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How Old Am I?

My XLIII birthday is just around the corner and I am ambivalent about turning another year older. But like I always like to say, “It’s either you die young or you live to be old.”I am old. I am also young. I am right in the middle of middle age, and it both thrills and scares me. The thing I hate about getting older is that I am nowhere near being where I thought I would be. Granted that I never really planned my life out in minutiae details, but even so, it irks at me. More and more, each time I turn another year older.

I have been working on my education for ten years now. One thing about getting an education in your latter years, is that you get educated on a lot of subjects, which none have to do with the subjects you are taking.  You begin to see the bigger picture, you begin to see how big of an idiot you used to be-and sometimes still are-for not having finished it when you were younger, and even now, for taking so damn long to finish. Maybe ignorance is bliss. All I know is that I don’t know anything, anymore. Maybe that is the whole point of getting an education. To bring to your attention all of the things you that you don’t know that you don’t know.

I have a good life. I have been happily married for five years, not aware that I was married for other five, and completely and utterly miserable for another five, and for the last three I have been semi-happy. And yes, married to the same man. One thing that you learn as you get older, and also as your marriage matures, is that you and your husband turn into different people. Sometimes you look across the room and wonder “who the hell did I marry?”  but it is just a fleeting thought before kids and pets distract you from your introspective thought process.

My three sons are almost all grown up. One is eighteen, the other is twelve, and the last, but not least, my baby, is eleven. When they are all together they all act like toddlers, and the brotherly love that they display towards one another is both disturbing and endearing. Only brothers who truly love one another can be so mean to one another. There is a fine line between love and hate-in the Pangaea of love.

My pets are all alive-I live in the country. A good and a bad place to have pets. Yes, they live a happy life and then die suddenly from “country-natural- forces” that go by at 75 miles an hour. I have lost many pets, and I have cried many tears as I bury them. Having lost loved ones, the hairless and two-legged types-I know the difference between the sharp, needle-like pain, that pierces your heart and makes you wish you could turn back time. If only…If only I had…Why didn’t I…But all is well. There is no inner peace like pulling in my driveway and being escorted in by my dogs. It makes me happy. And thankful.

My mom is well. That’s one of the thing that amazes me. I am turning into my mom while my mom is witnessing this transformation. I am also a mom and to find myself being a daughter while being a mom, being treated like a child by my mother, while I mother my children, is …I don’t have a name for it. It’s not disturbing, it’s surreal, but not quite. It’s…Oh well, it is what it is. My mom lives next door to me. She watches me coming and going. Sometimes it bothers me and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I say to her “Mom!! you look like a sentinel,” and she says nothing, only to come home in the evenings, and say “Hey mom, thanks for doing my laundry!” to which she answers, “Yeah. You give me insults and I still do your laundry.” My mom is becoming child-like in a lot of things. It’s disturbing to me. My mom is becoming sensitive. She didn’t raise us to be sensitive. She raised her in her likeness. Steady, tough, not prone to physical or emotional displays of emotion. And now she’s getting soft.

At forty-two and 361/365 years old I think I am doing fairly well. I am physically healthy. Emotionally, not so much. But that’s one of the things about getting older. It’s your unhealthiness that gives you the most joy. It allows you to see the world from a different perspective. Maybe I am the sane one and everyone else is crazy. Oh well. So, this is my “desabafo, my inner-thoughts” of the day.

 

 

I am not a romantic!!

