First came love, then came marriage, then came...

You've found yourself in this situation, I am sure: You are at a wedding reception and a videographer comes close, sticks a mike in your face and asks you what you might have to say as in the way of congratulations or advice to the happy couple. This is where you freeze a bit like the proverbial deer and then find yourself mouthing a platitude when, in an otherwise different situation, you might be the Neruda of congratulatory poetic-ness or, the walking encyclopedia of marriage-related advice.

The reason for the temporary mind paralysis is of course that moments like the one I just described are all about time and place and not, about having the time nor mentally reaching that correct place from where you may dispense the kind of words and advice that are grounded in tried, tested and technicholor experience.

For myself, I chose to pass up on that video moment the other day at my sister-in-law's wedding. I had to lie and tell her that I had indeed been interviewed already and I was going to let my video disappearance remain the afterthought that it surely would have been when nevertheless, you find me here dwelling further on the matter. I am hopeful that with your help, I might rewrite the bypassed video moment to suit my tastes. How do you precisely figure in this you might ask? Well I don't know about you, but sound advice from total strangers has figured hugely in my life. Should you find it in yourself to pass on the pearls of wisdom you may have acquired on the subject of marriage for my sister-in-law's benefit, I would be not only grateful but much obliged. Consider this a non-invasive, time filled session to share what you know, deep down in the heart, is an ingredient to a successful marriage. I'll get us started...

Dear S: Now that I have confessed, I hope you find it in yourself to forgive my little white lie. In the flurry of this, your wedding time, I had just one brief moment with you to tell you that I wished you and your new husband the same measure and happiness I have found with your brother but, my wishes for your married success go much deeper than that. Indeed, it would take too much time and result in a biased view of what makes a partnership work to tell you everything I myself have learned that I think might help. That is the reason I am enlisting the aid of my fellow bloggers and kind readers. Throughout my life, I have discovered that I can place a higher value on the words that come from someone who is as far removed from me as this sensitive and sensible group of people that I call my blogging friends, are to you. May they offer you that which someday might be either remembered or come in handy. Here is my own two bit contribution before the cornucopia that I hope will be theirs.

Milena's advice: To the degree that it is possible, never go to bed sleeping apart. Even when mad, the healing of physical closeness works a magic like few others. You WILL get mad at your husband jan, that is a given. Married life without the occasional fights is an impossibility. What you must not ever do, is hold your physical self hostage to a fight. I do not speak of withholding sex, I speak of withholding physical demonstrations of affection like a kiss or an embrace. Even when profoundly angry, I have always made an effort to circumvent my initial desire to put up the type of barriers that can result in silent treatments and literal cold shoulders. I credit the circumvention of that, my first inclination, with speeding up the reconciling of the differences your brother and I have. Remember, marriage is about building bridges, not erecting walls.

Take it away guys...


Attention, this is not an emergency, this a test of the Leaping Thought System...

We interrupt this Leaping Thought Wednesday to bring you an important announcement -

My dearest jan:

Some 46 odd years ago, before you were even a glimmer in your mother's eye, your parents married in far away Iran, another country, another culture, a world so distant from that of my own parents that WHO could have possibly foreseen the web of time and place that would have to weave itself together to bring us face to face. I have only one explanation - you were my fate as I was yours.

In all the time we have known each other, there have been repeated occasions when I have expressed my love for you and been cognizant of the kind of destiny that was necessary to bring you into my life. That recognition is never more true than on the days when we celebrate your birthday.

In the circularity of time, somewhere, 45 years ago, your mother is giving birth to the you that was meant just for me. I cannot wait to meet the man you will grow into jan. Happy Birthday my love of loves, my King of Kings, my aziz-e delam. I remain as ever,

Your Milena


Something other than a melting pot

Photo by tanakawho's

Here's a fun fact: Amongst those in the know, the city of Los Angeles is also known as Tehrangeles. That's an amalgamation of the names Tehran and Los Angeles. Do you know why? There are so many Persians in Los Angeles that people describe it is a mini Tehran.

