Friday, December 30, 2011

What I Learned In 2011: A Year In Review

2011 was an interesting year full of realizations and turning points for me, and for the first time I found myself with more good times than bad. Mostly, I learned so much about myself, the people in my circle and the world in general in these 12 short months. Like:

  • It is possible to eat real food and still maintain great health.
  • You don't have to beat your body to a pulp to be fit.
  • No matter how 'independent' a child appears to be, they all need plenty and constant supervision and guidance.
  • I don't need alcohol to have a good time.
  • Makeup is not the devil's tool.
  • Hot irons, however, are from Hades.
  • My self-esteem does not rely upon how many men have seen me naked.
  • A clean kitchen can make all the difference.
  • Ex-boyfriends are ex-boyfriends for a reason.
  • Helping others feels great.
  • No one is looking at what I do more than me.
  • Somewhere out there is a home for each and every story I have to tell.
  • My grandfather has swagger for days. Just swag on swag on swag.
  • Everyone needs a break from everything once in a while.
  • Too many folks are wholeheartedly invested in the lives of reality TV stars.
  • I can control how long or short my attention span is. Without pills.
  • My body IS my temple.
  • The idea of a husband and a home is not all that scary.
  • Writing is how I will live forever.
  • Soca LIFE.

From all of us here at The Jaded Empire, have a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

*smooches...looking forward to new lessons in 2012*
y'all party safe, okay? use the buddy system and most importantly remember that alcohol poisoning is REAL.
Shout out to Jose Vilson for the blog post idea.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Freedom To Choose Means Freedom To Choose

Many women have come before me, fighting the good fight against all odds to ensure that I'd have equal rights in this country and beyond. We're not 100% there but we're definitely a long way from where we were. Women head corporations, small businesses, adopt children and own property, all without having their dads, husbands or brothers cosign or vouch for them. Hillary Clinton even came close to getting the Democratic National Committee to select her as their candidate for president of the United States.

I applaud all the women that were harassed, terrorized, jailed, spat on, abused or humiliated so that I, and my daughters, could have a fair shot at a good life, free of prejudice. I'm definitely grateful.

But with that freedom, some of us women (and men) have forgotten that what was really being fought for was to not be seen as a second-class citizen. To have the power to choose our paths to happiness. And that everyone's happiness does not look the same.

I recently read a blog post by Quiana Stokes entitled "How To Survive As A Stay-At-Home-Girlfriend" where she proceeded to describe how she keeps her and her boyfriend's home tidy, prepares his meals and makes herself available to him sexually whenever he wants. It was nothing shocking- a lot of Stay-At-Home-Moms do pretty much a lot of that stuff, too, with the noted difference of a marriage license and one or two rugrats traipsing about. However the people in the comments, as internet folks are wont to do, trashed this woman, and blamed her for setting women back hundreds of years. It all made me sigh heavily.

Listen, suffragettes and feminists battled for our right to be whomever we wanted to be. If what the author is choosing is to be the woman behind the man then let her be! She's not setting anyone back by choosing this path of happiness. She's just exercising her freedom to choose. The Equal Rights Movement wasn't about making us all CEOs and Presidents and Boss Hogs, it was about opening the doors to that life for- are you ready? THOSE WHO WANT IT.

It's not fair to force your ideology on others because they're not doing what YOU would do. If she's happy being this guy's live-in girlfriend then let her! Have a tall glass of Shut The Fuck Up and let her enjoy her choices! I'd hate to think that anyone would talk sideways about me if I decided to be a housewife one day. What business is it of anyone?

It's not illegal to bypass a corporate life or to forgo being Super Independent Feminist. It's not the life everyone dreams of. It's just one of the many choices we're lucky to have. All the Judgy McJudgertons need to sit all the way down and get their life. Quiana Stokes already got hers.

*smooches...wishing I had a Quiana in my life*
I'd love to come home to a clean house and a hot meal, shooo! y'all just jealous of her stee-lo!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tantrums Work

You might recall a recent rant where I questioned why I was wasting my time writing stories no one would ever publish. It was a full-on pity party and I was ready to not only chuck my career but my new health-conscious lifestyle, too. Just an all-out downward spiral because of back-to-back rejection letters.

Well, guess what? GUESS! YOU'LL NEVER GUESS!!

Blue Lake Review is publishing one of MY stories in their April 2012 edition!!! It's a young, online journal but definitely the start of my published career, no?

This is so exciting for me AND my story because it's one of my favorites from my MFA Thesis. I won't tell you what it's about or anything- you'll have to wait for April- but just know this: throwing hissy-fits and cursing out the Universe makes a difference!!

* a soon-to-be published author*
just be forewarned: my head is humongous right now. if I see you on the street and look down my nose at your peon-ness, you'll know why!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Shit Mami Says

While looking at my cousin's FB page...

MAMI: Look at him; he looks gay

K: Maybe he's metrosexual

MAMI: That means 'gay'

*smooches...still laughing at this entire exchange*
once Mami turned 50, the things she's let loose from her lips...SMH

Monday, December 26, 2011

Noche Buena, Just Us Gals

Grandma must be happy. We were all there, in my kitchen/living room, eating talking laughing dancing and posing mid-chew:

We called Papi during the night, to say Merry Christmas, and it's not the same as having him here but it was still nice.

I didn't make rice, but my food was plentiful and tasty. And then we topped it off with some:

Honestly, this Christmas couldn't have been any better.

I love my family...they ROCK!

*smooches...just for my Ortiz ladies today*
did I mention these leftovers are just...

Friday, December 23, 2011

She Learned It By Watching Me

ME: So you had a good day?

N: Yup!

ME: You didn't have to punch anybody in the face?

N: Nope. [short pause] Wait- or did I?

*smooches...waiting for my Mother Of The Year award*
it's on the way, right? because no one did a better job on the babies than me this year. again.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What I Could Have Been Doing With My Life Besides Writing

Yes, this post is my whiny, baby-faced tantrum about yet ANOTHER rejection letter from a literary journal. This time Mixed Fruit Magazine decided my story was too shitty to grace the pages of their book and I really have to wonder- what's the freaking point? When I think of all the other paths I could have chosen instead of this fickle artist's life, I get so mad at myself!

I could be at the EPA right now, earning six-figures, shittin' on all you hos.

I could be putting mine and Slash's babies to bed right now. That's right- after years of being a BAND AID for GNR he & I would have gotten married. Shut up!

I could be living off the grid in Sicily, tending to an orange grove and having wine with breakfast.

I could be running a dance studio in Soho after a small stint as a video music ho.

I could be in Cuba enjoying the fruits of my labor as the revolutionary who ousted Castro.

So many other options. But NOOOOOOOO. I let writing lure me into this life of frustration, poverty and disappointment. What the hell was I thinking?

I should have listened to my mother.

*no smooches today*
just...just...just whatever, man...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Jaded Moment In History Presents: The Summer of 1994

I did not have a successful freshman year of college at AU- I was dead broke, had poor study habits and did not take my assignments seriously. Oh, I had a grand ol' time with my friends and whatnot, but scholastically my first year at school was a bust. So much so that I flunked out and had to appeal my case to get back in. Just SHAMEFUL. But once I got everything under control at school, I eased into the last, super-fun summer of my life.

We lived in Hamburg, New York, a suburb of Buffalo, in an apartment complex with a swimming pool in the courtyard. HOLLA! I got a job working the closing shift at our local McDonald's (7PM to sometimes 3AM) which left me with more than enough time to chill by the pool daily. And chill I did! My schedule was all:

Get to work by 6:50PM. Prep my station (usually the drive-thru window) and work it til closing. After closing, clean the shit out of that place, including bathrooms, refreshing the fry grease and scrubbing down the grills. Let me tell you- the food may be nasty at McDonald's but at the Hamburg location, while I was working there, we kept that place clean as a whistle. No nook was overlooked. Believe that!

Get home between two and three in the morning, eat dinner. Yes, dinner. My stepdad would usually leave me a plate on the stove or in the microwave for "dinner" and I'd devour that while watching MTV until maybe 5:00 or 6:00 AM.

Sleep until noon-ish. Ahhh, the good life.

Wake up and order pizza and wings for me and Mari from Blasdell Pizza in time for "Days of Our Lives" at 1PM. Watch "Days" covered in wing sauce and blue cheese. Rest into the itis.

Eventually go to the pool and work off some of the pizza and wings. Stay until almost 4:00 or 5:00 PM and then head back to shower and change for work.


