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Parisian summer, part 4

Last week we went on a 4-day trip to Normandy. We’d initially reserved a B&B, where after a bit of back and forth leading up to our trip, the hosts told us –rather angrily– that there was nothing they could/would do to accommodate our request for breakfast either in our room or outside. They would keep tables one meter apart, mainly because they were required to, and maybe we could eat after everyone else had eaten. But outside or elsewhere or even near an open window within the dining room? No, and they resented guests requesting anything that wasn’t mandated within the country’s current Covid restrictions (which they also seemed to resent). Because how dare guests use the pandemic to “make up their own rules!” We promptly canceled that reservation, further angering the B&B folks: “If you are so afraid for your child, then maybe you shouldn’t have come to Europe with him.”

On this, they have a legitimate point, because needless to say, we almost didn’t come. The pandemic has required of all of us whole new levels of assessing and balancing risk and fears alongside values and priorities. Right? While this certainly isn’t exclusively true for parents, those of us with kids have suffered with them, intensely, and have been desperate for ways to give them the experiences they love and need and have missed the most. I have empathized with parents for whom the first urgency was to get their kids to school in person, or to their sport activities, or to sleep-away camp this summer. For our family, that thing we were most eager for as our kid’s parents was travel.

clockwise: Teotihuacán, our canal boat in Scotland (both in 2018), the view from our Athens hotel, trip to Spain (both in 2019): We love travel!

Nevertheless, there’s a whole list of criteria, even just one of which would’ve made us pull the plug on this trip. David and I talk a lot about the many variables that had to align, and how amazing it is that they did. This is true of any trip or highly anticipated family event, but so much more heightened and high-stakes-feeling during these times. So our conversations since arriving here often alternate between, “Thank god we made it here when we did” and “Were we crazy to do this?” We’ve also all confessed that we thought it was never going to happen.

Infection rates have (again) gotten worse since we’ve been in France, which raises all of our doubts, anxieties and fears. At least the Health Pass has now been extended to dining establishments here. As dystopian as it is to be asked “Have you been vaccinated?” or to have a QR code scanned upon arriving at a restaurant, it’s also reassuring. And we have not seen anyone not comply, much less yell or assault an employee for doing their job.

This restaurant had signs for the Health Pass everywhere.

Good thing we’d gotten those QR codes when we did, too, because in the past week they’ve become a lot harder to obtain. More testing tents, with longer lines, have popped up in places. Some places routinely scan our codes, some simply ask as though to cover their bases, because there is enforcement. At one place where we ate, the kind server asked us a little timidly whether we’d be able to produce a Health Pass, and accepted our verbal yes as good enough. Inside, there were plain-clothes folks with an orange armband that said Police on it; soon, they were going table to table, asking diners to produce proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test within the past 48 hours. Can you imagine something like this happening in the US? (One place didn’t seem to be doing anything (we got out of there pretty fast); I wonder if they’ll soon be visited by the orange-arm-banded police?)

part of an email David received from the US Embassy in France re: applying for the Health Pass. The process has gotten harder since we obtained ours pretty easily from a pharmacy weeks ago.

Unlike the B&B hosts, everyone else we have met throughout our stay in this country has been courteous, warm, welcoming. We ended up at a wonderful hotel in Bayeux, and our days in Normandy were unforgettable in many good ways. Our time in France this summer is coming to an end, and soon we get to face mandate controversies at home. I also have a feeling I’m not done hearing the “well if you were so concerned for your child, maybe you shouldn’t have taken him to Europe” retort. We still don’t know whether we were wrong to do this, and we won’t know until after we’ve been home for a while. Right now, we’re still so very glad we did.

the wonderful Hotel D’Argouges in Bayeux!
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Parisian Summer, part 3

Well folks, we went to Disneyland Paris. I confess I’d always wanted to go since it opened in 1992. Finally, with a long stay here, it felt less embarrassing to make a case for a couple of days of Le Tacky Entertainment.

First, I expected Disneyland Paris to be very Frenchified compared to the parks in the US. It was and it wasn’t.

It was in language, obviously. So much fun hearing Jack Sparrow, C3PO, and Buzz Lightyear all speaking French! I have no idea how well all the puns we heard in English translated, though. There was an entire section dedicated to the movie Ratatouille, with an adorable ride, as well as a few other rides that aren’t in the US. Other Europeanized elements were the types of soda offered (a lot less sugary), and maybe more of the snack bars offered crepes and waffles than we’d find in the US.

