Saturday, December 29, 2007
Toughest thing I had to do: " Hearts will be practical only when they are made unbreakable." The Wizard of Oz. Yeah. Still dealing with this, so I'm not going to get into it. It's been tough. It will get easier. It has to. Moving on....
Proudest Personal/Professional Moment: Completing the Greater New Haven Leadership Program. I had been nominated to be a part of this class before, but this year I really felt ready to do it. Our team developed a four part program for young girls entitled GURLZ: Just Be Yourself! We spent a day with the Girl Scouts talking to them about everything from individuality to inspiration. It was so amazing, I still get teary thinking about it. Here I am with the other GURLZ at graduation. I learned so much from these women. And I learned a lot about myself in the process. It was a wonderful experience that I will cherish forever. By the way, GURLZ stands for Grace, Uniqueness Respect, Leadership and Zest for Life!
Best "What the hell?" moment: Art Weekend II. After a lot of back and forth in my mind (and some not so subtle messages from Kev), I traveled to New Jersey to spend the weekend with some college friends I hadn't seen in years and years. We ate, drank, laughed, made art and spoke that secret language that you can only speak with people you've known since you were seventeen or eighteen. It was just what I needed. I'm glad I went.
Best move in the right direction: Attending the National Writers Workshop this spring. You wouldn't think it would be that hard to do, but the insecure kid in me was scared to death. But I did it, and I'm really looking forward to attending the next one. I know haven't posted much lately, but attending the workshop made me think about my writing, how to make it better and how to keep it interesting for myself.
Best reason to go out on a Tuesday night: Trivia at Anna Liffey's. I know I'm a total freaking geek, but this weekly battle of the brains really opened up a new can of nerd worms for me. The rivalry between our team and One Nut Tattoo is pretty intense. How intense? Our team name changes weekly, but is always a horrible insult to one of the One Nuts. Plus, we laugh our asses off every week and heaven knows I need that lately. Added bonus: sometimes we win cash!
Best reason to stay in on a Wednesday night: America's Next Top Model. The PerKwans and Mrs. Deese come over, we order some food and proceed to heckle Tyra and her faux fierceness for an hour. Is it fixed? Probably. Do we care? Not a stitch. Speaking of stitch... Honorable mention goes to Project Runway for the gayest thing on television. There's the guy with the hats who won't stop crying, the kid with the hair who uses the word "fierce" too, too much, even for a gay guy, the costume designer who reference Joan Crawford in the third episode and, of course, Michael Kors. My favorite quote from this season? "What you got there twirly girly?" "I'm making me a jacket!" This exchange took place between two men.
Best reason for a road trip to the wilds of upstate New York: Poodle's engaged! So, he calls to tell me this wonderful news and for the first time in weeks, the tears I shed are of joy. Scooter and I packed up the hybrid and drove to Ithaca for an engagement party that was not only a true expression of love, but incredibly chic. I don't want to think about how much time they spent baking, all I know is I never ate the same kind of cookie twice. This little party had everything but "Ferns, dancing, every flower east of the Mississippi, wedding cake in the dining room and the groom's cake hidden in the carport." How good was this little fete? I believe the revelers sipped their way through three, yes, THREE bottles of bourbon. Now that's a party! Next day we had breakfast burritos and coffee at the farmers' market. Oh, life in Ithaca is idyllic indeed!
Best rediscovered passion: Dancing. It started one night when I joined the group with no name for a happy hour at Hula Hanks. Next thing I know, I'm looking for people willing to put up with the college crowd just so I can get my groove on. I went out dancing so much this summer, my legs ached on Sunday mornings. It felt great! I'd forgotten how much I love to dance. I think I wore out at least one pair of shoes. Fan-freaking-tastic. Someone needs to open a club that plays Freestyle music, then I'll really be in my element.
Most beautiful place I traveled to: Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This photo says it all. No matter where I looked, there was something beautiful to see. My inner monologue basically consisted of the phrase, "holy crap, would you look at THAT!" I'm glad I went.
Best new family tradition: The Abreu family celebration hat, as modeled by my mom on her seventy-first. birthday. I was the first, but not the last to don this Seussian headpiece. No one was safe from my sister's special purchase. If you were anywhere near her house on your birthday, you were wearing the hat. You'll notice that my mother is SMILING in this picture, so it must be magical. Behold the power of the celebration hat and its ability to make the corners of my mother's mouth turn up in a photo!
I don't think anything can top that last image, so I'll sign off for now. I hope (plan, I mean plan) to be writing more in the coming year, so stay tuned.
A happy and healthy 2008 to you all!
Saturday, December 15, 2007
There’s a lot to be said for unpacking Christmas ornaments by yourself when you’re slightly exhausted and Do They Know It’s Christmas (Feed the World) is playing on the radio. It's a cocktail for tears. To be honest, I was fine until I found the stockings. But, then I pulled out the stockings. I eventually got myself together, blew my nose, hung the wreaths, put out Yukon Cornelius and Hermie (I know you thought it was Herbie, but it’s actually Hermie who wants to be a dentist) and started on my cards while watching back-to-back episodes of Designing Women (I admit to being a fan of Julia Sugarbaker…who isn’t?). I’m not quite full of the holiday spirit, but I’m sure I’ll get there. You know what helps? Maureen O’Hara and Edmund Gwenn.
