So I listened and afterwards, I was disappointed with what I heard. There was no magical formula there. No deep epiphany to fathom. I wondered, was that it?

As a witness to the longevity of my parent's own marriage, I can tell you many things about what works for them but I'm not, and was never such an ingenue, that I didn't understand how one person's recipe could end up as something completely different in someone else's pot. Still, I thought, there had to be a step process, there had to be a set of directions, a universal something that would tell the heart, my heart, how to go forward when the time for me came.

Well there you have it. That's it. My love letter to you. It has no measurements no outright professing of anything. What you know of what my love is, you have on a daily basis through what I do with you and for you and out of a love that wells up, unstoppable, for you and you alone.

They had it right, those friends of Ale. In five years of marriage, we've taken it one day at a time. Together. Every morning, we've woken up together and every evening we've lain together. This relationship of ours is all about the now, about the moment. I know you know that I love you in each and everyone and from this second into the next. From this day till tomorrow and from that tomorrow into another.

Happy every day jan.

Your loving every second of her life with you,



Leaping Thought Wednesday

1. Why is it that consulting different doctors never yields the same diagnosis? I'm of a mind that medical opinions (2nd, 3rd or 4th) are as unique as the person who gives them. I'm looking for consensus. Turns out all they give me are more avenues to explore.

2. What do you do when your child takes forever to use the toilet? I've made our potty place a comfortable area to spend time in, that's what I have done. Without realizing, I've amassed quite a stack of books and magazines and put in a comfortable floor cushion for the inevitable wait. The kid has his toys too. His favorite being the toilet roll. The child is into sculpting with Charming and still seems to care nothing about the true business at hand.

3. I'm a such a klutz you cannot imagine. I come, I slip, I fall, that's me. Is there a Latin veni version of this? Anyone? Anyway, old age has nothing to do with it because I've been this way since forever. The hubby has been trained to hang onto my elbow real good. In fact, my ungraceful propensity to hug floor is an inherited trait. Witness the following anecdote as evidence: One time, I was going down the metal steps into the lower level of a bateau mouche and of course, I slipped. At the bottom, two back-packing friends picked me up, dusted me off and sat me down to commiserate and chat. Do you live in Paris? they asked me. No, I'm a tourist just like you, I replied. Are you here by yourself? No, my family is still on the upper level. Not half a minute later, we hear another unfortunate soul bang their way down the same steps. Without missing a beat nor turning around I said: And that will be my mother, how nice, now I can introduce you to her. My father's distressed voice confirmed the truth of my guess. You should have seen their expressions, to say comical would not even have begun to describe it.

4. What brought on the klutz confession? Yesterday I slipped on a spill (I've got built-in GPS for those) and fell smack on my rump in the middle of the supermarket. No harm done but I think Krogers feared a lawsuit. If only they knew how much of a billionaire I'd be had I ever cashed in on any of those opportunities.

5. I cooked quails yesterday and I winged the recipe. You heard it. Is that sophisticated or what? I caramelized some onions, added chicken stock, white wine and some jarred flageolets. Then some fresh tomato chunks, a bit of tomato paste, about a teaspoon of turmeric, salt, pepper, chopped garlic and a bay leaf. Set it all in a dutch oven and while that simmered I browned the boneless quail and then added them to the pot. I left everything on low heat for a long time. When they were done, the quails were almost coming apart. The husband and I shared a bottle of Shiner Bock and tucked it all in with some crusty Ciabatta bread. A good meal if I do say so myself.

6. Tomorrow is Saint Valentine's day. My husband is taking the day off from work and we are spending it together like we've done for the past three years. Nothing major. We go to a movie, a nice lunch and some walking around while our hands remain super-glued together for the day. Muy romantico let me tell you.

7. My marriage and my kid spell b-l-i-s-s for me but sometimes, I like to temporarily change the wife cape for that of girlfriend without a kid. It's amazing what this kind of hooky playing does for my psyche. It feels like the Energizer bunny has come a-calling.

8. I've been noticing my son hums in tune. He likes to sing and loves to dance. When a favorite song plays, he starts gyrating and stomping and all sorts of un-choreographed moves just burst forth from him. Delightful to watch. Observing him enjoy himself is wonderful but things get even better when I too let go of my self-consciousness and join in on the fun.