C3PO is fluent in millions of languages 🙂

Perhaps you’ve heard that the French turn their noses up at all things Disney and at having a Disney park in their country? Well that was definitely not our experience! A good nine out of ten people around us were French, and boy did they love their merch! Some were dressed in head-to-toe Disney stuff, and I literally mean head to toe: hats & headbands, shoes, and backpacks. It was Mickey-ear everything, Stitch was hugely popular, and there were lots and lots of little girls in princess dresses (Lord help us, I only saw one dressed as Rey Skywalker).

sign @ Pirates of the Caribbean

Also? The food was crap! Ugh. Mostly burgers and fried chicken. After days of eating gloriously in Paris, I had somehow hoped that Disneyland Paris had a higher standard than American Disney parks, but hell no, my friends. What is up with that? One night we had dinner at a place that served hotdogs and chicken nuggets, where the staff was dressed like baseball players, and they sold Budweiser beer. The place was just off Main Street USA. I looked all around me at the décor and vibe, and it struck me that many people there had probably never been to the US. To them, that was probably representative of what the United States is like. Oof. Surreal and disconcerting. A lot to unpack.

Distancing signs on the floor were everywhere. Some people followed them, many did not.

Regarding the Travel in the Time of Covid? Masks were required at all times including outdoors, and compliance was once again decent. One thing that was frustrating was a lack of opportunities to sit outside for meals. The hotel we chose had a bunch of tables outside, but didn’t allow guests to eat breakfast there. <eye roll> We therefore decided to get our breakfast through room service, as we were told it was included in what we’d already paid for it, and we’d only have to pay whatever went over the pre-paid amount. That did not turn out to be the case, and we ended up paying surprise surcharges just so we could avoid eating indoors around unmasked guests. This has become a bigger challenge given the cool, rainy weather in this part of France lately, but it’s an area where we’re pretty inflexible so it requires a lot of creative thinking and picnic meals on our own. More on that in another post.

The crazy expensive breakfast did come with all these jams that I then brought back to our flat. I showed them!
Besides, it provided enough food that we were able to pack a picnic lunch (with a few snacks added).

Verdict? It was frustrating, it was problematic, and we had a blast! Fun, just fun. All of this is privilege, obviously, including the ability to judge and express frustration and be able to find alternatives (in some cases at an additional cost). Privilege. All of it. No whining allowed, only fun. So that’s what we did.

passing the time in a line
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Parisian summer, part 2

What is it like to be American tourists in France during a pandemic? Well, it’s not not scary, especially for people like me, and the decision wasn’t an easy one. Obviously the absolute safest, easiest choice would’ve been to stay home. We never approached this in terms of “now that the pandemic is finally over,” just like haven’t had any large gatherings yet and have always continued to mask up indoors. We were aware that we’d be taking chances in traveling so far from home, and we knew that to do so would entail embracing a lot of uncertainty as well as adjustments and inconveniences, with no guarantees that they would pay off, and that never stops feeling intimidating and humbling.

Between the time we entered the taxi outside our house in Washington DC, and the time we exited the taxi outside our building in Paris, we had been wearing our Niosh N95 masks for a total of 17 hours. Ouch.

While mask compliance at the DCA and Newark airports was iffy at times, it was a lot more consistent on the Newark-Paris flight. There were also frequent reminders from flight attendants for passengers to keep masks up at all times. Here in France, masks must be worn indoors at all times, as well as outdoors whenever there is crowding. Also, far more people continue to wear them outdoors compared to the US. The moment we enter a queue, even if we’re still outside, people routinely tend to pull on their masks without having to be told.

standard sign everywhere in the city

A few days before our departure, we learned of a new Health Pass that would go into effect in France on July 21st. It’s required for entering most visitor attractions, and starting in August, will be extended to restaurants. Proof of full vaccination for anyone 18 and over is usually enough to generate the Pass, and for anyone over 18 who’s unvaccinated, there has to be a negative Covid test within the past 48 hours. Plenty of places offer onsite testing with 15-minute results for this purpose.

David and I each obtained a Health Pass in the form of a QR code by showing our vaccination card and photo ID at a pharmacy; we are asked to show our QR code everywhere we go.

