Monday, February 27, 2006

Dr. Mom, Medicine Woman

I've been battling a migraine for most of the day and have tried every conventional trick in the book: caffeinated tea to shrink the blood vessels, earplugs to drown out the construction down the block (will they ever finish that building?), ibuprofen (3 every four to six hours but no more than 12 in twenty four hours...Wait, what?). Sleeping helps, but there's only so much sleeping I can do before I end up wide awake at 11pm with a full day of meetings ahead of me (too late). So, I'm lying in bed and I'm thinking, "Mom would have had the Vicks on my temples hours ago."

My mother once told me that if she had come to the US as a young girl, she would have studied to become a nurse. (She also said she wouldn't have married and she certainly wouldn't have had children. Thanks, Mom. I've got to go to therapy now.) I can picture her in peach colored scrubs, stethoscope around the neck, clipboard in one hand, giant jar of Vicks in the other.

If you're familiar with the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding, then you're already familiar with my mother. Just substitute Nia Vardolos' father in the film with a tiny Cuban woman and arm her with a little jar of Vicks VapoRub (or bibaporoo as it was pronounced in our house) and you've got the picture. My mother used (or tried to use) Vicks on us for everything, and I do mean everything. Got a pimple? A little Vicks will clear that right up! No, Mom, it really won't. As a matter of fact, it will make it infinitely worse. Obviously, she reached for the Vicks if one of us had a chest cold. She'd toss a spoonful of it into the vaporizer and rub a handful on our chests. She'd also try to speed up the effectiveness of the Vicks by heating up a chest sized piece of paper bag over an open flame and applying it to our chests. Don't worry, she'd let it cool for a second, she's not a monster.

My mother's home remedies and the subsequent stories that accompany them are legendary in our family. They range from the slightly bizarre and somehow effective (for hiccups, stick a piece of thread to your forehead. Thinking about how crazy you look will distract you from the hiccups, curing them in minutes. Don't' ask me how you get it to stick. ) to the simple, completely outrageous and in no way effective. My sister will often call and give a full report of Dr. Abreu's latest medical breakthrough. The most spectacular of these stories involves my brother and a jar of Vicks.

My brother was staying with my parents at their old place three years ago when his foot started to bother him. He works in a very busy restaurant, so it's not surprising that he occasionally hurts himself. His symptoms were eventually diagnosed as gout, but not before my mother stepped in to take a look. She counseled that he should lie down, rub his foot with some Vicks and all would be well. My brother argued (as gently as he could, I'm sure ) that the Vicks wouldn't help matters and that he'd be seeing a doctor about it. That was his first mistake. His second mistake was falling asleep on her watch. As the story goes, my brother was sleeping soundly when he felt something on his ailing foot. He awoke to find my mother crouched by his bed, rubbing a healthy dose of Vicks onto his foot. It was the middle of the night and my brother did not react well. My father, my sister and I all had a good laugh about it, and really, isn't laughter the best medicine?

Friday, February 24, 2006

Play that crappy music

You know how everyone thinks they have good taste and a sense of humor? I think I have bad taste and a good sense of humor about the music I like. As the youngest of three (my sister and brother are 12 and 13 years older, respectively), I had no control over what was on the stereo. We listened to Tavares, the Commodores and the Jackson 5, among others. Not bad, right? My father loved music and listened to the radio from the minute he got up until he went to bed, so I got plenty of exposure to Celia Cruz, Johnny Ventura and other Latin musicians. My sister later turned me on to the Who and Van Halen. Eventually, my siblings left home and I started to develop my own tastes, no thanks to the influence of 80's pop radio. The first album I bought with my own money? Rick Springfield, Working Class Dog. My record collection included some Whitney Houston (pre-Bobby), Rick Astley (did you think he was big black dude, too?) and Duran Duran (the hair! the clothes! the makeup!). There was some good stuff in there too, INXS and the Police come to mind. But to be truthful, if it was a cheesy eighties song that I could sing along with and dance to, then I was all over it. And forget about the ballads. It does not get any more craptacular than Tiffany singing "Could've Been." Remember Air Supply? Yeah, loaded onto my ipod.

I had banner week at the office, musically speaking. A sampling: Andy Gibb's "I Just Want to be Your Everything", Adam Ant's "Goody Two Shoes" and Scritti Politti's "Perfect Way" (you're asking yourself "what the hell is a Scritti Politti?" I know you are, and I don't care). The boss walked into my office yesterday afternoon and caught me listening to Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart". He didn't bat an eye. He knows how it is with me. The heart wants it wants, and yesterday my heart wanted musical cheese.