9. I've become a great Banksy fan. Finally. It took me a while to wrap my polite self around his engaging but sometimes harsh irreverence. Ingenious and witty is how I see him first and foremost as well as on the vanguard of art that is different. Wish I could see some of his graffiti work with my own two eyes and not through a photograph.

Photo by Solarider

10. As traveling is on my mind since we'll be doing a fair bit of it during the next couple of months, I have a confession to make. I am NOT a light traveler. For lack of a better comparison, let's just say that I'm the Airbus A380 of luggage carriers. This quirk (and it is a quirk) drives my husband i.n.s.a.n.e. You would think that if I had to find myself a partner for life, I would have at least chosen one who did not take 3 days to research the kind of luggage he wants to buy. In his view, major pluses for buying are weight, lightness of material and how tiny the suitcase can be. Yes indeed. The husband is somewhat freaky about what he uses to transport his belongings when he travels, and major-ly freaky about what goes into the suitcase. For instance, he questions the sanity of my decision to include a full-sized Rowenta iron in my list of must take items or, he complains incessantly about the number of shoes I have to take with me. I need to start wearing him down for the upcoming trips. We are going to a wedding and then we will be traveling to see his relatives abroad. Can any two occasions demand the best in outfit changes (for kiddie and myself) as well as the necessity for a handy dandy 4lb iron? Not in my book and, that is how things will continue to be if you want to remain married to me.

11. I iron everything. From pillowcases to bedsheets. My son's clothes definitely. He always looks pressed and clean if I have anything to do with it. My clothes and my husband's clothes even the underwear (I won't tell you whose). Guess.

12. I feel jealous, TERRIBLY jealous of my husband getting the first ever unsolicited I love you from our son. You should have seen it. It played like a slow-mo movie moment.

MAN twists key inside lock and opens door.
LITTLE BOY stares intently from inside as door opens.

(happily while opening his arms)

Hello! hello! how's my R___ jan jan?

(yelling happily and launching himself at man)

Babi jan! I wuv you!

You see? I told you it played like something out of a movie.


Inadvertent lessons

I was lying in bed with my son last night. Just he and I while I tried to get him to sleep. We were following the rituals of going to bed, when he perhaps grew tired of the book I held in my hands or maybe of my voice droning on. That quick, he changed gears. He became playful again in the span of an eye blink (this happens sometimes) a second wind will blow in and he's good to go for another hour of what should be normal sleeping time, re-energized as anything, while my own body slows itself to a sure halt. I was so tired that I let him jump around the bed and roll up and down in a manic fit of face-flushed frenzy. He was smiling and laughing and bouncing on the mattress and it was just too much effort to open my mouth and say, no, settle down, let's try and go to sleep again shall we? I just let him be for the next five minutes and towards the end of that, he took the thin book we had been reading and inadvertently smashed the edge point of it into my left eye, into the soft fleshy part underneath the lower lashes. It. hurt. like. the. dickens. With my hands I covered my face and I cried out softly.

As aware as I was of the pain, I still felt when he burrowed under the sheets and started mumbling muffled sounding oh no's. It was obvious he knew he'd hurt me but I wanted to make sure he understood with what. So I called him out and I pointed to the edge of the book and showed him what had caused my pain. This edge, I said, this corner is what caused mami her ouch. Be careful jan (a pet name)! You have to be careful with things like this! He looked at the book and his little fingers slid slowly over the contours of the hard corner and before I knew what he was about, he had smashed his little hand onto his own eye.

I was so stunned by his action that I failed to stop him that first time but I grabbed him when he went for a second try, and in the moment it took for me to mentally try to sort out the why of his action he broke free from me again, pointed the offending book edge and brought it to his own eye to self-inflict the pain he had caused me.

