Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Year In Pictures

I didn't want to let the year end without sharing some of the moments that stand out in my memory.

2013 is the first year since I moved to Massachusetts that I've seen this much snowfall. Note the snow at the entrance to the garage. And I live here because …

One thing's for sure, this is not where I plan to spend my Golden Years.

Human Development Across the Lifespan was an intensive summer course that I took in which we were required to present our stages of development with a thirty minute presentation at the end of the course. The class was intense not only in the volume of material we covered in seven weeks, but, also, because of the intense emotions and life experiences shared by our cohort.

I think it was the first time I didn't dread knowing a presentation awaited me. My biggest worry was that I wouldn't be able to talk for thirty minutes about myself. Much to my surprise I was so into my presentation that I lost track of time talking about my family and ancestors. The class laughed when I flashed a slide that said to "Google at your own risk."

It was while I wrote my presentation that I discovered that an actual word exists for healing with books: bibliotherapy.

Yes, books heal. 

Hispanicize reinvigorated me. It was loud, colorful and charged with energy. This has become an annual event where I look forward to spending time with mis blogueras amigas-hermanas

Our son is not a little boy, anymore.

Maine in the summer is where I wish to be.

These are smiles that make me happy.

Pearl (top right) arrived via USPS recently. She replaced my rooster Richard (bottom) who had to go live on a local farm where he could do what he does best -- crow. Thank God for great neighbors.

I love Latism and everything it stands for. It's challenged me to step into discomfort. I am a better person because of it. Life is colorless without a sense of community.

I accomplished a lot this year and continue to learn about myself. My two biggest goals for 2014 are to graduate in May and secure a job in my field of study.

Happy New Year, my friends. :-)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Adjusting My Sails

Most of October and the entire month of November don't feel real. A lot has happened. So much in such a short period of time that trying to remember it all makes my heart race.

Latism came and went
A couple of online book clubs
My son's eleventh birthday
Single-handedly building Richard and Samantha's new coop
Sending Richard to live on a farm
and Thanksgiving.

With Christmas and New Year's so near, I reflect on 2013, grateful for the many blessings I've received.

Change swirls about me. My internship at the middle school has revealed where I've known all along that I can make the biggest contribution. I can't help but be a little anxious as 2014 approaches. I feel the direction of Sincerely Ezzy changing.

Thank you all for your support and encouragement.

You know who you are.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Purple Purse -- Pass It On! Help Raise Money For Domestic Violence Victims

This post is part of a compensated campaign in collaboration with Latina Bloggers Connect and The Allstate Foundation. Opinion are my own.

At one time or another, someone close to us has dealt quietly with domestic violence. The fact is that on average, three women die every day as a result of this crime and more than 145 acts of domestic violence are committed every hour. Every. Hour. Change starts at home.

To help raise awareness for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, The Allstate Foundation is sending more than 1,000 purses carrying domestic violence information throughout the country, and I have one of them. These purses are being passed between co-workers, friends, and family, sparking conversations that in many homes might be considered taboo.

Why a purple purse, you ask?

The Purple Purse was created because a purse represents the center of a woman's financial domain and purple is the national color of domestic violence awareness. Purple Purse, now in its third year, helps people start conversations and pass along information about domestic violence and financial abuse by placing the power directly into people's hands with a purple purse.

Help me pass the purple purse ... all we need to do is share.

Source: PurplePurse.com

Facts About Domestic Violence
  • Domestic violence is an issue that impacts millions, but few talk about it. Purple Purse helps people carry on conversations and pass information about domestic violence and financial abuse by placing the power directly into people's hands with a purple purse.
  • Domestic violence affects one in four women in their lifetime -- that's more women than breast cancer, ovarian cancer and lung cancer combined.
  • A majority of Americans agree that domestic violence is tough to talk about. More than one-third of Americans have never discussed the issue with family or friends and Purple Purse provides a conversation starter.
  • Lacking financial knowledge and resources is the number one indicator of whether a domestic violence victim will stay, leave or return to an abusive relationship.
  • For every purple purse passed through the end of October, The Allstate Foundation will donate $5 to YWCA. We'll give up to $350,000 for programs aimed to help domestic violence survivors and stop the cycle of abuse.
  • Visit Facebook or PurplePurse.com for more information.

What's Financial Abuse?

Lacking financial knowledge and resources is the number one indicator of whether a domestic violence victim will stay, leave or return to an abusive relationship. Physical abuse is the type of domestic violence most commonly discussed. But what many people don't realize is that women who are victims of domestic violence are usually subject to financial abuse as well. They often face financial restrictions and are given limited access, if any, to bank accounts, important documents, and information about shared assets. Finances become a tool used by an abuser to control the victim.