I hate to admit this, but I have always been a romantic at heart. It is a shame that it has taken me this long to admit something so gay and silly.
Having admitted that, I must state, in my own defense, that I am unlike the other romantic fools out there; I consider myself a genuine romantic, and this is the reason why I hate Valentine’s Day. I hate this stupid day, because no matter whether I love or hate it, there is no way around it. To pretend that it doesn’t matter (like I have done in the last decade), only brings on a suppressed rage towards my husband, who knowing how I feel about this day, makes no effort to surprise me.
Then, I find myself surprised that I am actually disappointed that my beloved has not followed through in proving that I am a romatic.
I am the only one to blame in this whole affair.
The reason I don’t like Valentine’s Day is because everyone else is doing the same thing. Everyone else is ordering flowers and making reservations for dinner and planning on getting some love afterwards.
The thought that we are collectively doing the same things, on the same day, at the same hour (more or less) is repugnant to me.
Granted that all other holidays are also celebrated in a collective way, this one is not festive or merry.
I think that I am “Valentinely Dysfunctional” due to never having had a boyfriend on Valentine’s Day (or any other day, for the record) when I was younger and impressionable, and by watching my co-workers, who otherwise acted semi-sane, get completely berserk on this day.
The ladies I worked with became giddy and high whenever the office door opened and a bouquet of flowers walked in. I stood back and watched as they swooned over the bouquets, and noticed not only their gaiety, for also that the roses had no thorns on them.The stems were soft and smooth to the touch.
Having listened to my co-workers gripe about their love lives, I found it ironic that even though their relationships were sometimes thorny, that on that day,when love was to be celebrated-not only in public, but in private as well-that the thorns had been removed. I thought, and still think, that leaving thorns on roses, especially on Valentine’s day, is a romantic gesture in itself. Not only is the rose and the love beautiful, but it is also sharp and painful, and I think that that is extremely romantic, without being overly stated. Romance should be smooth.
Roses delivered on Valentine’s Day must have thorns. Love is a prickly thing. And since I have been prickled many times by it, I also want to physically feel the sharp edge of a thorn against my thumb, because I have felt in my heart.
I don’t know why I think this way. Maybe it is because the way I grew up. Growing up, I never saw my parents hug or kiss (granted that my Dad died when I was eleven years old), but even before he died, I have no recollection of them being sweet with one another. And my aunts and uncles certainly never displayed their love for one another. What they displayed was fear, like, dinner must be on the table by the time he comes home, and the kids better not make too much noise, or else, Dad will get the belt out, and God help all of them, because when one child is guilty, so are the others.
Then I came to America, and even though I never saw my American uncles being all romantic with my aunts, I noticed that they were softer, that the women were not afraid of their men, and that they bickered sweetly with each other.
It was only when I got job, that I noticed how American girls, who were my age, thought of their loves and how they should act on specific days. Specific days like Valentine’s Day.
My cynical approach to this silly holiday stems from my childhood, and from my early learning that love is not always sweet or tender, and that loving someone will sooner or later, break your heart into a million little pieces that you will end up spending the rest of your life attempting to put them all together again.
Romantic love, as I have learned by having made the mistake of falling in love, and no, not only with the man who has now been my husband for the last fifteen years, but also with the idea of being in love. That’s what it is all about. Falling in love with the idea of falling in love.
Even though I fell in love without wanting to, I did fall in love for a boy that I grew up with, but in my defense, I never in a million years thought that I would ever marry him. Not him of all people, but that’s exactly what I did. He has always been more romantic than me, but I have successfully suppressed his romantic ways.
I thought that being polite, understanding, funny, and respectful was enough. I have always thought of romance as a cheesy,and to be honest, an insulting way to get a woman to sleep with you.
I have also always thought that sending a woman flowers after a fight, was a cowardly thing to do. If a man is truly sorry for his behavior, then he should say so, and save his money to send her flowers when things are fine between them. Then, the flowers speak volumes about their relationship.
I can also say that I have fallen in and out of love with the man who has now been my husband for the last fifteen years. And on his behalf, I can also state the same about how he feels about me. You see, staying in love is much harder than falling in love. Falling in love is easy. It’s staying in love that is difficult.
It is the little things that matter. Little things like using my car and not leaving it on empty, so that when I am on my way to the gas station I don’t run out of gas, or putting the toilet seat down, so that in the middle of the night my lady parts don’t go into hypothermia, and I don’t kill him in his sleep.
Little things-like rubbing my feet-and only my feet-when I am aching for a rub.
Little thing like not sending me flowers on Valentine’s Day because it isn’t romantic, only because it is expected, but giving them to me, either the day before or the day after. Romance can only be deemed romantic when it is unexpected.
I now know better. I have learned one or two things in my first hand experience with this thing called Love.
To watch it from the sidelines is no way to experience it. It is the safe way. It is the cowardly way, even if it is the objective way to view it.
Love is a dirty word. In those four letters, a world of torture are hidden. A couple who has been together long enough can either make the other’s day a living hell or a living heaven. It takes one word. Just one word to either fuck it up or not.
Because my husband and I have been through hell in the last three years, and not only have we been through it, we have also put one another through it-individually so-I can attest that there is no deeper love than when one looks at the other and wishes either him or her dead. But only for a split second. But it is that momentary maddening red flash, that one realizes that this is a war-fought between two people, who not very long ago professed to love and honor one another, long before they fully realized what was in store for them.
Now that my husband and I have looked at the abyss of divorce, we have realized that despite our hatred for one another-during the bad times- that we do love each other.
Last year he surprised me on Valentine’s day with a beautiful bouquet of red roses, even though we had gotten in a fight first thing in the morning.
He did apologize- over the roses not having thorns-but since he had been a thorn on my side, I chose to overlook it-this one time. Between last years Valentines and this years, we have re-discovered one another-no, not like that!-but by being polite, considerate, and sweet with each other. I have let go of my feminine machismo, and am working on becoming softer. I am also to blame for my relationship having been on the rocks.
I now appreciate Valentine’s Day. Even though I think that Valentine’s Day should be every day, I also realize that life gets in the way of romance, and so this day is a “pass” of sorts, for all the other days when one is not always at his or her best behavior.
My husband told me today that he ordered flowers for me. No sense in remaining quiet, and so the anticipation is sweet. I warned him that they better have thorns. He said that they didn’t. I think he’s lying. Time will tell.

