Writing 101: 3 Important Songs Help Me Commit to a Writing Practice

16 Sep


The basic unit of writing practice is the timed exercise.

– Natalie Goldberg

Today it’s all about learning how to commit to practicing writing on a daily basis. The goal for today is to write for 15 minutes without stopping as I answer the following question:


Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?




Regular readers of Carmen’s Blog know that I love music! I have put the timer on for this 15-minute writing challenge and I’ll bet I have no problem to talk about music LOL. Should I talk about music in Spanish? music in English? songs that make me sad? happy? creative? motivated?  Music lovers KNOW that the hard part will be in choosing the songs, there are soooo many!

You know that we come from a musical family so we had been around music for our entire lives and were heavily influenced by music from our musician father, and mother whose musical tastes ran the gamut from English to Spanish. So we know all about trios, Javier Solis, Miguel Aceves Mejia, Patsy Cline, Eydie Gorme, Nat King Cole, oldies and some straight-up cool jams like “Tighten Up” , “Groove Me” and “Crystal Blue Persuasion” which our Ita loved.   We Torres’ also spent a lot of time with our Grijalva cousins and they, as my brother Marty says, really blew our minds music wize. They loved and exposed us to soooo much music that we still love today.

Song 1: “Don’t You Worry About A Thing” Stevie Wonder

I’ll never forget the first time that I heard this song. We Torres’ were all lil ones then and just learning about what kind of music that WE liked. This was one of the first songs that I heard English words sung, some Spanish words spoken, “todo ‘ta bien chevere”, and this definite and unique Latino vibe. I had never heard the piano played in that riff/melody/progression before and it was soooo cool to instinctively relate to this style of music. It was the first time I heard anything that sounded like salsa in my life. Who knew that I’d grow into this major salsa fan? I wasn’t the only Torres either to love this song, ALL of my siblings love this song. It’s so fun to watch the different reactions from each of us: my brothers immediately start air playing their instruments of choice, keyboards and drums. My sisters get that pout going as they nod their head in time to the music.  I had to call sis LG, accomplished musician and salsa fan that she is, tells me that this very distinctive intro is call a “montuno” piano riff.  I remember this song being one of our Torres Fam Approved Songs then and now.



Song 2: “El Raton” Fania All Stars

This was probably the first salsa song that I heard and loved instantly. Of course, we heard this song through our Grijalva cousins and I went out and bought the Fania All Stars “Latin*Soul*Rock” Live album.   It was the first time that I had ever heard salsa giant Cheo Feliciano sing and loved that he put in some English into the song as I was still learning how to speak and understand Spanish.  Also, this was the first music in Spanish that I heard that wasn’t Mexican so their accents and phrasing sounded so different how I spoke.  Only years later, did I ‘get it’ that, in this song, that all of the super heavy weights, the creators of modern Salsa, legends were all playing together!   I would listen to the album for hours on end.   I was so young that, by the time I was of concert-going age, the Fania All Stars had pretty much broken up and a lot of these guys were on their own and became legendary salseros in their own right:  Willie Colon, Hector Lavoe, Larry Harlow, Ray Barretto, Celia Cruz, Cheo and of course, my favorite Ruben Blades.  I’ve seen many of these guys in concert but would have LOVED to see THIS particular show all all of them on stage together.  I’ve always been a fan of ‘salsa dura’, this type of salsa is so on the beat, solid, not too slow if you want to dance, with very tight musical arrangements.   I’m a huge fan of the vocalists especially and love to hear the inventive ways that they work it singing lead and with ‘coros’.  Fania All Stars’ music still stands up after all of this time and is also on the list of Torres Fam Approved Songs.



Song 3:  “The Golden Time of Day”  Maze featuring Frankie Beverly

Love love love this song!  I got to know Maze’s music years after it came out.  My siblings knew and loved all of their songs and sis Kiki, especially, loves her Frankie.  The one thing that I always got from this music was that it was ‘groovin’ music to chill out to while at home or in the yard, music to cruise to, music to party to.  Being an event planner, I had always envisioned a huge outdoor event where people were kicking back having a good time.  But, once I got into the words of the song, I really started to LOVE it.   I love this time of day, the sun really is golden, it starts cooling down if it’s been hot all day, the world starts winding down and relaxing.  So much of my life has revolved around events that end around this time of day, so I can usually be found driving home during the golden time of day.  I cannot tell you how many gorgeous sunsets I’ve been able to experience at the wheel of my Jeep – it’s the absolute perfect way for me to wind down!   I’ve been lucky enough to see him in concert and, there is nothing like being there to experience “The Golden Time of Day” LIVE…to see thousands of people groove and sing the song word for word is amazing, now I know that I am not the only one who loves this song!