I grabbed the book and I threw it away. I hugged him tightly to me and rocked him while I kept up a litany of no no jan, no no, don't do that, don't do that to yourself, mami is okay, I promise, I promise. I pulled him back to see if he had done himself any harm and when I discovered he hadn't, I tried to show him my own eye so that he could see for himself what I was trying to say but he was having none of it and though he bent in again to kiss my eye, that action must not have felt like enough of an amends to him because, he left the room to get his father and when he came back with my husband in tow, he pointed at my eye while he told his father what he had done. A confused explanation of mami and her ojo (eye), of my ouch and more oh no's, burst forth from him. More kisses came my way and in the midst of such contrition, I told M what had occurred. Like me, he too, tried to calm our son down. It's okay jan, it's okay, see? maman's alright. To bring the point home, my husband also kissed my eye. Look jan see? mami's ouch is gone, babi kissed it too, see? When all was said and done, I was swimming in kisses like my eyes were swimming in tears. It had hurt me more than I could have imagined to witness what he'd tried to do to himself rather than what he did to me.

Later I recounted once more for my husband what our son's actions had made me feel. Why? I asked him, why would he try to hurt himself? He loves you M replied. He loves his mami and he couldn't stand having hurt you so he hurt himself in punishment. But we don't punish this way I said, and when we discipline we don't do it like this, never like this. Where would he learn such a thing? I felt disturbed by the whole episode. It's okay jan, my husband said. I don't know where he got the idea either. But nothing bad came of it. Just forget it.

Later yet that night, I looked upon my sleeping boy and placed a small kiss on his soft cheek, then a smaller one upon a velvety eyelid. I kissed him like I was giving him absolution for something he did not do. I wonder, in the future, what my son might feel compelled to castigate himself for and I pray that nothing I ever say again or do could cause him a desire to hurt himself because of me. Sometimes, it is so very hard to be a parent. Some days, certain things, are so incomprehensibly unclear. I am still digesting what his empathy last night taught me. When I sort this out, I will tell you what I have learned.


What are they doing?

Because I am somewhat freaky about putting my son's toys away in their respective places, I've become very familiar with all parts and components of his growing collection as well as what is supposed to go where. On a good day you can find me hunting for the 300th Lego piece after I've counted up to #299 and realized one was still AWOL. That's just me being compulsive. I don't need anyone to tell me that. What I do need is help in figuring out what THIS (look below) means.

For the past three days, after I've straightened them out and put them in their respective places, I come back to find all the firemen re-aligned as the photo shows. Looking down raptly into the container. No rhyme, no reason. If I put them back in their original places and leave for a while, I come back to find them painstakingly reset. Their positions might vary somewhat but they are still looking in. AT WHAT? When I ask, the kid just looks at me with a secret little smile and runs off to play with something else. He's messing with me isn't he?



24.7.365 Parenting Through Osmosis and Experience
Now through Eternity Semester

Course Description

Instructor: Prof. Mother
Office Hours: Monday-Sunday from 1 a.m to midnight

Teaching Assistant: Mr. Kid
Office Hours: Monday-Sunday from wakeup to conk out

Substitute Assistant: Mr. Father
Office Hours: Sporadic

This class takes an in-depth look at Parenting with a special focus on how-to techniques. The course will begin with a survey of life before the children. This includes a brief look into the things you used to be able to do and will never get to do again until you are too old and then won't want to do anyway because of the problem with the knees; followed by a primer on how to forget everything you thought you knew about having children before you actually even had them (in class we will burn What to Expect yada yada ya) and, will move on to procedures for coping with the discovery that you are no longer an adult but a watering pot.

Mid-way through the first semester, we will delve right into lessons for a variety of important early parenting issues such as safe handling of toxic poop, sex and life (which one is truly necessary?), gravitational ramifications of feeling 50 lbs lighter but still 100 lbs heavier than you were before you had a child, as well as study Buddhist meditation exercises that help to short-circuit the impulse to clobber your partner. This will be followed with written assignments on the following subjects: the joy of child play, the child that plays in you, how to recognize when your child is toying with you, the pseudo-joys of insomnia, advanced playing methods (the hours upon hours technique), the nirvana of motherhood and creative cursing for when the non-stop playing gets to you. Finally, the course will place significant emphasis on the importance of having couple time while playing with toddler Lego, adjusting to unfair practices in the allocation of parenting tasks and some lesser-observed tenets of child rearing will be discussed at length. Amongst them, is the child, the child? And if so, where oh where is the adult? (hopefully with the watering pot); the fundamentals of quantifiable future algorithmic applications for the time you are investing in your child now and, how this might pay off for you later (the Tiger Woods example); finally a cursory look at some obscure methods for dealing with unscheduled role reversals - how to be aware of the hazards and pretend you are prepared.