I watched Miracle on
By the way, I’m the dork you hear sniffling in the theater when Santa starts speaking to the little Dutch orphan girl in…wait for it…Dutch! Her adoptive mother is all, “I told her you wouldn’t be able to talk to her, but she insisted on seeing you, and she’s been through so much…” and then, BAM! Kris Kringle speaks Dutch. I cry. Every. Single. Time. How can you not? It’s the classic example of finding that one other person who gets you. That’s what we all want. To connect and be understood and not feel isolated. And if you can't feel that way at Christmas, well what's the point?
Monday, November 12, 2007
Kev said that (or something similar to it) to me last night. I wish I'd written it down, gotten it exactly right. It's good. And it's true. The distance, the difference between who I am, who I think I am and who people perceive me to be is vast. I don't know if that's good or bad.
True story: I didn't realize I wasn't white until I was three or four (possibly five) years old. I looked in the mirror one day and saw a brown face staring back. It didn't freak me out. I didn't think much of it, other than, "hmm, interesting" or something like that. My parents are brown, my siblings are brown. My mother always referred to us as being "paper bag brown." Why didn't I think I was? I guess I didn't think about it at all. Some people might say I still don't realize it. We're not friends with those people.
Being Cuban means being everything from dark-eyed and deep chocolate brown to being blue-eyed and honey-skinned or lighter. When you grow up in a community that is 85% Latino (heavy on the Cubans), you don't think about it. You all eat the same food, dance to the same music, belong to the same club, look out for each other's kids. It doesn't matter. And then, one day, it does.
I was sitting in English class. There was discussion going on, but I can't remember what it was about. And then I heard it. The boy I had a crush on said, "My parents would never let me date someone who wasn't white." What? Wait a minute. He's not white. He's Cuban, like me. But he's not brown. There it was. Someone had said it out loud. And other people in the room, the people that looked like him, agreed. Their parents would never let them go out with someone who wasn't white. Someone who looked like me.
The thing that's tricky is that my appearance is as much part of who I am as my penchant for the films of Merchant Ivory or my deep abiding love for rocky road ice cream served over Entenmann's pound cake. But looking a certain way makes people think certain things, treat you a certain way for better or worse. There are people who will never want to get to know me, men who will never want to date me. And there are people who will think they know me before they even speak to me. I also need to say that it works both ways. I'm not proud of it, just being real. I realize this is not a major breakthrough in the study of human behavior. To be honest, this is the most comfortable I've ever been in my skin, but I still struggle with my identity. Who am I anyway? Who do people think I am? Does it matter? Should I care?
"You're Cuban? You don't look Cuban." What the hell does Cuban look like? Gloria Estefan or Celia Cruz? Eva Mendes or Cameron Diaz ? All of the above. And me.
Monday, November 05, 2007
It's been ten years since you left. Ten years since we last spoke. And yet here you are in my thoughts, in my blog. Blogs didn't even exist when you left. Why am I writing about you here? Shouldn't this be private, just between us? Maybe not.
What have I been up to? Well, since you asked...I stayed here. Right where you left me. Well, not right where you left me, on the other side of town. Way on the other side. I have a different job, a different home, some new friends, but a lot of the old ones are still around too. I've grown up a lot. I am a very responsible person, except when I am completely irresponsible and do foolish things. Sometimes alcohol is involved, but sometimes not. Sometimes it's just me going with my gut, and my gut being horribly wrong.
My dad died. It's been four years. I still can't believe he's gone. I can't tell you how much I miss picking up the phone and hearing his voice. Today for example, it was cooler than it's been and I thought, "If I called today, he would tell me to stay warm, the weather's changing." I'd give anything to hear him tell me to bundle up, because "You always come down with something when the weather changes." Isn't that crazy? I wanted to call my Dad and have him tell me to bundle up. Of all the things I would want to hear him say, that's all I can come up with now? But that's what he would say, that was one of the ways he would tell me that he loved me.
He was sick for a long time and we were all with him when he passed. I'm blessed to have had him in my life and to have been there when he left his.
Now, let me tell you some good things before you get to thinking that everything has been a mess for the last decade. I live in an adorable apartment, I have a good job, I have some of the greatest friends in the world, and a loving family to keep me grounded. Plus I'm writing again, which I think is a huge deal.
After you left, I wrote a lot. I kept a journal for years. Then I slowed down. When my dad's health got really bad, I stopped completely. I didn't write for a long time. I couldn't write. I wouldn't write. I know, I always write when I'm hurting. It usually helps. But this was different. How was I going to write about this pain without everything inside me going haywire? I thought I had nothing left to say, no words to say it with anymore. I was wrong. I had a lot to say and about a million words at my disposal. I write for work, I write on my blog, I write long letters to people I will probably never see again, I write short cards to people I see all the time. I think I've gotten better as a writer. I even went to a national workshop for writers. And there were some "real" writers there. I guess that makes me real too. Like the Velveteen Rabbit or something.
You've been on my mind a lot lately. That's not so surprising, considering that I've been looking at the stuff I wrote when you were here. I've been tweaking it, posting it, showing it to people. I've been wondering what to do with the book, my book, our book. Should I try to get it published? Is it enough that it exists? These questions are slightly rhetorical, since I think I already know what you think.
Thank you, by the way. For always encouraging me, for being a fan of mine, for everything. Really. I know back then things sometimes seemed a mess, but you know what? I think back to that time and smile. We were young, slightly crazy and slightly a lot of other things. We were supposed to be a mess. Maybe time has colored my memories, but I think, for the most part, we had fun. I relish the good times and I appreciate everything I learned from you. And, yes, I miss you. And...yes...I love you still. Because we grew up together and because you were the first person I felt that way about. And because when you weren't making me crazy, you were making me happy.