Ok, so it’s been about 20 minutes since I started this post and my hands hurt LOL but in a good way…I love music and I love talking about music!  I’ve attached videos of my three song choices – hope that you enjoy them as much as I do.




Writing 101 Challenge Day 2: A Room with a View

16 Sep


A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.

– Joan Didion


Regular readers of my blog know that I am always in search of finding my Inner Chingona — inner peace if you will. Sometimes it is much easier to find myself, or better yet, hear myself in certain places. Day 2 of Today’s Writing 101 Challenge is to describe such a place…

The most relaxing places for me are always around the water. Crazy since I never learned to swim!  Water feels so cool, cool water that refreshes instantly upon touch.  When it’s hot outside, running my hands through water, splashing it onto my face, throwing my shoes off to put my feet into the water, love it!

A few years ago, I had just moved back to California and was going through an incredibly stressful time readjusting and read that getting out in nature would settle my nerves and relax me.  I remembered from my time in Colorado that the views were so incredible.  I used to say that it was hard to have a bad attitude when surrounded by beautiful scenery.   As I drove, I would look up and see the awesome snow-capped Rocky Mountains daily and my attitude would be placed in check.

Upon returning to California, I had still not found anything in nature that had the same effect on me as Colorado had.  So one day I was working and decided that I had to get out of the office for a while.  I wanted to find nature so I looked online and found that there was a beach close by.   Ok, so how to get there?  Public transportation was not an option as I only had a limited amount of time.  Driving there?  I was nervous as I hadn’t been in San Francisco that long and to get in the car and drive across the city in the middle of the day was daunting.  Especially in the beginning, as I seemed to get lost, really lost, every time I got into the car.

But off into the car I went, directions in hand, both hands on the wheel, and excited as I started this new adventure.   Although there was really only one way to head to the beach, I went off of my directions so that I wouldn’t get lost.  Finally, I see the sign with an arrow pointing toward the beach.  It was a long street to the beach and, every time I got to a stop sign or stoplight,  I would think to myself, ‘am I going the right way?’  At one of the stop lights, as I look up, and I think I see the beach.  As I’d never driven toward a beach, I didn’t know what to look for.  I was still far enough away that it was like I was looking into an illusion.  What did I see?  It looked like the blue sky and the water merged to form this awesome blue wall.  I remember saying, ‘wow’ and could feel my heart pounding as I got closer and closer.

I could now smell the beach air and could see the waves moving back and forth as I drove closer to the beach.  You better know that I wanted to jump out of that car and run to the water but there was so much traffic.  Finally, I get to the beach, park the car, and realize that I am so not dressed for the beach and had no towels, blankets, or anything to sit on but I did find a book, some chanclas/flipflops, and my music — threw it all into a bag and walked onto the warm, dry, sand toward the water.  The sand was so heavy that I couldn’t run it at first.  Once I got close to the water, I threw my bag down and, once I felt the water flow over my feet, I was instantly calmed.  I stood there for a very long time letting the waves soothe my feet, my nerves, my stress, and my bad attitude.   The sound of the waves began to lull me into a pleasant trance as well and wouldn’t you know it?  I could actually hear myself THINK!

After sitting there for a while, I decided to go for a walk before heading back to the office.  I put the music on and off I went, as I looked back, my car was farther and farther away and I was having the time of my life.  After walking and walking, I turned back toward the car and was amazed to see that I had walked really far and the time had passed, so much so, that it looked like the sun was going down!

