Familia, Mememe

On the 9th anniversary of my 31st birthday

Sean is pretty awesome at planning birthday surprises. On my 30th birthday he flew out to LA from NY to surprise me on my doorstep. Unwittingly, I messed up the surprise he envisioned. I spotted him walking up my driveway after I stepped out to take out the trash. He was bummed, but I was still happy to see him.

Today, my 40th birthday, I got in the way again. I spoiled his plans for a surprise breakfast of chilaquiles by going out for a long run (6.2 miles!) in the morning. He still made the chilaquiles, but I had them for lunch instead. Then we watched the video he made. Sean coordinated with 35 family and friends (not counting all the kids and babies!) to sing me Las Mañanitas and send birthday greetings. I messed it up by accidentally hearing a little bit of my cousin Bibi’s greeting while he was still editing the 15-minute video a few days ago, but he played it off.

The video was PERFECT. It even included a blooper reel. Of course, I cried while also laughing and singing along. 

My sister later sent me a video of the full version of her duet of Las Mañanitas with my dad. It wasn’t the same as hearing them sing outside my window to wake me up (which they did when I turned 20), but they still sounded amazing and I get the bonus of watching it over and over.
Last fall, inspired by a monthly doodle challenge to draw a party scene I drew my 40th birthday party. I knew there was no chance of it happening and as July became August I started to feel down. I felt a little silly because I’ve been fortunate to weather this pandemic okay. Not having a party for a milestone birthday seemed small when others have lost so much this year including missing milestone celebrations. Then I took the time to read one of the wellness emails from work. I usually skip them, but a comment by a colleague on the article about toxic positivity caught my attention. It was what I needed that day. I realized I was minimizing my own feelings. It’s okay to be sad.
After all, I knew the party wasn’t at the heart of my sadness, it was knowing that it’d be many more months until I was in LA again and around my parents, siblings, tías and tíos, cousins, and friends. In March, sheltering in place didn’t feel hard because I had just come back from being around family for my padrino José’s funeral. But we were approaching the end of August and I knew we’d likely finish 2020 without feeling safe to travel.
I’d love to be in LA surrounded by loved ones and celebrating in person, but I know we can’t do that. The video was the next best thing.
Whether they’ve been in my life for 40, 20, 15 or 5 years, their presence is the true gift. Thank you for making me feel loved and I can’t wait for the time when I do get to see you again.

Postcards by Xavi

One of the good things that has come out of the past 5 months is Xavi improving in his drawing skills. Back in the spring, Sean took some of Xavi’s latest drawings he made following YouTube tutorials, photographed them, and printed postcards to send to the teachers and classmates he really missed. They were a big hit!

In July, I posted the following on Instagram after trying to console Xavi who has very upset over not drawing a perfect dinosaur. He also wants to be famous and earn money. I saw an opportunity and suggested he sell his postcards for $1.

Spinosaurus illustration

Less than a day later, we were sold out. Xavi’s cards went to supportive friends and family. Even though we can’t travel, Xavi’s artwork and greetings can cross state lines and even go to Canada.

We have more now! If you’d like to order one or more, fill out the Postcard Order Form.

Postcards scattered with dragons, anglerfish, dinosaurs and trains

I can’t promise they’ll get there soon due to Xavi’s motivation to write his notes and USPS slowdowns in service (sigh…), but they’ll get there!


Day seventy-seven

I told Sean yesterday, “When do you think we will stop counting these days?” It was a day after I got an email about being able to schedule a haircut at a local salon as our region is in phased reopening.

Is this over? Should I just stop counting?

Counting has been one of my new routines and ways to cope with the many changes. I started counting on Saturday, March 14. This day feels significant because this was when the big shifts happened for us. The university announced a pause for the semester and that all in-person courses would go online and resume following spring break in early April. Our schools closed, somewhat abruptly on March 13th. I still went to work on Monday and Tuesday, but I knew by then that it was only in preparation for officially working from home on March 18th.

The numbers are on our family calendar. It’s somewhat odd to see them next to other events we expected this spring such as Xavi’s first grade spring concert and my work’s year-end award’s dinner. Still, those are a nice reminder of past good times and friends and family who we consider community.

Sometimes just keeping count makes me laugh or put things in perspective. On day 19, I laughed and felt a little sad when Archie hugged the plant I brought home. On day 22, I marveled at how many times Xavi could have breakfast. On day 36, Archie told me “I’m tired of you.” These days, it’s less funny. On day 71 I told Xavi to “shut-up”. Xavi rightfully responded, “Mom! You’re not supposed to say that!” When I apologized a few minutes later, he had already forgotten my offense. On day 76 I wrote: “Sidewalks are being installed in my neighborhood and the noise from construction vehicles makes it tough to concentrate on work. Between this and the heat (no AC and need to re-install the window unit), I’m missing my office.”

And today, while reflecting on some of the kind words friends have shared about how my blog inspired them, I finally decided to get back to blogging.

I won’t stop counting, so on day 77 I’ll note in my bullet journal: got back to blogging.


Five things I learned living in the east (and a bonus)

Five things learned living in the Northeast

When I put out my call for blog topic suggestions, one to the topics suggested was five lessons I’ve learned living in the east. As someone born and raised in LA (county and city), I had more than five quick observations.