I know that both the Health Pass and mask mandates have generated protests here, but I for one feel reassured being here because of these measures. (PS. I never thought the CDC’s decision to lift mask mandates on an ‘honor system’ basis for vaccinated folks in the US was a good idea.) I still cringe, however, when I see the locals (who btw have gotten a lot younger since I was last here) sitting shoulder-to-shoulder at happy hour, even if it is outside!

There are hand sanitizers on restaurant tables and ^ by each bus stop.

Again, we know we’re taking risks, and we are taking plenty of precautions, too. One of them is no dining indoors at restaurants, a practice we’ve had since March 2020. Luckily, most places offer fantastic outdoor seating, with the added bonus of glorious people-watching. When we go to sit, we are deliberate in selecting tables near the outer edges of the dining space, and always have Eric sit in the farthest point from other people. Only David or I do the indoor shopping, including when we had to go to Ikea a few days ago, and only I went in. We’re also not traveling by train or public transit; only taxi or Uber or a car share, with lots of walking.

When we do need to spend a lot of time at indoor public spaces, we wear KN95 masks. Here we are about to enter the Louvre.

For longer trips outside the city, we plan on renting a car. The choice to drive instead of riding a train where we could relax and therefore travel farther is a good example of a compromise, because it limits how far we’re willing to travel outside Paris. But these trade-offs mean we actually get to do this now rather than wait another year, plus it feels good to be able to show respect and solidarity to this country that has welcomed us. And with that, may the adventures continue safely!

Oh, why did we have to go to Ikea? Story forthcoming :).

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Parisian summer, part 1

Although I’ve never lived in Paris, I have an interesting history of visits to this glorious city. My most recent time here was in 2009, and my son Eric had never been here, so it was about time for another trip! My family and I had very enthusiastically planned a spring break trip here … departing on March 19, 2020. We booked five nights at a hotel in the 7th Arrondissement, and were counting down the days, certain that the unfolding virus crisis would, at most, require us to take additional measures during our visit …

Paris in 1992; click on photo ^ for a story from that trip

Fast forward four scary, lonely, frustrating months. Some time last July, I said to David, “If the world has reopened enough by this time next year, why don’t we get out of the country for a whole month? You could work from there if needed, and we could really get to experience the town or city.” So instead of the original five days we’d planned on being in Paris last year, we are here for four weeks this year. I mean why not, right?

another Paris story, from 2004

I scoured the internet for apartment rentals, filtering my search to ones that permitted cancellation with a full refund up until July 2021. Other criteria included two bedrooms, a bit of local character, and washer & dryer. I wanted to be within a mile or less from the Seine. Also, we tried looking for a place with air conditioning: Lol, NO, at least not within our budget. (I also watched House Hunters International. Like, a lot.)

2009, click on photo ^ for story

In the end, I reserved a surprisingly (suspiciously?) affordable top-floor flat on a small side street in the 2nd Arrondissement, and we all spent the following twelve months alternating between bracing for disappointment and embracing timid optimism, while weighing our risk tolerance and commitment to safety constantly, too.

countdown to Paris, take deux (2021)

We followed the news, read multiple French government sites for guidelines, and double and triple checked that we had everything we needed to enter France responsibly during their restricted reopening, and still cautioned ourselves and each other against getting too excited. We gave ourselves plenty of time during our connection in Newark, and as soon as an airline employee arrived behind the counter at our gate, we went over and showed him our electronic boarding passes along with all the documents we’d prepared. Good thing, too, because he then gave us a printed boarding pass, on which he wrote OK, and this turned out to be required for boarding. Sure enough, plenty of passengers hadn’t completed this step, and during boarding, they were all sent back to the counter to obtain their OK’d printout. Now, you’ve heard of unruly air travelers being especially bad this year, right? Yep, well, we saw a few very angry folks not being their best selves in that moment, yelling at the boarding attendant because of this.

Nevertheless, we couldn’t believe how smooth everything had otherwise been so far for us. So when departure was delayed after we were already on the plane, we went “Yep, this is where they cancel the flight!” It literally wasn’t until takeoff that we believed fully that we were at long last, on our way to Paris. We still prepared for many hurdles upon arrival at Charles De Gaulle, but it turned out to be a piece of cake, or I should say gâteau.

taking off!
may we be well, and let the adventures begin …

We have now settled well into our home away from home, and are recovering from jetlag. Grateful hearts and beauty at every turn help a lot. I am sitting at this window beside our kitchen table as I write this. Grateful heart indeed.

inspiring view from our kitchen

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F (Is for) Phobias

They say glossophobia is the most common type of phobia there is. You’ve probably also heard that some people are even more scared of public speaking than of death.