I got to witness an incredible sunset on the beach that day and, by the time I got back into my car, my attitude had completely adjusted, I was calm, relaxed, and ready to finish my work projects before I left for home that night.    On this day, I lost one of my chanclas and found my inner Chingona for the first time.   I remember making a promise to myself as I drove back into the City, that I would visit the Beach as much as possible.   I now have a bunch of places I love to walk near the water but this beach remains one of my favorites because it was the first of many escapes — OCEAN BEACH in San Francisco…


Writing 101 Challenge Day 1: Unblock the Mind

15 Sep


Writing Challenge Day 1:  This entry may not be that organized as my assignment was to Unblock the Mind and to write, just write, for 20 minutes without stopping.  Looking forward to having fun

Today is my first day of Writing 101, where I will be challenged daily to stretch my writing capacity.  What do I  want to learn from this challenge?  I would like to be able to write cleverly and more concise, so that not everything sounds like a rant or a journal entry.  I like to keep journal entries and rants in my personal journal where I write it out in my hand and write out my stress, sadness, joy, etc. until my hand gets tired.  I’ve been so amazed to see the power of writing things down.  Many times, I’m all caught up in the emotion of the moment and I forget what I wrote, it’s like I just needed to release the stress, then I look back and read past entries and am stunned to find that I accomplished this or that goal.

I’ve also been trying to take my writing more seriously and, after a period of writing nothing for months, I now have designated a ‘writing day’ for myself.  I’ve done what I call “copy days” for years in my job — copy days are the designated days that I try to write all of the commercials, promotional announcements, web updates, social media posts, etc. that I need to submit for the week.   I found that once I designated a copy day, that my week was much more efficient and I was able to handle the mountain of other tasks and, as one of my assistants told me once, “no matter where you look in that case, there is always work” referring to my work briefcase.

I would love to be able to translate the excitement that I have for writing into other areas of my life.   Once I start writing, off my fingers go on the keyboard and, the next time I look up, like 3 hours have passed!   For years, although I loved writing, I would discount it, saying to myself that it wasn’t really about anything, that I had more important things to do, that it was boring.  Then I realized that I was seeing the task of writing through others’ eyes, or what I assumed that they thought about writing.   Now it’s so different.  I can actually feel when it’s time to write, it’s like I “have” to write, I guess that means that I’m finally listening to my Inner Chingona voice.  Writing was the first way that I could truly hear myself, what I was thinking, what I want, what I need.  Now it’s all about fine-tuning my passion for writing so that I can learn to develop my writing and take it to the next level.

Inner Chingona on Leaving. Or Staying.

10 Sep


I always told myself that, as I got myself out of an abusive situation, that I would always try to show others that there is always a way out, that, no matter what your familia, friends and colleagues say, that you leave when you are ready to leave, that you stay until you find your Inner Chingona, get that power back, walk to that door, walk into a new life, and never look back.   I was, most def, one to say that I would leave the minute someone disrespected or abused me.   I was stunned to find that it was not as easy as I thought.    Although I have no physical scars, no importa, the emotional ones have been bigger, bloodier, and hurt more than any slap could.

Almost three years later, it’s incredible to me that my life is peaceful and relatively drama free and that I made it happen.  It took listening to others tell their stories and learn from them for me to ultimately find my Inner Chingona and heal my way back.   These women taught me that, just because this or that did or did not happen to me, that I was still worthy of love, success, and all things good.   The story below is from an article in today’s THE DAILY BEAST written by ANONYMOUS, it is a powerful account of a woman trying desperately to find her Inner Chingona and make the decision to live instead of merely survive.    I can soooo relate to how this woman felt at times, and, since we never stop learning, I do not know everything there is to know, but I know one thing:  Your Inner Chingona’s voice NEVER lies and has your best interest at heart, if you are in a situation that doesn’t feel right, please LISTEN!!!

This entry is dedicated to all of the women in constant turmoil who are much stronger than they think they are … these women who were there to teach me when I needed them.  I hope that they have been able to get out of their abusive situations and that they are unleashing their Inner Chingona.



>>>reblogged article from The Daily Beast, 9/10/2014<<<


I Was Pregnant When He Hit Me. Here’s #WhyIStayed.
Social media is ablaze over the Ray Rice video, wondering why his future wife stayed. For me, like thousands of other abused women, that answer isn’t an easy one.

I was eight weeks pregnant with my second child when my husband hit me.

To be fair, he told me that he would kill me while he throttled my neck, and once I broke free I tried desperately to fight back. Then he hit me. Open hand right across the face, so hard it felt like a punch.

We were about to go to sleep, but I decided to tease him about his weird habit of having the pillow a certain way on the bed. After a few verbal digs about his undiagnosed OCD, I tossed it off the bed as a joke. I thought he would laugh. I was wrong.

As he plopped down on the bed, seemingly as shocked as I was about what had just happened, I ran out into my living room and collapsed on the couch. I cupped my searing left cheek in my hand as I sobbed, muffling my mouth with the other so not to wake my daughter.