I don’t have a problem. Really, I don’t…

Some of my closest friends think that I have a problem. There are times when I also think that I may have a problem. But I also know that to admit to having a problem is the first step in resolving it, and I refuse to admit that I have a problem, because, really, I do not have a problem.
I also realize that my problem lies in my refusal to admit that I may have a problem. Only because I fear the threat of a possible intervention, bestowed upon me by my family members, and because, after all, I must be honest with myself, I admit that I, perhaps, maybe, I do have a problem.
I do have a problem.
A problem with Heinz Ketchup. I cannot live without it. I cannot have a meal without having it.
So there! It is now in the open. Do I feel better now? Not really.
But now that I have admitted it, and looking back at past meals, it is indeed, always present.
French Fries? Only with ketchup.
Eggs, whether soft-boiled, hard-boiled, scrambled, or fried? Only with ketchup.
Steak? Ketchup.
Potato salad? Ketchup.
Caldo-de-Coivas? Ketchup-to give it that “coloring” effect.
Bacalhau? Ketchup.
Boiled potatoes? Ketchup.
Sandwiches? Ketchup.
Chicken? Ketchup.
Omelettes? Ketchup.
Fish? Ketchup.

Indeed, my addiction is not easy to digest, now that I realize that I do have a problem, and a serious one at that.
The first person who ever dared to bring it up, was my future brother-in-law, who upon sharing a few meals with us,while dating my sister, very casually, hinted that I might have a problem.
At first, I brushed it off. “Oh, Manel! It just happened to be at the table,” but it gave me pause. I became somewhat aware that it could be true. And then, as I met with a certain someone who had “inside-knowledge” about the other ingredients not listed on the label, such as mice, snake, and other unlucky critters and reptiles, it still did not faze me at all. I was and still am willing to overlook those “unsavory” ingredients.
And so, throughout the years, it has always been in the back of my mind, but now that I am ready to admit it, I shall redeem myself by swallowing my pride,and nothing else, and by following the 12-steps of the Ketchup Anonymous.

