Gratitude Chingona Style

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Maybe it’s because I’ve worked holiday events almost my entire life and career that I’ve rarely appreciated the holidays as maybe I should have. I was around people 24/7 so I was burned out at family things which now gives me a lot of regret. I was able to provide great holidays for the masses but never able to find that joy for myself. It was always expected that I would take charge, even when I didn’t want to sometimes, I did it.

That is, until I learned about gratitude. Gratitude meant that everything was enough, that I didn’t have to be perfect all of the time, that I needed to just relax and just be…all of the things that I longed for when I’d be working an event for hours missing what was happening at home.

However, it took me years to get there. Took me years to truly appreciate the important things in life for me: home, family, simple pleasures. These have been my refuge when things didn’t go well with a job, or a man, or anything. For years, I was embarrassed to admit that I actually loved hanging out with these people, being at home, doing things that fulfilled me like writing and reading.

I had to do the work on myself, still do. What’s hilarious to me is that I’m still very much Type A:  I really do ‘plan’ out my life as if it were an event, timelines, deadlines and everything. Of course, these are only for me but I’ve noticed that I’ve been able to work much smarter and to be a lil more relaxed with my daily “to do” tasks written on my white board updated every day, to keeping the calendar of family stuff and birthdays, and to working family dinners and events, and pushing myself to make sure things were ready/done one hour before before “doors”–the opening of doors before the start of an event.

Now that this cuarentena has us on lock down one day, free the next, I haven’t really been able to do a lot of the things WHERE I want to do them.  Although I still feel grateful to have a home to come to, for my room/apartment when I need true refuge from people, places, and things.  Grateful for being able to put my thoughts in writing, for keeping up with friends even if it’s via Zoom, and dare I say it?  Grateful to have peace in my life.

This is a good week to take stock of what works for you (and not) in your life and learning to keep things simple.  Mama used to tell me that I was hooked on adrenaline, which is why I couldn’t relax, I’m so thankful that drama no longer defines me.  

Do Thanksgiving YOUR way, maybe Covid19 is helping us all to learn about the important things in life and taking time to enjoy them.

Feliz Dia de Accion de Gracias!

November Signs from Mama

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November is a very important month in our familia. Especially November 11th. My parents got married on November 11th at 11 in the morning.  My sister and brother in law also celebrate their anniversary on Nov 11th.  It’s Veteran’s Day, my father is a veteran and Mama was super-patriotic and loved all of the ‘red, white and blue’ holidays. Years later, Mama left us at 6:47pm on November 11th.

Our bonus mother Ita celebrated her birthday and left us in November as well and two of our #TorresBabies celebrate their birthdays in November.

Mama’s been gone 6 years now and, as I’ve said many times, we made a conscious decision to honor her memory and to mourn happy. So, for us to see signs like one single pink rose blooming in November makes us smile and we feel her presence that much stronger.  Below was my social media post on November 11th of this year. 

She always comes home for us. Love you Mama. #TorresFamWeek #Our11thDay #MargaretLivesInUs

My social media ‘memory’ feeds are crazy during this time of the year, everything happy or sad, comes back for me to relive each year.

I love what I now call my “Mama Flashbacks” and here’s what I posted exactly one year ago today.

“I’m sitting in a meeting and someone walks in with high heels and a cool black trenchcoat, hair long and flowing, it was Mama. I looked up and jumped up, introduced her to everyone…and woke up. Aaaaw Señora bonita…nice dream. I wanna go back to sleep”

Love you so much Mama, visit me anytime!

 

To sort chile…or not.

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The pandemic had me feeling particularly restless this evening.  I was getting kind of claustrophobic:  can I go anywhere?  Where can I go?  I’m sick of being in this house! Is there a curfew? Where’s my mask?  Can’t leave without a mask. Pandemic madness.   

I decided to clean the kitchen before going to sleep for the night.  As I was cleaning the kitchen, I kept moving this bag of chiles from one spot to another.  Chiles from our garden.  My dad has chile with like 98% of his meals so it’s safe to say that there is always chile in our house.  