I eyed the phone on the table, but every time I got up to dial the police, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Not because I didn’t want him to pay for what he had done to me, and not because I didn’t think it was the right thing to do—but because I didn’t know if that was the best choice.

I’d left my job has a high-powered marketing director to stay home with my children and follow my husband and his transient job around the country, which left me dependent on him for an income. I had no bank account. The car was in his name. I was pregnant, for God’s sake. I’d be taking my children out of their upper-middle-class lifestyle, dumping them into my old childhood bedroom in the home I vowed I’d never return to. A home full of my own painful memories of abuse, my teen years spent trying to figure out a way to get out and never come back. Going home would feel like a failure—or at least, another one.

I thought about driving the 1,000 miles to my mom’s house that night, but I didn’t even know what I would say. How I’d found myself—a smart, beautiful, graduate school-educated woman pregnant with her second child—in a marriage to an abusive husband. Just like her.

Why did I toss his pillow on the ground? If I’d just stopped…it was so stupid. It didn’t take long for the self-blame to start. He’d been stressed about work, a new job and city where we all knew no one. My pregnancy had been a surprise and a challenging one, with days full of migraines and evenings spent in bed, leaving him to care for our oldest after long, grueling days.

… On the outside, a strong woman raising strong daughters, and yet secretly married to a man who I’d castrate with my own bare hands if my girls ended up with anyone like him.

Even though he’d never hit me before, I never felt as though he really loved me. His abusive words slapped me just as hard as his hands did that night, each critique of my poor performance as a stay-at-home mom cutting me down to make him feel better about his own perpetual unhappiness. I imagine that’s how it started with my own mother, too—my dad spewing his own brand of emotional abuse at her and at us. I never actually saw him hit her, but neither did my daughter. Who knew what happened to her behind closed bedroom doors?

I ran through every possible scenario that involved me leaving, and none of them made sense. I felt helpless, idiotic, and completely paralyzed by shame.

A few hours after he hit me, I stormed into our bedroom where he was sleeping and screamed at him, my voice slowly going hoarse from repeating the same words: “You piece of shit. You hit your pregnant wife. You piece of fucking shit.” He lay there, almost catatonic.

The next morning he apologized, his face pale and flat. He promised to get therapy. And I believed him. He’d never done it before. And how could someone do something like that and then break a promise? I should have stopped at “how could someone do something like that?” but I was in love, or I thought I was in love. Really, I believed I’d have one over on him—a sort of “Get Out of Jail Free Card,” almost literally on his part—and somehow I thought that upper hand might serve me well later on.

Later, I took a photo of my eye with my cellphone, the skin around it still swollen, the whites streaked with popped red veins. “Never forget,” I said to myself as I snapped the shot. And I didn’t. I knew at that point I’d leave him someday, and that I’d know when the time was right. But it wasn’t then.

For months, I did my best to carry on while no therapy appointments were made, no grand apologetic gestures were offered. The memory of that night surfaced in our almost daily arguments. They escalated to yelling and name-calling, but never over the edge he’d crossed that one night. “It was a weird side effect of the cold medicine,” he told me once. “If you hadn’t pushed me…” he said another time. “Abusive husband?!” he’d laugh.

With the distance of time, I slowly lost my power, the gravity of the event getting lighter and lighter until it didn’t seem like a big deal even to me. But I felt like a phony; on the outside, a strong woman raising strong daughters, and yet secretly married to a man who I’d castrate with my own bare hands if my girls ended up with anyone like him.

Then I got pregnant again, the result of the once-every-few-months sexual encounter we would have after a bunch of drinks and a night of my mom’s free babysitting. I felt sick, not from the pregnancy hormones now coursing through my body for a third time but because I knew I’d just pretty much killed my chances of ever leaving.

A single mom with two kids is kind of sexy, I thought, with the option of adding more kids still a possibility. A blended family could be sort of sweet. But a single mom with three kids is like a death sentence, the extra child just enough to make any more kids seem terribly overwhelming.

And a terminated pregnancy just wasn’t an option. My husband’s own religious guilt was enough to rail against even the thought of an abortion, not to mention my own fragility and guilt that I’d somehow be punishing my unborn child for my own poor judgment in staying.

Secretly, I was a little hopeful, believing there was a reason for this baby. I decided that if I was going to make it through the pregnancy, I needed to stop flogging myself with embarrassment. So I harnessed the last bit of power I had from that night and used it to plan my exit strategy.