If I had a time machine, I'd absolutely set it for May, 1994 and never look back.

*smooches...reliving a slice of heavenly past*
it was all downhill from there, man SMH!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I'm Looking Forward To...

...that last hunk of fat disappearing off my body; moving into the next level of my yoga practice; conquering the Manhattan Bridge.

...the next season of "Weeds" because OMG WHOM DID THAT SNIPER SHOOT? first published story; my novel winning a Pulitzer Prize in fiction; earning a "Best Original Screenplay" Oscar.

...seeing which parent Jay and Beyonce's baby will resemble. I know I'm not the only one scared for that gene pool! 37th birthday, be it a milestone or not, because Mari and I have already started planning it and it will be AWESOME.

...paying off my AU Perkins Loan. May cannot get here soon enough!! baby's college acceptance letters; helping her shop for her dorm room furnishings and fixings; making her yummy care packages.

...the events I'm planning that will help launch my Jaded Empire.

...perfecting healthier recipes for my favorite Dominican dishes & desserts, so I'll never regret my food choices again.

...a first date; that goodnight kiss; knowing that it's real.

*smooches...wishing on a Jaded star*
what's on your wish list? not that I can make any of them come true. I mean, I might...if you have the cash and don't mind a little goat's blood on your hands...

Monday, December 19, 2011

That Thing I Was Looking For That I Didn't Know Was Missing

It's become my (bad) habit now to indulge in a TV series marathon on weekends when the girls are away with their dad. And lately I've been a bit obsessed with ABC Family shows- "Switched At Birth," "The Lying Game," "Melissa & Joey" and now, "Make It or Break It."

While watching the first season of "Make It or Break It" (starring Candice Cameron Bure AKA DJ Tanner of "Full House") there was a scene where Bure was trying to talk some sense into the resident mean girl, Lauren, about her hyper-sexed behavior and attitude. And if you watch shows on ABC Family you know that a lot of them have an underlying, wholesome message which, for some reason, has really been appealing to me lately. I mean, I'm still watching my "Dexter" and cannot wait for "Weeds" to come back but overall, I've pretty much replaced porn with ABC Family shows and movies.

But anyway, this scene with Bure's character, Summer, and Lauren really spoke to me. I was only half paying attention to it while writing out Christmas cards (YES I know I'm late. SHUSH!) but when I heard the dialogue I stopped to pay attention. Summer was explaining to Lauren how she was once promiscuous and how it backfired on her. In short, Summer tells Lauren:

"I was just a little girl, looking for attention...once I gave myself away I lost something so important that would take me years to get self-respect."

And I'm a big enough thug to admit that made me teary, because she could have been speaking to me. This weekend I had a diner chat with two acquaintances where I mentioned my recent celibacy and how, although there were a few rough patches, I don't even think about anymore. When I first decided to abstain from sex it was in retaliation of another failed fling. Then after a few months it was because I felt fat and unsexy and wanted to lose weight. But in the summer it became so much more, something that I hadn't even realized I was aiming for, something that was brought home when I had dinner with Alex over Thanksgiving weekend.

After my divorce I was a big old whore. I'm not even going to sugarcoat it. If he had a penis and a heartbeat, I most likely fucked him. Looks and marital status hardly mattered. But I'd gone from living in my mother's house to living in my then-husband's house and never really had a period in my life where I could "wild out," so when C and I split I wilded out. Not that it's an excuse, I'm just laying out my frame of mind at the time. I sought all the wrong kind of attention. I placed tiny band-aids over gaping gunshot wounds by using sex to cure my unhappiness and loneliness.

Now, however, now I protect this newly-earned chastity ferociously. I take offense to any threat to my abstinence- real or imagined- very seriously. I have some anxiety about dating again, knowing that celibacy is not a popular ideal these days, and the old, attention-seeking Raquel chimes in with "just have sex already and get it over with." But there's something to be said about loving myself enough to shut that old whore down and taking some pride in my virtue. All because I watched a teen drama on ABC Family.

And as a bonus, I already know that come this spring when I have my next OB/GYN appointment, my tests will come up squeaky clean.

*smooches...looking forward to an anxiety-free blood test*
they're not taking me aside to have a "talk" about my "behavior" nosireeBOB!

Friday, December 16, 2011

"I'm The Only One In Love"

Not sure how long I will carry this torch for you...

Now you're even popping up in my dreams. Leave me be, son!

*smooches...thinking of performing an exorcism on my heart*
and by exorcism I mean have a meaningless fling...with your dad... O__o

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Let's Teach Our Sons... to respect women. That no really does mean no even if the woman is 100% naked. And it is definitely no if she's drunk. And that it is always wrong to play grab-ass in a crowded space, on the street or in school. Or anywhere for that matter.

...that there are better ways to release anger than to harm or disrespect others, regardless of how they feel they've been harmed or disrespected. love and care for the children they make, no matter who the child's mother is. Tell them if the woman is not fit to be the mother of their progeny then she's most certainly not worth laying down with, either.

...homosexuality or femininity is not a curse or a disease you can catch. They must learn to respect that all men are different, love different and live different.

...that a well-rounded education will make them an awesome human being. Don't just become a doctor or lawyer or business executive. Study dance and art and nature and "home economics"; to learn as much as they can for the rest of their lives and always be open to new theories while still maintaining a foundation of beliefs.

If I had a son, I'd make sure he knew all of that.

And how to get the hell out of the way when their woman is pissed off!

*smooches...hoping that all of you with sons are on the job*
these are the boys that will be courting my daughters, after all. I need these boys to be worthy of my jewels...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wherein I Realize White America Still Thinks Of Us As Dumb Ni**ers

This post used to be a rant about an article I read online where a middle-aged, middle-class, privileged white man gave his opinion of what poor, black kids need to do to succeed in life. And it used to be filled with F-bombs and threats and posturing because his asinine solutions included the use of technology (which many poor families don't have access to) and public libraries (that are suffering budget cuts left and right) and Cliff's Notes. I kid you not. I was angry that he had the audacity to think that poor black kids could have been saved this whole time if they just went to the library and learned some programming software. That's all they need to get out of the ghetto, according to this "journalist".

So this post used to be my knee-jerk and infuriated reaction to his ignorance to the real plight of poor kids everywhere- not just black kids but especially black kids.

Sir, have you ever lived in the ghetto? Where fathers are scarce but drug dealers are plentiful and take their place? Where mom's have to borrow from Peter to pay Paul, and still it's not enough so she has to work long hours for low pay? Where bologna sandwiches or cans of no frills "pork food" are dinner? Where the parents are sometimes less educated than the kids? Where kids are unattended after school and often have the responsibilities at home that should be carried out by an adult? Where resources don't seem to reach?

The reality is no amount of computer classes can overcome hunger or fatigue or depression or a low self-esteem. When everything around you is bleak and dream-crushing all you can think about is getting out by any means necessary. Sometimes that means illegal activities. A lucky few may find a mentor at school. Others may chance it and persevere despite their environment. But sir, have you ever known that kind of desperation? That feeling that you had to get out or you'd die? Have you ever had that fight or flight instinct kick in on your way to buy milk at the bodega around the corner?

Sir, you don't know the ghetto. You don't know the plight of the poor, be they black, white, Latino, Asian or whatever. You don't know how they eat, breathe and dream their surroundings, and how that affects everything they do. Cliff's Notes won't change the fact that some poor kid in the ghetto didn't get enough sleep because there was a shoot-out on his block, or that he didn't get any breakfast at home because there simply wasn't any food to make. And sir, chances are, if some of the neighborhood kids saw him reading Cliff's Notes, they'd probably steal his book bag and toss it somewhere. Just for kicks.

This is the ghetto. This is why a lot of kids don't make it out and succeed. I'm not making excuses, sir, I'm stating the facts of the neighborhood I grew up in. I was lucky. I made it out by the skin of my nose. My mom was the rare mom that went the extra mile to get us into private schools and summer programs and kept us out off the block. But not everyone is my mom. Some mom's take up with abusive men or are hooked on that shit or just plumb don't give a rat's ass about their kids.

You can't just sit there from your ivory tower and claim to know what a poor black kid needs to succeed in life, sir, because you're not one. And you'll never know what it feels like to be born with so many strikes against you that any effort seems futile.

Don't presume to know what poor black kids needs, sir, and then proceed to write a bullshit article about it because when it comes down to it all ANY poor kid needs is for people like you and me to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk. So what's it gonna be?