Mercifully, glossophobia is not much of an issue for me. Frankly (again, mercifully), I’m not even much of a shy person. That doesn’t mean I don’t have crippling fears, though …

In the summer of 1999, I was 23 years old and was on a trip to Egypt (a Master’s graduation gift from my parents) with a group of fellow twenty- and thirty-somethings. I have a distinct memory of, on numerous occasions, entering a public restroom stall with my bottle of water in my hand. Did I put it on the floor of the stall?, under my armpit?, or did I leave it out on the sinks? Not sure, but I do know that as soon as I was done in the bathroom, I’d grab my bottle and keep drinking out of it without batting an eye.

God I would never do that now, haven’t since long before Covid, and I often reference that memory, and other similar ones like it, as a reminder of a time when I was … freer. Not to linger on how I got here, but I think my severe germophobia started with pregnancy and post-partum depression and anxiety. A lot of things people barely notice or may describe as merely stressful send me into debilitating panic.

Just a few examples.

One time years ago, a fellow parent at preschool told me their kid had been throwing up. My kid hung out with their kid all the time: I waited until they couldn’t see me, and cried the entire drive home. When I’m at a place with a water dispenser for refillable bottles, I always, always wipe the rim of my bottle–which never touches the water spout directly–before and after refilling it, and I recoil in horror and judgment when I see how carelessly other people put their bottle rims right up to the thing. For years I’ve wiped down airplane and train seats, tray tables, windows, and seatbelt buckles as a matter of routine, plus all surfaces in hotel rooms or vacation rentals. I am hyper aware of the sounds of coughing on a plane or train; when a person sneezes, I look to see if they used their hands to cover their mouth, and then track those hands like I’m Sherlock freaking Holmes (the one with Benedict Cumberbatch). At birthday parties, when the person slicing and dishing out the cake would lick their fingers in between slices, I would force myself to look away, and it would take a lot to still let my kid eat a slice of that damn cake.

Because you see, parenting with this sort of paranoia is its own incessant, multi-layered angst. It sucks. Part of me has defended the compulsion as being precisely born out of a desire to keep my kid safe and well, but I know, I know it isn’t normal, and the last thing I want to do is pass down to him the same limitations this has brought me. To use a visual that’s familiar these days, it’s a lot like living life from behind plexiglass, where it’s impossible to really hear and be heard, to touch things and experience them fully. You feel constantly separate, constantly self-conscious, and constantly exhausted from the effort of trying to hide it.

The whole time, I can hear the well-meaning teasing of friends and relatives, the smug micro aggressions of those who pride themselves on living life fearlessly (and some are so confident in their fearlessness that they’ve also been railing against masks and the Covid vaccine this entire year), the taunts coming from inside my own head, calling me weak and all kinds of other bad stuff.

Before the start of 2020, I’d spent years in therapy working on reality-checking my anxiety, exploring the reasons for it, forgiving myself, and overcoming it all just enough to function. And believe me, many times it has been just enough. Being functional has been a series of small achievements and victories. Baby steps. Family trips over the years have been bigger achievements, but they haven’t been without countless nights lying awake in the grips of fear, and lots of small negotiations with myself and with my beloved, loving family.

Enter Covid. How does a person with pre-existing germophobia react to all that’s happened this year? I’ll tell you in another post. For now though, just please be gentle, with yourself and with others. Also, maybe think twice before you lick your fingers while serving people food? Oh, and you know what else? Nobody, not one person, is completely free of fear. So F that.

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Networking lunch

“Do they really need to call it networking lunch? Can’t they just call it lunch, and take some of the pressure off?”
This was me, whining. I was going to a writers conference, which in itself was very exciting. I’d heard about it from my fabulous writing teacher, Kathryn Johnson (see this blog post for details of my writing journey, and my class with her). But the networking element in reference to the lunch session had me in a tizzy. A true fact about me is that I was not born with the gift of schmooze. And the notion of professional networking strikes me, in my weak moments, as nothing more than a popularity contest for grown-ups.