I went back to work, which was easier than expected thanks to friends still in the business who took my unexplained pleas for an income very seriously. I saved and stockpiled. I schemed. And every time I felt like bringing that night up again in a fight, I imagined the look on his face when I told him I was finally leaving.

I stayed with him for five more years before I could finally bring myself to leave. Yes, five loveless, lonely, but quiet years, mostly due to my own complacency and learned ability to compromise for my kids’ sake and our safety.

But I did leave, my confidence fueled by a growing intolerance for the emotional abuse and neglect and its toll on my ability to be a good mother. People in my life who showed me the possibility of what could be: the friend leaving her own bad relationship and making it through unscathed; the children of a divorced family member, happier than they were when their parents were married; the therapist who looked me straight in the eye and told me that I could survive in this one life I have or I could live it.

I chose living. Finally.

The weight of being a single mom to three children is nothing compared to the shame and guilt I carried on my shoulders, the years I stayed making it heavier and heavier for me to carry. But finally giving myself permission to be angry with him without feeling bad, finally realizing that I was not responsible no matter what he said or I said or anyone else said, gave me the ability to put all that shame where it belonged. On him.

We’re divorced now. Our relationship is barely cordial. Last year he lunged at me with his fist and threatened to kill me again. I didn’t call the police that Halloween night, while my children happily waited outside to trick-or-treat. But I did file a police report the next day, and I made sure he knew about it.

He sees the kids twice a month in his house where he lives with his young new girlfriend. I live alone with my children, dating selectively but hopefully.

It took me many years to realize that it wasn’t about me. Or Janay Palmer. Or any woman who’s ever been hit. It’s about the man who somehow thinks it’s ever OK, and a society that still thinks she must have done something to deserve it. That she pushed him a little too far. That she tossed his pillow on the ground. That she screamed in his face and lunged at him.

And if I hadn’t, if she hadn’t, we could all continue to think that these men aren’t just bad people.

But that’s exactly what they are.

Really, really bad.


si me levanto

Inner Chingona sez Ya Duermete…Go to Sleep!

10 Sep



It’s very late.  I need to be up early in the AM.  Yet, I’m up feeling restless, worried,  and stressed out.  Even though my butt knows that I cannot control everything in my world, you better know I’ve been sitting here trying to find a way to do just that.   A late meeting did not go my way and, in fact, I am still going over and over how it went down in my mind.   My lil worries are starting to overwhelm me.

As I’m sitting here online, I come across this one-line prayer and it’s all about “ZAZ!”, exactly what I needed to see!  I finally start to settle down.  It’s amazing how this one line is helping Inner Chingona comfort this woman and, most important, to get her power back.  Sometimes a conversation with God, Jesus and the Virgen of G is all you need.   Mama is always right.


Lord, thank you for granting me the wisdom to make tough calls and the faith to trust that with you I am safe. Amen!

“Hasta Que Te Conoci” – Wisdom from Jorge to Inner Chingona

8 Sep



Regular readers know the importance that I place on my ‘FamFriends — those whom I choose to be part of my familia“. Jorge and I have been fam friends since our Junior High days, he has always been a big brother to me and I totally trust his opinion on all things life. He is also that ‘tio‘ just like I’m that ‘tia‘ or ‘nina‘ — we love our kids just as if we brought them into this world…many times, our ‘kids’ come to us for advice. When I don’t know what to do/say, I usually call Jorge.

Saw this email from Jorge and, being that I just saw Marc Anthony in concert last night, I have always loved his version of the song “Hasta Que Te Conoci”.  I confess that I never thought about it as a piece of advice to those who are looking for a person to share their lives with. While we often associate our youngsters with jumping in fearlessly, head first, into relationships, without thinking, and then it hits them, usually when it’s too late, that they should not have gone there in the first place … we adultos do the same thing and we are supposed to know better LOL.   Sometimes we end up picking up the pieces of our lives right along side of our “kids” when we suffer from a broken heart.  Love Jorge’s empowering advice all about loving and taking care of ourselves so that we do not entrust our heart, body, and soul to a person who can or will not honor these gifts we are so willing to give, that we learn to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves .  So Jorge’s advice works for those of us of all ages and I totally love the unique way with which he expresses himself.