Someone asked me once what I would do if you walked back into my life today. Well, once I got over the shock of seeing you and released you from a giant hug, I guess I'd ask you what you've been up to for the last decade. We'd probably end up at Rudy's, because that's where we always ended up. They have real food there now. I know that sounds like crazy talk, but it's totally true.
There's a lot more I want tell you, but I think that's enough for now. In a nutshell, I'm thirty-five years old, living completely alone for the first time in my life and trying to make the most of things. I'm not at the top of my game, but I'm not, as you once put it, "in a foxhole with shells going off around me." I'm not a superman, or a decoy. I'm just a woman in transition. I know there's a bright side somewhere. And I know I'm going to get there soon. I figure as long as I get out the door every morning, anything is possible. I know, I'm still a closet optimist. But that's what you loved about me.
I hope this letter finds you well and happy. And someday, I hope this letter finds you.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Art Weekend II....every freaking minute of it. More on that later.
Beating out One-Nut-Tattoo at Liffey's, AGAIN and feeling like a total robot from the stars.
Eating Indian food and watching ANTM with the PerKwans.
Drew's map and prescription for a happy life.
Getting thank you notes from my niece and nephew.
Feeling like a friendship I thought was broken beyond repair might still have a fighting chance.
Sitting on the living room floor, listening to music and getting tipsy with friends.
Running into an old friend at the Farmers' Market.
Helping a friend find the perfect boots at the Nine West Outlet.
Seeing Lars & the Real Girl with Peter. Then talking about what a great movie it is over beers.
Sleeping "all the way in," then having breakfast on the couch.
Talking to ML while I waited for my laundry to be done.
Laughing out loud while reading Bill Bryson's book, The Life & Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.
Making myself a nice Sunday dinner.
Eating that nice Sunday dinner while watching VH1 Classic ALbums: The Joshua Tree.
Reading Wunderkammer: A Together Life and feeling connected to my friends.
That's a lot of good stuff for a little over ten days, huh? I'm a lucky girl. Hopefully, I'll remember that the next time I feel crappy.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
smelling like a wet dog
eyes pleading to be let in
all those perfect little teeth
begging my forgiveness
you swore it was the
gave you a towel
you sighed from underneath
from my terrycloth grip
you were still grinning
just those perfect little teeth
and the scent of a wet dog
rescued from the rain
Monday, October 22, 2007
I love you.
Is that too much to say?
Too soon to say it?
Every time I see you
I say it.
under my breath,
so you barely know.
Mouthing it to myself.
Like the Hail Marys I whisper
while kneeling in an empty church
on any given afternoon.
Like when I'm walking home
and see that first star.
Only you're that star.
That far off thing
I wish could bring me
what I want.
And I lie here,
lying with her,
praying to her,
wishing on her,
mouthing in her ear.
I wonder if she knows
she's your star
or that you're mine.
Daisy C. Abreu
Anyway, sleeping has been a challenge the last few days. I'm distracted, so I'm reading, watching TV or rocking out a crossword to try to calm my mind. It's not that I'm not tired. I'll be reading an article and my eyes will start to droop. The problems start when I turn out the light. My thoughts get all loud in my head, my anxieties take hold and I can't quiet things enough to get to the good stuff (sleep and a possible dream date with the Cloon...yes HIM again). That's when I pull out the alphabet game. Seems to work. I list authors in alphabetical order (Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Albert Camus, Charles Dickens...you get the idea). If I'm lucky, I'm out cold by the time I hit the middle of the alphabet. I know, why not count sheep? Counting is easy, literature is hard. Also, I count this as credits against all that money I spent learning about these authors in college. That's me, always multi-tasking.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
So, inspiration. I'm not going to pretend to know what it is or where it comes from, but it's out there, right? People get inspired all the time, don't they? Sure. But when I try to think about what inspires me lately, I come up short. Except for tonight when Mr. Doug's posting inspired me to be sitting here, talking to myself and to you and the world. I have this book, The Pocket Muse: Endless Inspiration. It's a series of writing prompts and exercises to get a person writing. I've looked at it once. OK, maybe more than once. It seems daunting. I know I should let go and try one and see how it feels, but I'm afraid. How stupid is that? I'm afraid to try an exercise in a writing book. An exercise that no one will ever see if I don't want them to see it.
I'm experiencing a lot of anxiety lately. I feel like I'm failing miserably in a lot of ways and it scares me. I'm in this holding pattern, this limbo, and try as I might I can't really shake it. I know everything will work itself out, but right now things are harder than I have been letting on to most people. Maybe all of this means I'm about to turn some corner, or maybe it means I have a long way to go. I do feel better writing all this down, so that's something.
Monday, October 01, 2007
The Beginning of the End
As it was in the beginning,
so it is in the end.
Two as one.
Wrapped in each other,
but not believing.
but still hoping
One lets go,
And there they are,
One as two.