In this country, many pockets of cultural and national groups have amassed themselves nearly everywhere. How many Chinatowns, Germantowns, Latino neighborhoods and little Italys do you know of? They are everywhere in the US, and most likely, your own place of residence can lay claim to at least one street or one neighborhood that is foreign country defined.

Houston, where I live, has a large and thriving Persian community. It also has a deeply-rooted and pervasive Mexican heritage. My husband likes to say that between his native Farsi, my native Spanish and our communal English, we've got the city covered in terms of language. An observation that has proven itself entirely true over my four years of living there.

Here in Washington DC, where I used to live, you may encounter a Persian community which spread out over the District of Columbia and the states of Maryland and Virginia, is statistically even larger than the one we have in Houston. DC's 'Tehran' is second only to Los Angeles and just marginally larger in size than New York's.

The wife of the deposed Shah of Iran, Empress Farah Diba Pahlavi and her son, who would be Reza Shah with his wife Yasmine, live here part of the year. I've seen them several times at charity events and local restaurants. They look about as normal as people like deposed Empresses and un-crowned Shahs can look when they wait in line to sit at a French Bistro. That is DC for you - a status leveler type of place as I ever saw one. So many of the famous and the well-known are here, that even the bistros can deign to disregard protocol for ex-imperials.

Interestingly enough, even though I can now spout all these bits of information at you, long before I had ever befriended my in-laws (who are Persian) or married their son, I had lived in Washington for years and years and never paid much attention to the confluence of Persians gathered here.

In my four years of marriage, I've learned enough of my husband's language that when in his company, if I trot out a few of my almost diction-perfect Farsi phrases, I get mistaken for an Iranian. By the same token, my husband is often spoken to in Spanish and thought of as Latin American when in my company. We both take pleasure in the mistake others make in this respect. It seems yet another confirmation that not only are we similar and well-attuned to each other in our hearts and minds but that somehow, we've also managed to tap into what brands us as a part of each other's heritage.

This last observation brings me to thought that wouldn't it be nice if everyone could not only be identified easily but also, that just as easily, they could be misidentified? A total oxymoron I know but at the core of this thought lies the essence of what, besides economic prosperity, is the dream that has kept many of us immigrants in the United States of America - the sense of equality in a nation that promises to protect our individuality. The sense of being part of a larger whole even while our uniqueness is preserved; a land where there is really no pot, as I have never believed that the US is about melting its population into fondue-like consistency, but rather a place where we can celebrate what ties us to our old life at the same time that we forge a new one for ourselves here.

For myself, the US is not the land of my father. And yet as I have just written this statement, I have to ask myself what is, truly, the land of anyone's father? Not even my husband, who proudly lays claim to 500 years of uninterrupted family ancestry anchored in Iran, not even he, can make true the statement about the land of his father because in the end, and this is what I've been trying to get at in such a roundabout way, anyway you look at it, travel back far enough, and in the family history you will find that your birthplace is just another place in a long list of places that only partly explains where you are from. I suppose that is perhaps why someone might mistake me for an Iranian or why my husband might be mistaken for a Latin American; it is also the reason why I feel glad that the US has many mini Tehrans and would not find it amiss if Iran someday had a mini Los Angeles. It is also why I believe that there is nothing wrong with ex-empresses standing in line like the rest of us do and why, had I married someone born in a place other than where my husband is from, I would still feel OK with having people mistake my background because, blending in is something that comes to me easily. I think the ability to blend in is one of the single greatest benefits we enjoy by living in this country. Hopefully, no one will ever demand that we sacrifice the I in order to be part of the us in the US.


A love affair

Photo by Dipfan

So that makes strike two for the Leaping Thought Wednesday post which this week, once again, I have defaulted on. I have a good excuse for it though. Two days ago, I was flying out of Houston and into Washington D.C. These days, with a toddler in tow, it takes much effort to engineer a successful plane trip and a semi-organized arrival anywhere. I had so many things to do in the week leading up to our departure that something had to give, and something else had to be sacrificed. This blog fell into the second category. Anyway, no further excuses will pour forth from this keyboard and you now have carte blanche (for what it's worth) to what has been going on in my brain. This post is built entirely out of my DC inspired love.