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Wisdom From Jorge:  i’ve bin lookin’ for this video forever!! finally found and wanted to share with u. originally created in 1986 by juan gabriel (el divo de los jotitos from my gen) and has bin covered by many since; my fave version is this one done by mana.

for the young ones, pay attention to the lyrics—it can be sooooo true…. trust me, i know this thins!! who and how u love is way important; gotta honor and take care of the heart cuz god didn’t put u on this earth to get “beat-downs” from nobody. however, if u do fall and that person “vale madre” (ain’t no good!!), juss know u will SURVIVE and life moves on. love someone who loves u like ur loved ones do; and u do the same for her/him/them (i’m down). juss make sure u honor ur soul/heart. wish someone had talked to me about this thins when i wuz ur age; had to learn a “todo lo pendejo!!”

I’ve attached videos by Juan Gabriel, Mana (Jorge’s favorite), and Marc Anthony (my favorite) all with lyrics because this simple message hits home en español! Choose the one ‘que te llega’ that GETS to you!

Gracias, de antemano, a ti Jorge for contributing, sin querer, to today’s blog entry and for always helping me unleash my Inner Chingona! I especially love your line “love someone who loves u like ur loved ones do”.  Simple yet profound.  Y si!


Mana’s version of “Hasta Que Te Conoci” with lyrics


Marc Anthony’s version of “Hasta Que Te Conoci” with lyrics


Juan Gabriel’s version of “Hasta Que Te Conoci” with lyrics


For those of you who need a quick translation of the song, please note:  I’m no songwriter LOL so you are only getting the basic, albeit passionate,  message of the song.  “I didn’t know about sorrow or tears or anything that made me cry…I never suffered, I never cried, I was really happy, I lived very well…Hasta Que Te Conoci/Until I met you, I looked at life thru pain.  Not gonna lie, I was happy, even though I had very little love.  This, I understood too late, that I should never have loved you, because now I think of you today more than yesterday and more…”  


Places where I find my Inner Chingona

4 Sep

Some days, I am in search of refuge, of a place to recharge my batteries, to find my creativity, where I can completely be myself.  Today was one of those days…I didn’t want to be in my oficina!  As I drove from appointment to appointment, I thought about the places where I head to when I need to clear my head, connect with Inner Chingona and hear myself THINK, I jump in my Jeep and go…in no particular order…


Starbucks:  My baby niece Yazi always tells me when she sees a Starbucks:  “Nina Carmen, that’s your work!”   Some folks need complete silence, I am not that person.  The music, the conversation, that it’s cool, almost cold, and of course, the cafecitos and teas on ice.  I can actually practice my interpreting drills and usually not bother anyone.   Like today, I came into one of my fav locations escaping the heat, and after a cafe on ice, I am the calmest that I have been today.


Snow:  When living in Colorado, I was both excited and freaked out when I first saw, felt, and tasted real snow. Snow that didn’t go away right away, where it was really COLD, where I felt the cold blast as I got out of the car, and learned to drive in the tracks of the other cars.   I totally LOVED the snow, especially as it was falling or when I woke up to snow.  I remember the first time it was zero degrees y yo toda contenta/happy and I loved it. I remember driving home from an event at Copper Mountain, kind of nervous because I was right in the middle of the Rocky Mountains and it was icy and had that type of what I called snow fog.  So I’m driving with both hands tight on the wheel and then the fog lifts, the sky turns blue and I see the most awesome snow-covered mountains, I remember shouting “WOW!”    After that, I used to regularly get in the car to check out the snow and I love it when it ‘smells like snow’  Pic 1 is the actual street that I learned to drive in the snow in Littleton, CO near my place.  Pic 2 was similar to the snowy mountains I saw that first time, pic is similar and doesn’t come close to how spectacular it was at that instant.



ocean beach 1

Beach:  Love love love the beach.  Whenever I get near the beach, I can feel my breathing settle down and I completely relax.  I can sit there for hours watching the waves, listening to the sounds the water makes as it goes back and forth and I’m good for a few days after a day at the beach!


“My” Lake:  I love walking near the water and I have favorite lakes, or ponds in some towns, where I love to walk.  My all-time favorite place is Lake Merritt in Oakland, all 3.5 miles of it!  I remember being told, “…once you decide to walk Lake Merritt, commit to it because, even it you go halfway, you will have to walk the same length to go back anyway…so it’s better to keep moving!”  First time I walked it, I thought that it would never end LOL  Once I got used to it, I knew at almost the exact point that I would start to relax and unwind!  I used to walk it every day when I worked in Oakland…now, a few pounds heavier and a lot of miles away from my Lake, I so need to walk it again.