Daisy C. Abreu 5/3/07
Monday, September 24, 2007
I know that in the long run I'm going to be OK. I try to remind myself of that regularly. I keep fighting the good fight and trying to take care of myself. I've been worse than this. Much worse. I wouldn't say I'm depressed, I know what that feels like. I wouldn't even say I have the mean reds. Maybe it's just a touch of the blues. So, I need to stay focused and positive, though both of those things seem impossible right now. I know what my problem is. Classic low self esteem. Things happen that are the equivalent of being punched in the gut and I end up reeling. I get rejected or corrected or neglected and I start to think, "Wow, I thought I was cool, but I guess I'm not." The old thinking kicks in, the fourteen year-old girl shows up and I find myself having to rebuild again. I know I'm not that kid anymore, but I was for a long time and it's hard to let her go and send her to her room so to speak. It's ridiculous, I know. It's irrational to feel this way, because, as the man said "feelings aren't facts." That's true, they aren't. But they are still real.
So, I'll keep my chin up and remember that this feeling won't last. Just because I feel like crap tonight, doesn't mean I'm going to feel like crap forever. I'll take a cue from Katie Scarlett O'Hara Hamilton Kennedy Butler and remember that "Tomorrow is another day." I know tomorrow is also a better day.
Monday, September 17, 2007
OK, clarification: Plenty of people have normal boyfriends. Lots of my friends have normal boyfriends and husbands. My point is that in the movies, boyfriends/husbands are either wack job serial killers, wisecracking sidekicks or so incredibly perfect that they ruin it for all the perfectly sweet, somewhat normal men out there. You know, the way Halle Berry and Jessica Alba have ruined it for so many of us perfectly nice, somewhat normal women. I've been thinking about this a lot because I spent Saturday night with one of these incredibly perfect men. His name is Lloyd Dobler. Yes, that Lloyd Dobler. Trench coat wearing, kickboxing (sport of the future), boom box blasting Peter Gabriel's In Your Eyes to win back the girl he loves Lloyd Dobler of Say Anything . OK, maybe you don't think Lloyd is perfect. He's a character in a movie, so he's not even real. But think about it for a minute. Think about all the little things he does. He writes her a letter after they make love for the first time and all it says is "Dear Diane. I'll always be there for you. All the love in my heart, Lloyd." Simple. Perfect. The kind of letter we all dream of receiving. And guess what. Even after she gives him the pen, he's still there for her. (If you haven't seen this movie and have no idea what I'm talking about, go watch it right NOW, if only to see Eric Stolz in a chicken suit). Basically, John Cusack in this movie ruins it for every normal guy out there.
You know who ruins it more? Jake Ryan. Fair-Isle sweater vest wearing, Porche driving, undies retrieving Jake Ryan. Jake Ryan who leaves the Carolyn none of us could have ever been in high school for the Samantha we all were and probably still are. How bad do women have it for Jake Ryan? There's a whole Washington Post article about it. Seriously. There's even an "I heart Jake Ryan" t-shirt. I have one. I wear it proudly. But only around the house. Ever since I wore it out once and the kid (OK, he was 25) at the pizza place asked "Who's Jake Ryan?" I haven't had the strength to wear it out.
OK, so while those are probably the top two culprits, there are plenty more where those came from in the movies. It just depends on your taste. Here are some other "ruiners" I could watch all night long (in no particular order).
Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly), Singing in the Rain: We should all be so in love we dance in a downpour.
Paul Varjak (George Peppard), Breakfast at Tiffany's: Another guy who looks great standing in a downpour. Also, he's a writer and he's beautiful.
Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), To Kill a Mockingbird: A good father, a good lawyer, a great man.
CK Dexter Haven (Cary Grant), The Philadelphia Story: It takes a real man to create an elaborate ruse just to win his girl back.
Macauly "Mike" Conner (Jimmy Stewart), The Philadelphia Story: How did Katharine Hepburn ever choose?
Crash Davis (Kevin Costner), Bull Durham: "I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days." Me too! What a coincidence!
I could go on here. I didn't even mention Day-Lewis and Clooney (if you know my track record, you know it goes without saying). Is it unrealistic? Totally. Do I care? Not so much these days. Nope. You know the song Where the Boys Are? For me, the boys are on Turner Classic Movies, American Movie Classics, and about seven other movie channels. And that's as good as it gets.
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Saturday, August 25, 2007
The air is still.
And so am I,
the stirring has
The ebb and flow,
the constant waves
to not swallow every scream.
brings the peace
but not erase
and prepare for whatever
Daisy C. Abreu
August 24, 2007
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Aside from obvious reasons, I really love being around my guy friends. I love their occasional disregard for ironing, their willingness to try to fix anything whether they know how to or not (I like to call this the MacGyver factor), and their general goofiness, especially when they’re trying to be cool. I love that they can go from asshole to teddy bear in about 25 seconds when necessary. And I love the lack of filter which can result in anything from uncomfortable laughter to absolute shock. Most of the men in my life don’t really have a filter, so as long as I brace myself for an honest answer, I can ask anything I want. (Sidebar: Please don’t think that I am one of those women who have nary a close girlfriend. How can you not have even one other woman to share the girly bits of life with when necessary? I have known women like that and frankly, it creeps me out.) While there’s nothing quite like getting the phone call when you've been crying into your haagen-daaz for days from your girlfirends saying “F**K GUYS! Let’s go dance!” I do have my moments when I need to be around the boys, if only to get a fresh perspective on life. My old roommate was this big, tough, barrel chested guy who worked in theater (he could build anything, seriously) and he always had all these guys coming over to the house to drink and play video games and shoot the shit for hours. Sometimes I would go upstairs and hang out with them. The best part was when they would forget that there was a girl in the room, because give a man enough to drink and he will say anything. I learned a lot about men from hanging out with those guys and I miss them.