*smooches...saddened by the blatant racism that sparked that article*
I'm trying to decide if I prefer my klansmen covert or in my face...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Where I Get It From

My great-grandmother, Ramona Ortiz, was one baaaaaaad bitch. And I say this with the utmost respect and love.

She was the only woman I knew who smoked an old wooden pipe. I loved getting her tobacco for her, and usually waited around for her to light up so I could inhale the sweet smell it emitted. She used to torture the mice that got caught on the traps around the apartment, cursing them out in Spanish before setting them on fire, scalding them with boiling water or flushing them to eternity.

Back in the day, she carried a weapon on the road to protect herself as the sole provider of her kids. Her husband? Well, he was shown the door via a hot-brick attack after physically abusing her. Yes, hot bricks. How genius is that? But the best bit of history I just got about my beloved Nenena (as we kids called her) is that she went toe-to-toe with my Abuelo's family because they tried to kill my mom when she was a baby. And Nenena held on to this grudge well into her last years- when Abuelo's new wife's mother dared greet Nenena at a party she uttered something to the effect of "Is this bitch crazy? Did she forget I almost took a machete to her neck in DR?"

This woman was four-foot-nothing, ornery, constantly scowling and always judging from her little chair in the kitchen and now I know why. There's always a back story, you know? Especially in a family like mine with a forest of trees of branches of relatives. She was just upholding our family honor. She was just protecting us the only way she knew how.

She's one of the reasons that, of all the clans that contributed to my DNA, I rep the Ortiz women the hardest. My great-grandmother, Ramona Ortiz, was one baaaaaaad bitch, y'all. I can only hope I'm half the woman she was!

*smooches...with love and pride and in remembrance*
I really need to stop with all these bullshit fiction stories and write the tome of my family. That book would FLY off the shelves!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Body Image: A Healthy Jaded Update

I have to confess something here: when I look in the mirror, despite the strives I've made to get fit and live a healthier lifestyle, I do not like what I see. Not in the facial area because I'm way beyond comfortable with my looks (well, if we're being honest, I wish my lashes were longer and that I'd taken precautions to avoid the dark shadows around my eyes but it's not anything a little creative makeup-ing can't fix!) but rather with everything going on from the neck down.

And before you get all, "This girl is crazy! She looks great!" let me just vent this out, okay?

This is me, right now:

First of all, if I didn't have this uber-strong Under Armor sports bra on my breasts would be resting slightly above my belly button. Sorry to burst the bubble for some of my male readers but the fact is nursing two babies + gravity have officially won the Battle of the Boobs and I can't even think about dreaming about going braless. Ever. Unless I was cast as an extra in a National Geographic photo shoot of indigenous women of the Caribbean. In every photo where you look at me and think "GODDAMN THAT'S A NICE RACK!" I assure you- I'm wearing all manner of padding and industrial straps to help set those puppies right.

The mid-section is...depressing. Flabby, annoying and trying to claim squatter's rights 'pon my body. I know it's my fault- I eat well & work out for about two or three weeks and then fall off for about four weeks. During those four weeks there's not a Halal food cart or bag of Fritos that's safe from my gullet. And classes? PFFT! I cancel them left and right. And sleep? What's sleep? So yeah, the belly won't leave.

And I used to have amazing legs. Long and lean and fabulous. Now my thighs rub together when I walk. STILL. Even after all the weight I lost these bitches cling to each other as if separation will kill them. It's annoying to hear that "swoosh-swoosh" of denim friction when I walk. I can't be a stealth, machete-wielding ninja warrior if you can hear me SWOOSH-SWOOSH-ing all up and through the night.

Basically, I still see myself as 200lbs. I'm not sure what it will take for me to realize I'm not a size 16 anymore but I'm working on it. I'm trying to have more "loving this body" days than "order tapeworms from Cambodia" days and am only about 60 percent able to achieve it. I'm sitting here writing all this KNOWING it doesn't make sense. I look fine. I can get away with this size right here if I wanted to because I'm tall and have great undergarments that camouflage me very well. But is it asking too much to live a Spanx-free life? I don't think so.

Me and my mirror are not friends. Me and this body are about to have a falling out. I hate everyone and everything. Oh, and it's PMS Week. WHERE ARE MY BUFFALO WINGS?!

*smooches...unhappy (fat!) and pouty and frustrated*
now please excuse me while I go drown my sorrows in some fried cheese...

Friday, December 09, 2011

End The Week On A High

I've decided to stop carrying around my passport and get a NYS ID.

I'm about to take my first vacation in a very long time.

N is doing so much better in school after that initial spanking back in October.

My mom turned 58 on Wednesday, and on Saturday we shall celebrate with a ZUMBATHON in NJ.

I'm contemplating hosting another reading in January.

These are the things I shall focus on in the face of some ugliness that's trying to ruin my good mood. Also, these random musical faves that keep my chin up and toes a-tappin':

*smooches...wishing you all a very good weekend*
hopefully I'll have a good one, too

Thursday, December 08, 2011

I Refuse To Apologize!

Man oh man! The internet is at it again, starting trouble among the masses. This time via an article written by a black woman apologizing to black men for a myriad of supposed infractions, including opening up her womb to "the enemy" and allowing her degrees to make her feel superior.

First of all, I won't link it here because I'd rather not be associated with what she wrote because I, sirs & madams, am NOT SORRY.

Second of all, get all the way the fuck out of my universe with that subservient patriarchal BULL.

Because let me tell you something: I will not be sorry for my advanced degrees and subsequent feelings of superiority over someone who does not have them. I worked for that. I paid for that. Hell, I'm STILL paying for that! I put in the time, the effort, expanded my mind, immersed myself in an intellectual awakening and I'll be damned if that doesn't make me better than someone who pissed his life away doing nothing in his mom's basement.

I will not be sorry for dating outside my race (on the rare occasions that I did that) because if a guy is good looking and nice and sexy and funny and intrigues me? Well guess what? I'm going to date him.

I will not be sorry for not needing a man in my life to be successful and happy and all that. The bottom line is no woman NEEDS a man. She may want one to complement her; someone with whom to share her life and grow old, to bring forth new life, and that's cool. In fact, that's beautiful! But she certainly doesn't NEED him.

And I won't apologize if black men feel emasculated by black women because we earn more or can support ourselves or are buying our own homes or whatever. Frankly, that's a YOU problem, not a ME problem. And if you're expecting THIS Afro-Latina to jump on that "sorry" bandwagon FOR. GET. IT.

Jaded AIN'T sorry; she's awesome!

*smooches...waving my degrees in the air like I just don't care*
it's bull like that letter that sets us all back *smh*

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Rumor Has It Winter's A-Coming

Don't be fooled by this mild weather, son. I just know the horribleness is right around the corner. The brick-ass wind. The unbearable snow. Sleet. BLAH.

So it's time to stock up on the only survival material I need...books. Here's what's on my reading queue this season:

  • Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans
  • Everyday Paleo by Sarah Fragoso
  • The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland
  • I, Judas by James Reich
  • The Mother Who Stayed by Laura Furman
  • The Myth of Laziness by Dr. Mel Levine
  • The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Total Body Transformation by Mark Sisson
  • The Red of His Shadow by Mayra Montero
  • The Time In Between by Maria Dueñas
  • Vida by Patricia Engel

What's on your nightstand?

*smooches...devouring what I can while I hibernate*
we all know come spring the last thing I want to do is sit around at home!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Commuter Struggles

Most days I'm okay with not knowing how to drive. It's really just not a priority in my life. I live in NYC where sidewalks abound and everything I could want is within a walk's reach- food, clothes, more food, hardware supplies, housewares and food.

 But on that rare occasion I do understand why people have cars.

Like on Sunday when I was two minutes late for the 113N Bus to NJ even though I ran through the 42nd Street station and through Port Authority and up the stairs and bought my ticket in record time and shoved some people on the escalator; that bloody driver took off without me even though HE SAW ME and I banged on the side of the bus and yelled "WAAAIIIITTTTTT!" All thanks to work being done on the F/G line that caused my usual 40-minute subway ride into Port Authority to take 55 minutes. BLERG!

