... Because everything I learned about living a good life, I learned in my kitchen.

I won't always show you recipes, because I don't measure. You can't really measure life, so how can I teach you that?

On our journey I will share stories of self-reflection as we cook and reminisce. The kitchen remains to be my "hall of epiphanies" . Stay with me as we explore the depths of our cooking pots, and of our soul...

Thursday, March 9, 2017

And then the storm hit.

And then one day the storm hit.  On a seemingly normal weekend, I had gotten up early with the baby, cleaned my house, put a load of laundry in and started cooking.  For months, aside from the bliss of having the family that I' always dreamed of for my daughter and I I had also been winding myself up so tight.  On that seemingly normal Sunday I had the worst panic and anxiety attack of my life.  Actually, I don't think I'd ever had one before.  But I do know that I felt like I couldn't breathe.  In my life I had never known such a feeling.  The strings that had been winding me up and binding me so tight had finally burst.  Miss Perfect fell from grace.  To someone like me, there is no more helpless feeling than how you feel when you need help.  When you can't breathe.

I think about how many times I've said in this very blog how important it is to take care of yourself and your well-being.  In my case it took a panic attack as a wake-up call.

After what I call my fall from grace, I started to really evaluate the things that I could have done better and what I needed to focus on changing.  I said it.  Focus.  That's right, because so often we know what needs to happen but we lack the focus and commitment to do it.

I started with my health.  I had not gained any weight while pregnant, but I gained 20 pounds while on Maternity Leave for 3 months!  I know that all of my life I struggle with a sugar-dependency.  My intellectual mind knows that the human body was not designed to consume the amount of sugars or refined starches that we do.  My intellectual mind knows what happens inside my body when these are consumed.  Then there's the little girl inside me who perpetually craves M&Ms.  She's little but she's powerful.  She takes over.  Time and time again.

See, when I was a girl, we really didn't know about nutrition.  We thought we would get good nutrients from eating canned veggies once in a while. I was also an only child for many years.  I think my uncles and family felt bad seeing me lonely.  Guess how the void was filled?  You guessed it.  M&Ms.  In a given day, if someone went to the store, they'd come back with a pack of chocolates for me.  Then, someone else would go.  Not knowing I had gotten some already, they would bring me M&Ms. In a given day, I could end up with 4 bags of candies.  I was a cute little chunky redhead, always described as chunky or plump.  I'm surprised that as much candy as I was eating that I wasn't much bigger.  I think the reason why was that in or inner city neighborhood we had to walk everywhere so excercise was plentiful. Thank goodness.

At 41 with a hectic lifestyle, caffeine, sugar and refined startches were a terrible combination for me. I had done the Atkins diet twice in the past.  Both times I lost 38 pounds in 3 months.  I'm living proof that it works.  I wasn't too enthused to give up my comforts, but after how I had been feeling lately it was necessary to make some sacrifices and get to work.  My absolute best motivation is knowing that I have my radiant daughter to continue raising and to enjoy my sweet little prince.  I wanted to do that and feel good about myself too.  

So what now?  Time to get to work!  You with me?

Finally happiness is here. Now what?

It's been a while.  I come back, I leave...but I always come back to you.
This time, I have a good reason.  Since I was last with you, I had a baby!  You didn't even know that I was expecting, I know.  So much has changed in my life since my last entry.

I got to where I finally wanted to be in life.  I felt happy, complete, grateful.  I put a lot of thought into whether it was right to become a mother again.  I'm an all or nothing type of person.  I know the mother that I enjoy being.  At 40, did I have it in me to start over?

My partner and I discussed it for some time.  Even after we made the decision to plan for a baby, it still took me months to align my thinking and prepare for a life change, and to once again live for someone else.  I wanted to be completely responsible in my planning.  The more time passed, I became giddy with excitement at the possibility of being a Mommy again.  Then the worry set in.  What if I was past my prime and could'nt conceive?  I remember breaking out into tears one day and him hugging me saying, "that won't happen".  All this planning and strategizing and now that I had befallen completely in love with the idea-  then haunted by the idea of what IF it couldn't happen.