There’s a widespread theory that men and women can never be friends because the sex thing always gets in the way. That may be true; I have some experience with that myself. I’ve been hurt by many a boy, but I still love them all. Right now, I’m at a place in my life where I don’t want to have that extra added nonsense. I just want to have a beer, watch the game and learn some new swear words…is that too much to ask?
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
The worst part is not knowing how I'm going to feel from one minute to the next. Actually, the worst part is wondering if I'll ever feel normal again. It's hard to breathe sometimes, it's hard to think straight, it's near impossible to keep my emotions in check. I know that this thing that's happening, this thing I'm going through, people deal with this every day, but how? How do people get over this sort of thing? How does anyone ever exhale again?
Every day, I say to myself, " I need something good to happen, something to make this hurt a little less." I realized today that good things do happen every day, they just aren't always colossal and showy, like winning the lottery. Every day, something good happens, a little reminder that someday, this girl is going to be herself again. Because I have to be, I need to be. Being this way is exhausting and absolutely no fun. So, reminders are good. Like finishing the chocolate ice cream in the freezer while watching Jeopardy, that's a good thing.Or getting a text message from my best friend reminding me that she loves me, that's a great thing. Small victories, true, but if I follow the philosophy of Three Beautiful Things, then I should be OK.
I don't know what's next. The summer has been kind of a blur, and aside from my little trip to Jackson Hole, WY (totally gorgeous out there by the way) I have not had a vacation in the traditional sense. I have friends all over the place, so I could go visit one of them. For right now, I just have to try to take care of myself, not my strong suit at all, but perhaps that is the lesson in all of this. Maybe this not so old girl can learn some new tricks.
Sunday, July 01, 2007
They were slated to perform near the end, right before Ricky Gervais (creator of the original Office) introduced Sir Elton John (creator of wearing a Donald Duck suit in which to perform) and when they came out I have to say I was impressed. They look pretty darn good (OK, they range from totally adorable to smoking hot), they sound great and the new songs are, say it with me, infinitely catchy with just a hint of cheese. Here's a lyric from the single Patience,
Cause I need time
My heart is numb
has no feeling
so while I'm still healing
Just try and have a little patience
Good stuff, right (never mind how timely it is)? Dear itunes, get some Take That on there, so that I can download these songs! I need them! Thanks! Love, Daisy
Oh, and while I'm admitting to loving stuff that you may or may not think is total crap, let me also say that I was flipping between the Concert for Diana and the movie Girls Just Wanna Have Fun on ABC family. I guess I should file the whole day under C for cheesy.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
The same air.
the same air.
Is it choking you too?
Is it making you so sick
that you have to
say that it's my "kind"
that's fouling up your breathing?
Do I have to
get out of
so that you can breathe,
a little easier?
So that you don't feel
like I'm taking
all the air,
and you are left
Do you want me
to apologize for
getting in your
I won't do that.
plenty of it,
and it's free.
Daisy C. Abreu
Here's to better days and this girl breathing easier once the smoke clears.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
You might be asking yourself, "Why the big blowout for your fifteenth birthday? Why not wait until the sweet sixteenth?" Perhaps I haven't mentioned that although I am American by birth location, I am Cuban, on both sides by blood. And any Cuban girl will tell you that number 15 is THE birthday. On your fifteenth birthday you get the big party, you have your portrait taken,and it is about as close as you get to your parents throwing you a wedding without actually getting married. No joke. It's a huge tradition, centuries old, probably.
Here's what wikipedia has to say about the whole thing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QuinceaÃ±era#Cuba
Now, I can be a pretty traditional girl and since the first fourteen years of my life had led me to this huge moment, I was pretty excited about the whole prospect of this party. But, because I am who I am, there were a few things I just wasn't going to have or do.
(1) A tiara...no way was I wearing one of those. I opted for some silk flowers tucked in my french twist. And yes, I had "claw bangs." Again, 1987 people!
(b) a giant pink ball gown (possibly paired with fingerless gloves)...absolutely not. The dress I wore was fairly simple and it was cream, which you might think is a bit bridal (especially since I picked it out of a bridal magazine), but I thought it was perfect. Please note the butterflies embroidered on the skirt...FANCY!
(iii) a court/ladies in waiting...no sir, I was not about to enlist a bunch of my friends to rehearse some choreographed dance every week and make them rent tuxes and what basically amounts to bridesmaids' dresses just because it was my birthday. I had already been there and done that for my cousin and, not to hold a grudge, but the boy she paired me up with had the most calloused hands I have ever held in my entire life.
It was my party, but as my mother pointed out frequently, my parents were paying for it, so there were some compromises. My dress was not pink...but EVERYTHING ELSE WAS. To quote Steel Magnolias "That sanctuary looks like it's been hosed down with Pepto Bismal." My mother enlisted her best friend Rosita (of the sassy attitude and Cuban Red hair) to handle the decorations, hence the pink centerpieces, pink favors (little plastic ballet slippers or fans with my name, the date and the phrase Mis Feliz Quinces printed on pink ribbon that you could pin to your clothes...seriously) and the arch of pink and white balloons where my pink and white cake AND my quinceneara doll were displayed (true story: that doll is one of the few things my sister was allowed to bring from Cuba in 1968 and we still have it. You can't argue with that, can you?). My mother and sister both wore pink dresses and my father and brother wore beige suits. My corsage was made up of fifteen tiny pink roses and it was the most beautiful, sweet smelling corsage ever produced. I kept it in the fridge forever. And yes, I had my portrait taken by Nene, the man who had been my family's official photographer since before I was born. I had a photo shoot at his studio, where many, many photos were taken of me in very, very dramatic poses (there are a couple I refer to as my Scarlet O'Hara look). They are all in an album at my mother's house and one is framed. OK, full disclosure: one of the portraits (the one my mother let me choose...again, compromise) is an 18x24 print in a very ornate gold frame that hangs in my mother's living room. It goes with the 18x24 print of my first communion photo, also hanging in a very ornate frame in my mother's living room and also taken by Nene.