Or on Monday when I took the R-train towards Coney Island instead of towards Manhattan while carrying 12lbs of ground turkey and 6lbs of other various supermarket items. Let me explain it to you non-NYers: The R-train towards Coney Island connects to the F at 9th Street/4th Avenue, where you have to climb stairs all the way to JUPITER to reach the elevated F-train platform. But, if you take the R towards Manhattan, you can disembark at MetroTech and take a nice, comfy escalator ride to the F-train at Jay Street. Last night, as an added bonus, I had to climb ANOTHER story to reach my platform because of construction. With 12lbs of ground turkey and 6lbs of other various supermarket items.

I'd venture to say that was my workout for the day. I just wish I had known that before I took that 25-minute walk during lunch. I could have been sitting on my ass all afternoon!

*smooches...trying not to hold a grudge against NYC*
I'll just be better prepared next time is all. in other news, can someone rub my back? *pouty eyes*

Monday, December 05, 2011

Musical Interlude: 12.5.11

I'm still trying to work on this creative dispute with myself (finding a new muse, getting words on paper, etc) so I don't have the blog on my brain. Instead I'm digging through the music crates, skimming through old books, watching old movies, looking for that lightening bolt of inspiration. Shout out to Spotify, Netflix and the Brooklyn Public Library for helping me with this project.

While you wait for me to get right, enjoy the tunes!

*smooches...feeding my soul as best I know how*
that paula cole song, dawg...that's my shit. real thugs listen to paula cole. you heard it here first!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Jaded Photographs: December 2011 Edition


*smooches...with some great new memories*
JESUS is that what I look like when I've been drinking? NEVER AGAIN, SON!

Friday, December 02, 2011

It's Not NYC, It's You.

When I was younger, my cousin Minnie had caught an attitude with someone who had talked smack about my mom, which I found odd because Minnie and Mami were nowhere near being BFFs. But she said to me, "It's one thing if I talk about her because she's my aunt, but I'm not going to let some outsider say shit about my family."

That's how I feel whenever I hear derogatory or inflammatory comments about New York City.

Everyone feels a certain connection with their hometown whether or not they had a good childhood. I can understand if someone grew up in Key West, for example, moving to NYC can be a shocker (winter, questionable beaches, high stress environments) and that person will start lamenting having to wear shoes instead of flip-flops all day, or our high cost of living or the fast pace of the City. I get that.

HOWEVER... There is nothing wrong with this City. New York is New York. It has always been this place that never sleeps and every other thing you've ever heard about it. Midtown traffic is always crazy. Rats ABOUND in the streets and subways. It IS a concrete jungle with less green and more gray than many have ever seen. You might get stabbed to death while jogging in the park. So don't move here and then talk shit about it because you should have known this coming in. And frankly, we're dirty, congested, stacked on top of each other, squished into meager-yet-expensive living quarters and consistently stuck in traffic because a gazillion people keep moving here!

Manhattan is but five miles long- how else did you think we were gonna fit all you out-of-towners longing to make it in the bright lights of the big city? And the outer-boroughs are quickly filling up, too. Don't suck up all of our resources and then shit on the very place that provides for you, son! That is not acceptable.

I've lived in other places that are very un-New York-ish, and I get that it's hard to live in the unfamiliar. The first time I saw the farm country backwoods of Pottersville, New Jersey, and realized I had to call that place home because of family obligations, I cried real tears every night for a week. But after that I sucked it up, made the best of it (friends with cars are AWESOME!) and plotted my eventual escape.

Realize that you made a conscious choice to set up shop in one of the greatest cities in the world. YES, THE WORLD. No one forced you to come into my backyard and mooch off all the barbecue, so I'll thank ya kindly to either love it or leave it alone. Amen & God Bless.

* NYC a great big booty grope*
that means I love you!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

"...So Much Depends On The Weather..."

In trying to change up the types of books I read, I picked up Scott Weiland's autobiography from the library. Y'all know Weiland, right? Frontman for Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver? Anyway, I grabbed his book, "Not Dead & Not For Sale" hoping to get some clarity on what went wrong with him and Velvet Revolver- a band I was totally in love with- that would make him walk away.

At first I was only interested in reading the sections that discussed VR, but I kind of dug the spazzy way in which the book was written so I started from the beginning. What a life he's led so far! And you know when someone is described as having an artistic soul? Yeah, they're absolutely describing Weiland. Reading his thoughts on the different happenings of his life, and the people who came and went, is mesmerizing.

When I got to the point where Weiland describes his and Dean DeLeo's acoustic performance of "Plush" on MTV's "Headbanger's Ball" I immediately googled the clip because I remembered seeing that when it first ran and absolutely falling in love with this band. Weiland's voice was so powerful and DeLeo's playing was so soothing- it was everything "Headbanger's Ball" was not and that made the performance stand out to me.

Googling that clip obviously made me play other STP songs, and that led to Pearl Jam songs, then Nirvana, then the Cranberries, until I had worked myself into a dark cloud of artistic yearning. You creatives know the feeling- when there's something in you that wants out but your current situation or environment won't allow its freedom.

See, most of the writing I've completed to date was written during my darkest hours, with Weiland and his grunge cohorts as my soundtrack. I suffered from Teen Angst well into my 20s. And I would spend so many hours listening to this music as I poured out my sorrows on paper. From that was born many a troubled character and I loved it.

But now I'm not as deeply depressed. I actually like myself a little bit and there's a lot more sunshine in my life. The downside of all that, of course, is that the dark cloud was always my muse. The dank, rainy days helped me create and the downward spirals gifted me page upon page of beautiful words. Today, with all my happiness and natural highs, I can't seem to find the key that will unlock an avalanche of literature from my mind.

So like the artist that fears a sober life will affect his craft, I don't know how to feel good and write great stories. I play those old songs and I long for the level of creativity I used to have, regardless of how immature and soul-stealing it was. These great days have not created any new characters and won't let me expound on the old ones. I cannot find a new muse.

I'm hoping that by the time I finish Weiland's tome, he'll have some answers for me.

*smooches...stuck in the middle of what was and what could be*
if this keeps up, I'm taking up drinking, sex & hot wings again AND YOU CAN'T STOP ME!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

(Not) Published By 2011

Last year I embarked on a campaign to get my work in print somewhere, anywhere, and labeled it Published By 2011. I was targeting small literary journals around the country, sending them what I considered to be some of my best stories. It is now November 30 and still...nothing. Usually I'm all for sticking it out until the end of a deadline but I'm going to call it- it's not going to happen in 2011.

If you're familiar with literary journals, then you know that when you submit the editors will take about three or four months to respond. If one doesn't hear back by then chances are your story didn't make the cut. And anything submitted after September isn't going to be considered for publication until the following year. So there it is.

Could a journal contact me tomorrow and say my piece will appear in their December issue? It is possible, yes. Do I think that will be the case? Only if they're disorganized. Any journal worth their ink would have notified me in October or early November to get my permission, bio, etc, none of which occurred.

I'm upset but not devastated. I could have been more aggressive in my submissions (I didn't send out stories as much as I promised I would) and I could have been more thorough in my search for a perfect home for my literary babies. My bad! But before I can embark on my new & improved Published By 2012 campaign, there have to be repercussions for failing myself this year. Otherwise, I'm just going to slack off every year without a care.

Not to imply that volunteer work is punishment, but this year, because I didn't work hard towards my goal, I've signed up to cook at a soup kitchen for "starving artists" in Brooklyn. Normally I'd use my writing as an excuse for not volunteering my time but CLEARLY I'm not working on furthering my writing career; might as well use that time productively instead. In addition, I will be packing up and donating at least 10 books from my own collection, which, because of my tiny apartment, is already limited. The empty shelf space will remind me that MY BOOKS belong there.

Finally, I figure some defined goals and the steps needed to achieve those goals need to be laid out. No more of this haphazard, submit-when-I-feel-like-it nonsense. A TO DO list must be made. So I made one.

Next year, my friends. Next year we'll celebrate good times for real.

*smooches...still hoping to get something in for December*
failure is never an option

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

You Do Your Thing And I'll Do Mine

Last week on the Twitter, I may have allegedly said some unflattering things about poetry. Namely that I don't like it and pretty much find it corny. This is not to discredit the work of poets around the world who entice, inspire and all that good shit- it's just not my cup of Malta Goya. I do enjoy an occasional verse, mostly in Spanish, and Shakespeare can do no wrong in my eyes, but otherwise I do not like poetry. I just don't get it.

For the record, I also don't like street-lit, weirdo performance art, country music, some modern sculpture (Oh. A big ol' wiry thing. How...nice...) and a slew of other so-called fine arts.