Turns out that a few weeks later I found out we had our baby on the way- and that explains why I had been so emotional and in tears.  I should have known!

I look at his marvelous little face, listen to his giggle and touch the smooth curve of his chubby cheeks and I can't imagine my life without him.  I feel like I completely overthought the idea.  I mean, really.  People having babies is the most normal thing we do, no? In reality, it makes sense why a woman of 41 would give it the consideration that I did.  On the one hand you are more experienced, you don't sweat the small stuff and you're more financially stable at 41 than you were at 25.

On the other hand, your body.  So, yeah.  Your body.  You go through changes that you didn't anticipate and at times you don't even realize are happening.  I was blessed in that I didn't gain any pregnancy weight and I had this ridiculously marvelous glow.  Physically, I had hit the pregnancy jackpot.

Emotionally, I felt happy and over the moon in anticipation of my little one.  My body was another story.  The nausea.  The sciatica pain, the anxiety and trouble sleeping.  Again, ultimately all worth it but you will soon see why this all became so relevant.

I was blessed with a wonderful labor experience.  Both my biological children were a breeze during labor.  My grandmother used to call that a blessed womb.  Don't get me wrong, it's not that it was easy but it was beautiful and bearable.  I had the same experience with both of my children.  Once I looked into their eyes, it was the most spiritually invigorating and alive that I have ever felt.  That is what bliss feels like for me.

Physically, it took me a lot longer for my body to recover from labor at 41 than it had at 25.  Emotionally I was on cloud 9.  I don't think I have ever felt so happy.  Ever.  I just needed my physical body to catch up to the bliss.

The thing about me is that I am an over-achiever.  I do everything big.  Go hard or go home.  That's not always the best way to be, especially at 41 after just giving birth and being the Mom of a teenage girl who still needs me just as much.  Instead of taking care of my well-being I was focused on my kids' well-being, my partner, keeping the house always spotless, cooking gourmet-style meals, laundry and eventually back to my career.  I wasn't sleeping much, or even in a regular pattern.  My partner helps, and my friends always offer to help.  The thing with being an over-achiever is that it's hard to ask or to accept help.

Do you see the storm brewing?  

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Don't accept your own fear.

"Creativity takes courage."  
~Henry Matisse 

It's been almost a year since I last picked up my laptop to get in here.  I have so much to say, yet fear holds me back.

... Fear that you won't listen.
... Fear that it's irrelevant.
... Fear that this is my dream and I won't be able to see it through.

... Fear that you will listen.
... Fear that my thoughts will hold relevance in your world as well.
... Fear that my dream will come true.  
                                                            ... And then what...?

I've always known without a doubt that I wanted to be a writer.  I didn't want to write because I felt that I was any good at it.  Rather, because I had a story to tell and memories that I didn't want to forget.  My parents always knew it too.

Today, I know that I need to write because when it do it feels like drinking a cold glass of water after your mouth is dry with thirst.  I need it.  I need it to feel alive.  My fingers caressing the keyboard feels like holding the cold, dewey, glass on my fingertips and holding it up to my lips taking a drink and coming back to life.

A year ago, I last left off telling you about the stark contrast between a man who pretends to be everything that you need and one who has been that, in some capacity, the entire time.  If that sounds cryptic, I'm trying to tell you that I grew up.  I opened my eyes.  It took a couple of years of being alone to see things for what they were and to become at peace with my story.  Eventually I fell in love with one of my best friends.  And I've never been happier.  

Sometimes I wish that we would have seen it sooner, even if only a year or two ago sooner.  Then I realize what I always come back to.  God knows what he is doing.   A year or two sooner and we would probably not have been ready for the blessing that we have now.  

It's likely to have been the trials and tribulations that we've been through as individuals that taught us what we needed to learn to be ready for this blessing.  One of the most meaningful aspects of our relationship is the way that we show each other support.  This evening serves as a perfect example.  He knows that I long to write.  He listens to my dreams, offering encouragement and ideas.  