WHERE is your place of refuge, not counting your home, where you connect with YOUR Inner Chingona?



Time Management Inner Chingona Style: Getting Me Back on My Personal Track

26 Aug

images (5)Check out my horoscope for today:

Hi Carmen! Here is your Daily WorkScope for Tuesday, August 26

You’ll be easily distracted now, so breaking everything down into little steps is crucial. Set goals you can actually achieve, and don’t let frustration diminish your focus.

Sometimes, these things hit it right in between my eyes. Yesterday, Inner Chingona had to set me straight. A fuerzas you might say, while I was laying on a hospital bed, and told me that it was time to get my ish together, that it was not by chance that I had not been feeling well, that I had a lot to do with why I was stopped in my tracks. So, laying there toda enferma/ill, I started to think of what needed to happen. And Inner Chingona was not going to make it easy either, I had to come up with something to start ASAP for the next month.

Today, I continued my talk with God, Jesus and the Virgen of G to help get me back on track. These days always coincide when I don’t feel good physically. When I’m down physically, even with a cold, it is always a sign that, if nothing else, I’m moving too fast in most or all areas of my life. Today, as Inner Chingona gave it a break LOL, things were much more soothing, so I was able to think more clearly.

I took time to break out some short-term goals that I want to reach within the next month, my 3rd Quarter Tune Up if you will. While it’s unrealistic that I completely stop all that I do, it’s time to be smarter about it.  Time to disconnect from some of the distractions that are driving me crazy and catching up with my productivity.


In no particular order:

1. Take a break from Social Media. I’m such a chismosa and love to see what’s happening but it should not be at the expense of my health, my time or my responsibilities.
2. Make time to get my health back on track, including taking the time to sleep and rest.
3. List and actually finish the projects that I’ve started.
4. Kill the distractions that do not allow me to get thru my goals/day be they people,projects,  ideas and straight-up pendejadas.
5. Don’t worry about long-term goals for this month, concentrate on finishing what you start this month, that way, you’ll have time to accommodate the rest of your ‘to-do’ list.

It’s all about shutting my mouth, pulling my sleeves up, and working my 30-Day List.  Looking forward to getting thru the month working it smarter, not harder.


What are your Top 5 ways to get yourself back on track?

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Linda Ronstadt and the Joy of Following My Cultural Heart

21 Aug

images (4)I can honestly say that, ever since I can remember, I’ve always been into my Mexican culture. I grew up surrounded by music, food, my hilarious familia from Michoacan who continue to remind us and tell us about Mexico. Being that my Mom was from the US and my Dad was from Mexico and a musician, we grew up bi-cultural from the start,  it is so interesting to me to see how the 5 of us siblings have our different ways of honoring our culture.

I don’t think that anyone will deny that I was the daughter who has always ‘represented’ and have always worn my culture on my sleeve. In the third grade, I was chosen to “plan” my first Cinco de Mayo, the staff really did it all but, gave me the credit, and after that first event, it was ‘ON’. I took charge of any opportunity thru all of my years in school from elementary school to university, to work it in cultural events and, more important, to make sure that the event was done as authentically as possible. I had a Mom who had great ideas and my Dad is so ‘folklorico’, he knew what looked or sounded right so I was off!

I was constantly running into this dilemma, “you’re not Mexican enough”, “no sabes hablar en espanol bien“, “how come you act like you’re white?” (when I’d speak in English around my Mexicano friends) and on and on and on. In school, I was into Student Government just as much as I was into my many Latino clubs. I will admit, however, that I was never completely comfortable being myself around anyone anytime until I got at the University.


I had always been a fan of Linda Ronstadt and her music, I never knew that she was Mexican American. Imagine my joy when she came out with “Canciones de Mi Padre“. I was always the first one to get the latest music so I was completely floored when I heard her break out with “Los Laureles” – it doesn’t get any more Mexican than that. What struck me was her accent, so much like my own when I spoke Spanish. But the fact that she had the ‘huevos’ to get up there and do her thing with the #1 mariachi in the world, El Mariachi Vargas de Tecatitlan, and sing these classic songs, songs that I had heard my entire life, totally gave ME the big push I needed to claim and own that cultural part of myself 100%. I would, from that time on, make an effort to roll the many r’s in my name in front of anyone, not just in front of relatives or people who spoke Spanish; I would not be embarrassed to let out a grito if I wanted to in front of anyone, I would follow my cultural heart if you will. I would speak Spanish NO MATTER HOW IT CAME OUT. And I would follow my dream of working in Spanish radio — so what if I wasn’t born in Mexico? so what if my Spanish was more like Spanglish at times?  Y’all know how that turned out…I am working at my twelfth Spanish radio station at this writing.