Here's the thing, though: I don't have to like your chosen field of artistic expression to support you as an artist. And voicing my dislike of poetry or urban lit or any of the aforementioned genres does not make me mean or a hater. It just means I have a different opinion on the subject than you do. There's no need to get butt-hurt if you're wrote "Make That Money" and the sequel "Make That Money 2: Hoes' Revenge" and I said it was garbage. That's my opinion! I'm sure you have a target audience that cannot wait for "Make That Money 3: The New Gs" to hit the barber shop. And I'm sure you're able to live a decent life with your book-money. So what the hell does it matter what I say about urban lit? Or poetry? Or your dumb, orange "sculpture"?

We can co-exist in a world where I think performance art is for crackheads and you think fiction stories and/or blogging is for people without a firm grip on reality. That's A-OK with me, booboo! I still believe any artistic endeavor serves a greater purpose, so I'll clap for you no matter what medium you choose. Even if you're the artist behind...whatever THIS is...

*smooches...setting the record straight*
this doesn't need to turn into some sort of Right Coast/West Coast beef, son! and shout out to the homie Fikriyyah for those hood novel titles. that mess had me giggling for days!

Monday, November 28, 2011

I Love The Smell Of Fresh Possibilities...

I have good people in my life. I really do. All of the friends I've had for over two decades have this vibe about them, and every time we're together I feel something new, another connection that binds us. And from that great feeling sprouts another.

This weekend I saw my dear love Alex (formally of Jack's Gay Chronicles, currently of The Refined Ghetto) and it was everything I thought it would be and more. Not only was he involved in the BEST. BAR FIGHT. EVER. (I'm quoting Smarty on that one LOL!!) but we discovered another parallel in the bizarro lives we've been living and everything just made so much sense.

Also, while out and about and on my way home, I was hit on by like three different guys. I mean, I'd never actually date any of them in real life at all ever, but I was flattered nonetheless because it hasn't happened in forever. I know, you're shocked because I'm a super-HAWT bitch and give off the impression that men throw themselves at me everywhere I go, but it's not the case and hasn't been for a while. I don't know if the 'fro was right or the makeup was bitchin' or my jeans were giving the illusion of a booty or if my aura was all aglow because I was spending time with Alex, but there it was, the ever-elusive male attention. I'd almost forgotten what it was like!

For the longest time, I've been channeling my energy elsewhere- my writing, my kids, my health and fitness- and ignoring the possibility of romance. Real romance. Like, look forward to seeing you romance and I'll even allow some nasty swine to be cooked in my precious kitchen because he eats pork kind of romance. Introduce him to my family romance. That shit really exists, apparently. Over bland Asian food and Dragalicious entertainment at Lucky Cheng's, I explained to Alex how for me, sexual relations have always been blah. Like, it's great the first few times and then I'm over it and I'd rather watch TV or eat some fries. He brought it home with, "Because you've never really felt a connection; with my ex it was fireworks every time because I felt a deep connection" and that was like WOW. He's right. I've never been in love or had real romance in my life with any of the men I've slept with. Not ever.

Confession, readers: I used sex as a validation tool. It was never because I felt this bond with a guy but because I knew it was something I could do well and men like sex, ergo men will like me and if I'm liked then DING DING DING I win the prize. Except there is no prize except that empty feeling deep in the pit of my stomach after he's "finished" and I'm laying there beside him looking for the nearest exit, knowing that what I just did had nothing to do with love and everything to do with just wanting someone to make me feel special. I'm sure addicts will understand that I was constantly searching for that unattainable high in all the wrong bedrooms, those butterflies I felt with my first real boyfriend, that innocent, gleam in your eye, sing from the mountaintops high a first love sprinkles over you like pixie dust. I miss that feeling!

(I can only imagine the looks on the faces of the guys with whom I've had relations right now as they read this. Sorry, boo, but at least you know why it didn't work, right?)

But my self-imposed hiatus from anything relationship-like has been so good for me. I see what I want, what I need and what I never want to have again and it starts with me being the best Raquel I can be so that I can find the best him the world has to offer. Because we deserve it.

*smooches...loving the clarity my friendships encourage*
it's only been a day and I miss Alex already...

Friday, November 25, 2011

An Open, Horizontal, Leaderless Process? Ummm...

I watched this clip and just laughed and laughed and laughed...

...and then I got a little sad because this screams of "Animal Farm" and "Lord of the Flies" and yeah, I'll say it, a little bit like communism. This is the movement that is supposed to represent me? I don't know, son, I just don't know...

*smooches...sitting back and taking in the organized chaos*
and the hypocrisy of some of these protesters! HMPH
shout out to The F$%k-it List for passing it on.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Dar Gracias

Me siento dichosa por mi familia entera- los que van a comer demasiado conmigo hoy y también los que no pudieron estar con nosotros. Pero más que nada, doy mil gracias por ser dominicana y tener artistas como Moreno Negron representando a mi gente:

*besos...para todos ustedes en este dia de acción gracias*
get your Spanish/English dictionaries out because I'm not translating NOTHING!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Protecting Our Daughters

This is Part 1 of the documentary "Very Young Girls" (you can see the rest via Netflix or on YouTube) about girls as young as 13 in the sex trade business and their fight to get out.

I cannot tell you how much it kills me to think that kids barely older than N are turned out in this country and we can't (won't??) do much about it. I barely sat through "Born Into Brothel" without a box of tissues but figured our so-called First World Nation would be doing a better job of protecting our babies. Sooooo not the case, dude!

When The F$%k-it List brought this film to my attention I was all "I DON'T WANT TO KNOW" because once you know you can't sit there and ignore the problem. You have to do something. So here's what's what.

Through Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS), we're collecting item donations for these young women for the Girls Are Not For Sale campaign. GEMS is a NYS non-profit that specifically serves "girls and young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking" and you can imagine how little they have in order to rebuild their lives.

If you can donate any of the items listed on the campaign page by December 15, 2011, I will personally show up at your door and French kiss you. Or if that's not your style maybe I'll just say Thank You. Either way, "tis the season" and all that good stuff. Let's show these girls that New York cares about their lives and we want them to be happy and successful. They are all our daughters and we owe them that much! 

*smooches...thankful for the life I've lead*
and all the people that protected me from harm throughout, allowing me to do the same for others.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Life's Poo-Pooers

There is much unavoidable unpleasantness in life- taxes, vomit, rats on the subway platform- but none is more annoying than a person raining on your parade. You know these people well. Sometimes they're related to you. Other times they're your best friend or coworker or spouse. Occasionally it's even a rude stranger at the mall. Trust me they're everywhere and their main directive in life seems to be: SHIT ON EVERY PLAN YOU MAKE.

They complain about the caterer you chose for your wedding. "Oh, so you're NOT having a shrimp appetizer? But everyone loves the shrimp appetizer!" BITCH- are you paying for it? NO? Then have a tall glass of Shut The Fuck Up to wash down your crudités.

They side eye you when you substitute unhealthy food items for something more wholesome during brunch. "Oh look at Miss Fancy Pants getting the side salad! You're too good for potatoes all of a sudden?" [INSERT COLD STARE HERE]

And they always have a sideways comment for you, masked as a joke, said in a sarcastic tone in a public forum, that puts you down in some way, shape or form. "Oh is that the dress you wore at last year's Christmas party and to Susan's baby shower and to Karl's retirement dinner? Wow, you're really getting your money's worth on that one!" [prays to White Baby Jesus for some patience]

You get to the point where you don't ever bother sharing news with these people because you already know they're not going to be happy for you and they're not going to cheer you on. You got accepted to a doctoral program at Brown? They'll point out that you don't know anyone in Rhode Island and how your mom is old and has no one to take care of her but "Oh you must be so happy!" You're pregnant? "Well there goes your body and your freedom!" No one wants to be around that all the time. It's frustrating and it kills all the good vibes in the room.

But mostly it points out how truly miserable that person must be in their own life that, instead of being happy for others' good hair days or job promotions, they automatically find something negative to say.

I'm starting to notice these poo-pooers with every positive change I make in my life and you know what I've concluded? I must be doing everything right!

* my life like it's golden*
because it is...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Two Hungry Babies

K: Momma, can you order us a pizza?
ME: I could, but then I'd have to kill you.
K: Well, can we eat the pizza first?
ME: Sure!
K: I'm okay with that.
N: I'm okay with that, too.

*smooches...wondering when exactly my life became a sitcom*
I feel like the babies installed secret cameras and are reading from a script... sneaky heifers!

Friday, November 18, 2011

"I Really Don't Know Life At All..."

