Monthly Archives: October 2013

Why New York?

Because it is where most of the story I am currently working on takes place. And
where I had the idea for the story in the first place, in 2009. And where I
definitively began to cure my postpartum depression, in 2010. And where for the first time since
becoming a mother, I gave myself permission to feel like my old independent self again, in 2012.

I can explain.

In late June of 2009, on a solo trip to Manhattan, I
visited a place on East 4th Street called the Merchant’s House
Museum. On this trip, at age 33, I had an idea for a book, which I thought
was the thing that at long last gave me the motivation, and the
permission, to write like I had always dreamed.  A couple of
weeks later, surprise! I found out I was pregnant. A couple of months after that, by the time I had
recovered from the shock of the news, I’d also become extremely busy with my teaching job, planning for baby, sorting out my maternity leave, etc.

I had never really envisioned what
kind of mother I would be; this wasn’t something to which I had
given much thought, until motherhood was upon me. I decided, a few months before my baby was born, that I
did not want to return to work. I loved my teaching job. But I also knew that I
wanted to be home with my baby. Before I knew it, I was the stay-at-home mother
of a wonderfully healthy and happy baby boy. And I was in the
throes postpartum depression. My book project was completely forgotten. I
decided I must have been wrong when I thought the timing had been right for me
to write like I’d always wanted. My who-do-you-think-you-are syndrome was in full
force, and it felt as though it had been decided for me that my one and only
identity was to be mother.

When my 35th birthday rolled
around that year, I told David–my husband–and my mother, both of whom knew I was struggling, the one thing I wanted as a birthday gift:
a weekend trip to New York. So David and I packed up our car and our six-month-old shortly after my birthday, and
took a roadtrip to New York City. What happened, no joke, was life-changing. I realized that the world I had left behind when the cloud of
postpartum hormones had descended and whacked me off
kilter months earlier was still there. All of it. The fast pace, the craziness, the possibility
and promise, it was all still there. And it was mine for the taking if I still
wanted it. It took being there, with my family, as a wife and mother, for this
to feel real to me again. The cloud began to lift, and after we were home, I was able
to enjoy my child with a simpler ease, and to truly cherish the incredible opportunity I’ve
been given to be more fully present during these indescribable early years.

A year later, I’d gone back to teaching
part time and found myself in a funk. I do love teaching; loved it then, love it
still. But going back to my old work, in this moment, simply wasn’t enough. I
had thought that having a paycheck to my name doing what I had done before was
enough to feel like “my old self” again. Nope. Because I wasn’t my old self
anymore. Never would be.

Teaching is something I can
happily return to one day. What I needed now was to write. And
bless my husband a thousand and one times: He agreed. So he and I
planned a trip to New York, this time just me, so that I could begin research
for my book project for real this time. This was in February 2012, one month
before our boy’s second birthday. It would be my first time away from home by myself
since becoming a mother. Two nights. I booked everything, all nonrefundable.

There was a woman I spoke with
two days before my trip, someone with grown children of her own, whose opinion I respected and valued greatly
… and … she meant well … This woman told me she thought it wasn’t time for me
to go, that my son wasn’t ready for me to leave him after I had been a
stay-at-home mother this whole time, that the damage could be terrible and irreparable. I see
this better now, in hindsight. It was nearly two years ago. When it happened? It
threw me into a tailspin of guilt and self-doubt. And anger. On the one hand, how dare she? On the other, what if she’s right? I got cold feet, didn’t want to go. Then my husband stepped in. “Go!” He said. “Our boy will be fine. We will be fine. You need to do this! Go. To. New York.” Getting choked up this minute recalling that moment.

So I went. Sure, I had a stomachache the first night and couldn’t finish my dinner. Sure I missed my boy terribly and wondered whether my “selfishness” would leave him scarred for life. And then something else happened. It was on this trip that I established for myself something no one and nothing could do until I was good and ready. I found the line that separates, for me, my profound love of stay-at-home motherhood, and clinging to motherhood because I need it as my only channel for significance and worth in the world. I’ve seen these types of moms. Being an at-home mom doesn’t have to equal this. Going back to my old paying job wasn’t necessarily the cure for it, either. I found this balance for myself when I got on that bus in February of 2012 and finally started this journey for myself. And it’s all because my husband made me do it!

