Thursday, February 28, 2013

In Preparation For My Trip Home

It wasn't cheap, but I have my tickets in-hand for our trip to Santo Domingo next month--well worth the sacrifice (who needs electricity? you Americans are so SPOILED!). In just a few weeks we'll be in the sun with family, relaxing. But before all of that can happen, I want to do a few things. Namely...

1- Teach the girls some basic Spanish phrases. I got yelled at last year because they didn't speak the language, and I was supposed to be teaching them all year before this trip. But I got busy watching Soul Food on know how it is... However, I'm going to teach them some Spanish basics and make them practice it for at least two hours a day.

2- Get fitter. In my head I have four months to get in better shape because I won't be in non-sweater gear until late May/early June. BUT it hit me- I'll be on the beach in only a few weeks! Now, I'm not going to do anything crazy like starve myself or go on some crazy cleanse--you know Jaded ain't about that life!--but I do want to establish a routine that will translate easily to life in the Caribbean. Also, I need to make sure I can bring my supplements with me; you know how RUDE TSA agents can be about liquids on a plane.

3- Braid. N's. Hair. I'm not dealing with the untangling and craziness that we went through last time. The child is getting braids that will never get unraveled until we get back to NYC. Problem solved!

4- Pack smarter. I barely wore anything more than shorts and a t-shirt, and I had to refrain from bringing goodies back because it didn't fit in the suitcase. That's not going to happen this time!

5- Make sure to bring supplies to enhance and record our trip. I need my voice recorder for all of Abuelo and Papi's tales, at least two books to read at night, a notebook and pens to write a zillion new stories (OK, maybe just one) and a decent camera. Although, my old Blackberry phone did an OK job of taking pics, as did K's iPod Touch. Oooh, that reminds me--I need a kick-ass playlist for when we're chilling in the sun.

Oh man, I cannot wait!!!

And don't worry, I'll schedule some posts for while I'm gone. You won't even know I'm on vacation...

*smooches...looking forward to some much-needed downtime*
the countdown begins NOW!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Politics & Self-Hatred Aside...

Happy Independence Day, Dominicanos!!

Google doodle from a couple of years ago. Que cute!

Que viva Quisqueya!!!

*smooches...playing bachatas all day just because*
feel free to bring me some habichuelas dulce!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tengo Mucho Hot

I don't have much to share today: I have less than a month to reduce a back-fat situation for Cathi's wedding and my MRI resulted in sorta crappy news, but I bought another Juan Luis Guerra CD and decided you needed more reminders of his awesomeness.

That should keep you busy for a few minutes.

*smooches...shaking it all over my kitchen*
merengue is so fabulous. always.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Patchen Avenue Memories

Cooking "Dominican" food always reminds me of my grandmother. Almost everything I learned in the kitchen I learned from watching her. My mom taught me lots, of course, but mostly my skills can be traced back to hovering over grandma in the kitchen because I was STARVING and yelling "When is dinner going to be ready!" over her shoulder.

(Please note that I got home from school by 3PM and dinner was always ready by 4:30, and I always had some cookies or a PB&J sandwich with milk after school. So I was just being greedy!)

Yesterday the homie Tiffany opened up her kitchen so that I could commemorate the Oscars and the last week of New York's Dominican Heritage Month with some traditional-esque cuisine.

Please trust that Grandma used dry beans, not canned stuff.
She was an OG that way.

(c) 2013 Tiffany via Instagram lol
As she and the others asked me questions about my process, it dawned on me that a lot of it is stuff Grandma used to do (a salt wash for the tostones and sealing the rice pot w/aluminum foil) and Mami taught me to do (stab the raw meat so the seasonings seep INTO the meat and not just onto the skin), and then the kitchen smelled like cooking oil and VOILA- I was a kid again pestering Grandma about the ETA of my dang grub!

This also brings up other memories of growing up in that huge railroad apartment in the heart of Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn, especially after sharing a lot of those details this weekend during my little talk at Church of Monika, like:

> Riding bikes indoors because we couldn't go outside
> Hosting a variety show in the living room (with an invisible audience, of course)
> Giving nicknames to the regulars who passed by our window (Flower Boy, Portia [Porcupine], Rainbow Brite)
> Watching The Exorcist in the living room under a blanket after Titi Gloris got us cable
> Hand-washing my clothes in the bathroom sink, regardless of them going into the washer or not

It was a pretty good life, I must say, and I have amazing memories to last me a lifetime. I hope my kids will feel the same when I'm gone.