Part of me stayed because what else was there for me in this world? He was all I ever wanted and while he was mine it was beautiful. I fed off of the attention. Me- the girl who traveled through school hallways unnoticed; the girl who was just bank teller #6; the only child to busy parents. For once it was about me. He gave me that and it was perfect. Oh, but what a cost! I'd give it all up now to take back that look on Brian's face.

It is not better to have loved and lost. I would have preferred my position as bank teller #6 for the rest of my life; Thanksgiving by myself in that Chelsea studio; ignorant to the gentle caress of a man's hand across my cheek.

Why do we always think we can change a man? And why is the thing we wish for never really the thing we want?

* you another peek at greatness*
a quickie from the short I'm throwing together as a framework for a screenplay; i played joni mitchell for inspiration and to set the tone. it helps me set up the scenes in my head. just part of the process :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I Am A Writer. And I'm OK With That.

Last week Bangs and a Bun posted a blog posing the question "Are you who you are or what you do?" It basically touched on defining yourself by your job and if that's good or bad. I think I've summed it up accurately. Just click the link and go read it for yourself.

When I got to the comments I noticed all the readers who left their two cents before me were all sort of apologizing for what they do. Maybe not apologizing, but rather writing things like "sometimes I hate to tell people what I do because of the assumptions" blah blah blah and I was a bit surprised that so many grown folks are going around feeling ashamed of their occupation.

I mean, unless your job is breaking into nurseries and stealing the still-beating heart of a baby and its mother, I don't see what there is to be ashamed of. Perhaps these women (I think they were all women) were confusing shame with dislike? Honestly if you are working a legit job- whether it be flipping burgers or teaching sixth-grade math- shame should never come into play. You're earning a living, helping to support yourself, instead of trying to mooch off of your parents or doing something illegal. Stand TALL! You may not like your job, but there's nothing shameful about earning an honest wage. Maybe you wish you had something more prestigious or higher-paying but again, there's nothing shameful about it.

I come from the kind of stock that considers you a winner if you're working. Plain and simple. If you're handling your business then you're A-OK. I've never been asked what I do by family members but only IF I'm working. That question would come eventually but it was never first. I was never ashamed of answering phones or filing papers or mopping floors or shelving books because it was all just a means to an end. I'm proud of every job I've ever had. Even that one job I can't talk about because I signed that non-disclosure contract and if I told you I'd have to kill you. Especially that one. So perhaps it's a cultural thing?

Or maybe my situation is unique because my occupation really is who I am. I'm a writer "for play and pay" as stated in my author bio. I create stories for a living- factual and fictional. I bring to life random letters of the alphabet and someone sees fit to pay me for it.

And in return I get to see my creations reach hundreds if not thousands of people. See that sentence you just read? That was one of my babies. I call her Melly. Say hi!

*smooches...sending out cyber hugs to remove your shame*
here; I'll even shimmy for you a little bit...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I'm Conceited. I Got A Reason.

Towards the end of the summer, one of my Twitter buds, Dash Harris, asked if I'd participate in a documentary she was putting together about Afro-Latinos and their identity issues. Yesterday she sent out a sneak peak of "Negro: A Docu-Series About Latino Identity" and there I was in all my curly-haired, dark-beigey, Brooklyn-accented glory.

In this episode I show up at the 20:00min mark,
but you should really watch the whole thing.

Yeah, I'm gassed. Especially because my "credit" says writer. HATE ON ME, HATERS!

Oh and if you're feeling generous and want to help fund Dash's project, click here.

*smooches...slowly conquering my fear of public speaking*
never in a million years did I think I'd agree to have my image immortalized in a film project where I'd have to speak words and shit. I blame Yoga! lol

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

She Always Comes Back For More, Though

"For every conversation I have with you, I have a longer one with god."
-Smarty P. Jones

*smooches...wondering if she knows we're going to the same place*
have all the conversations with god you want, honey. you're just as ratchet as the rest of us *side eye*

Monday, November 14, 2011

It's Not Your Uterus

Guess who's pregnant again?! She of the magical reproductive organs, Michelle Duggar. And guess who was all over the news and interwebs judging her and calling her names? EVERYONE. I may have even made a joke or two on the twitter.

But here's the thing all of you who called her stupid (and much worse names) are forgetting- it's not YOU having this baby. It's not you who has to support it. It's not you that has to raise it. It's the Duggars; a family of 3trillion (sorry, I had to!) people strong who are self-sufficient, enterprising, God-fearing and debt-free.

Nothing is coming out of your pocket to care for this baby so why are you up her birth canal? If she wants to repopulate the planet with a bunch of pale-faced Duggar babies, so what? This woman isn't doing anything her body wasn't built to do. Just because the society you were raised in looks down on having more that 2.5 children doesn't mean that's how she wants to live her life. And lucky for her she lives in AMERICA where she has that choice. CHOICE.

When I was first introduced to this family via some morning news show, I was admittedly concerned about the resources they were bogarting with their big-ass family. But as the years moved on I let it go. India and China have 655 Gazillion folks already. Michelle Duggars 20 babies aren't going to make not even a blip on the overpopulation radar.

So go on, Duggars, have 20 more babies if you want. Ain't none of my business, boo. Live your life.

Unless of course you're a part of some government conspiracy to initiate a Robot and/or Race War. In which case I will team up with ALL BRANCHES OF MY FAMILY, which absolutely out-number your measly family of 22, and kill you dead.

*smooches...kinda tired of the internet's negativity*
I think I'm ready to bring more positivity into my Circle of Trust; blame yoga!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Healthy Jaded Week: Resources And Costs

Let's have a real conversation right now: living a healthy life in this age is expensive. It costs time and money and sometimes even relationships. It involves loss. It requires fearlessness and diving into unknown waters. EXPENSIVE.

Buying fresh organic fruits/veggies and meats means the corporations that mass-produce the hormone-filled foods we've been eating will lose millions. It means the pharmaceutical companies that treat (but never cure) diseases borne of poor diets and obesity lose money, too. Maybe even some doctors get laid off. The "diet" industry begins to die down. All the tools used to keep us dependent and then scare us into complacency gone. We'd start thinking clearly and seeing what's really going on instead of focusing on bullshit like expensive material shit or being a size zero or having Kim K. ass.

Being healthy and fit requires us to take the red pill. And for some that's way too expensive.

But let's put all my conspiracy theories aside for now and discuss the tangible and immediate costs and how to circumvent them so you can stop taking the blue pill which costs a trillion dollars + your soul.

When I began this journey I was like you, comparing prices of gym memberships and fresh produce and cringing. Then I remembered how much insulin costs. And dialysis. And open heart surgery. And all of a sudden the cost of organic vegetables didn't seem so high. I mean, yeah, they were still pricey but I decided it was worth more to me to buy these vegetables than, say, buy a few drinks during happy hour. Once I made peace with that (and accepted that coupons and comparison shopping would now be my BFF) I had to find a way to pay for the costly fitness classes (I live near Park Slope, which means I have to pay Park Slope prices even though I don't earn a Park Slope salary. BOOOO!)

If you find yourself in this predicament, please take your broke ass to Groupon, Living Social, Tippr, Lifebooker and all the other daily deal services your city has to offer. Sure, the emails can get to be too much, but it made all the difference. You can also try various gyms around town for a week for free on a guest pass. Outside of NYC I hear the Y is usually cheap, too. In NYC, the Parks Dept. has rec centers that will only put you out $75 a year. A YEAR! And they have group fitness classes, gyms and swimming pools. For $75 a year. I've even heard rumors that some insurance companies will pay for your gym memberships.

If all of this is still too much money, you have the great outdoors and public parks that can easily turn into your personal gym- pull-ups on the monkey bars or swings; lunges and sprinting up hills; push-ups off the benches; brisk walks around your block. Hell, if lakes and rivers are your reality then jump in that bitch, too, and do some laps!

Basically, there are ways around all the excuses you have that keep you from working out and eating right. And if you have a killer support system like I do, it can't hurt. If you don't, here are some great blogs run by people who like to inspire- get you some:

Bangs and a Bun
Thru the Blue
Casa Robertson
Mark's Daily Apple
Bodhisattva Yoga
Circuit of Change

(feel free to suggest other sites in the comments)

I really hope this week of #HealthyJaded posts have made you think, promoted discussions and opened up a fitness pathway for you, too. I'm feeling so good about myself these days and I know it's because I'm taking better care of my body, which in turn is taking care of my mind. I want this for you. It feels awesome and I get to experience it without drugs, alcohol or McDonald's.