I know all of this sounds like I was a very pretty princess when I was that age, but really, I wasn't. My party wasn't a small affair, but it wasn't a total blowout either. When I watch My Super Sweet Sixteen on MTV I am totally baffled, if not a bit sickened by the extravagance. Granted, I went to my share of fifteen and sixteen birthday parties in high school, and yes, some where fancier than my party, (some girls had choreography, some girls didn't. Some girls just had their portraits taken and had a slumber party instead) but nothing, nothing like what I have seen on this show. Seriously, getting 50 Cent to perform at your birthday party? Come on! Looking back now, I think the difference, aside from the amount of money spent, is that the parties were about our little community. My party was held at my parent's club, which was a hall that could be rented, but membership had its privileges. One of my mother's friends gave me the fabric for my dress as a birthday present. Another friend's gift to me was actually making the dress (let's call it Cuban couture, shall we?). My Uncle Congo owned a restaurant, so he and his family pretty much donated the food. One of my siblings' high school friends was a DJ, so he spun the tunes for dirt cheap. See what I mean? It was kind of the equivalent of when Mickey Rooney says to Judy Garland in one of those Andy Hardy musicals "I know! Let's put on a show in the barn!" and then everyone pitches in where they can. Nice, right?
My party, and the parties my friends had, were really about having a good time, celebrating the fact that we were becoming young women and hanging on to our parents' traditions out of love and respect for what they had sacrificed to bring our families to the States. And yes, they were about eating great food and dancing all night and watching our parents get loose with a few drinks to join us on the dance floor. Not just the parents, actually. Someone put a certain uncle in charge of guarding the booze so that the older kids would not end up drinking. Long story short, my party was the one where they had to stop the music and make an announcement about all the underage drinking that was going on...now, that was memorable.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
From the end of June through the middle of August, I shuttled from my home in New Haven to my sister’s place in New Jersey every weekend. I’d work Sunday through Thursday then catch an early Friday morning train to catch up on the what I had missed. I called home every day after work, trying to keep up with what was going on and struggling to keep it together when the news was not so good. I tried to make sense of all the medical jargon I was being hit with, but I couldn't. I tried to throw myself into my job, the only distraction I had, but I failed. I found myself on the verge of tears all the time. I was frustrated because I couldn't be there all the time. Mostly, I felt useless. I felt guilty and I was exhausted. I was tired, but I was supposed to be coming in on the weekends to relieve the others. What could I do? Like I said, useless and guilty.
One Saturday toward the end of July, I found myself alone with my father for the first time since before his diagnosis. We had a few hours together without the usual steady stream of visitors and well-wishers. I remember feeling uncomfortable, but I don’t remember why. I sat with him and we made small talk: baseball, who had come to visit and when, the latest antics of my sister’s kids. I made sure he ate his breakfast, he sent me to get myself some food. A doctor came in to check his vitals and how his surgical incision was healing. I translated English to Spanish and back again. He was ready to sleep after that, so I turned out the lamp, adjusted his covers and held his hand as he drifted off. Watching him sleep, I realized that I wanted to be there, needed to be there as much as he wanted and needed me to be. This was what I could do for him. I could be there to hold his hand while he slept. Eventually, I fell asleep too, but I didn't let go of his hand, I couldn't. I probably slept in that chair for half an hour and my father teased me about it later. But he didn't let go of me either.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
The only service a friend can really render is to keep up your courage by holding up to you a mirror in which you can see a noble image of yourself. -George Bernard Shaw
Thanks, Leeny. And thanks to all of you who hold the mirror for me. I hope I do the same for you.
Monday, April 30, 2007
Sunday, April 15, 2007
I went to seven sessions of my choice and three that were for everyone. I'd say eight of the sessions were really strong. The speakers were impressive, prolific (one author had published four books, all different genres, in 2006!), funny, and down to earth. I even managed to go up to a couple of them, introduce myself and strike up a conversation (WHOA). Those of you who know me well understand what it took for me to do such a thing. I attended a talk about blogging, one about publishing, and two about writing memoirs/life stories. I also went to a session called, "The Best Advice I Ever Got: An Answer in 12 Parts." That's where I finally got the nerve to talk to someone sitting next to me. I met a very nice couple who told me that this year's workshop was a bit more focused on journalism than some they had attended in the past. Also, they shared their snack with me. Hot cross buns with peanut butter. I highly recommend them (if you aren't allergic to PB).
OK, so, I took notes in sessions (a couple of speakers had us do quick writing exercises) and I wrote down some of the things that were said that maybe weren't "part of the script," but really hit home. Here they are:
Your work can save your life.
Nothing bad ever comes from having a book in the house.
It's very important to free yourself from excellence.
There are a couple of techniques I'm going to be trying out in the next few weeks (and maybe posting). One of the speakers suggested writing a letter to someone we haven't seen in a long time. That should be interesting. I also liked the twelve part answer on writing advice. I may post that later.