I love Washington DC. My love affair with this town spans more than three decades and began almost from the first moment I laid eyes on it at age 6. This was my father's first diplomatic appointment and coming here that very first time in 1976, would change the course of my family's life forever. The night prior to our flight, I remember sleeping with my parents and my 2 year old sister on a mattress that had been placed on the floor of our emptied out apartment in Panamá City. Most of our furniture and belongings were already making their tiresomely long journey via cargo ship towards a port in Baltimore, Maryland, and all that was left of our most cherished and necessary possessions, my mother had carefully overseen the packing of into two small crates and six suitcases. Including ourselves, that which we boarded onto the plane, was a most basic paring down of the essence of our Panamanian existence and yet, it would be enough to nurture a successful transplant to this hybrid life my family built in the US.

Surprisingly, I was a Washingtonian at heart almost from the start. Accustomed as I was to the provincial relativeness of my birthplace, the marbled sophistication of this city held an awed fascination for me. Unhurried but determined, we learned our new home through visits to the national monuments, museum outings and social gatherings. DC was as green and magical then, as it is now. How could we not fall in love with lazy weekend picnics at Rock Creek Park, meandering antiquing drives into the West Virginia countryside and the palpably electric feel of interesting things taking place around the clock? The offerings were many and especially attractive for children. There were zoo trips, ballet performances and concerts to attend. We also played with kids our age whose parents, like ours, were imports to this town. Our recognized foreignness fostered a genuine camaraderie which grew initially out of our minority status.

In the beginning, we settled into a 3 bedroom apartment that we later traded in for a spacious house on a tree shaded street right off of Connecticut Avenue. That would be our Appleton Street home. In the back yard, my gardening-loving mother planted Habanero chili peppers amongst the rose bushes and my family was the only Latin family on the block. For the very first birthday I celebrated here, my mother ordered an imported piñata from Casa Lebrato. Lebrato was the only good Latin grocery in DC at that time. So determined was she to carve a place for her family within the neighborhood that she invited all the curious parents on the block with their equally curious children for a taste of a Panamanian style birthday celebration. We owe our instant popularity to the success of the piñata and the universal bloodthirstiness of children. I can still remember how they whacked the cardboard daylights out of its candy-filled innards.

That first assignment lasted 2 years for my father. During that time, I learned my accented English and grew a measure of the kind of confidence expatriate children must develop if, they are to survive the daily rigors of schooling in a non-native environment. Today I realize that when I returned to my country, I did so as a changed young girl. Somehow, though I was still a part of Panamá, the seeds of what would brand me as different to my own countrymen, were already germinating within me. I was neither of there nor of here. I was not even of a place in between. What I am, I still can't label precisely to this day but from the distance of my future I can now understand that even then, I was altered.

We came back to the States for my father's second posting in 1980. This was the time of General Omar Torrijos and the Torrijos-Carter Treaties. Enough references about the Panamá Canal had populated US news prior to our second arrival that even my new classmates at Washington's Annunciation School had some trickled down version of facts to voice in my presence. Where was Panamá? they asked me. Was it all a jungle? Did I swing like Tarzan from tree to tree? What about cars? the kids taunted me. Surely there were no cars in my country, they had to be banana mobiles. Were there even telephones in Panamá? Or did we holler ourselves hoarse speaking from tree house to tree house?

Their curiosity would sometimes translate into the kind of merciless quizzing that could torment. I was savvy enough to let most of their misconceptions and absurdities flow unanswered because the truth is that I had opted to lose this battle of geographic ignorance. My war was fought at the fronts of my mother's imposed trial: I was paraded into school everyday in a chauffeur-driven car with my nanny by my side. This little Lady Fauntleroy living style did not endear me to the 8 year-old hearts of my classmates. Tree houses and banana mobiles I could endure being teased about, I wasn't so successful at feigning nonchalance when taunts of my Richie Rich image would get to me.