"... So why don't you write some right now?"
"I don't know.  I don't know what to write."
"Write anything, Babe, or edit what you've written before."
"I'm scared."
"Scared of what..?"
"I don't know.  Exposing my feelings.  Whenever I write, I write what comes out.  Like what I write on my blog but part of me wants to write fiction."
"Just write.  Write anything for a little while.  See what happens."  "Yes?"
"I think I want to buy a new laptop first."
"Want to borrow my laptop?"

With eyes that make everything feel better to me, he hands me his laptop and here I am.

Afraid, exposed and desperately trying to find a direction for where I want to go with this and suddenly I remember another very special man in my life, my Godson Alex Joel.  

Recently when talking with Alex about his dreams I reminded him that there is no reason why he cannot achieve them.  I told him that the people he admires most are no different from him only that they were courageous enough to take a leap of faith and work tirelessly to achieve their dream.   I told him how he needs to be prepared to hear "No" a lot of times before that "Yes" that will change his life forever will come.

He asked me what my dream was and I told him that it was to be a writer.

"Yes, I have a career and a daughter now.  I don't have the time and opportunities that you have to pursue your dreams."
"Yes you do."

And with all of the wisdom that one would not expect to pour out of the eyes and heart of a young man his age, he looked at me and gave me the same advice that I had just given him.

So here's the thing, I'm still not sure what direction I want to go with this but I'm curious enough to find out.  I know that I don't always want to write about cooking or recipes but I still have a canvas that I look forward to filling with my own colors. 

I have a lunch date with my Godson 10 years from now and look forward to laughing at how far we came after that conversation one sumner afternoon in 2015.  

I can't wait to see what the Future holds.  ...She hasn't let me down yet.

For two special men in my life, Miguel and Alex Joel- thank you for not accepting my fear.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Unexpected Surprises & Unanswered Prayers

Healing is something that is most powerful when it's self-imposed.  I'm not talking about physical illness.  I mean, emotional healing.

Think about it.  No one can really do that for you.  There comes a day when no matter how deeply you may be hurting, you make a conscious choice to grow from your pain and to sow the pieces of your broken heart back together into a beautiful pattern that you will wear proudly.  You have to be ready to do that though.  I'm not going to lie, there is more pain, awareness, and loneliness during that transition period.  The bright side is that you do, and you will get through it.

Life has been throwing me a series of unexpected surprises lately.  Some beautiful, and some startling.

A funny thing happened to me this weekend.  I was out to lunch with a man that I deeply respect, care for, love to be with and admire.  We were having a great time with our usual fun conversations.  He makes me laugh so much.

Suddenly, in walks the man who broke my heart to pieces at one time- the man I dated a couple of years after my divorce.   It was a very random and chance meeting.

I always wondered what it would be like to run into the one person who destroyed my heart and almost my faith in love, and in myself... Strange because we had no children and nothing tying us together.  All we lived was a facade of a relationship. A shell with a deep void.

I'm happy to say that I felt nothing.  I wasn't sad, I wasn't hurt and I didn't even feel angry.  Actually, I wasn't prepared for what I felt.  I felt, sympathy.

There was a time when I thought the sun rose and set on this man.  I realized in that moment that it was me who made him out to be the person who I thought he was.  In reality, and perhaps unfair to him, I projected what I wanted to see onto him.

In that moment when I saw these two men side by side- the man I used to be with once, that I made out to be so great, paled in comparison to the man who sat across me.
He was never really who thought him to be or who I thought I loved.  I created the the image of what I wanted and needed.  It fails because a person can only be who they really are.

In contrast, the man who sat across me that day,  is everything that I admire and hold high.  Caring, protective, loving & courageous.  He is all of those things independently, not because I want to see it but because this is who he is.  Almost like a complement, another side of me, that I am getting to see in a new light.  I don't know how or when the story will unfold, but I do know that in that moment, I thanked God for not having given up on love.

However, the man to my right, who broke my heart so recklessly,  I cannot say the same for.
What  I saw was a scared, incomplete shell of man.  A coward.  I felt sympathy.  Not just for the people who he had wronged, but for him too.  In that moment, I thanked God for sparing me from that life.
We all have a story.  We all have pain.  That was my personal story of pain.  Very few people know what I went through during that time, and how many devastating blows I had to endure.