If Someone's In An Abusive Relationship, Where Can They Go To Find Help?

Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224 for safety planning, assistance and resources in your area.

What Resources Are Available For Those In An Abusive Relationship?

PurplePurse.com provides a multitude of resources including conversation starters, tips for how to spot signs of abuse, steps to gain financial independence and more.

Would you like to learn more about #PurplePurse?
Don't miss the Allstate Foundation Twitter Party
October 9, 2013

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

#L4LL: Reading LATINA LEGACIES For Hispanic Heritage Month (Week Two)

Did you know we're midway through Hispanic Heritage Month? It's gone by quickly! I'm honored to say that Latinas4LatinoLit invited me and several other ladies to lead book discussions on their Facebook page. Each of us posts weekly questions about the respective book we're reading. All the titles are by Latino authors, some, that like me, you've probably never heard of.

I had the opportunity to chose the title I'd get to discuss, and it probably comes as no surprise that LATINA LEGACIES: Identity, Biography and Community edited by Vicki L. Ruiz and Virginia Sánchez Korrol found its way into my pocketbook. I'm about half-way through this amazing anthology of short biographies. Each chapter is surprising in that it unveils historical facts about Latinas who never made it into our history books, which I think is a shame, because the stories are exactly what history should be made of -- brave, enterprising, and creative figures who positively impacted their communities.

If you have a minute, please visit the Latinas4LatinoLit Facebook page. MY BELOVED by Sonia Sotomayor, UNBREAKABLE by Jenni Rivera, and RITA MORENO: A MEMOIR by Rita Moreno are also being discussed. And feel free to jump in at any time, past and/or current posts. You might find some literacy resources, too.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I'm In New York City

Landed at Penn Station a couple of hours ago and immediately sensed the vibe. You know, the one that energizes you, even if you've only had three hours of sleep. It's not unlike the feeling I get every time I step off a plane in Miami. The only difference being that New York is Miami on speed. Watch out.

I'm here thanks to the help of three friends: Sofia, who's always looking for ways to help her amigas, as I'm now a volunteer at #Latism13, Dania, who invited me to moderate a panel she's on tomorrow at 10 a.m., the Business of Storytelling, and Gina, who I met at my first blogging conference three years, ago.  Overwhelmed with gratitude for their mentorship and friendship.

It's going to be an amazing three days.

In the meantime, enjoy some pictures I took on the cab ride to the hotel. 

If you're wondering, yes, I'm running 100% on adrenalin, at the moment.

Stay-tuned. :-)

Read THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET For Hispanic Heritage Month

Mexican-American author-poet Sandra Cisneros raises this simple question in her timeless classic The House on Mango Street. This book of vignettes is one that can be opened to any page without having to know what came in the story before, or what comes after, and that invites the reader to reflect on the meaning of its passages that at moments come across as bocadillos de amor, tiny morsels of love, and at others, sadness. It’s a book about gender, tradition, family, neighbors, single parents, latch-key kids, obligation, shame … denial. No topic is ignored in this book, that in all its simplicity and poetry, canvasses life in the barrio in so few pages.

Esperanza, whose name means hope, is a young Latina growing up in a poor Chicago neighborhood, in a dilapidated house, who aspires to a life better than the one she sees the women around her living.

She says about her great-grandmother whose name she inherited:

"She looked out the window her whole life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow. I wonder if she made the best with what she got or was sorry because she couldn't be all the things she wanted to be. I have inherited her name, but I don't want to inherit her place by the window."

The passage that’s stuck with me is from one of the last vignettes, The Three Sisters. In it three comadres come to visit when a young baby dies. During the wake, one of the women takes Esperanza’s hands in hers, and foretells that she will “go very far.” The old woman then asks her to make a wish, after which she says,

"When you leave you must remember to come back for the others. A circle, understand? You will always be Esperanza. You will always be Mango Street. You can't erase what you know. You can't erase what you are ... You must remember to come back. For the ones who cannot leave as easily as you. You will remember?"

Esperanza feels shame because her aunt sees into her soul; it’s obvious what the young girl has wished for. Even though Esperanza does not understand the meaning of her aunt’s words, the day will come when she will.

I’m glad I finally read this book. It is one that I think should be required reading for all freshman in high school for the universality of its themes. It’s one I’ve carried around, rereading, pondering the last few weeks, making me happy, and sad with the wisdom of its words. It raises questions and depicts situations that not only apply to our Latino youth and the challenges they face as they seek to improve their lives, but also to any community that has been forgotten by not only its law-makers, but also those who have left. It begs the bigger question, “What can we do to help?”