*smooches...very aware of everything all of a sudden*
and so looking forward to going "home" next month

Friday, February 22, 2013

I'm Gonna Tell Everyone To Lighten Up

A couple of weeks ago, there was a bit of a "blow up" in one of my meetings at work. Seems everything is not very copacetic in our sister department, and I had to be the unfortunate witness to their unraveling. When I tell you I wanted to crawl into the bushes and disappear...

My boss called me and my coworker into the office to ask what happened and since I was the only one present during World War III, I had to relay all the ugliness I tried to swallow down into that quiet place in my soul where I hide bad things, like my urge to punch people in the face and be mean and such. I almost didn't survive it. And it was all so dumb because listen- our job is pretty great. At least I think so. I mean, maybe it's only great for me?

I don't know, but on my side of the third floor annex, we're chill and we get along and our work gets done without too many bumps in the road. We communicate, share ideas, help each other out and cheer each other on.

OK look, it's not the bestest most amazingest job ever, but it's pretty freakin' cool compared to places I've worked before: Waco School for Girls, the Basement, Married to That Guy. This job rocks and I'm thankful for it. I do my best. I enjoy my coworkers. I rarely miss any days (and I used to be famous for taking sick days if I felt my socks were looking at me funny!) and I care about the work we do. I know I won't be doing this forever because I have bigger plans for my life, but I hope to be working here for a very long time.

And anytime it gets too rough or crazy or annoying, I just take a step back, breathe in and regroup. As long as the sun is out (even if it's hiding behind a cloud) and I'm alive to see it, it's a fucking good time.

*smooches...wishing you a laid back, Cali-style weekend*
ignore all reports of rain; make your own sunshine!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Get Filled With The Holy Ghost Of Writing, ME!

I told y'all I was booked up this weekend!

Fresh off the heels of a kick-ass appearance at Sycamore Stories in Ditmas Park, I'm ready to lead the congregation this Sunday at the Church of Monika in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Photo (c) 2012 Marcin Kaliski

You know, there's something that happens to me when I finish speaking to a crowd, whether it be sharing a story or discussing my craft. It's like the buzz you get when you eat a slice of watermelon that's been sitting overnight in a tub of grain alcohol. You know the type of buzz that puts a smile on your face and everything your friends say is AWESOME, and everything the DJ plays is "MY JAM!" and your body moves in a way that makes you think you look like this:

but really, you look like this:

That's how good I feel after most, if not all, of my literary events.

I'm hoping this Sunday is equally satisfying, although it would be better if you all show up, too! And then you can take me to brunch.

*smooches...getting high off my own supply*
I mean, it's here and so plentiful... why not?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I'm Practicing The Art Of Shutting Up

"Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?" -Sai Baba

I like to be right, and I especially like being right loudly and in front of the person I'm proving wrong. It's fun and makes me feel superior. Don't act like I'm the only one.

But maybe, just maybe, sometimes it's OK to let someone be wrong and learn a lesson and leave it alone without dancing a jig to the tune of "I'M RIGHT AND YOU'RE WRONG" all the time. Sometimes just throw up a little, "Wow, I'm sorry to hear that," and keep your smug right-ness to yourself. Then go home and play some music real loud and replace all the lyrics with I'M RIGHT AND YOU'RE WRONG in the privacy of your own space.

Just something I thought about as I pondered how best to improve myself this year.

*smooches...speaking softly and carrying a big machete*
I think I'll have that put on a plaque and hang it on my front door

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Appearances On Wednesday & Sunday, Stalkers!

This Wednesday (WEDNESDAY WEDNESDAY) I will once again read a bit of magic to some drunk folks at Sycamore Bar in Ditmas Park. Why? Because why not? What else am I going to do on a Wednesday night- wait for someone to say something witty on The Twitter so I can respond and hope a dialogue gets started? I already did that last week. It wasn't all that. I'm ready to move on.

Anyway, if you're in Brooklyn and you like sipping on cheap drinks while listening to snooty wordsmiths tell you some stuff they made up while contemplating whether or not to buy more raisins or more prunes on their next shopping trip, then please, stop on by. I go on at around 9:30.