My boyfriend is a musician. My best friend is a sound designer and loves music, to put it mildly. They love me in spite of my penchant for Justin Timberlake and have made valiant efforts to teach me about other kinds of music. Actually, I think they're in cahoots and trying to reprogram me. It's working, a little. Not only do I now know that AC/DC has had more than one lead singer, I have a preference (Bon Scott, in case you're wondering). I've been known to identify Rush when they come on the radio (TOM SAWYER!!!). I can tell the difference between Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd for crying out loud. But sometimes the "crap" that's out there gets in and sticks (Is it bad that I love Kelly Clarkson and Mariah Carey?) And, of course, all the crap I listened to as a kid can never be erased. I'm not embarrassed. Life's too short not to dance, so I'll just turn it up and sing a little louder to drown out your snickering. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've gotta cut loose...Footloose.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Never can say goodbye

My sister sent me some photos of my niece last night and suddenly, I felt every one of my 33 years, 8 months and 4 days. She's 13? She's in junior high? Already? This happens pretty frequently now. My nephew is eight. My brother has his own brood of four, ranging in age from 23 to 13. Why am I so startled by it? Simple. I'm no longer the baby of the family. I have a degree, a mortgage and some gray hair. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to go back in time. The now is great, I wouldn't change a thing. Ok, I would change one thing.

It's been two and a half years since my dad passed away. I think about him every day. I can't watch a baseball game without him, certain types of music will bring him around, in my dreams he's always at his best: healthy, laughing and real. I do my best to cope with missing him, but today was a hard one. I went to the funeral of a colleague's parent. It's hard to see someone else go through
losing a parent and not relive your own loss. At least, for me, it is.

As funerals go, my Dad's was awesome. He would have loved seeing all those people together. It was standing room only and it was a testament to the kind of person he was. Business associates, lodge brothers (he belonged to three, all involving fezes, swords and other strange accoutrements), his childhood friends, his children's friends. The folks from the Senior Citi (that's how my mom says senior citizen center) literally came by busload. It was overwhelming at times, I hadn't seen a lot of those people since I was a teenager and they all had stories to tell. Stories I'd never heard about his life in Cuba, stories I was too young to remember about when I was little, stories that people could barely finish telling because they were laughing too hard. I felt like learned more about him in the week before he died and at his funeral than I learned the whole time he was in my life, which is sad in a way. I treasure these stories. I can't get enough of them. My sister and brother tell the kids stories about their "Papi", who he was and how much he loved them. There are pictures of him all over all our houses. I have a lot of my own stories, some of which have only recently come to the surface of my memory. My mother told a couple at Thanksgiving that I had never heard. She'd had a couple too, that always helps. OK, she'd had five.

I can deal with the fact that one of my nieces will be taller than I am in matter of months and another is already four inches taller. I am ready for the phone to ring and for my sister to regale me with stories about mothering teenagers. I'm even preparing to embark on some home renovations and get an IRA. So, I'm not the baby anymore? I'm OK. I'll always be my Daddy's girl and I wouldn't change a thing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

In da Club

My parents came to the US in 1968. My father ran his own dental lab (he made dentures for everyone in town and was often paid in steaks), my mother worked in factories (Devonsheer Melba kept us in croutons for 15 years, A&E stores provided a good discount on the latest styles for 10 more). These were not glamorous jobs by any stretch. Mommy and Daddy went to work in jeans most of the time, granted my father liked to have his jeans dry cleaned, that's another story. But on the weekends, look out! If they were going to the Club, they were dressed. (Club Camajuani is a social organization made up mostly of people from my mother's hometown, Camajauni.) You did not go to the club in jeans and a t-shirt, unless you were looking to get whispered about by the folks playing dominoes for the rest of your life. In case you didn't know, Cubans are not good whisperers. I accompanied my parents to the Club from the time I was old enough to sit on a bar stool. I was a combination mascot and little princess. I'd people watch, drink Shirley Temples, play songs on the jukebox (I distinctly remember they had Sir Richard Harris's version of MacArthur Park and the Spanish version of that classic, Feelings...whoa, whoa, WHOA, feelings) and be fawned over by my parents' friends. My father always wore a suit and tie. My mother wore an equally fancy outfit, often chosen by my older sister. I love my mother, but really, she should not be left to her own devices when putting together an outfit. Three words: Lavender sweat pants. Four more: from the children's department.