What hurt me toughened me though, and I was better prepared for my return to Panamá in 1983. Back home, I suffered a case of reverse ostracism from my Panamanian classmates. I became the Gringa, the girl who spoke 'unaccented' English, the one who had lived abroad. This seesaw of prism-colored suppositions about my person was at times hard to bear but I learned a couple of important lessons from it. Who I was, I alone could define. What others saw, could be shaped depending on what I projected and finally, everyone was entitled to have an opinion of me but the opinion that mattered the most, was the one I held of myself.

When we left Washington that second time, the shadows of General Manuel Antonio Noriega's reign were already creeping into Panamanian life. Seven years of his dictatorship was what my family and I endured back in Panamá. We lived to see the US invasion of my country and the swearing in of democratically elect Guillermo Endara as President. It is President Endara whom we owe for our return to DC in 1990. I was then a young lady all set to go to a University in France when my father was named Director for my country at the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB). The next six years, saw me staying here instead of going abroad as had been originally planned because of my exceptional act of youtful cowardice. At the last minute, I had decided I was not ready to move to Europe. I was also not as ready to separate from my family as I had originally thought. So in DC I stayed, studying for my Bachelors and later on for my Masters degree. After graduating, I found a job which kept me in the US and I have lived here ever since. At the end of my father's term as Director at the IADB, my parents left Washington once more in 1995 but they were back again in 2000 for yet another ambassadorial post. Never once did we imagine how intertwined our lives would become with this place after that first coming over. Hopefully, the story has not yet concluded.

As for myself, at current count, I have lived in Washington for more than half of my life. My time here has only been interrupted by my move to Houston to be with my husband. That was four years ago. In the interim, we have kept coming back at least twice a year. My husband's family remains here as does his sister. My own parents returned to Panamá in 2004 (the year I moved to Houston) and my sister moved to Colorado when she married in 2005. Like me, she is of Washington and of Panamá. Should you ask me WHERE I am from, I will always answer proudly that I'm from Panamá. Equally true though is that I am from of this city in which I was not born, but where my sense of self is also deeply rooted.

Besides the apartment in Madrid my husband and I dream of someday owning, I know deep down that DC will be our primary home upon retirement. We've kept our house here to that end.

Today you find me in town for my sister-in-law's wedding. She has chosen a spectacular time of the year in which to tie the knot. The odd cherry blossom has begun blooming and one can sense the crisp greenness of impending spring. Yesterday, driving by myself through my old haunts, I could almost connect to the girl in 1976 who formed her first impressions of this city based on its outward beauty. It is hard to not be bowled over by this town. It has everything necessary to rank it amongst those memorable city names people are wont to rattle off when mentioning places they hope to someday see. I love it here. I will always love it here. And because I am older and more experienced, because I no longer need to prove, defend or explain my Latin heritage, I can also fully say that I am of DC because saying so surely, explains a large part of what makes me, me.


A Goodnight Story

Let me tell you how it was the work of Titans to get our baby, now a toddler, to sleep on his own. From his crib into our bed and from there to sleeping by himself, the journey was an odyssey. Our son was not like those good sleepers we jealously heard other parents boast about. During his first two years of life, he never once settled into a sleeping routine. Overcoming the nights, and they were an ordeal, required many sleep-drunken trips to soothe him in his crib and involved bringing him constantly into our bed. That giving in was the undiluted surrender of exhaustion. There were nights I felt like I would rub a hole through that tiny back of his, a soothing caress he would accept like a tribute to ease him back into his intermittent sleep. Just writing about it, reminds me of the delicious torment or perhaps I should say, the tormenting deliciousness of being the parent of one beautiful, but sleepless baby. The husband and I looked like non-salvageable wrecks by the end of our first year into parenthood.

The second year we girded our loins. We read some books and tried a method that made me personally feel (the husband was a bit more dispassionate) like I should have been shot for motherly negligence. Namely, we let the kid cry his little. eyes. out, while my husband held me scissor-like down on the bed and my own tears ran lava-hot to the tune of my kid's misery. It was sheer torture to not go to him but eventually, he hiccuped and sniffed his way into a restless slumber of sorts and for some weeks toward the middle of his second year, we found ourselves settling into a resigned cycle of separate sleeping. This change brought our nightly waking-up episodes down to a more manageable level.