Then on Sunday (SUNDAY SUNDAY) I'm speaking at the Church of Monika at Open Source Gallery in Park Slope. It's a sort of town hall meeting where I'll discuss my craft and what I feel it brings to my life, my audience and the world. Or something like it.

Sunday, February 24, 11AM
Church of Monika
Open Source
306 17th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215

I'd love to see you at one or both of these appearances; a lot of you OWE ME THAT MUCH.

*smooches...huss-a-lin erryday*
If I can just keep busy I'll forget all the bad stuff running through my head

Monday, February 18, 2013

What Will Keep Me Happy This Week

On Friday I learned that my social security number had been compromised, my road-trip plans with Irene were thwarted by vandals and that I didn't get a prestigious grant for which I had applied. And then two literary journals declined my stories over the weekend.

Let me tell you- this weekend had all the makings of a Bad Decision Smorgasbord: booty-calling an ex or two, eating some McDonald's (which I haven't done in years!) and canceling my writing life altogether. Good thing my girls were home this weekend, because instead I went food shopping, finally picked out a dress for Cathi's impending nuptials and other random chore-like things.

It was a struggle to stay positive (especially because I had to leave the house with a naked face on Sunday to get the perfect shade of foundation at Sephora, and I try to never leave the house with a naked face anymore) but I must say, an unexpected thing kept me in high spirits: when my long-time friends call me Rocky.

Not to dismiss the people I've met since 2006 when I moved into my own place, but when someone I knew in high school or college touches base with me and calls me Rocky, I'm transported back to the time when I was that girl, the one I'm just getting back to. For a while there I was Raquel or Ms. Penzo and I hated it. It was too formal and grown up and I'm too playful for all that. I was Rocky from third grade on and then all of a sudden, that girl disappeared. It was sad.

Today, I see signs of that girl again. She looks older and more tired than I recall, but she wasn't getting much sleep back then so I'm not surprised. Still, I see her. And it feels amazing!

That's enough to put a smile on my face well into Saturday.

*smooches...plotting to freeze your underwear when you fall asleep*
don't ask why; I just felt like it

Friday, February 15, 2013

But We Will Survive In This World Of Competition

I want to apologize for skipping inspirational Friday last week; I hope you were able to get through the weekend and this whole week without it. And now it's back so rejoice and yell it from the mountaintops: Jaded is back with more motivation to help you through the tough times!

So let me tell you about my current tough-time situation: some lowlife loser is using my social security number to work illegally in this country. I know, I know, it's probably some poor unfortunate soul that came to America to make a better life for his families, BLAH BLAH BLAH. How about if it's one of Al-Qaeda's cousins going through my garbage or keying into my apartment, how would you feel then? Listen, I get it- many of the immigrants that are here without papers were probably in a bind and needed to leave wherever right away and just want to live life. BUT when you cross the line and do illegal and rude shit like STEALING someone's identity? Yeah, you are now seriously persona non grata. I don't care about your back story, son. I will hunt you down and shut down your whole world.

This is pretty much the last thing I want to deal with right now or ever. I have stories to write, kids to raise, events to plan and a pesky nine-to-five that interrupts my daily, 24-hour nap to worry about. Identity theft is just...UGH.

However this is the world I live in and this is what's happening to me right now and sitting back and ignoring it will not solve the problem. Jean-Pierre Carlos Mohammed Gupta will not be allowed to continue this charade much longer. This latest obstacle is just more proof that one cannot be idle and let life happen. We must grab the bull by the balls and say "HEY! Stop trampling my rose garden you clumsy, uncouth riffraff!"

I'm just going to take a few deep breaths and then dive into the situation. It's what grown-ups do. It's what you should do with your current obstacles, too. Hopefully Bob will help us remain calm along the way.

*smooches...hoping I don't have to kill somebody*
I've never snapped a human neck but I'm sure I could enjoy it.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Like A Handprint On Her Heart

Sometimes, in the middle of all the crazy and the stress, I take a step back, a deep breath and take it all in. Ten years ago I was still married, living in Riverdale with a third grader and a toddler and a pretty decent job as a program assistant at Horace Mann School, and taking writing classes at CCNY. I thought it was a comfortable place to be in life. There was a nasty undercurrent of unhappiness, yes, but like a true recovering Catholic, I still knew how to swallow the bad feelings and put on a happy face.