I don’t even have business cards to my name since my last teaching job ended. Which leaves me with the question, what do I include on a business card? “Sandra Falcón, Stay-at-home mother and writer?” “Pretty decent cook and baker?” “Once and future professor and linguist?” Do I include PhD even though my current writing has virtually nothing to do with my academic background? My mother’s response to this last one is an unequivocal YES. Why? “Sweetheart, because you can.” Hard to argue with that. Still, I was worried. What if I came on too strong? (People sometimes do.) What if I felt invisible? (I suppose people do this, too, sometimes.)

The morning portion of the conference did not disappoint. I met a lot of friendly people, the setting was excellent, the conference was running like a well-oiled machine, and the incidences of “networking” conversations that typically make me want to plug my fingers into my ears and go, “Laaaa la la la laaaaa,” were minimal. The day was off to a very good start.

Lunchtime came, and I quickly noticed in the buffet line that I was the only person who had put two wrap/sandwich halves on my plate. Then the woman behind me did the same, and I almost felt relieved, until she said, “I’m taking two, but that’s okay, because I’m not having any potato chips.” Precisely as I was piling the potato chips on my plate. Sh!t. What was I supposed to do, put something back? My seconds’ worth of hesitation was already holding up the line, and I was certain that others had noticed. Finally, I said an internal “Screw it,” and moved on, head held high … and resolved to eating very fast in order to cover up my blunder.

I entered the dining area, my loaded plate of food weighing me down a little–for what it’s worth, I had not taken any cookies or brownies for dessert, and I did eat all of my food. Looking at the tables filling up before me, I had brief visions of every teen angst movie that features a lunchroom scene involving some form (or various) of rejection.

Then I spotted a table that was half-empty except for a young African-American man … with his very appropriate single wrap half, and few potato chips. I made timid eye contact, took a deep breath, and made a beeline for a seat directly across from him. We first talked about the sessions that we had each attended in the morning. I’d been to the one on self-publishing a book; it was excellent, and my head was still spinning. He had been to a session on poetry.

He told me he’s a college student at a nearby University of Maryland campus. I went to ask him whether he raps, then quickly chided myself for stereotyping. Black college student who writes poetry, must be a rapper? So what if I was nervous–I knew I could do better. So instead, I asked him, “Have you always been a poet?” I could tell he liked the question. We each admired what the other was doing. I find poetry daunting, he said that writing a whole book sounded scary. He told me some of the things he knows about poetry. I shared how it had always been my dream to write stories. I was having a great time with my new poet friend.

Halfway into the lunch hour, we were joined by one of his professors. She had two long braids, and wore a large feather on one side of her head–she later confirmed her Native-American heritage. Had it not been for the Bluetooth device on the other side of her head, I could have sworn I had traveled back in time and was in the presence of a beautiful, regal tribe elder. The beautiful and regal part were nevertheless very real. To give you a bit more sense of her, she also told me that she has African, as well as four different European countries (“not by choice,” her words) in her ethnic background. And she has two children who are around my age. Before long, the professor and I were bonding. We covered the joys and exhaustions of raising a four-year-old, being home full-time in the early years of motherhood, teaching and experiences with students, writing practices that work for us given the various obligations of our respective schedules, and writing because it nourishes our souls and we can’t imagine not doing it.

Here are some highlights of the things she said. I am paraphrasing, but not a lot:
“I’ve trained myself to work on my writing at the end of the day, until I simply fall asleep. I’ve trained myself to do a lot of different things to accommodate my writing over the years.”
“My parents were undertakers. I saw a lot of carnage. So many Trayvon Martin’s before anyone ever cared about Trayvon Martin. My parents understood when my brother and I decided we didn’t want to go into the family business.”
“My first book was published in 2001.”
“I’ve decided to focus on the writing part for now, and not worry so constantly about getting it published. It’s too distracting right now.”
“This young man here is one of the best students in our Honors Program. He is an excellent poet. And a gifted rapper.”
“You have an author’s name! I can see it on the covers of books already.”

“You seem like a very devoted mother. Enjoying these early years at home with a child is a great privilege. I can tell you know.”

Eventually, we were of course joined on our side of the table by other conference attendees, and in hindsight I hope they didn’t feel ignored …  Can you imagine the irony? And before we knew it, the hour was over, and it was time to move on to our afternoon sessions. Lest you conclude that our networking lunch was just a touchy-feely exercise in mutual flattery with very little potential for business advancement (and if you do, hey that’s fine), I will tell you that our entire discussion did basically revolve around writing. I just really liked that it was also deeply grounded in kindness, and life. Stephen King says, “Life isn’t a support system for art; it’s the other way around.” By staying grounded in our lives, we had the kind of talk that transcended the perfunctory business/art stuff that can seem so tedious to me some folks. This was my kind of networking lunch!