Now, I know what you are thinking... What? he still woke up? The answer to your question is: Yes, he did. And yet, by comparison to what it had been like before, our new routine was relative bliss.

, I had a simply BRILLIANT idea. I purchased a toddler bed. My husband objected initially to the buy. Why? he asked, and pointing out the obvious he showed me the three perfectly beautiful and empty beds we have in our home. Our child could have claimed any one of them as his own my husband said but, I was set on my course. That convinced I was that he would more readily transition out of his crib if we put him into a bed that was made just for his size. And though I'll admit that I was the victim of motherly psychobabble, it turned out my hunch was right. Our kid (then nearly 3), loved his small bed and ooohd and aahhd over it and next thing you know, we were being dragged by the hand to revel in story-time readings, tear-less kisses and tired good nights mumbled under the muted glow of a night light, blessed Morpheus shuttering those delicate eyelids of his in needful sleep.

The husband and I broke out the champagne. It was simply miraculous. We felt like convicts who had managed a great escape. Our kid was finally sleeping. The mornings seemed brighter, our gazes less dulled and having our coffee, became again a ritual of early day enjoyment rather than a shock-to-the-system kind of necessity.

So now we are into the beginning of the chatty threes and this story is almost full told. My child had grown surely into nightly independence or so it seemed until about a month ago, when the husband and I looked upon our sleeping boy, so sweet, so quiet, it was impossible to resist the urge to enjoy him more in his slumbering state. We scooped him up and took him into our bed.

Yes, yes, I know what your disbelieving eyes are reading and can now hear what your lips are mouthing at me. I would say that I wish I could have heard you then but, that would be a lie. The disingenuous part of me thought that the following night we could go back to the hard won status quo but I intrinsically knew there would probably be no turning back. We unraveled what we had tied, disrupted what we had established, broken that unspoken tenet of toddler sleeping no-no's and we did it knowingly.

What can I say? It felt wonderful to have that warm little body cuddled into us on the bed. A pint-sized pair of arms reaching to hold me close so that I could not escape him, even in his sleep. Many times, I awoke that first night, as painfully aware of the impermanent quality of this time we share with our son as I was also of his flailing arms and kicking feet. This, is what possessed us: The vision of a baby grown into manhood, the fear of perhaps not having another child to repeat this sweetness with; a desire to slow an unstoppable process - his growing up.

It won't go on for much longer. A few years perhaps but someday soon, he won't wish to sleep with us anymore. I've made my peace with giving up my peaceful night's rest to enjoy what is left of this. I will have a lifetime for sleeping, but my little boy will not last me that long.


Questions for the Svalbard people on this Leaping Thought Thursday

Alright. Sue me. I'm one day late on my Leaping Thought Wednesday Posts. That means that it is now a Leaping Thought Thursday post. You'll forgive me won't you?

By the way, have any of you heard about the Svalbard Global Seed Vault? Also known as the Doomsday Vault. Well, I've been mulling over the whole fabulous concept for a couple of weeks now but like in a so-so movie, I've found some ah... let's call them glaring plot holes in the script as regards to how we go about accessing the vault's contents. Here are some of the questions I have for the people who designed it.

Dear Norwegian government:

1. Can you please tell me how to get to Svalbard? I like to be prepared and so I've tried to print a from here to there step by step instruction, but all I’ve been able to find are the coordinates (78°14′23 N, 15°29′43 E), and Mapquest keeps giving me an error message whenever I type in "Doomsday Vault." So, City, State and Zip if you please.

2. I heard you deliberately put the repository somewhere that is freezing like hell kind of cold. That's good, good. I understand the reasons why you did so but, I wouldn't be averse to you putting in a central heating switch or something in there so I can comfy up the place once I get inside. Otherwise, I'll be (stupefied) frozen solid before I actually get to do the job. That's a reasonable request, isn't it?