The bag was a mix of different kinds of chile, some red, some yellow, some green.  I decide to sort all the chile by type and color.   All the green ones, especially the jalapeños and serranos, went into the bowl I keep for Dad.  Everything that was red would be thrown into the blender for ‘chile molido‘ so that I can continue to use it to cook with anything:  eggs, carne, papas, vegetables, salsa.   If I don’t chop them up, they will sit in that bag and go bad.

All I was doing was blending this chile up and I get that hacking cough that one gets when they are roasting chile.  I didn’t know that the chile particles do fly up into the atmosphere (and into my nose and throat).  I rolled my eyes before I started to laugh because, I only had myself to blame.  Especially when I then rubbed my eyes…SonsaTontaPendeja. 

I recently read that one of the ways to work smarter is to do the difficult tasks first. The good thing is that I got this undesired task out of the way even at this late hour.  I won’t have to buy any fresh chile for at least a couple of weeks and the chile molido paste will last through Christmas, yay.

However, I probably should have worn a mask AND gloves.  We are, after all, in a pandemic.

 

Keep Your Anxiety to Yourself…Not.

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Keep calm, stay patient, let the process work out, count the votes, wear a mask, stay indoors, sit up while in Distance Learning, look into the computer…our lives have changed completely 8 months ago. It feels like all we’ve done is try to stay calm and keep moving forward with drama coming at us from all sides, all the while we’ve had to learn how to live in a very different manner. 

Anxiety seems to be the order of the day. The big lesson for me has been to find ways of managing the anxiety. Today was not that day. I was frustrated when the child took her mask off before we got to the car, I was frustrated when my sister asked me for a favor, I was frustrated when trying to figure out my financial calendar for the remainder of the year, I was just frustrated, everything was churning and I took it out on those closest to me.

There are ways that I can control the anxiety in my relationships and the damage it causes.

  •  Remember that most anxious situations are not life-threatening, so let’s stop acting like they are, you are usually not in danger.  Things will get better.
  • I need to keep my loved ones constantly in my mind.  Would I want these relationships with these people ruined?  NO.  The thought of losing my loved ones can make me very sad so I am motivated to do whatever I can to make sure my relationships are healthy.
  • Learn how to say “I’m Sorry” when you’re out of line, say it even if your voice shakes.  People need to hear an apology especially if things got heated.
  • Stay out of your own way…things don’t always have to go your way,  try not to be judgmental and try to stay positive and loving.
  • Find a way to let out your anxiety:  take a walk, take a bath, listen to music…do whatever you need to do so that you don’t take it out on others.

The pandemic, the elections, the divisiveness in the country, the economy, and more give us reason to be anxious and nervous.  However, we are not the only ones who are feeling anxiety, our little ones are under stress with Distance Learning and going back to school in the middle of a pandemic, our older folks may be fighting illness and we are all afraid that Covid19 will hit close to home.  Those of us trying to hold it all together must learn that it will be easier for everyone once we learn to work together instead of against each other.

Easy?  No.  Necessary?  Yes.

Learn about Anxiety Triggers at Healthline by clicking here

 

 

Dia de Los Muertos 2020 – One Special Ofrenda by Jenness

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As I’ve said many times, there is no right or wrong way to make an ofrenda/altar for Dia de Los Muertos. To some of us, looking at these altars might look as if everyone just threw everything together but I promise you, everything means something. This is why, no matter how commercialized folks say that this holiday is becoming, that there is no way that altars will be presented without meaning something.

Just so that you can get an idea of how different, unique, and personal each altar is, this is my young friend Jenness’ altar. When I thought about how I was going to present this, I knew that I would have to let HER explain it all, just as she did a few days ago. Jenness sent this to me, item by item, how she put her ofrenda together:

A candle for the baby we lost this summer, accompanied by a wrist band from my dad’s lost battle with brain cancer and a wrist band from our dear friend’s lost battle with leiomyosarcoma.