Our boy was napping when I got home two days later. When it was finally time to wake him up, I ran up to his bedroom, aching to squeeze him and part of me still dreading how he would react. He opened his eyes, blinked up at me a few times, and asked, “Es hora de Plaza Sésamo? = Is it time for Sesame Street?” So far as I know, he continues to be a happy and well-adjusted kid, who knows himself to be very well loved, and who now also knows that his Mama goes to New York and writes books.

One final note about the woman who meant well and nearly kept me from getting on that bus. It was on the day of that conversation, in the midst of miserable turmoil and doubt, that I put down in a Word document the first words of my novel set in New York City. It only took three years after my original idea. Sometimes turmoil can be a good thing. I do owe her that.

“She decided…” photo quote courtesy of Nancy Levin. “Sometimes…” photo quote courtesy of Sacred Dreams on Facebook.
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I [Heart] the DC Public Library

“When all else fails, give up and go to the library.” Stephen King, 11/22/63

When you are among the first early morning visitors at the public library in Washington DC, right as they open their doors, you are usually one of the following: 1) A mother or nanny attending Story Time with a young child, 2) A male looking to use one of the library computers for Internet, 3) Sandra Falcón with her pink backpack and Mickey Mouse sticker on her laptop. That’s it. I’ve even noticed that, at least regarding 2 and 3, this applies on weekends the same as weekdays, and regardless of what branch of the library I am visiting. It’s the men, sometimes the toddlers, and me.

In recent years and months, I have come to develop a profound love for the public library. I was very familiar with spending long hours at libraries as a graduate student; however, public libraries are an entirely different experience. Whereas the library at Georgetown University conjured exclusivity everywhere I looked or sat, the public libraries are places of equal opportunity and access to information for everyone. I marvel at the number of library books that have nurtured and enriched the story in my current novel, and at the hours of enjoyment we have had browsing children’s books with our little boy. And when the DC library system extended its hours earlier this fall, I photographed the sign and rushed to share it with people I know, this is how happy I was.

One element unique to public libraries is the colorful characters and interesting–sometimes jarring–experiences one encounters with them. Like the time a few months ago, when a gentleman locked himself in the men’s room. Not inside a stall, no. The man threw the deadbolt on the door separating the library and the entire men’s room. After enough time had passed, and the cleaning woman became exasperated after asking him several times to come out, things began to escalate. Then came a librarian, who threatened to call the police. “Sir, you need to come out now! We are going to call the police!” The poor man’s response, which I am sure made sense to him somehow, could be heard loud and clear a good twenty feet away, “I don’t have a coat hanger!” I have never once forgotten my earphones after that day.

On another occasion, as I was getting up to leave, the contents of my open backpack spilled out onto the floor. A man wearing an Inspector Clouseau trench coat, sitting at a library computer a few tables away, got up, turned around, and yelled: “What do you think you’re doing?!” I looked around, my body language no doubt saying, Who, me? Indeed, he was talking to me.  “Just what do you think you are doing?!!” Once again I looked around. Then I packed my backpack faster than you can say coat hanger, and left. I still see him on a regular basis. And I give his table a wide breadth as I come and go.

It’s fair to say, I did not see a lot of this at Georgetown.

Saturday mornings are especially interesting, because there are no toddlers with their nannies or mamas. So aside from library employees, it’s basically me and the menfolk for a good thirty minutes after the library has opened. Yesterday, when I was finally joined by other females, my attention was drawn to a (roughly) sixty-year-old Latina woman. She sat at one of the computers, and began watching Youtube videos. First was Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Relax (Don’t Do It), total awesomeness. She was tapping her feet and bobbing her head up and down, pony tail flapping. A kindred spirit!

Soon followed Billy Joel (Uptown Girl, We Didn’t Start the Fire), and the awesomeness factor was rising fast. After Billy Joel came Prince (early eighties), Michael Jackson, and Janet Jackson–Rhythm Nation. I love that video! By this point I had forgotten my book, and was bobbing my head along with her. Then things took an interesting turn when she abandoned the eighties altogether, and began to watch some Britney Spears. Hmm. Britney was followed by Chris Brown–uh oh. By the time she was watching a Jean Claude Van Damme movie, I knew our relationship had run its course. I really need to remember to sit with my back to the library computers.