Throughout this course, students will read all they can of the assigned book list (precious little), regularly engage in the writing of short letters where they will mock abdicate motherhood but only for cathartic purposes. Said letters will be torn up or burned in class every once in a full moon. We will go on field trips to the Zoo to observe the daily living habits of Tasmanian Devils and apply often to oracles, palm readers, God, strangers, close relatives and circus clowns for experimentation and guidance purposes. As a frequent testing method we will rely on the Wall Progress Technique. For this, you will be required to run full throttle at a wall and wait until the wall stops your progress. Pop quizzes will be handed out more often than you might think. Don't prepare. There's no point. You either pass it or you don't.

There will be no end of term examination as there is no end of term. Dropping out of the course is not allowed and this is a no-credit course though you are still expected to pay for it. Grading will be conducted with the assistance of Mr. Kid and some of the clowns. No excuses will be accepted for not handing in your assignments. No medical dispensations will be considered either. Dying is an option but, are you sure you wanna go that route?

This course is primarily intended for the novice but undergrads, grads and even post-graduate students (I know you think that's you) are accepted here. We are a Pro-Mundi Beneficio (look it up) institution and the course reflects the University's credo that all shall be committed and straight-jacketed, in God we trust and believe that a parent's love frees. Welcome to the circus students. I am looking forward to teaching you.


Leaping Thought Wednesday

1. I've started dieting again as well as exercising regularly. I have a goal. There's a dress hanging in my closet that I wish to get into for my sister-in-law's wedding in March. I had forgotten how hard it was to strive for a body weight goal. Can't get used to the fact that my rumbling tummy must be a constant tune in my ears if I am to feel like I'm getting closer to wearing the dress. What a hard, hard challenge it has become for me to lose weight.

2. Yesterday, I took my son to an ice cream parlor for the very first time. I know what you are thinking - total self-flagellation to do this now that I'm dieting right? Anyway, you would think the kid had died and gone to heaven, he was that far gone once he realized this was chocolate ice cream paradise. By the time he had finished the one scoop we ended up getting him, I was swimming in the adoration his eyes conveyed for me. What I really wanted to do was dive headfirst into the nearest tub of ice cream. You will be happy to know I resisted the eat me demons. One little spoonful out of my child's cup. This is all I allowed myself. Pat me on the back. I deserve it!

3. I dislike Dora the Explorer. My idea of torture is hearing tu-tu-rut-tu teDora as background noise to my early mornings. My son however, could care less that she makes me want to pulverize our television. For him, Dora is a must see. On days he doesn't attend school, I have to grit my teeth and watch him become hypnotized by yet another episode with that insanely annoying little girl. I'm convinced there are some nefarious subliminals in that cartoon. Back-pack-back-pack. By the way, have you noticed that her face is wider than the span of her shoulders? Click!-take-a-pic! Whoever conceived her had no sense of body proportion. We did it! We did it! We did it!

4. Grand is the morning in Houston today. All golden and blue and totally overdone in early day splendor. Here's a photo I just took so you can see what I mean. The day helps to offset my dislike of Dora.

5. Wicked was the magic act we witnessed at a kiddie birthday party last Saturday. A magician decapitated Barney (I kid you not) in front of a bunch of toddlers. Now that I think about it, couldn't he have just guillotined Dora?

6. I know, I know, I'm a bit obsessive. Actually, a lot obsessive but, just about certain things. Still I have to pause and re-evaluate myself when I see the kid copying me in certain behaviors. Yesterday for example, he dragged me to a stack of books in his bedroom, pointed imperiously at them and said libro! (book!). I knew what he wanted, we've been through this before. He wanted me to arrange some of his books in a straight, aligned stack because he had tried himself (like he does more often) and he'd not been able to arrange them as neatly as I do. Hmmm... do I have a librarian in the making? or a budding neat-freak?

7. Quite frankly, I think he is neither. My son is very capable of destroying for the up-teenth time my efforts at making this house look like a tornado has not paid us a visit. He's just a little kid aping a somewhat compulsive mommy. As long as he tries to not copy the guillotine act, we'll do fine.