3. For when I get there, I read somewhere that there's supposed to be a long tunnel I'll have to traverse in case I need to drag all those (freakin') millions of seeds out. Did you put a car or a wheelbarrow in there for me? I'd prefer the car quite frankly. No trucks please. I don't have a truck-driving license. But wait! This just found in Scientific American "…But the vault will require some vestiges of human civilization to persist, if only to build the transportation to bring the seeds back out of their new icy home.—" (Are you people insane???) Have you thought this through properly? BUILD A TRANSPORT TO GET THEM OUT? You'd better hope someone who knows how to make wheels is my partner in crime or I can tell you right now that we're doomed.

4. "...Sealed in airtight foil packages and encased in boxes, the seeds will remain viable but dormant in the low temperature and humidity conditions." Hey, nobody said nothin' about humidity. My hair gets really (kinky) curly in humid weather. Again, the central air heater will do the trick. A scissor will be good to have too. I can never open those little foil package thingamajiggies on my own. By the same token, did any of you (idiots) geniuses think to put in some gardening essentials? Say... a spade, perhaps a watering can, some fertilizer, gloves, a cryogenically frozen gardener maybe?

5. I’ve been given to understand that there are polar bears that live in the area. They are supposed to act as natural barriers and protection for the vault. Don't you think that's a bit extreme? I mean the nuclear blast didn't get me but the polar bears surely will, (eat me) no?

6. I am a total gardening ditz. Translate that as non-green thumb (dead thumb is more like it) kind of person. Have you provided some detailed (drawings) descriptions of how to plant the seeds in case someone like me is the only one left to do so? If you have, I hope they are clear enough that I won't screw things up unnecessarily. I also heard you put in backup seeds for each variety. That's good to know. I'm sure it'll take a (gadjillion) several attempts for something green to actually grow for me, in case I should be the one who ends up trying that is (provided I’m not torn to shreds by the polar bears first). By the way, I don't speak any Norwegian, ja?

7. I also heard there's a 300 mile archipelago I need to swim through before I can actually get to Svalbard but maybe I'm assuming incorrectly and you guys saw this far ahead and proceeded to plant a boat with a skipper for me on the mainland somewhere. If so, where may I find it? Remember, city, state and zip. Seriously now, WHO came up with the brilliant Svalbard option? Some Dungeons and Dragons aficionado?

8. Finally, "The vault is designed to protect against global-scale disasters, human or natural." OK already, I GET IT. The place is a Fort Knox, im.preg.na.ble. So, did you like hide the key under the welcome mat or something? There is a spare key somewhere, right? Please tell me I don't have to chase the bear with the funny looking collar...


The one who might be called upon to save our 'seed-less' patooties.


Destination trumps the miserable journey

Photo by Wirallie

A few weeks ago a good friend told me that she was expecting her first child. Her happy news sent me into a tizzy of congratulations and had me radiating the kind of cherub-hued thoughts we women conjure when the talcum powder sweetness of velvety-cheeked newborns beckons.

Have I told you yet that the husband and I have been trying to procreate again? Well we have. It's been about 8 months now of actively recurring disappointment at the obvious discovery that we have not been very successful. No cross on the pee-pee stick means no pregnant rosy glow.

Rosy glow... hmmm... truth of the matter is that I had a sort of puce-y glow during most of my first pregnancy. Just plain wretched it was in terms of the abundance of geriatric-like ailments I became afflicted with. Come to think of it, by the time my baby finally decided to come out, I was 34 going on 80 and reserving the worst of my pregnant and crotchety-self for the one who'd been my partner in crime.

I don't believe for a millisecond those women who claim to love being pregnant. Quite frankly, being pregnant is about the worst physical punishment one can inflict on a body. The only thing that makes it bearable is the promised angel at the end of an excruciatingly painful and long-winded process - that holy grail of longed for maternity - a baby.

Every woman who has ever wanted a child has some archetypal knowledge of what being pregnant is like. That inherited understanding, compounded with the experiences most, as yet childless women, have had a chance to observe by the time they embark on their very own journey towards motherhood, should be enough to scare the beejesus out of the effort to maintain the continuation of our race. Still, what the brain remembers, the memory re-paints in baby tinted blushes. That is the reason we women suffer through the kinds of pain no man will ever conceive of no matter what they witness as loving partners or joke about in unexperienced ignorance.