Still, I love all of it. Thank you, public libraries!

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Dude, where’s the love?

It has been one of those weeks. I’ve gotten little sleep, and my novel-writing stamina and enthusiasm have wavered. I’ve continued with my writing schedule; morale is low, that’s all. Also, there have been a few worries regarding my boy’s school. Then there’s the neighbor who wasn’t as considerate as I might have expected. The father with the car seat in the back of his own car who abruptly cut off, and nearly took down, my husband and my kid as they made their way on foot across the parking lot. At the pumpkin patch! The dude at the library yesterday, in charge of the second-hand bookstore, who nearly took my head off when I asked a question about the pricing of the books. The other dude, who sat across from me at “my table,” and proceeded to type on his laptop like the keyboard was a tough piece of meat that he was attempting to tenderize using nothing but the tips of his fingers. The whole table trembled like an elephant stampede. I wanted to reach over and smack him. Sometimes, I daydream that I have no filter whatsoever. I’ve done a lot of that this week. Because I am one of those people who, in times of low-energy fragility, have an extremely vulnerable emotional response to what I perceive as gratuitous unkindness.

After I completed yesterday’s scheduled ninety minutes of writing (over 2,000 words, yeah!), I finally had time to read an article that some friends had posted on Facebook via Huffington Post, called Surviving Whole Foods, by Kelly Maclean. I laughed out loud. This probably annoyed the meat tenderizer across from me; hey that’s just gravy, man. This is the kind of mood I was in. Maclean’s characterization of what it sometimes feels like to shop at Whole Foods was poignant, funny, and very relatable. And the parking lot? Spot-freaking-on:

“Whole Foods’ clientele are all about mindfulness and compassion… until they get to the parking lot. Then it’s war. As I pull up this morning, I see a pregnant lady on the crosswalk holding a baby and groceries. This driver swerves around her and honks. As he speeds off I catch his bumper sticker, which says ‘NAMASTE’. Poor lady didn’t even hear him approaching because he was driving a Prius. He crept up on her like a panther.”

Ugh. So true! Let’s face it, the place often seems to be predominantly populated by self-important types who appear to be so seriously caught up in what they put into their bodies, that they are far less concerned with what they put out vis-à-vis human connection. I was thinking about those types as I read the article. And then I remembered the day when I experienced a distinct exception to this phenomenon.

About a year and half ago, I had parked my car at the Whole Foods parking lot, and taken my son in his stroller to run a quick errand before coming back to shop there. When we came back to Whole Foods, I took him out of his stroller, and was attempting to get him into the shopping cart. He didn’t want to go in, and in the struggle, I accidentally pulled the wheel of the cart onto my foot, a lot harder that I initially thought. Bam. Broken pinky toe. I called my husband immediately to tell him what happened and to try to figure out what to do next. Throughout my talk with my husband, it felt as though I was the object of various forms of tsk-ing, hissing, and mean looks from passing strangers, because I could barely move, and was standing in the way of terribly important people, in a terrible hurry, wearing their trendy-pricey-skinny yoga leggings, carrying their $10 cup of freshly juiced green juice (probably their one meal for the day, I speculated).

Basically using the shopping cart as a walker, I managed to buy the few essential items that we absolutely needed at home. Then, with the help of a very friendly and concerned check-out clerk, I got my son back in his stroller, and the two shopping bags hooked onto the handles of the stroller. I made my way to our car, wondering whether I would even be able to drive home. It was my right pinky toe that I had injured. The parking spots next to ours were vacant, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I was preparing to cross the empty parking spots diagonally to get to my car faster, when an elderly woman pulled up, clearly intending to park in one of those sports. I waved her in, I’m sure, with an exasperated eye roll. She, in turn, motioned for me to go.

So I moved, wobbling, in pain, close to tears, toward my car. Now on top of having a broken pinky toe and still not knowing whether I was going be able to drive home, I was going to get a talking-to about manners from an eighty-year-old woman. After I made it to my car door, the woman quickly parked her car. One second later, she was next to me. “Qué necesitas?” Of course she spoke Spanish! The woman wanted to know what I needed. I have no idea what I said in response. What I do know is that, in a matter of one or two minutes, she had loaded my groceries, my kid, the stroller, and my own wounded self into our car. “Yo seré vieja, pero soy fuerte! = I may be old, but I’m strong!”