*smooches...ready to get back to triflin' shenanigans next week*
this was fun, but, errr, I need to make fun of someone quick before I have a stroke...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Healthy Jaded Week: Hitting The Wall And Surviving Setbacks

You've been so good about moving your body on a regular basis, and the foods you've been eating are of the utmost quality. Your fitness journey is total perfection and you're so proud of all the work you've done. And then it happens- the unexpected event that interrupts your schedule and your new lifestyle, and you forgot to plan for it! (#sarcasm)

Setbacks will happen. Relapses are real. And their cousin, what runners refer to as The Wall, is, too. You'll come across these obstacles eventually or even daily on the road toward optimum health but I don't want you to freak out (like I did). THIS IS NORMAL. Also, you will not gain all the weight back overnight so chill the fuck out Raquel.

When coming face-to-face with The Wall, Setbacks and Relapses (the power of McDonald's fries is STRONG. I know!), just take a minute to re-examine your routine. What used to work? Why doesn't it work now? How can you tweak it to get that joy back? It really is as simple as all that.

For me the change in weather was a huge deterrent to working out and proper nutrition. In the summer I had longer days, WATERMELON and the great Brooklyn outdoors to motivate me to eat right and stay fit. But this chilly weather is some ol' bullshit! All I want is my duvet & pillows; thick soups w/a side of steaming white rice; hot chocolate laced with whipped cream! Also, I keep trying to fit in some rigorous workouts (listen- I bought some vouchers way back when and I don't want to waste them...even if the thought of having to take this boot camp class makes me want to punch kittens in their nut sacks) and I'm so over it! Finally, I'm needed at home more this term because of the girls' schedules so, yeah, BOOOO!

But there are ways around all of that and I'm currently very close to cracking the code, allowing me to get back on track. It's just a matter of not losing it over a tiny mistake and taking a moment to collect yourself.

We're not perfect (well, you're not...). We're going to err on the side of deep-fried Oreos from time-to-time. The trick is to not let it stop you. "Yeah, I ate the fried cookies. It was dipped in dough and sugar and made my tummy happy. AND WHAT?!" Chalk it up to a moment of depravity and then keep it moving. Literally, keep it moving...move that ass, Lardo! I saw you eat that entire pizza...

*smooches...proving what a great motivator I am*
if you don't like the name Lardo, I can also call you Fatty, Tubbo and my personal favorite: Jabba the Hut. your choice.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Healthy Jaded Week: Food, Glorious Food!

Today's post will be short and to the point, because there really isn't that much I can add about eating for optimum health other than:

1- only eat when you're hungry; not because you're bored or angry or sad.
2- chew slowly; savor your food. hoovering it will cause you to choke! oh yeah, and you'll overeat.
3- eat things that contain as little ingredients as possible; 5 is a good number :)
4- run screaming from prepackaged, processed foods; eat food in it's natural state when you can. If you can't pronounce it or define it when reading the label, RUN. AWAY.
5- always eat breakfast. it took me a while to really follow this one but trust me- eating first thing after you wake up can make all the difference for the rest of your day.

6- do not partake of fad diets that ask you to do something for a set number of days. it's all about maintaining a new way of eating for the rest of your life- not just a week or a month!
7- proper fasting & cleansing never hurt anyone.
8- real butter will always be better than butter substitute. in fact the REAL food is always better than its substitute. this includes eggs, meat and especially sugar.
9- whole grains and soy products are not the friends we thought they were. I just learned this and it broke my heart.
10- a steaming cup of ginger and cinnamon tea will make your tummy SO HAPPY!

11- you don't need carbs for energy.
12- homemade is better than store-bought.
13- cilantro (or any fresh herbs) and garlic are your best friends.
14- in season fruits and veggies are EVERYTHING. but if your local market's produce looks like it lost a street fight w/a hooker, frozen will suffice.
15- an occasional indulgence won't kill you or your fitness goals. unless that indulgence is shooting up heroin. that might very well kill you.

*smooches...wishing you all bon appétit*
and if you have your own food tips or recipes, leave it in the comments!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Healthy Jaded Week: Physical Activity

Whenever people talk about getting fit, one of the main suggestions they make is to exercise. This is what I understood to be one of the main, if not most important, ingredient to turning my couch-potato ways around. And by exercise I meant the kind of workout that hurts and makes you sweat like a slave in the fields at high noon and leaves you sore and broken for days. I thought this was the only way to fix myself.

Let me save you some time and painful, IcyHot nights: that no pain, no gain motto is a farce.

I began my fitness journey with boot camp classes after being diagnosed with plantar faciitis and let me tell you- OUCH! I hurt from top to bottom not just from the workout but from my broken body parts, which included a bad back from having babies, bad knees & feet from poor footwear decisions and weight gain and a ball of tension strangling my neck and shoulders. I was miserable. But because I saw the pounds melting away I kept going, applying heat pads and buying all manner of devices to keep the pain at bay long enough for me to return to class. I even went so far as to take a painkiller. ME! I took a freaking painkiller!

At this time I was also taking pilates, yoga and socacize classes, but it was the brutal boot camp classes that were doing the most damage. Then, after having to purchase sleeves for my shins, which were throbbing in constant pain from boot camp, I decided there had to be a better way. It all felt counter-productive. I hated the workouts, hated going to class, dreaded the feeling I'd have afterward and that made it easier for me to quit. After all, constant pain and injury is a valid enough excuse for me to stop doing something.

Around this time I discovered Mark's Daily Apple, a website by the author of The Primal Blueprint, and his theories on physical activity helped me see that yes, I should listen to my body and stop doing bad things to it. I decided to quit boot camp right then and there, opting instead to continue the activities that brought me joy and allowed me to be in tune with my body: dancing and yoga.

After I left boot camp I still managed to stay in shape and lose some weight, proof that I didn't need to be in pain to fix my body. Also, my knees, shins and feet weren't in constant pain anymore so I started doing things like walking home from work and taking the stairs at least once a day. It was a whole new fabulous world for me and what you'd call exercise. Except it doesn't feel like exercise, to me. I'm just moving around to allow fresh blood to flow to all parts of my body and it's pretty awesome.

This is my long-winded way of saying find something that works for you and stick with it. Swim, jump rope with your kids, play basketball with your friends on the weekend or get a good sweat going on the dance floor during happy hour while everyone else is drinking. Or maybe for you boot camp feels right. Whatever the case, move for enjoyment and forget about what the scale will say as a result. And most importantly, listen to your body. It knows best.

*smooches...inviting you all to come dance with me every Saturday night*
you + me + the dance floor. be there or be square!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Healthy Jaded Week: Preparing Your Mind And Body

This week we're focusing on health and fitness. Why in November? Why not? Everybody likes to wait for the New Year or a Monday or the 1st of the month to finally join a gym or get on some random diet. But will your heart attack wait until New Year's? Will that diabetes hold off until Monday? Is your blood pressure going to chill because it knows on the 1st you're going to start eating low-salt foods? No. Everyday you don't do something about what you put in your mouth (HEAD OUT OF THE GUTTER, BITCHES!) or how often you get up off the couch, you're doing yourself a disservice. I know this because it's what I did for 36 years. Don't be like old me.

It's hard, yes, to go from a life of comfort food and inactivity to getting up early to work out and passing on the fried foods for greens & the like, but it's not impossible. It's all mental.

I bought my first fitness voucher via Groupon in January, but I didn't take the actual class until the end of April. Why? My brain wasn't ready to leave behind my unhealthy life. That way of living served its purpose: the food made me feel better AND kept me too fat to want to be out socializing, hence I wouldn't have to deal with people and rejection. I could just stay home with my jiggly belly watching movies and missing out on everything. That was no kind of life. I had to make a change for my own sanity if not for my physical health.

Besides all that, there were a bunch of strange aches and pains all over my body and the fear that there was irreparable damage in me was the right amount of push I needed to finally get serious. That was my rock bottom- fear of having to take medications for illnesses I'd brought on myself, knowing damn well it's what killed my grandmother.

And while sometimes it's a rock bottom that is needed for most people to make a decision, you don't have to wait for that tear & alcohol soaked day to make changes. Stand in front of a mirror and be honest with yourself. No one needs to know the contents of that conversation; it's just you, in a room, with some truth.