8. Yesterday I attended a funeral for a friend's mother-in-law. Never met the lady (may she rest in peace) but I felt like I knew her well by the time the verbal tributes were over. It had been years since I'd gone to a memorial service. Her son said that his mother's legacy in this world was like a vapor trail left behind by a plane in the sky. You did not necessarily had to have seen the plane to know it had passed by but, you knew it had made its way through just because of the trail. He said that every time he or those in attendance acted upon what she had taught (apparently she was very active in her church) then, like the trail in the sky, his mother continued to live, no longer there but, you knew she'd been. I've surely made a hash of his moving words but I think you get the gist of his meaning no matter how poorly I've re-stated it.

9. Speaking of trails I found a fantastic website that I'll share with all of you lovers of unusual cartography. It is called Strange Maps. I discovered this cartographic leap of the imagination there the other day. I know the text is small but start up north then make your way down to the Sea of Matrimony. So appropriate for Valentines Day.

10. I'm utterly in love with the latest issue of delicious. magazine. Mouthwatering photography, easy to follow recipes, have I told you I'm on a diet yet? Purchasing cooking mags really does not help me any but I'm incapable of stopping myself. I go through the stuff like a chocoholic goes through good chocolate or a soon to be newlywed pores over wedding magazines. The dieting only exacerbates the syndrome. Today, I'm going over to Barnes and Noble to purchase Olive magazine. Another fantastic serial foodie compendium. So many dishes, too little calorie allowance. I'm into torture as you can see.

11. I've turned my kid into a bit of a sybarite. Let me explain. He adores chocolate. So do I. He's my kid after all. Anyway, he asks for it all day long. I've even heard him mumble the word chocolate in his sleep. Now you know what he dreams about. Nevertheless, he was very egalitarian in his chocolate tastes, the decent and the not so decent in terms of quality went down his throat in like measure. That was until mommy got into buying the really good stuff. I'm talking 70% and above. That's Michel Cluizel, Amedei and Valrhona for starters. Now try and give him a bit of a Mars bar and the kid looks at you with scorn. Sneak something into that unsuspecting mouth of his that is not of the highest quality and he spits it out like ca-ca. What have I done? I'm doling it out like the gold it costs, that's what I'm doing. A little piece a day. No more, no less. I've taken to hiding the stash because he's observant and he's learned how to climb. A resourceful child. Now if only mommy had been as smart in the first place.

12. I'm wondering what I'm doing here sitting in front of my computer when the beautiful day calls and the kiddie is going into ping-pong mode. That's his way of telling me there's too much energy in him and we need to burn some of it before nightfall else, mommy and daddy will get no sleep. Goodbye folks. Sorry I've been posting less these last few days. My mother's departure had me down. As in down in the dumps. Not even good chocolate can cure that kind of melancholy.



Ever since my mother's flight was postponed two days ago due to inclement weather, I've kind of felt like I'd been spared the gallows. That changed this morning when she waved a final farewell to my son and I at the airport and became a faraway pinpoint of a person too difficult to distinguish amongst others any longer.

I have to say that I was pretty proud of myself for holding it all in together until the kid started yelling aolita! aolita! come back! Though I could tell that prior to her leaving he had understood that a plane would be taking abuelita away and that this meant he had to say goodbye, I think he finally realized that the separation was going last more than a school day's worth of time.

When she was finally gone, I walked with my boy to the car and I cried quietly while strapping him in to his seat. I cried some more while paying the parking attendant, and I cried when I called my father to tell him that I had seen her safely off on her way back to him. Tears rolled down my cheeks as my husband (who is working today) told me to be careful because he knew I would be crying as I drove back home.

You would think she'd died from all the crying I've been doing and yet, she couldn't be more healthier and whole. When in fact, she goes back home recharged after an invigorating month spent in the company of her grandchild and after having seen, with her two eyes, that both her daughters are happy in their marriages and safe in their respective loves.

I could not explain to you specifically what guides this crying of mine except, that even as I write this, I know that it has a whole lot to do with missing her and then more with the inability to share my son with her on a daily basis. For sure my tears are deeply borne of never wanting to forgo the feeling that I am eternally, her child. As always, her departure leaves me feeling shortchanged, sabotaged, conscious that somehow, in a perfect world, I should be able to bask undisturbed and for ever, in her motherly love.