I have since had a chance to personally thank the friendly check-out clerk for her help that day. In fact, I think that made her day when I did! But I don’t think I’ve ever seen my Whole Foods parking lot angel again. If there’s ever been an unlikely place for having a loving encounter with a stranger, I would tend to think that the Whole Foods parking lot, at the very least, makes the short list. I really love it when I’m wrong sometimes.

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Eat Drink Google

I would like to talk about some of the practices, including the varying results of some of the things I eat/drink and some web searches, that I have engaged in while writing since beginning my structured schedule as I make progress toward the completion of my first novel.

I have heard countless times that the most productive times for writing creatively are in the very early hours of the morning. Something about still having one metaphorical foot in your subconscious world because you’ve just rolled out of bed. I have actually not found this to be my most productive time. In fact, on days when I have done any writing in the six o’clock hour, I frequently end up with the shortest word count for the day’s work. Or I end up having Googling mishaps like the one I had last week.

Google. Most of the time, I turn off the Internet, and especially–believe it or not–Facebook while I am within my ninety minutes per day schedule. But I do make an exception for Google.  Like when I can’t remember an Italian word. An important portion of the story I am telling in my book features an Italian immigrant family on New York’s Lower East Side in the early 1900s. I took some Italian several years ago, and I’ve visited Italy a few times. I also happen to be a native speaker of Spanish, which has a lot of words in common with Italian. But at low-productivity early morning hours, I forget most of the Italian words I know. I would hereby like to strongly advise against entering the words Italian and ass in the same search. <Shudder> Still wish I could un-see those results. And yes, I know that it’s the same word in Italian as it is in Spanish, too. In my defense, I was on little sleep and I’d had no caffeine or nourishment when this happened.

Then there are times when I don’t have one of my New York City maps with me, even though I keep one upstairs and one downstairs for quick access because it is a constant reference. These are also times when I resort to my good, if dangerous, friend Google. The main downfall there is that I end up seeing names of restaurants in close proximity to some of the locations I’m researching, and before I know it, I am reading Yelp reviews for restaurants, and mapping out where to eat on my next escape research trip to the City.

Food and drink. Some writing friends I have spoken with recently are very keen on having a glass of wine while writing. This tends to be an utter impossibility for me, given that I do most of my writing either in the very early morning, or mid morning while my little boy is in preschool. I do, however, find that I absolutely need to drink something, and that needs to be a hot drink. Otherwise–true story–I end up sitting in the library or Whole Foods wearing four layers of sweaters, a fifth sweater wrapped around my legs, a scarf, a hat, and fingerless gloves. I like to think that this completes my look as a starving–albeit full-figured–artist. Now all I need is a garret on the Seine.

Last Saturday, my husband and I were on our first overnight getaway together (senza bambino) since becoming parents. After dinner at a rather pretentious restaurant where, to be fair, the deliciousness of the food made up for its overpriced small portions, he and I headed for–wait for it!–the hotel bar. If you knew us, you would know that this in an uncharacteristic thing for us to do. In fact as we sat there ordering a drink, we determined that neither of us could remember when we had last had a drink at a bar together. I still had writing to do that night, so I decided to test the theory of writing while sipping something alcoholic, and see how the creative juices flowed. I ordered a liqueur that we were introduced to years ago by my husband’s beloved aunt, called Drambuie. I will say, it was as delightfully warm and sweet as I’d remembered. But I did not find that it did much for my writing per se. I did, however, taste wasabi peas for the first time at that bar. Yum! I think crunching on the peas did more to fuel my story-telling while the Drambuie did more to make me sleepy.

I wish I could say that my Googling “accident” happened on the one occasion when I engaged in drinking while writing, but I think I still have a good excuse. This final picture is of part of the overpriced dinner we had Saturday night. Just because. I mean, a fourteen dollar scallop is just worth sharing, I think. And because it really was very good. And the scallop came with a celery root puree (another first for me that night) which I also found wonderful. Celery root and wasabi peas, two thumbs up!