Today, I don't have it all together and most days I don't know how I'll survive to see another day under the crushing weight of my responsibilities, but I make it happen. I truly amaze myself with how cunning and creative and strong I can be, even if I doubt myself every step along the way. And honestly, if I could do all over again I would NEVER have kids, and that's the honest-to-your-Judeo-Christian-god truth. However, seeing my girls, almost all grown up, on a good path in life and pretty much each other's comfort in this world, keeps me grounded and relaxed in times of struggle. If I can make them alright then I will be alright and then everything will be alright.

I can't believe they were ever teeny-tiny babies.
Yes, there is a five-year age difference.

"I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you...
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you I have been changed for good"

*smooches...taking comfort in a continuous job well-done*
yes, those lyrics are from Wicked. Yes, we're seeing it again this spring. Yes you can come with us. No I won't buy your ticket.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Musical Interlude 2.13.13

I watched a beautiful short film by Ava DuVernay on Tuesday:

and the soundtrack instantly reminded me how wonderful Goapele's voice is. I just bought the album on which this song is found because Fuck Yeah, that's why!

Carnival just ended, so I suppose it's OK for me to concentrate on something other than soca music for a little bit. Especially after watching the Grammy's on Sunday and actually liking a couple of the tunes I heard performed. That is until my soca boo-loves bring their acts to the US; then it's back to jumping and waving as per usual.

Have you heard any music that's good, cool, amazing or life-changing lately? Leave it in the comments!

*smooches...sharing because you need more culture in your life*
I'm just assuming...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What Had Happened Was...:Catching Up With The Jaded Empire

Howdy folks! Just wanted to give a shout out to your patience given my impromptu blog vacation last week, but as always it was necessary. I'm in the middle of restructuring my priorities and trying to fit things into my life, and last week that meant blogging had to take a back seat. You understand.

Anyfucks, here's what's been going on:

1- I finally had my visit with an allergist (keep your mangy cats & dust mites FAR AWAY from me!) and the MRI of my lower back & spine. Child, first of all WHY ARE MRIs SO LOUD? YOU SEE HOW I'M TYPING? THAT'S HOW LOUD IT IS INSIDE THAT CREEPY COFFIN-LIKE CONTRAPTION. LOUD. AS FUCK. Second, I need the ENT folks to understand that I cannot fill my Rx for Flonase because I can't find my Rx card, and I keep calling the Union office for a replacement but their offices were damaged in the hurricane and they're currently milking that excuse dry and NOT answering phones. So no, Dr. Song, I've not taken the Flonase yet. Stop asking.

Finally, I cannot explain to you the torture that it is to sit in a chair with all of these concentrated droplets of allergens all up and down your arm for fifteen goddamn minutes while the doc waits for your skin to react. You know when my skin reacted? Right the fuck away. But I still had to sit for fifteen minutes and not move or scratch or anything. Added bonus? I got to walk around for the next couple of days with my arms all swollen and marked up. THANKS! His recommendation? Encase everything in my room to keep the dust mites away, steer clear of cats and, oh yeah, get a flu shot for the next zillion years of your life. Bitch, have several seats because NO on that last one.

2- My hair is still straight. I thought you'd want an update. I've been able to go over a month with it straight and my edges have hung in there for the duration. It helps that every week or so I add a little olive oil (yes, from my kitchen) into my strands, and that I pick it up every night and wear a scarf when I can (even though it comes off five minutes after I've gotten into bed. "S'okay. She'll be back..." I'm still trying to find a way to make my hair not smell so...natural O_o. I mean, after a month and a half of not washing it, the freshness is definitely gone. Luckily for me, there isn't anyone all up in my hair follicles anymore so I only marginally care.

But as of right now I'm trying to find ways of not mimicking my hipster nemeses and de-funk my hair until my next salon visit. And YES I know I could just go more often but TIME is MONEY and also MONEY is MONEY and well, that's even more scarce than my time.

3- There will be no Jaded Birthday festivities in NYC this year. Take a minute and let that soak in. I'm going to go away on a much-deserved trip to a place where the sun shines bright all day, every day, and I'm going to soak in all of that wonderful Vitamin D--probably while laying in a floaty in the ocean--and not think twice about it. There will be slinky bathing suits. There will be sexy dancing with hot and sexy men. I will give out fake names and phone numbers. And I will eat as if it's my last day on earth. All of these things are on deck because I deserve it and I'm worth it. IF you're super sad about me not having a birthday party, though, you could always just throw me a fabulous gala. I'll even promise to show up!