Other questions raised by The House on Mango Street:
  • How do we ensure that positive role models/mentors are available to youth when their home and/or immediate environment have none to offer?
  • What does it mean to have a sense of duty to our “community?” Does it matter how we define “community?”
  • How do our sense of obligation, culture, traditions and gender expectations influence our choices? Can we ever be wrong?
  • If you have a moment, watch this short video clip in which Sandra Cisneros discusses what inspired her to write The House on Mango Street, where the lines of truth and fiction blurred for her and why she thinks it has resonated so much with today’s youth.
If you're looking for something to read for Hispanic Heritage Month, this is one book I'm certain you'd enjoy as much as I did.

(This post is an edited version of one previously posted on Multicultural Familia in 2011.)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

ONE DOCTOR Examines The State Of Healthcare In The U.S.

As a  member of Simon & Schuster's Galley Alley, I receive promotional copies of books I've chosen to read. I'm not required to write a review. I write and share what I wish. Opinions expressed herein are my own.

Healthcare delivery in the United States is a disaster. Inflated costs by healthcare providers, incentives for non-delivery of services by insurance companies, and the  waning of medical students choosing internal medicine as their specialty contribute to a disjointed system that endangers patients' lives, rations services, and provides the greatest care to a fortunate and wealthy few. Dr. Brendan Reilly's first person account in ONE DOCTOR: Close Calls, Cold Cases, And The Mysteries Of Medicine is an empathetic and disturbing read.

It's empathetic for the medically near-impossible cases Dr. Reilly presents as he rounds with his  students. The reader doesn't meet patients and their families in a detached clinical sense, but as humans, grappling with decisions that no one should have to make. Between these cases, the author discusses his personal struggles in the profession, while sharing family history, as he decides how to manage his own elderly parents' end of life planning. What defines quality of life and when is "enough" enough? 

The disturbing nature of the book has to do with all the mishaps that occur when there's little or no continuity of care. As I read, I started making a list of the things I'll be doing differently moving forward. I learned more than I wanted to know about medical reimbursement, the dying autopsy, the unreliability of diagnostic tests, both positive and negative, the insidious nature of undetectable breast cancer, and the importance of having an advanced directive in place so that my loved ones aren't burdened with making the kinds of decisions presented in this book. Anyone who doesn't have a primary doctor should get one, now.

Monday, August 26, 2013

We Start At A New School This Week

We start at a new school this week. As some of you know, our son attended a small, private school close to home, and when I say "small," I mean K-8-under-one-hundred-students-small, where everyone knows your name. We're moving for a number of reasons, but the only one that matters to us is that our son requested it. He's ready to experience life outside his small brick building. Both Mom and Dad are a little nervous, because this will be a big change, not to mention culture shock for him. There will be no daily chapel, children aren't expected to hold doors open for their elders, he won't eat his lunch at his desk, nor will he be expected to attend eighth grade graduation each year. Having said all that, despite all that we'll miss that made his previous school special, we're proud of him for advocating for himself, stating that he's ready to make new friends, while firmly and confidently letting us know that he is not going to be siting at the peanut table, either.

Today we attend his new school's Fourth Grade Meet-and-Greet, where we'll drop in to the class, meet his new teacher, other parents and classmates. It's a huge fourth grade wing at a school that will be the equivalent of a small high school for a middle schooler used to a small brick building. I'm grateful beyond words for the role the school adjustment counselor, in addition to the other supports, that are being made available to make his transition as comfortable as is possible, for a ten-year-old, transferring to a new school. I can only imagine the anxiety a family must experience if they or their child are new to the country and don't speak the language. What supports are available to them? As a student of school guidance sitting on the other side of the table, I empathize with these concerns, and for that I'm also grateful.

This week we'll be chronicling a lot of firsts. We're not expecting everything to be perfect and we welcome the unpredictability and excitement that starting something new brings. I came across a wonderful article written by Dr. Michele Borba, a renown and multi-book published, parenting expert. The article is titled "Helping Kids Fit In to a New School and Make Friends." She makes some wonderful recommendations you might find helpful if you have a child starting at a new school.

Is there anything special you've done to ease your child's transition to a new school?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Winged Cigars

Learned something new this week I thought I'd pass along, because apparently I don't know much about insects. Earlier this week I noticed a green dragonfly perched on a dry rosebud in my backyard. I crept up to see how close I could get and saw that its tiny jaws chomped on something -- open, close, open, close, its mandibles moved rhythmically. How cute, I thought. The green helicopter is having a snack. Hmmmmm.