1. Winter is long and a 40 degree day is nice.
Northeast winters aren’t actually about three months. It’s cold from November to April. Fall and spring are nice albeit rather short. I honestly didn’t have difficulty adjusting to cold weather, I just found it difficult to adjust to the fact that I’d be experiencing it for 5-6 months. Also, my scale of what is cold and what is nice/not that bad has totally shifted.

2. It’s easier to be a sports fan on the west coast.
Time zones suck. I lost sleep during the playoffs and World Series because so many games went into extra innings. I love my Dodgers, but I also need sleep!

3. Northeast states are tiny and geography is funny.
And west coast states are BIG. From LA I could drive five hours north or west and still be in California. If I drive five hours from Ithaca I’ll be in one of a few different northeast states or even Canada. I still find it funny that the quickest route from Ithaca to my MIL’s house in Long Island takes us through Pennsylvania, New Jersey and back to New York.

4. There’s a lot of diversity within Latinx and black communities.
In LA my world was dominated by people like me: mestizo Mexicans and Central Americans, often 1st or 2nd generation immigrants. Although I knew it existed, I didn’t critically think about the racial diversity within the Latinx community. My time in Ithaca has coincided with more awareness thanks to people on social media and podcasts.  I’ve become a lot more aware of anti black and anti indigenous sentiment among Latinx people and more specifically Mexicans. In my work I’ve seen this diversity somewhat. There are students who identify as Latinx and can pass as white, others who strongly identify as Afro Latino, and some who are like me.

My concept of who was black expanded beyond simply African American. In LA I knew some people who were immigrants or children of immigrants from African and Caribbean countries. In New York, that’s changed. I’m around my husband’s Jamaican family much more and at work I’m around many students who are 1st or 2nd generation immigrants from African or Caribbean countries.

5. We are on indigenous land.
Well, duh. I’ve known this. I knew there were Tongva springs just a few miles from UCLA and was well aware of the many indigenous tribes in California. However, there’s something about being surrounded by names and reminders that in many ways center the original peoples of this land. The first street we lived on was named Seneca, Ithaca sits at the foot of Cayuga Lake, and when I drove in to Syracuse I saw signs for the Onodaga reservation. Seneca, Cayuga and Onodaga are part of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (aka Iroquois Confederacy). In my role I’ve been around students and staff who begin meetings and other events with the reminder that the university is located in the traditional homelands of the Gayogohó:no (Cayuga Nation), one of the six Haudenosaunee nations. The other five nations are: Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca and Tuscarora.

6. Bonus: Racism doesn’t stop at the Mason-Dixon Line.
Ithaca is a very liberal college town. Despite this, I’ve seen confederate flags in the city and just outside in the surrounding counties. It’s a bit jarring to see a pickup truck drive through the main route through town flying a giant flag on an otherwise nice Sunday. In Sean’s job he also comes across people with hats, shirts, and sweaters featuring the confederate flag. Of course, I know racism isn’t limited to regions or symbols. But I never expected that the first time I saw one of these signs in the wild would be in New York. I was wrong!


A life update

Coming back to blogging means having things to write about. I did what anybody living in 2019 does, I crowd-sourced topics through Instagram questions. I got a lot great ideas, promised I’d use my writing muscle and then I got stuck on how to tackle one of the topics:

Life update, career goings on, how [I] stay connected to Latinx roots away from fam.

Zoey and Lori

Of course that’s a few topics, but I thought I could easily knock out the life update post. And then I struggled with writing about the birth of my niece Zoey in August 2017. I’ve always been close to my sister Lori, but seeing her become a mother strengthened our relationship.

Zoey is a joy and I wish our kids could spend more time together. Zoey’s birth was the impetus for us to take a fall trip to meet her. I got to repay my sister in a little way for all the help and support she offered when Xavi and Archie were newborns. I wore her in the same sling ring I used with my kids too and got more than my share of newborn snuggles and chest naps.

Zoey baptism and padrinos

That was the first of four trips I’d take over the next eight months (1 solo, 3 with the family). We typically don’t get out that much just because flights are expensive, but we managed with help from friends and family and a little luck.


In March we visited for Zoey’s baptism. Sean and I had the honor of being her padrinos and it was a nice respite from the endless winter weather (we came back to snow). In April I got lucky and won a trip to LA during Mother’s Day weekend thanks to the Super Mamás podcast. The contest included a hotel stay in Downtown LA which Sean and I used for some time to ourselves.

Other things in the last 18 months:

Xavi and lego train

My kids insist on growing and checking off milestones. Xavi is now in kindergarten, has had a haircut (just one!) and is still all about trains.

Archie at 2.5

Archie is almost 2.5, has strong opinions and is way stronger than you think someone his size could be. With new milestones comes new challenges and opportunities for learning about this parenting thing.

I got to meet 20+ of the moms in my online mom group in LA last January. These women became friends as we all had babies due in summer 2016. They’re a great source of support and having some time to connect with friends was fun. During this trip I got to surprise my sister for her birthday which was amazing.

I stayed up way too late to watch the Dodgers in the World Series (twice). I should feel lucky just to be able to say this, but now I just want a championship. Being an LA sports team on the East coast is hard.

I’ve always been a fan of podcasts, but I used to be able to balance them with other forms of entertainment like books and music. That dropped off with my newfound interest in true crime podcasts. At least I can doodle and work on my bullet journal while listening.

After about four years in Ithaca I’m still trying to make it feel like home by finding my community (read: friends). I have made it a point to explore more of my surroundings and am slowly checking off things.