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Report: Week One of Writing “Boot Camp”


My new novel-writing schedule of ninety minutes a day, six
days a week has been kicking my Puerto Rican behind. There are many, many
logistical issues, which are not to be underestimated.
But one concept that has really been at the forefront for me
this week has been what I am going to refer to as tolerance of ambiguity. I first became formally familiar with this
concept in my first year of graduate school. I was in a class about teaching
Spanish as a second/foreign language, and tolerance of ambiguity was discussed
as a powerful indicator of a successful foreign language learner. Though I
wasn’t consciously aware of it in my first experience as this type of learner, I
know I must have used tolerance of ambiguity very successfully in some form or
another when I learned English as a young child when Spanish was my first
language. Basically, you know you are occupying one room at a time in a large building
full of many other rooms, most of which remain dark and closed off to you. But
you push through, putting in the time and
plenty of elbow grease, until eventually all the rooms have been opened and lit up brilliantly for you, and you have been
granted the power to move in and out of them with complete freedom. As a
bilingual who also happens to speak a few other languages with varying degrees
of ability, I can tell you, there is a very real sense of transcendence when this
Since learning to apply the concept of tolerance of
ambiguity to language learning, I have also applied it in many other areas of my
life. You accept the unknown, bide your time, and continue to work through it.
I often deployed it when I was dating. And I still do anytime I read a novel, a
suspenseful story where every chapter is a cliffhanger. Or when I meet
a new person that I can’t read and what I would really like is to be able to
“figure them out.” Going on a trip to a brand new place. Starting anything new. Parenthood! Parenthood and
accepting the unknown: Subject for another time.
Writing my first novel is challenging my tolerance of
ambiguity in many new fun—and annoying—ways. And it’s different from
cliffhanger chapters in a book I am reading. Because that is a finished product
where the resolution to the ambiguity has been built in already. By someone
else, thank you. My only investment is in turning the pages. And it’s an easy
one ultimately, because in those cases, generally speaking, I know the unknowns have been resolved,
the loose ends nicely woven together.
But now that it is my
work to do the weaving? My mystery “building”
where most rooms are still closed off and in the dark? These are just some of
the questions/issues I have confronted this week:
Where will one particular story line go?
How, exactly, do the different story lines come together
toward the end? Right now they are like hoses that are flailing around waiting
for me to tame them, to tie them together, perhaps not in one perfectly
straight line, but in something that at least resembles a cohesive whole.
Am I going to end up getting rid of this entire scene anyway?
So why am I focusing on it this long?
When should this or that issue be introduced? How much does this character know/see?
For the characters that need to die, how, exactly, will they
die? (I’m like Emma Thompson in the movie Stranger
Than Fiction
, only she is a chain-smoking Brit and I am a nonsmoking Puerto
Rican. Yes, because that’s the only difference.)
How much am I willing to piss off my would-be readers by
hinting at things that don’t get spelled out for several chapters? Do I even
have it in me to build this kind of tension like this?
Will this ever be a finished product that I will hold in my
hands? Will anyone else, besides my husband, my parents, and my siblings, ever hold
it in their hands?
One day I wrote 1800 words. One day I wrote just over 900.
Some days I stare at the computer with the beginnings of a stomachache because nothing! is coming to me. Other times my
fingers on the keyboard can’t keep up with what I am thinking, and I start getting antsy and making
notes in different places and wondering when I am going to have time to get
back to these notes, how I am going to find them all, and maybe if I spent more
time WRITING and less time thinking and making notes I wouldn’t have to wonder
this in the first place.
Again, these are just some of the questions. But I accept
them because I have seen the payoff, time and again, of embracing the unknown
and tolerating moments—or years—of ambiguity. And the truth is I feel so alive
as I do this that that is enough. This
is its own payoff in this moment of uncertainty. Not simply because it has to
be, but because, actually, it is!

Photo quote from

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One French Mother’s Day

In early June of 2009, my husband David and I traveled to France, and rented a self-driven house boat on the River Lot for one week. We thought it would be fun and romantic. Even relaxing!

The boat’s exterior was extremely charming. Strangers in other boats would smile and run for their cameras when they saw it. It was also large and sluggish, and difficult to maneuver, compared to some of the faster, slick little boats we saw on the river … usually passing us. Inside the boat, the sleeping areas were cramped and moldy, and the kitchen/living area reeked of years’ worth of accumulated BO. The first night, we killed the boat’s battery after having too many lights on at a time.