 

A cat sugar skull figure for our cat that passed the day after our miscarriage this summer.

 

Don’t really need to explain the conchas. 😂

 

Shots of tequila in the glasses I received as a birthday gift a few years back when our friends went to Mexico.

 

Figures symbolizing my grandparents (grandpa was always down to serenade grandma.) and a doll they brought back for me from one of their many trips to Mexico.

 

Flower petals from grandma’s funeral.

 

The watch grandpa received upon his retirement from Heinz, grandma’s sombrero/chanclas earrings and other jewelry that belonged to her and my other grandma.

 

Glasses I received as a birthday gift last year from my comadre that I’m using as candle holders.

 

I was happy to see young friends really embrace this holiday, I cannot wait to see what their altars look like year after year!   Creativity and positive vibes lead the way when building these altars.

Dia de Los Muertos 2020 Amigos and FamFriends’ Altars

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Loved seeing all of the response from friends and FamFriends:  friends who have become family.  So many loving altars dedicated to their departed ones, some of these friends are grieving very recent losses.

My Comadre’s Altar, I was so excited that she took up the challenge.  I wonder how our altars might have been when we were college roommates back in the day!

Here’s FamFriend Maria and Julio’s altar, this was before all of the photos were added, so happy to see this especially as Maria just lost her brother recently, hopefully, it brought them peace.

Here’s Sondra’s ofrenda, we grew up alongside her familia and she asked me to note the picture in the middle – her Grandpa Robert next to his barbecue grill, the man could bbq like no other.

Here is Sue’s altar from 2012, she was the process of moving but wanted to participate.  She was able to find lots of ideas for her altar next year.

Here’s Sonia’s altar, I super love this one as it is for her ‘seniors’.  Sonia works at a Senior housing center which is primarily Latino and she told me that her seniors loved the altar and were running to get their loved ones’ photos to put on the altar.

Here is Roz and Jesus’ family altar.   Roz is one of my favorite people who is very into ‘walking the talk’, into the movement, happy to see her altar.

Here is Theresa and Mark’s family altar.  Her mom Ermila (center) was the bus driver for lots of us for many years and she loved music, she would actually do ‘gritos’ when songs she loved were played.  So happy to see this altar.

Here’s Anna’s altar, love the butterfly theme.  Especially as I’ve learned that butterflies are big symbols for Dia de Los Muertos, great altar!

Here’s Alex’s family altar.  Great altar and i love how he displayed the personal items, the hat, the bottles, the Javier Solis album.  Alex and I were at Delta College together.

Here’s Rosa’s altar, and she very recently lost her father Moises, you’ll see a lot of personal items on her altar.  Love this Rosa.

FamFriend Kathy’s altar.  Kathy’s mama Marina was Mama’s BFF and John and Marina were our godparents.  So happy to see these lovely people on this altar!

John and Lecha’s altar in honor of their familia and their son who passed a few months ago.  Very nice to see this altar.

BFF Trini’s family altar for her beloved father Don Feli and members of her family.  Trini was lucky enough to spend Dia de Los Muertos in Michoacan this year.

Part of FamFriend Maggie’s fabulous altar.  This year’s altar dedicated to her husband Manuel who recently passed away.  Maggie pretty much decorates her entire home inside and out for Dia de Los Muertos/Halloween, the pandemic has her working indoors this year.  Love this Maggie.

One of my ninas (godmothers) Jessica’s altar.  Jessica’s mother is Marina, Mama’s BFF and John and Marina are also my godparents.

Dia de Los Muertos 2020- Ofrendas 3 My Mighty RadioFam

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It is through my work in Spanish Radio Marketing and Events that I learned about and celebrated El Dia de Los Muertos.  The big celebration was always the DDLM Festival in Oakland, always.  However, so many communities have really embraced this tradition and you can find celebrations, large and small, throughout so many communities throughout the US.