I even learned, in a later conversation with a much larger group, that one of the characters in the professor’s new book is a Puerto Rican who is “really messed up.” What?! I know a lot about that! I could be her expert consultant on the subject of a Puerto Rican who’s ” really messed up!” Wait, could I put that on a business card … ?

The most basic definitions of network in the Oxford Online Dictionary are perfectly appropriate.
1 An arrangement of intersecting horizontal and vertical lines
2 A group or system of interconnected people or things
2 (no object) Interact with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts

It’s when I think of it as a scenario where I am essentially competing to “sell a product” that the term becomes intimidating. Instead, I think that from now on I’m going to define networking as the simple quote below.

I mean, right? For all my whining, I think this was ultimately the approach I took going into this event. It did not lead me astray. Among the many, many highpoints throughout the conference, the networking lunch I had so dreaded turned out to be one of the great highlights. On my way out, I stopped by the buffet table and treated myself to a brownie. And when I’m done posting this, I will get to work on those business cards!Share this:

Isn’t it ironic?

It was announced last week that Alanis Morissette’s 1990s album Jagged Little Pill is going to be made
into a Broadway musical. Ahhh, Alanis. I spent an abnormally large portion of my
twenties reveling in the shared anger and validation that I found in the songs
on this album. She had me at, Do
I stress you out?
Well over a decade later, many of the lines from these songs still resonate with me, as a wife, mom, writer, and occasional (frequent?) awkward type–I’ll elaborate on this later.

Another favorite line from that first song? Enough about you, let’s talk about life for
a while. The conflicts, the craziness, and the sound of pretenses falling, all
I think about this often when I encounter the funny, bragger-superior types. Or folks obsessed with constant correctness. Yikes, how exhausting it must be. And yes, I think of my own pretenses, too. My biggest one? Probably that feeling fearful is a measure of my caring. There, I’ve said it. But I can hear the sound of it falling. One day at a time, man …


Wait until the dust
 I thought in my
twenties that this line could be applied across the board. Turns out, it can’t be
applied to parenthood. When you are entrusted with the care of a
tirelessly-evolving young soul, the dust simply never settles. My child is
three. And I bet the dust will never settle even after he is old enough to be
out of the house. Because I doubt I will ever be done worrying and loving
him in a way that breaks my heart wide open, into thousands of little
pieces, every single day. That’s okay. I have no interest in this particular extraordinary
bit of dust ever settling.
I feel drunk but I’m
. This basically speaks for itself.
I’m young and I’m
Now. Is it sad that this line resonates as deeply with me at age
38 as it did when I was 24? Or is it funny? Maybe sad-funny?
I’m brave but I’m
chicken shit
. Again, speaks for itself. But I will say that I am becoming
more courageous over time. The evidence? People whose opinion I trust telling me so. And being
called a strong and opinionated woman with increasing frequency.
Whether folks meant the latter in a good way, I have my doubts (no, really). But I
count each time as a victory. And clichés notwithstanding, it is
true that we can’t really know how courageous we are unless we experience
being chicken crapola, too. I mean, right?
And all I really want is some peace, man.      Yes. Yes!
I never forgot it,
confusing as it was. No fun with no guilt feelings
It still is confusing.
It used to be because of wanting to be a good, always dutiful, girl. I’ve been mostly cured of that. Now it’s because of mommy guilt.
The common denominator is trying to navigate an independent identity regardless of where I am in my life and of how deeply I love those closest to me. Guilt is guilt, though. And utterly pointless 9.9 times out of 10.
I had one more stupid
You ask how my day
     Sweet husband of mine.
And don’t be surprised
if I love you for all that you are

You are the bearer of unconditional things. To the precious three-year-old boy who made me a Mama.