Overall, I'd say it was a good experience and I'm glad I did it. I still felt like a dork, but not as huge a dork as I normally feel I am. Just the fact that I did this is a really big deal (to me). In my world of baby steps and putting myself at the bottom of the to do list, doing something that was entirely about me and my own pursuit of writing, was a giant leap. I feel good about it and I'm looking forward to next year's event. In the meantime, I'm looking into other local conferences, bookmarking some of the writers' web sites I heard about and making a list of books to check out (some about writing, some written by the authors I met). Also, I am going to reward myself for being "brave" and a little selfish. My reward? I know that feeling like a writer should be enough, but there's some rocky road ice cream in the freezer, so that's where I'm headed next.
Monday, April 09, 2007
So, this writers' conference in Hartford...I know, I can't believe I signed up for it either. I think it will be a good thing. This is me taking another step toward the BIG goal. The sessions look interesting and it's good practice for me to get out there and network. Not a strong suit of mine, the networking. I'm not one to go up to a stranger and introduce myself. I guess it depends on the situation. And since I'm in a frame of mind where I'm thinking most of the people in the room will be "real writers,"I have already begun to psyche myself out. The good news is I have until Friday to really panic, and I'm so busy with other stuff that I just won't have time to make myself nuts. I've just got to ride it out. Stay tuned.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
I don't even know how many times I've seen this movie, but it still gets me. The singing, the dancing, an 18-year-old Debbie Reynolds holding her own with Kelly and O'Connor, a young, nearly unrecognizable Rita Moreno as Zelda (she has Cuban red hair in this one), Cyd Charise of the endless legs and scowling puss, the snappy patter between supporting players:
Click here to enjoy the moment and try not to smile. You feel awesome now, right? I knew it. Gene Kelly totally had powers and he used them for good. Lucky us.
Monday, March 12, 2007
I caught a scent of
sneaking up into my nose today
and filling my head with the
that are two months away.
I imagined a breeze wrapping itself around
my bare calves
as the wool of my socks scraped against them.
An imaginary sunbeam
breaking up the clouds that had gathered
in front of my eyes for so long.
but then my slice of spring vanished.
I was cold
hidden under the layers of these winter days again.
Trying to get back
but realizing I'll just have to
spring promises my bare calves caressed again. wait.
Daisy C. Abreu 2/93
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Note: this originally started as an email to my coworkers about my constant use of nicknames for people. Little did I know I was writing writing, not just sending an email.
The Cuban experience is very similar to being in some sort of witness protection program. NO ONE goes by their real name in Cuban Community, because their real names are too damn long. Take my family for example:
Domingo Guzman Abreu-Fuste: Mingo, Mingollo, Viejo (old man, what my mother called him), Papi (to his children and grandchildren)
Deisy Cristina Dominguez Abreu: China (pronounced Cheena because of her Asian eyes), Mami, Tita (to her grandchildren), Vieja (that's my father called her)
Pedro Julio Abreu: Pete, Chini (pronunced Cheeny,he's his mother's son for sure), Tio (to his nieces and nephews).
Maria Caridad Abreu Rehrig: Ia (I could never pronounce Maria, still can't), Pearl (she was my grandfather's little precious pearl), Perlita (little pearl in spanish), Titi Mari (to my brother's kids), Auntie Mia (to her friend's kids).
Daisy Christina Abreu: Chris (to my siblings and their friends), Cristi (to my parents and their friends), Daisita (I'm a junior), La Nina (to my family when they are talking about me behind my back), Cha-Cha (to one of my parents friends), La Cristi (another friend), Daze (to the world), Daisy-Baby (to Cat), D (to my college friends), Titi Chris (to my nieces and nephews).
Also not included are the number of endearments my parents have/had for my sister and me. They include: Mi Nina (my girl), Melindy (my pretty), Tatico(?), Chuchi (??), Mimi and the dreaded Gordy (as in Gorda, as in fat). My maternal grandmother was known as Mami Pupa. My sister's children call my mother's brother Uncle Tio (Uncle Uncle), which I think is much better than Great Uncle Lucas, don't you?
As for those in my extended family (read, people that I was not related too, but I saw more than my blood relations), if they have real names, I never knew them. A lot of them just went by their last names (Perez, Gonzalez, Lopez), because that's not confusing. Not like there were other people in town with the same last name right? I grew up around people who went by the following: Guapachichi, El Mapo, Lingita, Macuco, Regalao (means gifted), El Nino (like the weather system), Congo, El Mono (the monkey), Panchito, Pachi, Cuca, Nene, Tete, Lassi ...I could go on here people.
As you might have guessed, this phenomenon carried over into my generation. I attended high school with people who went by Santi, Pupi, Humby, Mandy, Hangi and Cuba...that's just the boys.
If you didn't know someone's name or were talking about a stranger, then Fulano or Mengano was sufficient. Females were known as Fulana or Mengana, children were Fulanito or Menganita.
I hope this has been an enlightening class. Next up: Voodoo, White Magic & Catholicism: a Match Made in my Mother's Medicine Cabinet.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
You know what helped? What gave me the little nudge I needed today when I was debating whether or not to speak my mind on something that was important to me? What made me say to myself, "if you don't fight for this thing, this thing that you think other people think is minor, but you think is of some importance, you might not fight for the things that are super important to you ever again" ? This: "When you know your worth, you'll know who's worthy of you." Good stuff, right? A coworker's wife said that to him and he said it to me and now I'm telling you. It's the best thing I've heard in a while. Pass it on.