So it’s fitting that so many members of my RadioFam worked it and put together some pretty spectacular altars.  I was super excited to see the response and we have celebrated this holiday for many years throughout many cities.

Special thanks to Ninel who put together a fab ofrenda on video and I haven’t yet been able to copy it.  Go to my Unleashing Your Inner Chingona Facebook page if you want to see her altar.

Thanks RadioFam for participating!!!!

 

Here’s Natalie’s altar, she gets a pass for submitting her photo late as her husband and son Jose put her altar together as Nat was giving birth to her lil bebita Mayahuel!  Felicidades!  Natalie and I have worked together at both Radio Romantica and La Raza in the Bay Area.

Check out Dora’s spectacular altars!  Pic 1 is the main community altar for her celebration this past weekend.  Pic 2 is the altar dedicated to her familia.  Girl always works it.  We worked Spanish Radio Marketing in a very competitive, winner take all situation for years in the Bay Area – she at KSOL then Estereo Sol, me at KLOK Radio Tricolor.  I worked like never before to try and beat Dora and, in the process, I gained a lot of experience and a great friend.

Arlene Avila’s altar.  Arlene and I were colleagues at KFRC San Francisco, when KBAY was in the building.  Great job Arlene.

Here is Taly Taly’s altar.  We go back to our days at KCVR Fiesta Mexicana.  Taly’s altars are ALWAYS super awesome.  Buen trabajo girl.

Antonio and I also go back to our days at KCVR Fiesta Mexicana, such a cool altar, gracias!

Gina’s altar.  How cool is this?  Gina and I go back to our days at KLOK Radio Tricolor Bay Area.  Love this.

Here’s Beatriz’ altar, Bea and I worked together at Radio Romantica, KBAY and La Raza, love this.

Adriana and Pepe’s altar…we go back to our days at KCVR Fiesta Mexicana.  Love this!

Johnny and Maria’s altar for their lovely daughter Michelle.  Johnny and I go back to our days at KWIN/KCVR.

Here is Melissa’s altar…we go back to our time at KFRC SF.  Love this.

Here’s Tim’s altar dedicated to his father who passed away a couple of weeks ago.  I was so happy to see Tim put an ofrenda together this year.  Tim and I were colleagues at KBAY and Mix 1065 in San Jose.

Here’s Sandra’s family altar, love this.  Sandra and I go back to our days at Entravision Radio/LaTricolor and Jose/ Sacramento.

Love this altar by Rosaura!  Rosie and I were colleagues at La Preciosa Bay Area.  Thanks!

 

 

Dia de Los Muertos 2020 – Ofrendas 2 RanchFamGrijalvaFam

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Dia de Los Muertos is such a beautiful tradition and on my ‘Unleashing Your Inner Chingona’ FB page, I challenged my viewers to learn about the tradition of making an altar, how to make an altar, and take pictures of their altars and send them to me to place them on my page.

Here are more of the beautiful altars that were shared with me this season. These altars were done by members of my RanchFam and GrijalvaFam.

Here’s Jami’s Altar, Jami is from my GrijalvaFam and she’s always super-creative and loved seeing Mama and Ita along with other members of my family on her altar.

Here are my cousins Angie and Frankie’s altar, they always put together some type of fabulousness for El Dia de Los Muertos and Halloween.  They are part of my RanchFam and their altars always feature their dad, our Uncle Willie.

 

Here is my lil cousin Rosalie and family’s altar.  I was super excited to see Rosalie embracing this tradition.  She’s is one who is committed to culture, justice, and doing the right thing.   Rosalie is part of our RanchFam and it was nice to see so many of our family honored.

This is my lil cousin Lisa’s Altar, I was so happy to see this one.  Lisa has always been ‘woke’, always up on the issues of the day and I learn a lot from her and her views.  It was also very cool to see some of my family on this altar, Lisa is from our GrijalvaFam.