It's never too late for a happy ending.  I want- love, loyalty, respect, family and a partnership.  That heartache taught me that no matter how much I may like a person, to not get involved with them if they are not on the same page.  You can't change a person.

I learned that I want a nice guy, who makes me laugh, cares for my heart and loves to be with family.  I want a friend first, like my parents were.

The day that becomes possible, believe me, I won't let it go

I've been longing for the things that bring me comfort lately, and you know that means cooking.  I've been gravitating toward the more traditional foods in my culture.  The time put in always helps me to reflect on where I have been and where I am choosing to go.

Earlier this week, I was out with my daughter and her step brother and sister.  I've told you previously that her father and I co-parent well, and I love and appreciate him like family.  Over time, the same goes for his soon to be wife, who is a lovely and kind woman that deeply cares for him. It's so good to see him happy.  It's comforting to see him with the right person.  It gives me hope.

Also over time, I've come to have a lot of affection for their children and enjoy the time when the kids and I all spend time together.  This week we went on a Sushi excursion and my daughter's brother asks me why when I go out to eat I choose the strangest places... Indian, Sushi, Vietnamese.  It was cute.  I made it into a game and told him that it's like taking a mini-vacation.  You get to experience a new culture, flavors and music for just a little while.  It was a really fun time.

This made me reflect on why my feelings are pulling toward my own culture so much when I'm home cooking.  I'm missing the deepest part of me and who I am.  And cooking, brings it all back to me like magic... whether it's from all over the world, or from my home town, it's how I'm watching my own story unfold.

Life has been showering me with unexpected surprises lately, only confirming why sometimes God doesn't answer my prayers.  His endings are always so much better than mine.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Iron Sharpens Iron. Do you agree?

There is an English proverb that tells us that behind every great man is is a great woman.  I feel blessed in that I grew up seeing it both ways.  My Dad also made my Mom a greater woman.  He was supportive and encouraging, but he also challenged her to do things she didn't think she could. 

As time passed in their lives and in their relationship, they could look back and see how they built each other up, and in doing so, built a strong family with confident kids.

My parents brought their individual talents and God-given gifts, and made us into a unit- a well-oiled machine that ran on fundamental principals.

Both lived by Love, Compassion, Discipline and Loyalty.  These were the ideals that they had in common. 

My Mom was the Spiritual rock of the family who taught us to find God inside of ourselves.  This was essential because we are a blended family.  My mom and I are Puerto Rican.  My [step} Dad was born in Ireland, Irish from grandma's side and German-Russian from grandpa's side.  He was also Jewish and my mother is Christian.

Rather than either of them converting, they taught us both and let us decide if and what we wanted to practice as we grew up.  I gravitated toward Christianity and worship with Abuela, Mamita.  My brother, gravitated toward my Dad's Jewish roots, and now practices Judaism as an adult.

You can imagine that growing up in my home as a kid in the Bronx, NY was interesting and fun.  There was never a dull moment.  On one side of the apartment mom talking to us in Spanglish, "Mira!  Cierra la window!"  and then you had my Dad singing Yiddish songs.  We tried our best to observe and learn about our family's traditions.

My Mom is also very detail-oriented and determined. I remember being in the fourth grade and doing my homework on the  dining room table so that I could be close to her while she cooked in the kitchen.  Now, you have to know that I absolutely despise Math and I always have.  I used to tell my mom all the time how after college, I would never need this type of math again.  A bit of irony that I end up in a career that encapsulates finance and math.  A whole lot of math.  As always, my Mom was right.

This particular evening, I was doing division examples for math homework.  My mom would walk by every so often.  I would say about 4 different times she asked me to write neater and to align the columns.  She also asked me to stop erasing on the paper so much, causing it to smudge.  I didn't listen.  On the fifth time that she walked by to check on me, she took my paper, crumbled it in her hand and walked away with it.  "Start over." she said, and I knew by the look on her eye that it was no time to argue.  I was hurt, upset and confused because I'd worked so hard on it, and it wasn't easy for me. When I asked my mother why she'd done that she said, "At the top of that paper, you had written your name.  I want you to learn to take pride in that name.  In life, when you put your name on something always make sure that it's your best work and worthy of carrying your name."