4- I am absolutely focused on my writing (so far) this year. Last year I was obsessed with my health and my fitness and whether or not Zoe was going to choose George or Wade, but I was really just hiding from my own work. I've started meeting with my writers group again to motivate each other and workshop our pieces, and I feel good about it. I'm going to clean up all of my unpublished pieces, send them out and find them a sweet literary home. I've been reworking a story into a format and voice that I believe works best and it's very exciting to see my word blobs become more and more coherent.

I've been mingling with other writers and event organizers and am making myself more visible. I still have to work on my social graces and actually TALK when I mingle but listen--Rome wasn't built in a day. I have to ease into this new social butterfly role, OK? DON'T RUSH ME! Also, expect more events from me. I'm just going to keep having them until you show up to one. YOU WILL EVENTUALLY HAVE TO SHOW UP TO ONE, DAMMIT.

5- I'm mentally and physically and logistically preparing for the shift taking place in my family real soon: K is going off to college in the fall and N is becoming more active in extracurricular activities. This means I'm either away from home more--chauffeuring Miss N all over Brooklyn--or I'm home more because there's no one to watch N anymore. It's not so terrible (so far) seeing as I don't go out as much as I used to, and nights when I have to because of networking events or readings, I'm confident she'll either be fine on her own or will just come with me. Fuck it- why not? It'll be like Take Your Daughter to Work Day only at night and in seedy bars...wait, let me rethink that...

So, hookers, what have YOU been doing?

*smooches...shocked that I had time to write this*
actually, I stole the time from some other important shit that needed to get done. I'm still working on that prioritizing...

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened On My Way To Write A Blog Post

Long story short: I didn't.

Or does this count?

*smooches...still in vacation mode*
sometimes you just have to live life and say FUCK THE INTERNET, you know?

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Jaded Photographs: February 2013 Edition

"The Lipstick In Question"

Remember when I revealed some of my SSB- Secret Single Behavior? The lipstick that makes me feel better every time I wear it? Well that's me wearing it above. Notice how it matches my pashmina and just looks so damn good on me? I never wear it out of the house--it's just for me, dammit--but I love it to bits and pieces!

Oh yeah, and that's the babies, next to me, still playing dress up after all these years.

*smooches...leaving lipstick marks on your collar*
what do you do to feel better?

Friday, February 01, 2013

Light Up Your Face With Gladness

So far this year, I've been bringing you uplifting and motivational messages on Fridays with the hopes that it will turn your bad thoughts and days into great ones. Today, I'm the one who needs this message more than anyone. I haven't checked the calendar so these blues could very well be Shark Week-related, but whatever the reason I need it.

If you're feeling a little (or a lot) less-than-great right now, join me as I take a step back and regroup. Nothing is going to get done if we sit and wallow. (OK, take a day or so to wallow, but then that's it!) For your reading pleasure, noted educator Sal Khan's MIT Commencement Address:

Start every morning with a smile — even a forced one — it will make you happier. Replace the words “I have to” with “I get to” in your vocabulary. Smile with your mouth, your eyes, your ears, your face, your body at every living thing you see. Be a source of energy and optimism. Surround yourself with people that make you better. Realize or even rationalize that the grass is truly greener on your side of the fence. Just the belief that it is becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

View stressful, political interactions as nothing more than a deeply immersive strategy game. One that can be won if you stay focused on what matters most and your emotions and ego are not tied to your argument.

If you find yourself arguing with someone whom you respect and love, try to surrender your own ego to the shared identity you have with that person. In the heat of an argument, do the opposite of what your pride tells you to do. If you have the self-control, stop talking and give your opponent a random, intense minute-long hug.

Make people feel that you care about them. And here’s, a well, a little secret, the best way to do this is to actually care about them.

Make people feel that you are listening to them. Another little secret, the best way to do this is to actually listen.

When you gain or lose material things, remember how silly they really are. How little they mean relative to your health and relationships.

Remember that real success is maximizing your internally derived happiness. It will not come from external status or money or praise. It will come from a feeling of contribution. A feeling that you are using your gifts in the best way possible.

*smooches...smiling so much it hurts*
if it helps, rub some Vaseline over your teeth to avoid the over-drying that occurs from over-smiling; pageant chicks taught me that!