Dia de Los Muertos 2020: Ofrendas 1

 

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Dia de Los Muertos is such a beautiful tradition and on my ‘Unleashing Your Inner Chingona’ FB page, I challenged my viewers to learn about the tradition of making an altar, how to make an altar, and take pictures of their altars and send them to me to place them on my page.

I was beyond happy to see how many of y’all rose to the challenge. As I have said many times, there is no right way or wrong way to make an altar. Altars are very personal to each person and family. It is important that you make them with love, admiration and positive energy.

I will devote a few entries to feature the fabulousness of everyone’s altars. This first entry will feature altars done by us, my family and my sisters families.


Part of my family altar.  Left side is devoted to my GrijalvaFam, my mother’s side of the family.  Right side is devoted to my RanchFam, my father’s side of the family.  There are close to 40 in all and, as we usually have a big family celebration, our altar is usually created outside where I have room to have one table featuring each side of the family’s pictures, thankfully, I was able to get everyone’s photos in.

Part 2 of my Altar.  The little round table with green tablecloth features favorite foods and drinks – including the cup of water, fruit, popcorn (Mama’s favorite), candy, Diet Coke (Ita’s favorite), and tequila.   To the right, you’ll see the smaller altar made for Mama in pink her favorite color.  This little bureau has not been moved since her passing, this is exactly where she spent the majority of time, her cane was never far from her and the lil basket always had her ‘essentials’ – phone, remote, sunglasses, gum, things like that.

My sister Kiki’s altar.  I was so excited that she agreed to make an ofrenda this year.  She is known for loving the color blue hence the blue lights and you’ll note Mama’s picture in a blue dress along with various family members and friends.

Sis Christina’s Altar.  When I look at this Altar, I am instantly reminded of Mama.  Christy is Mama’s mini-me and they tend to like the same colors and style of things.   Mama would have likely put up a similar type of ofrenda.  Also noted is Christy’s brother in law, Tony, who passed away before his namesake, our Antonia was born, who knew that she would look so much like him?

This is our niece goddaughter Nikki’s altar.  Her brother passed away unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago and, when I went to her house, she was excited to show me that she had made an altar in honor of her brother Matthew.  This altar seemed to bring the family so much peace.  This is, after all, one of the best things about putting up ofrendas:  to honor your loved ones and to heal from the pain of losing them.

 

Dia de Los Muertos Altar: Personal Items

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Each Dia de Los Muertos Altar will be unique, as each person was unique in life.  Aside from all of the traditional items you will see on an altar, it is the personal touches which make each altar so distinctive.  Placing personal items of your loved ones can really bring an altar to life.

I like to place Mama’s shawl or scarves that she used in life, her sunglasses, her cane with a basket of essentials:  you always found the TV remote, the phone, a prayer book, her stress ball, some type of snack like pumpkin seeds or chewing gum.   I especially like to place things that she kept very near to her:  her clock, bottle of water, rosary, reading glasses, things like that.

My grandma MaLupita used to drink tiny Olympia cans of beer, my Tio Mundo was never seen without his ‘tejana’ (cowboy hat), Ita always liked fuzzy things, like cute bears and always had her glasses and hearing aids, a Danielle Steel book or a People magazine, lil snacks like peanuts or Cheez-Its.  My friend Rosa loved pearls, blinged-out sunglasses, and red lipstick.

I just saw one that my niece made for her brother whom was just laid to rest a week ago.  While it might seem harsh to put together an altar so soon after a loved one’s death, I could see how cathartic and comforting it was for her and for the family.

In fact, we have an altar year-round for Mama and now Ita has joined her.  It all started the day that the folks came to take away the hospital bed right after Mama passed.  I could see how empty and devastated it made us all feel so I made my brothers bring in a table and I put some of Mama’s things along with pictures onto the table.  It brought us instant peace and joy so we’ve never moved it since — my sister is the one who changes the table up for every holiday.

Find your loved ones’ personal items and share them on your altar.  You may find how comforting it is to talk about these things with others as you remember those who have gone, which is what the holiday is all about, honoring and remembering them.