Another mom-moment was when I was in a panic about making it into a specialized high school.  The entrance exam was known to be very difficult, even for straight-A students like me. My Dad had cautioned me, "You've grown up being a big fish in a little pond, if you go to that school you will become a big fish in an ocean.  Can you do it without losing yourself and who you are?  You have to make that choice."
What my mom said next, impacted me for life.  We were in Alexander's Department store on Fordham Road, in the Bronx.  She could tell how nervous and anxious I was about the upcoming exam.  As we were descending on an escalator, my mom looked softly at me and asked, "How many kids go to that school right now?" 
 "About 2,500."  I answered in despair.
My mom sharpened her gaze at me and asked, "Well, if 2,500 kids passed the exam and made it in, what makes them different than you?"

From my Dad, we learned to be practical, pragmatic, plan ahead, to laugh (sometimes at ourselves) and to be very organized.  None of these were in my nature, and I had to dedicate myself to learning these skills.

By nature I am chaotic and impulsive.  Anyone who knows me for the past ten years or so would disagree with that statement, but what they fail to see is that I had to work so hard and commit myself to learning discipline and to be practical.  Motherhood has a way of speeding up those lessons.

As a couple, my Mom and Dad had many encouraging conversations and moments of  inspiration.  Many of those moments my brother and I were never privy to.  What we did see was their individual growth over time.  As adults, we can appreciate all of it as we look back on our family and on who they were as people.

A man said this to me recently, "Iron sharpens iron."  He was making the point that a woman and a man have the potential to build each other and help take each other to previously unreached horizons.  I do agree with that.  I grew up seeing it and watching that unfold.

As a woman, I believe that both people have to get to a place where you can be open and vulnerable to each other, enough to let your partner support and help build you up.  If you are unable to be vulnerable, if something holds you back, then you are unable to become a team.

noun: team; plural noun: teams

  • two or more people working together

come together as a team to achieve a common goal

synonyms:join (forces), collaborate, get together, work together;

As a single woman, I hear a lot of my married friends vent and I can compare it to my own personal experiences.  What I have learned is this, in order for iron to sharpen iron, you cannot be afraid of how sharp the sword..  

What you have to gain is an army of two, a protector, loyalty and Love.  You just have to be willing to be open and to walk in Truth. 

Sure, death feels imminent, but so does eternal life because as we grow older we realize that there is only eternal life, in the freedom of loving and being loved. 

... And so shall one man and one woman sharpen each other.

In order to achieve our potential, we cannot do it alone, and must be willing to endure and withstand intensity.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Pumpkin's First Birthday Without Him

It didn't matter what my friends call me.  To my [step] Dad, I was always Pumpkin.  When I was a little girl, it was Princess Pumpkin.  He went as far as to buy me a beautiful and delicately ornate gold tiara, with diamond rhinestones.  It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen or touched, my crown.  I felt so beautiful every time I played alone in my room and put it on.  And every time I looked at it, I felt so incredibly loved by my parents.

We lost my Dad on January 7th of this year.  I haven't had the words to say it or write about it.  Music hasn't sounded the same, and I hadn't smiled from the inside, for weeks.

My only comfort is that he passed peacefully in my mother's arms.  She whispered loving words to him and comforted him, telling him how loved he is and will always be.  Then she asked him not to be in pain any longer.  He always said how he never wanted to leave her alone.
He took his last breath only after she promised to find him again when it was time.

Part of the reason why I'm at peace being alone is because when you grow up watching two people that are truly in love and devoted to each other, most other things pale in comparison.  My mother is a strong woman, independent and very lady-like.  My Dad was loving, with a brilliant mind, devoted.  Their lives, together and individually, exemplify honor. My Dad really was a good man.