Then I remembered an incident from elementary school, when a young girl approached me on the playground. She held her index finger out in front of her, as if she wanted to say, "Number one." I remember asking her at the time what had happened to her finger, because the ruddy tip was smothered in a glob of a vaseline-like substance. That's when she told me that she'd been bitten by a dragonfly, except, she didn't call it a dragonfly. She called it a cigarrón, dragonfly in Spanish. What did I know? Winged cigars flew around burning people's fingers whenever somebody tried to touch them. Stay away! From that day forward I'd duck a cigarrón whenever one came near.

These days, I smile every time a dragonfly hovers about, mainly because somebody shared with me once that whenever you see a dragonfly, a loved one who's passed is thinking of you. I'd embraced the winged cigars.

That is until I downloaded this picture and upon closer inspection saw that it munched on a fly. Ew.

Turns out dragonflies are carnivorous.

Who knew?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

I've Got Chickens On My Mind

You can fool a rooster some of the time, but you can't fool a rooster all of the time. So lemme tell you a story of an urban chick who got it into her head that she wanted to raise chickens. And by "chickens" let me be specific -- I mean two chickens in particular. If you read my Raising Chickens In The Burbs post, you know that my son brought home two baby chicks from his third grade's incubation project. At the time, the sex of the two baby chicks was unknown. I was hoping and praying that Ricki, my white feathered beauty with the rosy comb and waddle, was a hen. It was obvious that my sweet Samantha was a hen. No question. But, Ricki? Welllllll.

I'd convinced myself that I had two egg-laying hens. I so wanted to believe it. That was until a week ago Monday, when at 5:42 a.m. this creepy, croaky sound (like that of an animal being strangled) drifted up from the coop two floors down from my bedroom window. It sounded something like this: cocka-cuu-cu. My eyes snapped open at the strained crow of my Ricki. I knew it was Ricki. Who else could it be? So I waited, holding my breath, watching my husband, hoping he wouldn't wake up. The raspy crowing continued for about fifteen minutes and by six a.m. he was done. This scenario has repeated itself every day since.

5:30 a.m. .... 5:45 a.m. .... 5:20 a.m. I can tell you with certainty that the bird's found his voice.

What's an urban farmer girl to do? Do I keep him and risk having someone call the town to complain about the rooster in my backyard? I decided it would be better for Ricki to go live on a local farm where he'd roam free. I learned later from the friend who arranged the placement that the farm is called BLOOD FARM. Hello. I can't make this stuff up. You don't even want to know what I imagined. We'd decided that the farmer would take Ricki and introduce him to his flock, and in return, I'd get a hen. Then when I learned about the whole business having to do with quarantining a new chicken for up to six weeks to make sure it's not diseased (because it could kill my existing chicken with its bugs), I decided to give up Ricki in exchange for no hen. My Samantha would need to live a solitary life, until I could accommodate quarantine quarters. But then, what about the winter? She'd freeze to death. Even though Ricki bullies her around the coop, they roost practically on top of each other. He's her bud.

Could this story get any longer? So here's what happened next. It was the night before Ricki was supposed to go away, when I had an idea. Why not cover the coop at night and trick the rooster into believing it's still night when he rouses? So I did. With a half dozen Glad trash bags that I taped into the shape of a big blanket. I covered every inch of the coop, leaving the bottoms loose for the free-flow of air, and crossed my fingers. Wouldn't you know it? Ricki did not crow the next morning until I removed the cover from his coop at a more suitable time, like 7:30 a.m. I was ecstatic, jumping up and down in the kitchen in my pajamas, while my husband held his coffee mug and shook his head. He does that a lot.

Later that afternoon I texted my friend and told him I was going to keep my rooster because I'd solved the crowing issue.

Do you think the ruse worked the following morning?


Tonight the door into the enclosed part of the coop is closed enough to block Ricki's exit in the a.m. AND the coop is covered with my Glad bag invention.

We'll see what the morning brings.

(Samantha's now laying eggs :-)

Monday, July 29, 2013

I Visited the "Oldest All Poetry Book Shop in America"

Harvard Square in Cambridge is one of the places I love to visit most around Boston. I didn't realize how lucky I was when I first moved here and secured a position at a firm in the office building attached to The Charles Hotel. I had an office that overlooked The Kennedy School of Government and would sit at my desk chewing away at a pen watching suits pass through the revered building's doors. It made me happy to be in the midst of so many interesting people. The crowded news stands, savory smells wafting out of the myriad of diverse restaurants, hustle and bustle of the T stop, and eclectic bookstores ruined me. Imagine my sadness when a couple years later I had to move forty minutes outside of Boston, where the deer and the antelope play.