1. Are you really happy this way?
2. What are you willing to do to make positive changes?
3. Do you realize that this needs to be a lifelong commitment and not something you do for a month?
4. Can you accept that your fitness approach must be one that fixes things from the inside out? Mentally and physically?
5. Are you prepared for the "loved ones" who will unintentionally try to derail you?

These are just some questions that should come up in your mirror talk. Personalize it. Realize that this isn't a vanity quest, this is a quality of life project. You want the remaining days of your life to be amazing. You don't anything to hold you back from experiencing whatever comes your way. Being unfit and unhealthy, for me, was a way to avoid the real world and just live in my head. And we all know what a dangerous place that is!

So what are you waiting for? Go have your mirror talk. Go get a physical to make sure all systems are go. Treat yourself to an outdoor solo date and breakup with that person you used to be, the one who can eat an 8-piece bucket of chicken, and some sides, in under an hour. Let them down gently but be clear: the relationship is over. They are a toxic friend and you deserve better. You deserve good health.

*smooches...hoping something hit home for you*
you can do it! take it from your friendly neighborhood recovering couch potato!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Jaded Photographs: November 2011 Edition

"Remnants Of Revelers"

*smooches...still in a Carnival mood*
even though I was shot at, I had a blast!

Friday, November 04, 2011

We Were Already Civilized. Thanks.

A while ago, The F$%k-it List sent me this comment she read somewhere regarding gentrification in BedStuy:

"There is a general Brooklyn blog media/press fascination with white 'hipsters' and other perceived 'gentrifiers' versus the stable, moderate earning black people who own the majority of the residential real estate in parts of Bed Stuy and Crown Heights. The implication seems to be that these neighborhoods are finally being "civilized" by trendy, wealthier white folks. It's truly tiresome."

Look here, I hope this person was mistaken and that this isn't what people are thinking about BedStuy, but just in case, let me explain something to you.

BLACK doesn't automatically equal uncivilized. The neighborhood may have been poorer with only a handful of businesses and services here and there that only catered to inner-city tastes (take-out Chinese joints, laundromats, bodegas on EVERY corner) but it wasn't uncivilized. There was (and probably still is) a huge drug problem all up and through the 79th Precinct's jurisdiction, but it wasn't uncivilized. There were many more abandoned and overgrown lots back then, but we were NEVER uncivilized.

We had jobs. We cared for our families and knew our neighbors- even the criminals- if not by name then by face, and they'd never let bad things happen to good people. Our kids played outside (well, not me...) and decorated our windows during the holidays. We had block parties that lasted from sun-up to sun-down every summer (or so I know I wasn't allowed to go, right?) with great music and fun and food.

To say that all of that was uncivilized because there were no wealthy white folks buying up shit and opening quaint little coffee shops and Ethiopian restaurants would be to call us folks from BedStuy animals, and frankly, I pity the fool that would have the audacity to call me an animal to my face.

So to the people that think the new white residents of BedStuy make the legendary (yes, motherfucker, LEGENDARY) Brooklyn neighborhood more habitable because FINALLY THE ANIMALS ARE TAMED, let me introduce this size 10 Doc Marten to your anus.

*smooches...beaming with pride for my neighborhood*
it was a tough place but I'd change NOTHING I experienced growing up there. BK STAND UP!!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

I Expect My Man To Call Me.

I'm not that needy of a person. I have my bratty moments when I demand attention and all, but overall you'll find that I can entertain myself just fine. So when I say I expect the man with whom I'm in a relationship (or even the man who's wooing me- this applies to him, too!) to call me, I mean this:

You're not fitna have full conversations with me via GChat or text. A full conversation needs to be spoken. I don't mean a "thinking of you" or "I just saw a man in a fur coat with a Jheri curl and a fuchsia poodle" because that's a cutesy sorta text that I would read, smile at, respond with a "me, too" or "NO WAY!" respectively, and not expect another text in return.

But on a steady basis, dude will need to call me. Ask me about my day or week and actually care about what I'm saying. He won't be fitting me into his TV-watching time or catching up with emails time, it'll just be us having a chat on the phone (or face-to-face, but that goes without saying: if I don't SEE you on a regular basis? You ain't my man.).

Electronic conversations are impersonal. Twitter serves its purpose because I'm not real-life friends with the 200+ people I follow. GChat works when I have downtime at work but still need to appear professional at my desk. However the folks that I truly call friends get a call from me, even if it's once a month. Is it too much to ask that a man who's trying to wife me up adhere to the same level of communication expectations? I don't think so.

We all know that texts and IMs can get misconstrued- what's the tone behind that? Was that "LOL" sarcastic or genuine? WHAT DOES S/HE MEAN BY 'WHATEVER'??? A phone call or face-to-face conversation solves all of that. Well, most of it. If you're dating a crazy person there's so solution for that...

My point is, if you expect to have your bodily fluids anywhere near my bodily fluids, and want to parade me all over NYC as your woman, I'm going to expect a certain level of actual contact that doesn't involve a text, computer or messenger pigeon. Call me. If I'm available I will answer the phone. If I'm not I will call you back as soon as I can because, if you're my man, I really do want to hear from you.

*smooches...pulling away from technology one post at a time*
women, we have to make these demands from men these days because they're getting too lazy and too comfortable with all these gadgets.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Four Pounds Of Excuses: A Healthy Jaded Update

Take a good look at what weeks of skipping workouts and eating like a fat pig look like:

I don't think you're ready for this jelly... I'm not even ready for it!

YUP. I've gotten bigger since my last fitness post and I'm pretty disgusted with myself. All that hard work this summer and for what? Sub-par pizza and wings from Dominoes? FOR SHAME, RAQUEL, FOR SHAME!

::takes a moment to admonish self some more::

OKAY. Now that that's over and done, let's make it all better by getting back on the right path. The whole trying to work out at night didn't work for me because really- who the hell wants to put in a full day and then go work out? That's that bullshit! (c) Smarty P. Jones

Yoga at night is not a problem. I pretty much look forward to it at night even though it can be a tough workout; it's still very relaxing and centering. But boot camp and all that? AT NIGHT? Pffft!

So I asked another parent if N could tag along with her and her daughter to school in the AM and that is working out beautifully. HELLO FREE MORNINGS! Now I just have to come face to face with the fact that I must part ways with my bed (my flannel sheets, jammies and duvet cover are EVERYTHING) before the sun's out. Plus:

1- I'm back to a modified Primal eating style, 80/20 to be exact, because strict diets are for people who have nothing better to do than harp over ever morsel of food they eat. I'm going to sprinkle cheese on something once in a while. I will eat a bag of Fritos during PMS Week. And Baby Jesus help you if you try and come between me and my momma's yellow rice on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

2- I shall brave the darkness and go back to my classes. BLAH. I already explained how awesome my bed situation is but in addition to that cottony heaven, there's a rapist loose in Park Slope. I didn't want to act like I care but I CARE and it's rather scary. But I'll put on my game face, carry a weapon and just do what I gotta do. If you see an angry Dominican walking along Fourth Avenue before dawn just steer clear.

3- I've joined up with other bloggers/twitter friends on that 30-Day Ab Challenge I mentioned yesterday, which will be a true test of my ability to workout at home. I have limited space and even less discipline (especially if no one is standing over me yelling "COME ON, PENZO! GET THAT FAT ASS OFF THE GROUND!) but it is something I am going to have to overcome ::sings Negro spirituals::

4- Sundays will find me cooking and food shopping as if a hurricane's a-comin'! I find that it's always when I don't have anything convenient to make for dinner that the credit card comes out and the Dominoes appears at my door.

5- I don't have a #5 but yesterday I did a list with only THREE items... you can't expect me to only have one with FOUR today. My entire world will implode. Is that what you want? An imploded Jaded Empire?!?!?!

So this is it; this is how I shall greet the holidays: fit & fabulous! I'll have a regular, sustainable routine and you will BOW DOWN TO MY AWESOMENESS once I reach my fabulous goal (which now has an ETA of May 23, 2012). You will wish you were me. You will cry in your pillow because you can't be me and you will hide ya kids, ya wives AND ya husbands from the greatness that is Healthy Jaded.

OR you'll make sure and read the blog all next week in order to get your shit on point, too, as I devote it to all things fitness. Just one week, though, I promise, then I'll go back to yelling at kids on the subway and threatening your lives.

*smooches...ready for the homestretch*
this must be what it feels like to run a start out strong, start to lose it somewhere in the middle and then see the finish line and get this sudden surge of determination...