After he passed, I was incapable of writing a eulogy, until the actual morning of his funeral.  I was up and ready early.  As my mom, brother and daughter were dressing, I sat in his chair with his pen and a pad of paper he used for random notes.  I felt him, and it came to me.

I had recently read a proverb that said that the richest man is he who figures out that the highest prize is to love and to be loved in return.  My dad was a very wealthy man. 

This man had a brilliant mind, but what set him apart was that he figured what was important in life, long before most people do.  My Dad made sure that he invested himself in his family.  He was consistent in showing his love every day.

In the end, in that moment when someone is writing my eulogy, that's really all I want.  That my life will be a testament that every single day, I showed love, without expecting anything in return.  If I am loved back, then like my Dad, I would have gone with all the riches to be had.  In the end, that is all that we can take with us.  The love we gave, and the love we received.

He was a 3rd generation military man.  One of the hardest parts for us was hearing the cry of the soldier's trumpets as they played Taps, or when one of the soldiers knelt down in front of my mom and handed her the folded flag, that later soaked in our silent, falling tears.  Watching my brother kneel at his grave saying his final good-bye ripped out everyone's heart who was there.

His service, burial and the way that we chose to remember him was so lovely and a perfect tribute to him. The Jewish and Christian sides of our family came together with love and grace to honor our Dad.

One of the most meaningful parts of this day for me, was my father, Carlos who came to the funeral to honor my step-dad.  They always got along to so well, and respected each other.  They both chose to honor my mother and I, by setting an example of how a man should be.  Instead of ill-will, they chose to partner and co-parent for my benefit.  The result?  I was raised with two fathers that adored, cherished and honored me.  When a father does that for his daughter, she learns to see herself this way, and accepts nothing less from the man in her life.  How can I when I grew up with the example that these two men set for me?  I thank God for my parents daily.  All three of them.

I embrace every year that goes by, and thank God for the blessing.  However, it hit me like a ton of bricks, that I wouldn't hear my Mom passing the phone to him and him saying his usual, "Happy Birthday, Pumpkin!".

Recently, I was caught up in running errands and went to call him to ask him a question.  It had completely escaped me that my Dad was gone.  I had reached for my cell phone and had even begun dialing.  In an instant, a paralyzing and cold reality came over me.  I stood in a supermarket aisle, shivering with tears streaming down my face.  That was my defining moment that my dad Pat was gone.  The second was on my birthday, knowing that never again will I hear his voice sweetly wishing me a happy birthday.

Heart-broken all day I was struggling for a way to turn it around. I remembered what a great sense of humor my Dad had and how he always made us laugh, and remember what was important.

I came home and decided to connect to him the best way I know how.  He was an amazing cook and when I lived at home, we spent a lot of the time in the kitchen cooking and talking over techniques.

My friend had just let me hear a song yesterday that made me smile, and took me to a happy place.  I put that on while I was cooking.  And it made me smile again.  It's just that kind of happy song, silly like his humor.  I'm sure my dad would have liked it.  Especially knowing that he was Irish and my Mom is Latina. 
He was always saying how he loved his Puerto Rican girl.  My dad was always madly in love with my mom. 

I played the song and toasted to him while making a nice dinner for my baby girl and I, picturing my Dad relaxing peacefully on a beach, waiting for my Mom.

Tuscan Pasta with Cajun Crab.. why not?

Easy meal.  Buy the fresh pasta from the refrigerated aisle in the market.  I love fresh pasta so much better.  Cooks in about 3 minutes after being added to boiling water.

Add olive oil, a pat of butter, sliced cherry tomatoes and diced onions.  Simmer.  Add in pasta after draining.  I used angel hair.

 In a separate pot I had water boiling with a large tea bag that I filled with assorted peppercorns and Cajun spices.  I added garlic, fresh herbs, salt and fresh lemon juice to the water, then added snow crab leg clusters.

Melt butter, add salt and freshly crushed garlic.

It went so well together.  My Dad would have loved this.  I chose crab legs because my daughter and I absolutely love them, and because my Dad's favorite restaurant when I was a kid was the Crab Shanty on City Island.  It was a family tradition.  The family went there after the funeral to honor and remember him.  Everything about it, felt right. 