I admit that I was powerless over Ketchup-that my meals had become unsavory without it.
I came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to other condiments.
I made a decision to turn my appetite and my cravings to the care of Heinz.
I made a searching and not very appetizing inventory of past meals.
I admitted to the God of Gastronomy, to myself, and to another guests or family members the exact nature of my addiction.
Uh-oh…I may have a problem admitting this one-I am (not) entirely ready to have the God of Gastronomy remove this palate-pleasing-addiction from my diet.
Uh-oh! Once again, I may not be ready after all. I humbly (not) ask the God of Gastronomy to (not) remove my “palate-pleasing-absolutely-cannot-have-a-meal-without-it shortcomings.
(I am not ready to admit that I have a problem. I do not have a problem with the first five, but then I have a problem with #6 and #7).
I have made a list of all of the dinners whose hosts I have insulted by asking for ketchup, and I am willing to apologize for my “palate” shortcomings.
I have made direct attempts to such hosts wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
I continue to take a menu-like inventory and when I am wrong to promptly admit it.
I have sought through abstinence and fasting to improve my conscious contact with Heinz, as I understand it to be, salivating only for a whiff of its many ingredients and for the power to have my meals without it.
Having had a “gastronomical” awakening as the result of these steps, I try to carry this message to fellow “ketchup-dependent” addicts.

Now that I have admitted to my problem, and having gone through the steps of “un-addiciton,” I now declare that I am even more addicted than I thought I was.
Upon close consideration, my problem is that I think that I have a problem. So what? So what if all my meals, regardless of what they are, are comprised of organic tomato concentrate from red ripe organic tomatoes, organic distilled vinegar, organic sugar, salt, organic onion powder, organic spice, and “natural” organic other flavorings?

Where Are my Pom-pons?

I am not a football fan, per se. What I am, is a fan of the male members of my family, who are fans of Football. Forty-Niner fans.
For the last eighteen years, I have watched as “my fans,” have made time to watch the Niners, whether they have played on Mondays, Saturdays, or Sundays, and no matter how busy or tired they were, they always made the effort to watch their team. Whether they tied, won, or lost, and no matter how disgusted my “fans” were of their team, they always plugged in the next time they were on the pitch, because their love for their team outplayed their disgust for them. And every time, their hopes and fears were either confirmed or denied.
To watch “my fans” weather the constant losses and disappointment of their team throughout the years, and yet to remain loyal to them, is something that is not lost on me.
I think that is true love. In Football terms, at least.
I am a fan of the fans of Football, because most of my very large and extended male family members are fans of the Niners. No punt intended, I mean, no pun intended.
There are however some who have defected, and who are fans of those other teams, who in quoting my uncle, “cannot win a Superbowl because they cannot see out of one eye,” while others are fans of a team whose fans call themselves Cheese Heads.
The rivalry between the Niner fans and those other fans, is a healthy balance on game day, as well as a sweet payback for all the “crud” and “arg” they have talked about the Niners for the last two decades. Even though it has not technically been two decades, it is true because even after the Niners win the Superbowl, the fans of those other teams will still be talking smack, even if just out of habit as well as pure jealously.
But despite our differences, we will all come together, and root for the “home” team as well as to root against it. That makes our impeding victory that much sweeter.
Even though I know that I don’t know all the rules of Football, what I do know, is that watching my family members strike an offensive position in front of the television, while at the same time adopting a defensive attitude by spewing insults mixed with hopes of a successful play against and for their team, has to be one of the classic plays of the game. That, and all of those tight ends, who receive and block plays, as well as to receive appreciative looks from female fans, who understand that the position assumed is an important aspect for the end result.
Niner fans are guilty of crossing the invisible line of scrimmage, that makes us, wives, skirmish as we watch the family men, who are otherwise stoic, become giddy, goofy, light-headed, scatter-brained, and totally overcome with excitement, that makes the cheerleading squad pale in comparison, as well as to make us somewhat perplexed, that the men in our lives are able to articulate so many feelings and emotions in such a short period of time. I call this a flag, a time out, a sack, a fumble, as well a personal foul as well as unnecessary roughness against an opponent whose only padding in on their bras.
But now that our beloved team has made it to the Superbowl, and who is being led by a young hometown boy, whose aura is strikingly familiar to someone who we recognize, but yet cannot name, other than to know that he is a boy from Turlock, who looks eerily similar to our brothers, our friends, one of us. And as one of us, some of his family members work for Hilmar Cheese, and that makes his ascendency to stardom even sweeter. A rags to riches story right in the midst of our lives. He makes the Niners even more enduring to all of their Portuguese fans. The Portuguese forty-niner fans are hard working men who produce what Colin will be sporting on his upper lip, upon winning the Superbowl. He will be sporting a milk mustache that will be the pride and joy of all the families, as well as of a community who rely on its production to make a living. Others have sported the now famously-infamously milk mustache, but no one will pay it justice like Colin Kaepernick.
There is no “I” in team. I hope that the Niners play as a team and that their quarterback plays homage to what his name means, as well carrying the motto of his team. Colin, translated into Greek, means “people of victory.”
It is also said that luck is when opportunity meets preparation. We are prepared and anxiously awaiting the victory of the San Francisco 49ers as XLVII Superbowl Champions.