I want another baby. I too want to phone a friend and communicate my unadultered if terrified joy at finding myself once more in the family way. Unbelievably, I want to go through nine months of body aches and constipation and endless rounds of night-time visits to the bathroom, impossible attempts to find comfort, to sleep! I want to see my ankles swell and my gait once more roll in mimicry of a ship at sea. I want more body hair in places where I can no longer bend to shave and newly exposed gray hairs to peep from my skull. I want the under-eye circles, the comfortable babushka shoes instead of my stilletos, the soft give of elastic instead of the tight belt around my waist. I want the swollen boobs, the bigger bras, the bed sheet dresses, the final pains and everything else I haven't mentioned but that comes with the whole process. Why? Have I told you yet that I want another baby?


The Admiral's Interview

My kind of humor. I just had to share it.


More confessions on this Leaping Thought Wednesday

Gypsyatheart Dictionary Unabridged (v 1.1)
blog hop . per
[blog hop-er]

1.a person that hops from blog to blog.
2.Informal. a person who skips frequently from one blog or on-line diary to another.

1. That's me, I'm a blog hopper. Depending on how I'm doing for time daily, I dedicate about an hour of my everyday on-line time budget to visiting and discovering other people's blogs. Over the last year or so, I've amassed quite a collection of favorites under a variety of different interests. Many of the ones I frequent you will find on the left hand column of this blog under labeled headings. Nevertheless, I have to confess that I have been holding out on you. There are some blogs I enjoy so much that up until now, I've been unable to share. I'm the Silas Marner of found blogs... would you go figure? What's the motivation? They're my secret indulgences. Still, in an act of sheer generosity I will feature from now on in every Leaping Thought Wednesday, one blog from my secret stash. The stash that I've labeled under a folder that I titled Visit Again. I call it so because I have visited again, over and over again. Perhaps you will too once you get to know them.

First up is a blog named Heading East by blogger Raul Gutierrez. He is a professional photographer (as you will immediately ascertain) and writes with true heart. The stunning photography (his own and other's) is an extra draw. Take a look at the very first post of Raul's that I ever saw. And here's another one for good measure.

2. I am a Costco addict. I've been a member since 1995. First through my parents and then on my own. That place is like Ali Baba's cave for me. I love going there. When I used to live in DC, I had to cross over into the state of Virginia to get to one. Over here in Houston, I have a Costco only 5 minutes away from my home. That's the reason you can find me there almost every second day. Sometimes I walk out with just some organic eggs or milk in hand. Others with a cart-full of goodies. I can lose a good hour walking up and down its aisles whenever I go. Costco is my secret vice. My husband hates the place. He's Mr. Exclusive and Mr. Unique. To him, Costco is the Toys R' Us of food and housewares. Nothing exclusive or unique about a Costco experience for him. He also dislikes how big it is and the eternal crowds. No cart-jostling for the hubby. Now me, I thrive on that. I'm the master of polite jostling. Out of my way.

Photo by Michael Shattuck

3. I discovered my kid practicing crying faces in front of a mirror the other day. He would scrunch up his eyes and curl up his lips until he looked sufficiently pitiful and then he would wail a bit. All fake mind you. I came up on him silently and was thus able to observe my miniature Olivier in action. You should have seen him! He was phenomenal. Every second or two he would stop, take stock of the previous attempt and then modify for greater effect. I left him to his own devices and backed out quietly from the room. In a twisted kind of way, I'm sort of proud of him. What an enterprising little fellow. I don't think I'll ever forget it. The husband laughed and laughed when I told him about it.

4. The following pretty much answers the question of whether people look like their dogs or if dogs look like their people?

5. I get a professional manicure and pedicure every twelve to 14 days. It is the kind of indulgence I don't think I will ever give up. Frivolous I know but I'd rather do without other things than forgo this vain pleasure.

6. Handshakes are a defining action for me. I invariably end up disliking people who plop their hand into mine expecting me to carry its weight. A firm but gentle squeeze, preferably no clamminess to distract from the shake's value and then you let go. How you handshake says a lot about you.