It turned out to be a lovely evening with her.  At one point we were both quiet and she said, "...I miss him too."

In that moment, I could swear that I felt my Dad.  That he was there.  And that if I listened closely, I would hear, a whispered  "... Happy Birthday, Pumpkin."

Monday, December 9, 2013

A teachable Spirit...

I have a lot of time off this December. Come to think of it, I have most of the month off. I saved my vacation time out of habit. 
For many years, I was used to saving my days off in case my daughter had a medical emergency.  It's a blessing that for 2 years now, she hasn't had anything serious.  For 2 Decembers in a row, I've had the chance to just slow things up a bit and download all of the feelings and life lessons that I've been blessed enough to experience during the year.

Today is a very cold, overcast day were I live.  The air is crisp and even in the warmth of indoors my nose is cold and pink.  Tall Pine trees glisten with frosted diamonds everywhere.

This is the first day in such a long time that I woke up with absolutely nothing to do for the entire day.  That's a pretty neat feeling.

I opened my eyes and prayed as I always do.  I begin each day with gratitude and count my blessings.  I've also learned to expect each day to become an array of wonderful moments and sweet surprises.
"..Go out in Joy and be led forth in Peace." - Isaiah 55:12

I asked myself how I envisioned this day to turn out.  All I wanted to do was to slip into a big comfy sweater, soft jeans and furry boots.  A hot cup of black coffee in hand, at the library just letting my thoughts flow through me.  ...And here I am, doing exactly that.

One of the things that I've learned to pray for is to become a "teachable spirit".  Too often in my life I tried to stay away from negative experiences or people.  Looking back, I learned important things from each of them.

Now, I pray for the wisdom to navigate through those experiences but also to learn from them. For me, it feels like an on-going effort to be transformed by the renewing of my mind.  Every day and under different circumstances, I have to almost re-train my thoughts to look for the best in others and in myself.

I always approached life with a plan and strategy.  Yet, the more profound my faith becomes, the more I depend on the Lord unveiling the steps of my path moment by moment, in His divine time.  That's one of the hardest things for me to do, because it means that I have to relinquish my sense of control.  It also means that I have to choose to be patient.  The right things for me will come at the right time, and whatever is not right will slip away regardless of how I may try to hold onto it. 

Faith is a commitment.  It means that you patiently expect what you dream of with an open heart, knowing that your joy will manifest even if not at the present moment.  Your moment will come.

Now, when faced with a decision, I merely pray and open my heart.  I try my best to treat others how I would want to be treated.  That doesn't always work, however.

I've learned that we can try to control our own actions, circumstances and thoughts.  When you add another human being into the mix, you're adding in variables that remain out of your control.  That's humanity.  We're all on this journey trying to do the best that we can.

Sometimes we cause others pain.  Sometimes it's cast upon us.  At some point we have to make a decision about it.  It's easy to know how we feel, but it's so much harder to determine what to do about it.

When the light of this life is extinguished, do we want to look back and know that we lived by principle, and worried about how others see us?  Or do we want to reflect on a life lived with love, support and that positively touched the lives of others?

I choose the latter.

A family of 2...

It's funny how life turn out sometimes, no?

I am such a "family" person.  I'm in my happiest state when surrounded with the people that I love, just doing the simplest things.  I love to just "be" and share the same space with a loved one. 

I grew up with a family and grandparents that I love so much.  My family members all had a deep influence on who I became, and how I appreciate life and my culture.

Sometimes, I feel badly that my daughter doesn't have that connection or those influences, immediately around her.  I moved away and made a life for us here because I thought it would be a wonderful place to raise a daughter.  She is surrounded by nature, has excellent educational opportunities and is exposed to a slower and more peaceful way of life.

Is it worth it?  I grew up in the hustle and bustle of New York City, in one of the worst neighborhoods in the Bronx, but I turned out pretty okay.  My parents kept me as safe as they could and instilled values in me to more than make up for what I was seeing all around me.  I had a lovely childhood, with wonderful memories.