Toothlessly Yours

I am an American by the pure coincidence of having been born while my parents were in this country. When I was two years old, my parents decided to go back to their homeland, and I grew up a Portuguese girl, even though I took special pride in knowing that I had an American passport. I was considered to be an “Americana.”
Every summer, my cousins and I waited anxiously for the “os primos Americanos,” the American cousins, who along with our American tios, our uncles and aunts, visited our Grandmother, and who all exuded a certain “je ne sais quoi,” American vibe.
Even though we were first cousins, our american cousins looked nothing like us. The american primas, our girl cousins, had long and shiny hair, that danced on their backs. We, the Natives, had all the same bowl cut and lusterless locks that clung to our heads and retained its cut.
But besides the hair and the clothes, what we admired the most was their teeth. Americans are known for their teeth. White, shiny pearls that serve as teeth. Perfectly arranged in their mouths.
Sometimes a ray of sun would come in through the window and befall on the smiling faces of one of the American relatives, and the glare was so intense that I had to turn my eyes away while reminding myself not to smile.
Having had crooked teeth all of my life, I learned how to smile without showing them, especially during the summer time and around American “primos”, American cousins.
My primas and I used to daydream about the impending trip to America. We knew that we would also be immigrating to America, just like most of our aunts and uncles. We dreamt of becoming rich, of smelling American-of Pond’s facial cream, mint toothpaste, of banana and mint Wrigley’s toothpaste, but above all, of having straight, white, and beautiful-looking teeth.
So now, twenty some years after me and my Portuguese primas have called this country our home, I am still shocked when I come upon an American who has not only crooked, but missing teeth. Sometimes all of them are missing.
I can’t get past the gummy smile. It is all I see. Gums. Toothless gums. And to my horrified fascination, they smile, completely unaware that I am baffled by the fact that they are not self-conscious, or aware, that having no teeth while speaking English, is a no-no, a faux-pas, an abomination. An American abomination.
My fascination with teeth began way before we became aware that the American primas were prettier than us, and that they had much prettier smiles than the ones we offered them. Even though ours were rotten but sincere, theirs were false, but white and beautiful.
It started even before I realized that my Avo, my Grandmother, wore dentures and that I had crooked and rotten teeth. It started when my Avo’ used to tell me stories about how Americans had white teeth, and that they spoke Engles, English, by rubbing their tongue on the roof of their mouths.
My Avo’ lived in the America for a few years,and that’s how she understood Americans to be: indigenous who spoke an unintelligible language and had white teeth. Amongst a few prized possessions that she managed to take back home, was a Buddha statue that served as a container. She put it on the “copeira,” on the space in the wall that served as a built-in-shelf, and used it as a storage for her knick-knacks, that included pinhos-da-linha, clothes pins, um terco, an extra set of rosary beads, and two set of dentures.
Sometimes when she couldn’t find her “everyday” teeth, she would pull the head off the buddha and rummage in his belly until she found either the top or the bottom teeth. This is how I understood why my Avo’, my Grandmother, sometimes looked a little different. When she didn’t have her teeth, her face looked sunk in and there were wrinkles around her mouth, but when she had her teeth, then her face would be full and she even put on red lipstick that she used only inside the house, and only when she knew that no one would catch her “red-lipped.”
I also could tell if she happened to take her teeth off while I was busy playing around her. She would speak in a slurred tone, as if drunk, or toothless.
And so, having been indoctrinated on the importance of what teeth represent, especially as a child who happened to be poor, with a bad haircut and crooked teeth to match, I despite knowing better and having lived in an industrialized country, I know that oral health is one of the signs of poverty, as well as of signs of not caring, even though the person with no teeth has enough money to buy them. But having been raised poor and in a poor village somewhat makes it more understanding having crooked and rotten teeth, than having been born poor, but in an industrialized country.
And so, when the other day I went with my son, who has buck and yellow teeth, and who is old enough to play football, but not old enough for braces, I was appalled, when after he was signed up, the coach shook my hand and smiled. A gummy, toothless smile.