7. As I am on a roll with the body extremities here, I'll also admit to paying much attention to people's hands. Short-clipped and clean nails. I've often found this is a hallmark of bodily neatness. Not always an achievable state for me, especially as we are currently into sculpting with Play-do at my house, but I do try.

8. I believe Legos and puzzles are superb toys for children. They teach patience, they show that you get tangible rewards for your efforts, foment critical and spatial thinking, and engage the imagination. I hope my son loves both as much as I do. He's getting to the age where we can start moving into some more complicated Lego constructs and puzzles with smaller pieces.

Photo by Tomeppy

9. The one household cleaning item I cannot do without: Paper towels. Some environmentalist will probably have my hide for admitting this but I go through a roll every two days. I've tried to quit using so much but have found it impossible. Any good ideas from those of you who manage without it?

10. Lastly, I found this photograph on the internet and have decided to post it in honor of Hillary's near swan dive but successfully choreographed comeback in the Texas and Ohio primaries. Great bit of Photoshop work was done on this one (too bad I didn't do it myself).

Goodbye and until the next post everyone. I'm headed off to Costco.


Rodeo inspired snippets of my Texas Life

Photo by crowt59

Howdy from Houston! You might not believe this but I've never said howdy before and always wanted to.

So for those of you who are not in the know, today is the official start of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. What is the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo you ask? In a nutshell, it is a Texavaganza of Cowboy hat-toting, barbecued-rib eating, calf-roping, bull-riding, country music playing, cook-off, pie-off, boot stomping, line-dancing fest of all things Western the likes of which, y'all have never seen UNLESS, you've been to the Houston Rodeo. Really, for the next 20 days this city will be breathing and wallowing in the essence of those things that define this one-time republic, as the GREAT. STATE. OF TEXAS.

On Friday, my son's school hosted a toddler rodeo parade. I wish I could show you some photos of the event but because of privacy reasons, you'll just have to imagine that you can see the cute little cowboys and cowgirls with their fake horsies and mini-lassos parading for their proud parents. R__ pulled a cardboard wagon, and when his teachers would prompt him to shout yee-haw! he would do so on cue while he whipped pretend horses. Keeping true to Texas-style, it was just a bit too much but then, that is what made the parade so fun.

Afterwards, parents and children all gathered around a fake camp fire and sang songs while a singing cowboy taught us to yodel as he imparted the kind of yodel-related wisdom which you can apply to anything in life - If you're gonna yodel, you can't be shy 'bout it. By the end of the sing-a-thon, I no longer was and my son and I yodeled till we belly-laughed. Guess yodeling is good for a whole lot of other things too.

Four years ago, as I lay exhausted after birthing R__, a man came to conduct the legalities of bringing a child into this world. After my husband and I had told him the name we'd chosen for our first-born he smiled, and in a heavy southern accent he said, Congratulations! You've got yourselves a bona-fide Texan. I remember my husband and I exchanging glances. It was, I'm sure, the very first time either one of us had faced the fact that because I had given birth in Texas, our kid would forever be defined as a native of this place. There was nothing wrong with this realization, it was just that with our own particular geographic and cultural legacies, Texas would have been about the last place we could have imagined having a baby in, a relative Timbuktu to the countries we ourselves had been born in. An unexpected but not unwelcome addition to the mosaic of our international backgrounds.

What being Texan might mean for my son in his future, I still don't know. He sure looked mighty cute though in his little cowboy outfit. He looked... like a little man. Maybe it was my fond eye but I even thought the kid kind of swaggered a bit. Texas men invariably swagger. Someday, when he's grown up, I hope that when someone asks him where he's from he'll mention his cultural heritage and then, proudly state that he was born in the state of Texas of the good ol' US of A. There are lots of good people here, men and women who are open in their thinking and generous in their Souther-ness, well-mannered and kind. If you think about it, who wouldn't want these Texas defined traits as legacies for their child? My husband and I remain transplants to this city which is our current home but perhaps our son, will grow to be a part of what is deep in the heart of Texas.