What really brought it home for me was this past Thanksgiving.  We had a lot going on and were unable to travel down to spend the holiday with family.  I know how much she enjoys Thanksgiving so I decided to make a big dinner, with all the fixings, for just her and I. 

We were invited to spend the holiday with friends, and I considered it.  Ultimately, I decided to stay at home, with just my daughter and I.  Why?  Because I wanted to instill in her that although we are just  2, we are still a family.  A family of two. 

We had a good time chatting together while we were cooking, and we kept up our traditions.  For me, that was the most important part, that we were able to do that together.

As a parent, we can only hope that what we teach our children, and share with them, will be remembered. We can only do our best as parents.  One of the best gifts my mother has given me, is that she always talked to me.  She talked to me about everything and anything.

In so many ways, she prepared me for life.  There were times that I didn't completely understand what she was trying to get across to me, but later in life it made sense.  Because she talked to me, I was prepared. I didn't always end up doing things as she had recommended, but I had the valuable insight she offered to me, from experience, to prepare me to make strong choices when the time came. 

Last Tuesday night, we were having one of our usual "kitchen chats" as I cleaned up after dinner.  My daughter asked me why I'm strict.  

I took a sec or two to see how I could best explain. I told her that as much as I love her and feel responsible to her and for her, I feel the same love and accountability to the 23 yr old, 36 yr old, 53, 65 &  88 yr old person that she will one day become.  It's my job to love and protect all of those stages of her future self, even if she's not worried about them at the moment. I am. I care. 

You could SEE the light bulb come on over her head, she smiled and got up and gave me a hug. We talked some more. I think she gets it.

I pray that when my time comes, I made a difference in her life the way that my Mom has made a difference in mine.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Comfort takes time...

Do you know why I despise dating?  Because it takes me a long while to get comfortable with someone. It takes time to see if that person is legitimately all of the things that they say that they are.  Actions speak louder than words ever can.  Cliche but true.  I want you to show me what you are.

I appreciate your words, but it's what you do and how you handle even the small every day decisions in your life that determine who you are, and who you will be to me.

That's why being comfortable with another person takes time. Even when it doesn't work out and you're back to the drawing board, you have to stay committed to yourself and be prepared to wait.  I love that expression, "Hurry up and wait..."

In the meantime, keep being true to yourself and what you want.  Settle for nothing but the best, especially if you treat others honorably, you equally deserve that same treatment from yourself.

This weekend, rather than wrestle with the disappointments that come with dating, I chose to spend time with good friends and loved ones.  I had such a fun time!  I was in the mood to cook and entertain, which my sister and my mom jokingly refer to as my "Nesting" state.

It's a joke, but it has some truth to it too.  I do enjoy making a beautiful home, cooking and nurturing my loved ones.  If it brings me happiness to do so, and it allows me to show the people that are important to me love, bring it on!

Friday, I had my sister over.  I had such a great time!  I ran home for lunch and threw some chicken tenderloins that I had marinating in the fridge.  I put those in the crock pot with peppers, onions, a dash of wine and added some curry seasoning.

 Then, I threw in some organic brown rice in the slow cooker with a can of Goya pink beans, a bag of frozen corn, 2 envelopes of Sazon, oregano and pepper.  I added 2 table spoons of homemade Sofrito too. 

Once I got home from work, that smelled delicious. I took some corn tortillas and filled them with the chicken that had been cooking in the crock pot.  I smothered that in shredded cheese.  Then, I added the juices that had cooked with the chicken, sofrito and a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes.  I let that cook in the oven for about 25 minutes.

That was so delicious garnished with avocado, sour cream, queso blanco and shredded Mexican slaw (multi-colored cabage, cilantro, lime, red onion).  Then I topped them off with a special SPICY sauce made with a can of Goya Chipotle peppers and sour cream.  The peppers are so smoky and spicy, so add in sour cream to your liking to make it either spicier or less.

It went delicious with white wine.  We had sparkling peach Moscato. I love that girl for how she makes me laugh.  It was a great night!