Like I said, everyone who went to Club Camajuani was dressed and groomed like film stars. Many of the ladies would have their hair done on Saturdays before showing up at the Club. This was evident from the tightness of their chignons, the poufiness of their teased out "football helmet" styles and the scent of Aqua Net mingling with their Chantilly perfume. Some ladies regularly dyed their hair to cover up the gray. Jet black was popular, as was Ash Blonde. But the color that lives on in memory is Cuban Red. How to describe it? It's not punk, these are respectable Cuban ladies after all, but it's not natural. It's actually pretty fabulous. Take candy apple red and mix in a healthy dose of aubergine, maybe a smidge of black to tone it down (HA!). Depending on how the light hit it, you could have a moment where you'd wonder "Is her hair purple? Oh, wait, nope. Cuban Red" My mother had a very dear friend who sported Cuban Red hair from as far back as I can remember and she was, in a word, fierce. You know how Liza Minnelli is sometimes called La Liza or Liz Taylor is La Liz in the tabloids? Rosita called me La Christy (my middle name is Christina), from the time I was a baby. How beautifully absurd is that? She passed away a few years ago, but I think of her whenever I see a woman working some Cuban Red. It happens more often than you think. My best friend sent me this text message last year while at an airport in Florida : "There's a woman standing on the other side off baggage with Cuban Red hair and a belt that has a red LED buckle that scrolls 'what u want bitch' " Somewhere, Rosita is throwing her head back and laughing her ass off.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Keep feeling caffeination

Is it the taste? Is it the jolt? Or is it simply the familiar? Ever since I was a kid, I've been caffeinated. Coca-Cola, iced tea, espresso in the morning.That's right, a demitasse of sugared espresso in the morning to accompany my giant bowl of Frosted Flakes. No child was more psyched to hit the second grade than I. Multiplication tables? BRING IT ON! I had my coffee this morning! Keep in mind that this was in the mid to late seventies, when kids where still riding in the front seat on the laps of their unseatbelted mothers, so the effects of sugar and caffeine on children were not generally considered. Also, I'm Cuban and espresso is the Cuban people's regular coffee. Some parents would water down their child's coffee with a hefty dose of milk, but not my mother. This might explain why I measure of all of five feet two inches (who am I kidding? My people are a tiny people, the coffee had nothing to do with it).

Lately, I've fallen back into Coke is it! mode. I'd been really good about drinking water, cranberry juice and the occasional beer (or four) for a while. I was limiting my caffeine intake to one cup of coffee or tea in the morning and maybe a Snapple with lunch. But suddenly, well, Coke is it. There is nothing like an ice cold fountain Coke (yeah, I said a FOUNTAIN Coke) to accompany my three Doodle Burgers. That will turn your day around like nothing else.

Sometimes I try to fool myself into believing that caffeine has no effect me. " I've been drinking coffee and soda all my life, I've developed an immunity." Utter foolishness, I know. I'll brazenly order a cup of coffee (or espresso, if I'm feeling like an especially fancy pompous ass) to accompany my chocolate lava cake at the end of a huge meal, thinking that I'll be able to sleep without issue. Fast forward to 1am, and me rereading back issues of Real Simple magazine, wondering why I can't sleep. My body may be tired, but my brain needs to look at articles about how to organize my bathroom vanity in order to calm down enough to sleep. Otherwise, I'll be up all night, organizing my bathroom vanity or some such nonsense just to wear myself out. I think Homer Simpson said it best when he said, "I love you too, Pepsi." But only if there's no Coke.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Why now?

Good question to ask myself. Why a blog? Why now? Why put myself out there? (this is assuming anyone would want to read what I have to say). It's been three years since I kept any sort of journal. I stopped writing a few months before my father passed away (more on that some other time). I just didn't feel like I could cope with everything that was going on and then relive it on paper. A strange reaction, considering that since age 13, writing in my journals had been the best way for me to deal. I used to write poetry, too (the sensitive, swoony, brooding type, what else?) and maybe I will again (how's that for a threat?). So, have I been keeping everything bottled up? Not really. Anyone who knows me knows I'm pretty much an open book. Ask me anything, I'll shoot straight for better or worse. But lately I've been feeling like it's time to flex that writing muscle again. I write a lot at work, (memos, a newsletter, emails) but this is different. This is for me. This IS me. I've had some encouragement from Mike and some of my friends to just jump in, go for it. I suppose I could go around in my head about it for days, but I won't. My best friend said something that cut to the chase. "The important thing is that you're writing." She's a good chase cutter, that one.