Monday, January 29, 2007
I'm going to be thirty-five soon, and as a friend said to me at lunch today, "it's like going through turning thirty all over again." I'm not so much worried about turning thirty-five as I am nervous and a little excited. Not as excited as I was about kissing my twenties good-bye and starting a whole new chapter, but excited. There are some things I want to work on and I want to decide what those things are, which ones will be a priority between thirty-five and forty (holy crap! I'm going to be forty!). When I turned twenty-nine, I made up my mind about a lot of things: I decided I was going to quit my retail job and do something else, even though I didn't know what that something else was going to be. I decided I was going to move out of my basement apartment and find something above-ground, even though I didn't know where. I decided that I was going to concentrate on my family and friends, not worry about having a boyfriend, but if it happened, yay for me. I let go of a lot of stuff during that year and allowed myself to try to be happy. I guess it worked: new job, new place and new relationship in five years, with two out of three happening before my thirtieth birthday. I've gained a lot and I'm grateful for what I've learned. (I've lost a lot too, but that's the way it goes sometimes) And it all started with an epiphany.
I was in the City on my twenty-ninth birthday when it happened. Cat and I had just made our annual pilgrimage to Tiffany&Co (I know, I can't help it, I love the sparklies) , and we were headed to Madison Square Garden for the U2 concert (so rocking!). We're standing on Fifth Avenue, getting ready to cross the street, when I heard music. Someone was playing the saxophone. I couldn't see the guy, but I could hear him. He was playing Someone to Watch Over Me.
Don't ask me why, but I started crying. I felt happy and strong and so sure of myself in that moment. It wasn't just because it was my birthday and I'd been to Tiffany and I was on my way to see my favorite band with my best friend. I'm sure all those things helped, but believe me when I say I had never ever felt this way before. Suddenly, I was certain that no matter happened from then on, I was going to be OK. It just happened. I can't tell you how it happened, since it just kind of snuck up on me, but I highly recommend it. Imagine taking the deepest breath you could ever take and, in exhaling, letting go of all the crap you've been holding on to for so long. I had a lot of crap to let go of that I had been hanging on to it for a long time, so letting go felt freaking amazing.
My dad got sick shortly after that and I don't know if I would have the strength to deal with everything that happened that summer and fall (and beyond) if not for that one moment of peace. I've had moments of joy, moments of contentment and, of course, moments where I feel like I've faltered and failed miserably since then, but I don't know if I'll ever have another moment like that one. I didn't know it then, but that the someone who'll watch over me, no matter what? Turns out she's me.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
The short version is that George's dad dies from a number of complications stemming from esophageal cancer. The longer story, for me, is that what the O'Malley family went through is similar to what we went through with my dad, except that it was a longer road for us. Basically, the episode ended, my phone rang and it was my sister on the other end. I answered the phone with the words "OK, that was not cool."There were so many moments in the episode that were very close to my own experience. It was almost too much to take. The week before, when George can't walk into his father's hospital room and we see the scar down Mr. O'Malley has down his belly and the tube in his throat...that was a lot to handle. Things came back to me that I hadn't thought about in a long time. I remember seeing my dad intubated for the first time and it scared the shit out of me. After my dad's surgery, I was the only family member in the room with him when one of his doctors and a surgical intern showed up to check the scar on his belly and remove the surgical staples. Not stitches. Not gauze. Staples. I had to hold my father's hand while some kid in a lab coat used a staple remover on him. I'll never forget that intern's face when he asked about my father's condition and I told him what the deal was. His whole faced changed, like he knew something I didn't. Poor kid, I don't know if it was his first time with a patient who was dealing with what my father was dealing with or what, but suddenly, he looked stricken. He just patted my father's hand and said something like, "Good luck" or "I'm sure you'll be fine." Thinking back now, it was obvious that he knew something long before I did.
But the part of the show that hit the nerve, the part I can't think about without my eyes welling up and a lump forming in my throat is this:
CRISTINA: "There's a club. The Dead Dads Club. And you can't be in it until you're in it. You can try to understand, you can sympathize. But until you feel that loss... My dad died when I was nine. George, I'm really sorry you had to join the club."
GEORGE: "I... I don't know how to exist in a world where my dad doesn't."
CRISTINA: "Yeah, that never really changes."
And there I was. Ripped wide open, sobbing and feeling it all over again. That feeling never really changes. It's so unfair, but it's so freaking true. Yes, I get out of bed every day and I go to work and I spend time with my friends and live my life and all the other things that anyone else does. But there is this underlying feeling that something is missing. There is this piece of me that will always hurt, always long for my dad. I'm still not sure if I know how to exist in a world where my dad doesn't. I try to, but I know that there is no way I will ever fully recover from this loss. My heart's broken. That's a fact of my life. And maybe for the rest of my life, every happiness and every sadness will be tinged with an unspoken "I wish Daddy were here." Maybe. But watching that episode made a difference. It reminded me of how my family came together, how we found out how many people cared about all of us. It reminded me that it is OK to feel that sadness, he would want me to miss him, but he would also want me to go on and enjoy the life I have left to live.
I think what makes it even more meaningful is that the woman who wrote this episode, Krista Vernoff, was drawing from her own experience (click here for her story). She was brave enough to put herself through it all again and tell the story of losing her dad. And that gives me the strength to tell the story of losing mine. I am strong and I am not alone. I have my friends, I have my family and I have my dad with me every day.