I am being followed!!! YES!!YES!

I have always been told that I have a gift for writing. I have never believed it. I enjoyed writing my feelings down, but I did not know that others would enjoy just as much to read what I think.
I truly only believed that I had something worth reading, when I went back to school and took a creative writing class, just because it seemed interesting. To my surprise, it turned out that the class came together as a whole, and it was one of the most spiritual things that I have experienced. To have a group of people create something personal, and yet to be shared amongst ourselves, instilled a comradie and a trust amongst all of us.
When my teacher invited me and two others to be co-editors of the school gazette, I was flattered beyond belief. It was something new and exciting that I loved and was good at.
And so, having lived a short-but-yet-thrilling-career as an editor, I am not resolutely determined to write my own story, if nothing more.
I find that I am much more attractive, articulate, funny, smart, and to be honest with myself, this is the only thing that I am good at. That I truly feel that I am good. I am now determined to prove it to myself.
I am also very protective of what I write. Maybe it is because whenever I post something on Facebook-my only venue thus far-I receive e-mails and phone calls from my closest friends wondering what the hell is wrong with me and how many glasses of wine have I consumed.
It is true that some of my funniest post were inspired by a few glasses of wine, but the majority of it has been done while sane and sober.
This is the year where I shall write until my fingers bleed. At least until my joints begin to ache.
My only dilemma is what to write about and how should I put it all together to where I do not offend anyone within my circle of friends. I guess that I’ll have to throw caution to the wind and write whatever inspires me.
Today I am inspired by to write because I have my very first follower. Being followed in real life is creepy, but it is a compliment to be followed in literary circles. So, to my very first “literary stalker,” you are my inspiration for today.

Some Sculptures are Hollow Whereas Others are Solid

My inner sculptor is sculpting an image of the former person that I believed I used to be. After my former self is shaped, I want to take a baseball bat and demolish it. It will feel so good to see the real damage. The outwardly signs of a destruction that I feel in my soul.
The death of a dream, the deceit of cheating oneself, the arrogance of thinking that my life would always be the same, the anger I feel over having done nothing that justifies having to file for bankruptcy protection, other than becoming self-employed, and even though my life has not changed, there has been a monumental shift in the way I see the world now.
I need to destroy who I thought I was; happily married, self-employed, self-sufficient, middle class.
Now I am married, unemployed, dependent on my husband, and bankrupt. I am so ashamed of who I am. I wear the scarlet letter.
I am getting fat, unhappier, but I also know that under this layer of anger and resentment, that the real me, my happy self, is dying to come out.