The early bird is sleeping...

And this night owl is still up. Mike has been asleep for two hours now, while I'm, well, I'm here. I debated staying in bed and watching him sleep (too creepy, I never do that. Seriously), reading (too noisy, I'm reading I'm a Stranger Here Myself and I keep laughing) or just trying to sleep (impossible at 10pm, ever since my sister let me stay up as a kid to watch Hart to Hart and Trapper John MD). I got up and tried to check in with a friend, but he didn't answer, so I flipped on the TV and started surfing. Some thoughts on what I saw:

Grey's Anatomy: Looked good, but I didn't want to get sucked in this late in the game. Then again, I didn't start watching ER until George Clooney got the Caesar cut, so maybe I'll give it a chance. Am I the only one who looks at Patrick Dempsey and thinks Can't Buy Me Love? I can't be. Note to Dr. Grey: eat something! I'm pretty sure she looks like she's going to cry because Dr. McDreamy not only stole her heart, but also her sandwich. (I'm not hooked, but I've seen enough to know or think I know who Dr. McDreamy is. It's Ronald from Can't Buy Me Love, right? It is.)

Ice Dancing on the Olympics: I learned tonight that the difference between ice dancing and figure skating is that ice dancing does not have any jumps or flights of fancy. Just dancing, on ice. So, why was the Canadian team doing some sort of lift and spin in the middle of their salsa? That poor woman lost her grip and landed so hard on the ice, she had to limp to the holding pen to await scores. And how the hell do you limp on ice skates? I bet that shit doesn't happen in curling, oh no!

Law & Order SVU: My favorite of the L&O series. Apparently the USA Network can only run this show in 5 episode marathons and for this, I am grateful. Who do you think would win in a cage match of psychologists? Dr Elizabeth Olivet from the original L&O or Dr. George Huang from SVU? Olivet is scrappy, but my money is on Huang. When Ice T and Richard Belzer have your back, you have no fear.

Celebrity Fit Club: Holy Crap, I can't look away. Bruce Vilanch went to visit his mother in Boca (where she summers)! Jeff Conaway came back from rehab and is still a freaking mess (Kenicky, I am so disappointed in you)! Tempestt Bledsoe went to Laughter Yoga (Vanessa, it is ok to smile. Claire and Cliff want you to be happy AND skinny)! Gunnar Nelson IS NOT FAT! (Why is he there? You know everyone is thinking it. Again, NOT FAT).Kelly LeBrock saved Countess Vaughn from the climbing wall (you go girl)! Chastity Bono & Young MC lost no weight, but they are hanging tough! Totally watchable. Oh, and did Ant have his eyes done? Is Dr Linda sleeping with Dr Ian AND Sgt Harvey? I'll find out next week when I watch the 90 minute finale!

Did I mention I'm working tomorrow? Sleep, I need some sleep.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Ok, I don't know why, but I have been completely sucked in by Olympic curling. Is it because it's on all the time (or seemingly all the time)? Is it because of the screaming (WHOA! SWEEP! GO! WHOA!)? Is it because the first time I saw it was last week in a Montreal hotel room and now I've somehow been converted by that cold, crisp, Canadian air into someone who wants to watch sports involving ice? Is it because it combines the best of elements of bowling (throwing something heavy, wearing fancy shoes, sporting the latest in team fashions) with the best elements of shuffleboard, croquet and bocci (skillfully knocking someone else's shit out of your way for no reason other than it is someone else's shit and it is in your way)? Mike and I were actually online last night looking up the rules! For real. Funny thing though...the more I talk to people about it, the more I hear the words "Ohmigod! ME TOO!" Keep on sweeping, Team USA!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Look ma, no pen!

First day with the new blog and I'm trying to figure out the system without pulling out what little hair I have. I'm trying to be patient with all of this, but as someone whose biggest journaling problem in the last twenty years has been running out of ink, all this technology is going to take some getting used to. I sort of feel like Doogie Howser, minus the freckles, blonde curls and tennis shoe wearing, stethoscope wielding genius. I'm hopeful that, at the end of these 22-minute episodes I call my blog entries, I'll have learned something. Maybe you will too.