The point of this post is that after years of visiting Harvard Square, and never finding the Grolier Poetry Book Shop open, two weeks ago I finally did. I'd dropped into the Harvard Bookstore to check out the Remainders table and on the way out noticed a sandwich board (see above) pointing around the corner. With only fifteen minutes to spare before an appointment, I scrambled to finally see the inside of the "oldest all poetry book store in America."

It was hot that day, like fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk-hot. I remember stopping abruptly in front of the poetry bookshop and hesitating for a minute. In all my wierdness, I felt my self-conscious self stirring inside, because I don't know about you, but being around these uber intellectual people can be intimidating. My mind invented all kinds of scenarios and none of them were reassuring. Then I tried to open the door. I immediately thought the bookshop was closed when the really, really old (some might call antique) door knob wouldn't open. It wasn't one you turn, but the kind that opens when you press down on a lever with your thumb. Hard. The heavy door finally opened after a few tries, when the slight woman working inside opened it for me. Apparently, the door knob "sometimes" gets stuck, she told me, when she stepped aside to let me through. Maybe you should think about getting that fixed, I thought, more out of embarrassment than frustration.

Any anxious feelings I had completely dissolved the minute I stepped inside the shoe-box size bookshop. Its breath was of dusty, worn pages and its interior was mildly cool and hazy with sunlight spilling in through its dusty, old window. I fell in love. The shelves were organized by geographic region and displayed titles and authors completely unknown to me.

I gravitated to the shelf lined with Latino writers and brought home three titles: a collection of poems by Cordelia Candelaria, OJO DE LA CUEVA, another by Américo Paredes, BETWEEN TWO WORLDS, and INFINITE DIVISIONS: An Anthology of Chicana Literature. I'm happy with my selections and am learning about the arduous lives Spanish-Mexican-indigenous women endured around the time of the Mexican-American War

I'm due back in Harvard Square this afternoon for another appointment. This time I'll be dropping into another bookstore I've never visited, only because I've been too lazy to walk the extra five minutes up Mass Ave. Revolution Books it's called.

Let's see what I find inside. :-)

Have missed blogging and chatting with you all. Life's settled down a bit now that summer school's over. Easing back in to normalcy, whatever that means. It felt good to take a time-out.

Have a great week, my friends!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Raising Chickens In The Burbs

We stopped for chicken feed and our son wanted to buy another chick!

I'm raising chickens. Never thought I'd hear myself say those words. I mean, we're not farm people. At all. We live on a quiet residential street, where the most exotic pet you might find is a pet frog or turtle.

It all started when our son's third grade class conducted their annual egg incubation project ...

"Mom, the eggs are going to hatch in twenty-one days."
"Mom, we can hear scratching."
"Mom, you can see the chick in the egg under a lightbulb."
"Mom, can I please bring home a baby chick -- everyone else is."

After a good seven days of some pretty serious begging and pleading by him, and deliberation between my husband and I, we gave in. "Okay, but only one." Where it would ultimately live, how we'd care for it, or what we'd feed it didn't even come up in conversation. Never mind, the implications of potentially ending up with a rooster. I guess we figured, we'd figure it out.

Raising Chickens? You Must Take Two

I went online a couple days before the chick came home to do a little research and discovered a great website called Backyard Chickens. It's chock-full with every chicken fact imaginable. There are even floor plans, with step-by-step instructions and pictures, for various chicken coops. I thought, "I can do this." The research was going pretty well until I learned that solitary chicks don't do well; they need to be in the company of at least one other chicken to thrive.

Sam and Richard sitting on a chicken recipe.

Hmmmm ...

So I wasn't surprised the day before the chick came home when our son's teacher sent a note home informing us that if we took one, it would die. Therefore, we had to take two. And so we did. Two chicks. One black. One yellow. Their names are Samuel and Richard, at the moment. Should they turn out to be female, their names will be Samantha and Ricki.

The chicks have been home two weeks and things are going smoothly. We've had no drownings or electrocutions in the makeshift coop, and they seem to be happy in their new home: Albert's (our dog's) crate. Glad we were finally able to put it to use.

They have about another five weeks indoors, then they'll move outside into a build-it-yourself chicken coop that we're ordering. The hubs isn't too crazy about the idea about keeping them, especially since their coop is going to be right under our bedroom window, because we don't want to disturb the neighbors with possible crowing you'd be able to hear two streets over, anyways, but hey -- they've grown on me. And it's not so strange to keep chickens in the burbs. The more people I talk to, the more I discover that there have been chickens in our midst without our even knowing it.

Should be interesting.

Classroom chicks in the incubator