Thanks for your
Beloved parents.
I believe the entire contents of the song Not the Doctor are best left unaddressed in the context of this blog post. I will
simply say that I was young, that’s all.
But nothing is more poignant and timeless than the song entitled Ironic. Again, not enough space in this blog post. But I have one real doozy that happened this week. I emailed a chapter of my novel to my writing teacher, the very morning of the class, fully indicating that I understood if she didn’t have time to read it or comment on it by the time we met in class that evening. She didn’t. But she was kind enough to give me several minutes’ worth of time at the end of class. Unfortunately, by that hour, my parking meter had expired, and I was consumed by anxiety over getting a parking ticket. I choked and blanked completely when my teacher asked me what questions I had for her. At one point (here is the awkwardness I promised), I  just stood up, mid-conversation, then sat back down, apologizing profusely the entire time. When I finally got to my car, there was no parking ticket. Thank you, God(dess)! And then, on the drive home–FLASH. Surprise! A speed camera. Son of a b!tch. For what it’s worth, I swear I am not a reckless driver, and that part of the city has no business being a 25 mph zone at nearly 10 o’clock at night.
A little too ironic, yeah I really do think.
Seeing Alanis Morissette evolve from twenty-something badass chick to an almost 40-year-old total mom of one only makes me love her more. The Broadway show is scheduled to open in 2014. I thought I was running out of excuses to visit New York City next year. Now I have a new one. Jagged Little Pill is the gift that keeps on giving!And what is all boils down to, is that no one’s really got it figured out just yet … Sing it, sister.

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Welcome to my First Post

maiden blog post is dedicated to my new friends and fellow extreme novelists. I
am rather self-conscious about taking up group time in class, and hopefully over the
course of the week this can also help in having others see what it’s been like
for one classmate. Someone may find something relatable. Here goes.
Thu 3 Oct 6:37AM. For the first few minutes I couldn’t find
my flash drive so that I could back up my document as I worked. “Oh well, guess
I can’t write if I can’t make back-ups of my work right away!” 1. I got over
it. 2. Just as I got over it, my flash drive made its appearance.
Okay. I just went over and made edits/revisions on the three
lines above. Sighs.
7:38AM. Done one hour so far, 837 words. Only took 2 minutes
out of the 60 minute writing period I wanted to spend this morning to write the
lines above. J  Next time I will only make these notes on
separate time, not my formal “writing” time. Otherwise I won’t do it. That’s a
promise. I am aiming for 1,000 words today, hopeful about hitting 1,000 with
the additional 30 minutes I plan to spend later today.
Note for next early morning writing sessions at home, make sure I have a
banana, or ask dear husband to start boiling me an egg if he comes downstairs
before me. Also ask him to close the basement door or not have NPR turned on so
loud down there. I suppose I could use my ipod. But then I wouldn’t hear my son
when he wakes up. Or these days, I wouldn’t hear him coughing…
8:20AM Now I can think more clearly about the first 60
minutes. Report: only about one or two minutes of screen-staring. Not looking
back up to add or change stuff was exponentially harder. The key, for me I
think, is to train my eyes. Just
don’t let them wander up, man.
My biggest challenges are procrastinating, perfectionism,
and finding a balance with family time.
The themes that permeate my stories are my love of history
and of spirituality and the supernatural world, and the healing of
old—family—wounds. For this book, my history fixation is centered on New York
City immigrant history, Ellis Island, Lower East Side, all that fabulous fun
stuff, particularly as it pertains to women.
Another big theme that is both personal and an element in my
writing is identity in general. I wrote my dissertation ten years ago on
language and Puerto Rican identity, and the overall question remains a constant
for me. How do we construct and present our various identities or personas to
the world, whether it’s cultural heritage, gender roles, as wife and mother or
as a single person, etc.? I am, of course, in the throes of navigating this
very question constantly. In the 1990s it was student, single gal travelling
the world. Then it was newlywed college professor. Now it’s wife and mother. I
love it. And I intend to make that wife, mother, AND WRITER next. I constantly,
constantly vacillate between transparency / being an open book and fear of over
sharing, and between obsessive high achieving and expert half-assedness.  Writing holds the answer for me.
Here is a picture of all my things ready to go for last
night’s first class: Quarters for parking, my writing contract printed and
signed (with notes), and food. This was at noon yesterday. Don’t worry, I did
put the smoothie back in the fridge. I’ll let you all guess where this falls
between the high achieving and half-assedness … And we will see how this keeps
up as the next eight weeks progress.
5:07PM. 1300 words in today’s 90 minute exercise!
Not bad. Plus I (*think* I’ve) started a blog! Please feel
free to write comments—if this did, in fact work—and share how it is going for
you. Sending you productive creative vibes; happy writing, friends.

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