The owner had to come rescue us the following morning. He scolded us for having too many lights on at a time. “Oui, oui, we get it.” Subsequent nights were spent in darkness, one dim bulb in use at a time. A few days in, we lost hot water just as I was going to take a shower. Some minutes after that, we realized we actually had no water. Thus we learned about refilling our boat’s water tank, and began to make a note of which mooring stations provided these facilities.

The River Lot also held a delightful surprise that we had not prepared for properly, and that was the locks. Operating each lock was extremely physically demanding, and “parking” the boat in order for one of us to get out and operate it was terrifying. The river’s current was strongest in these locations, and there were many instances when I was certain we were going to hit rocks and/or go over the weir.

So our boat trip was basically the opposite of relaxing. And though there were moments of fun and breathtaking scenery, it did not feel romantic.

One significant stressor that we had also neglected to anticipate when planning our little misadventure was that we happened to have a difficult time finding food. Turns out there were very few grocery stores in the small villages that we had access to on the river. Also, there were not a lot of restaurants, and some weren’t yet open for the official summer season. And the few stores and restaurants that were in operation actually closed for several afternoon hours a day, every day. That was when I learned that the siesta tradition is not exclusive to Spain.

We were hungry. And being hungry in a foreign country, under stressful circumstances, creates a unique feeling of vulnerability.  On the rare occasions when village business hours and our eating and boating hours aligned and we managed to eat at a restaurant, we resorted to always taking the bread, shoving it in our bag when no one was looking. A hot meal was a rare luxury. Bread, cheese, and chocolate became our staple foods, with wine at the end of the day.

So it was that one evening we came to a small, family-run restaurant in a secluded camping area, which happened to be open for dinner. A warm and friendly woman seated us. The tables and chairs were (cheap) plastic patio furniture. The woman told us, apologetically, that they were not completely set up for summer yet. But we were so relieved to find this place, and so comforted by her kind welcome, that we didn’t mind. We proceeded to inhale a basket of bread the moment it was placed in front of us, and promptly ordered two glasses of champagne to toast the occasion. We also ordered a bottle of water, and finally allowed ourselves to relax a little while browsing the menu.

By the time the friendly woman came back with our drinks, we were straight-up giddy about all the food we were about to eat. Before she could take our order, however, our new friend wanted to make sure we understood that it was cash only. The restaurant typically accepted payment by credit card, but because they were not yet set up for summer, they didn’t have the ability to do so that particular week. One week later, no problem. Just not that day.

David and I quickly realized that with the roughly 30 Euros we had in cash, we’d only be able to order one entrée for the two of us. We looked at each other, took one quick glance back at the menu, and settled on a plate of sausage and fries. It was all we could afford. The woman saw what was happening, and offered to split the entrée into two plates, so we each could feel like we were getting our own dinner.

When the two plates of food came out, each one had a whole sausage, and was piled high and heavy with fries. Our friend had a big smile on her face. The photo below shows David’s plate thoroughly cleaned, and mine well on its way, plus two empty bread baskets on the table; the second helping of bread we received—free of charge—had probably already made its way into one of our bags. On top of the other empty basket sits a red rose.


When we first arrived at the restaurant, our friendly waitress had offered me a flower in honor of Mother’s Day (that day happened to be Mother’s Day in France). This was before we had our son. So I thought it was very nice of her, but I tried to tell her, “Thank you, but I’m not a mother.” It didn’t feel right to accept the flower. But she insisted, simply saying that she really wanted me to have it.

A few days later, we’d had enough of boating in France. We were sporting bruises and blisters. I’d wake up in a panic at night, with visuals of either the inferi from Harry Potter, or of our boat coming unmoored and drifting toward the nearest rock, which was sure to break us in half … right before the inferi came out for us. We’d been smart to plan our Paris stay—our real vacation—for after the boat instead of before. I contacted our hotel in Paris to ask if we’d be able to check in a day early; they said yes! So we cut our first and last boating vacation short, and gleefully boarded a train back to Paris, where we had a wonderfully romantic and relaxing few days. Nine months after that, I became a mom.

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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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