I was not alone in loving “Canciones de Mi Padre”, it struck a chord for many of us. For many, it was the very first time that they had ever listened to a mariachi, ever heard the classic songs that we Torres’ were blessed to hear practically from the womb, and likely the first time that they publicly expressed pride in their culture. The great majority of us have never lived in the motherland, yet we always felt very connected to our culture and, many times, we were made to feel bad for being half American, for not knowing how to speak Spanish well, for instinctively loving our both countries. Music was, for many of us, the bridge — one of the ways that we learned how to speak in Spanish and make it flow. To hear Linda Ronstadt sing all of these songs that we somehow knew was culturally powerful. Linda Ronstadt, for me, was the first true Mexican-American artistic heroine and she had a huge influence on those to come like Selena and La Jenni. And closer to home, my father, Mike Torres,  who KNOWS the music and, more important, the feeling one has to have to sing rancheras as one has to throw all of the emotion into the song in order to make it authentic, says that “this girl sang it right” LOL.


Although I’m very sad that Linda Ronstadt will no longer be able to sing due to her illness, her musical and cultural journey was not in vain and it is not that much different that ours: Grew up speaking in English, heard the Spanish language and music in Spanish her entire life, opted to follow her musical heart to become a successful music star in English, and like many of us – we can run but we cannot hide, we always come back to our cultura. I have so much admiration for her because she followed her heart and opened up the world for us as much as for herself.

All I have to do is hear her versions of the classics, “La Charreada”  “Por Un Amor” or “El Crucifijo de Piedra” and I think, “oh man, I can totally sing that”… and then after like the first verse, I know that I’m nowhere in Linda Ronstadt’s league musically, but, culturally, I’m right up there with her.  I will, confess, though, that one of the songs that I will attempt in karaoke is ‘Tu Solo Tu”, y sin tener que tomar un trago/no drink needed.  LOL.  If you haven’t listened to “Canciones de Mi Padre” in awhile, I invite you to do so and you may have this sudden urge to break out in a grito and you will find that you actually know the words to the songs but have no clue when or how  you learned them.  Celebrate one of the must beautiful parts of our cultura today…enjoy the music and salute Linda Ronstadt’s musical legacy in both Spanish and English.

Here are a few of my favorites:













Turning The Tables: Attitude of Gratitude

10 Aug



This morning I woke up “comiendo gallo” in a grouchy mood.  I did not want to go over to the folks house, I did not want to get up, I did not want to do anything.   I knew that their house needed to be cleaned as company was coming over and I did not want to handle it.    I get there and, in less than 10 minutes, had transferred my badass negative attitude to the entire house.   Even Mom said, “ay so negative” to me.

As always happens when physical activity is involved, my bad mood subsides, and my dad says, “mija, esta casa vuele a limpio” referring to the clean-smelling house.  As I was en friega sweeping, mopping, cleaning, I realized that it was only 2 hours out of my day and that, in my lifetime, that my folks did MANY things that they probably did not want to do because of me.

Back in the day, I used to just get mad, throw my fit, get up and walk out of the house…now, I really really really make an effort to make things right before I step in or out of that door.  It’s important.  This is what I do:

1.  Put things in perspective:   Leave my badass attitude on the kitchen floor, in the trash, etc. and remember that it is, after all, only two hours out of my day to make things better for all of us.

2.  Remember why you do what you do:  I remember that I do this out of love for Mike and Margaret, plain and simple.

3.  Sit still. Practice gratitude and give out positive vibes:  I started doing this about a month ago.  It settles me down and it gives me a  chance to reconnect with Mom and Dad, apologize, and remember that these negative moments don’t last forever.

Thank God my parents are so cool…I know that it is not realistic for me to always be sunny and cheery,  God, Jesus, the Virgen of G and Inner Chingona have been great at stopping me in my tracks these past few weeks so that I remember just how blessed I am that BOTH Mom and Dad are still with us.   Our lives can change in an instant and one of us could be gone just like that…so it’s all about appreciating your loved ones and striving to be positive every day!


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