Cooking with Abuela

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One of the things I’ve always done is cook something in the morning and eat it at every meal of the day. I’d been working out of my home office all day so I did that today. It was awesome. Dad even gave my meal the thumbs up. What did I make? Potatoes, Nopales and Chile. OMG really good.

I started watching “De Mi Rancho A Tu Cocina” during the pandemic, where Angela and her daughter Brenda work it from her rancho in the motherland, Michoacán to be exact, showing the rest of us how to cook Michoacán-style food, I can watch for hours. What I really like is how she works it with food that we eat everyday, no real measuring cups, doesn’t count her chiles that often (neither do I), and she makes me feel like I really can cook this or that.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who watches this cute lil lady cook, check out who’s who amongst chefs on YouTube. I started watching her cut up papas, cebolla, tomate and chile and got inspired. My Michoacán grandma passed away when I was just learning how to speak Spanish so I never really got to learn from my abuela.

At least not until now.

Check her out with her huge comal on the open fire, molcajete, metate, and ollas (pots), she is legit.

Felicidades Señora  Ángela! Gracias por poner el nombre de Michoacán en alto.

https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fchannel%2FUCJjyyWFwUIOfKhb35WgCqVg%3Ffbclid%3DIwAR3GHbIezreGekRveQAXYLoUsq3u68c33_hSGAOOjNqQikh8ByQ3MzYFfH0&h=AT3try9QFegHmPelhVjwNGpqe5lun0vW-7zxyXHetQC-As-FsO5T1ireHzE6Y15Zhwijqg0zrrbAcROnM_LPW4toDl9CJGSLnBfy7VWED4XO_-2xrv_zWbjjAqunOJg8vGo

Your Four Walls

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Read this earlier: Prioritize protecting your four walls, i.e., food, utilities, housing, and transportation. Make sure these bare essentials are covered before you think of purchasing anything else.

When starting your own business, it’s amazing how much you think about money, or lack thereof, paying bills, keeping things above water. Everything feels like, “I’ll do this once these guys pay me”, “Why do I have to chase folks down to get paid OMG I’ve done the work”, “I hope that I have enough to pay this or that”.

I’ve had to learn, the hard way, that salary is no more, that certain things MUST be handled before I can SPEND on others. I’m that type of person who needs everything spelled out when it comes to finances. While, in the past, I skated along, now, it’s now on me whether I or my business make it through the year. I really like the concept of the ‘4 walls’. Having your 4 walls secured makes for a calmer life. I’ve made many stupid decisions under stress or in a desperate state. Lots of times I didn’t know exactly what was going out or coming in until things got messy. Every time, I’d tell myself, “never again”. Did I try to fix the situation? I’m embarrassed to say that I was inconsistent at best.

I remember at one of my stations, that I always had to reconcile the credit cards that my staff used to gas up the vehicles. A nightmare for me. I would have this mountain of receipts given to me by each member of the staff who gassed up the vehicles and it would take me hours to handle it. One of my managers would always laugh at me and tell me to let him do it, that he could handle it in 5 minutes. I should have let him LOL. I would sit there until I got the numbers right and, now I think, why couldn’t I ever do this for myself?

Now I’m training myself to check my bank balance daily and I know exactly what need to spend each week. These are small steps, baby steps to some of you. But it’s working for me. I can see which wall I’m spending the most on, which one needs help, and where I need to cut down on certain things, where I have space to breathe (rare). At this moment, I have no illusions of being a millionaire, I just want to be able to handle my money and learn how to make it work for me.

I want to keep the four walls up in my house. So I’m taking that small step toward financial freedom.

The List Gets Longer: El Dia de Los Muertos

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Every year, it seems as if the list gets longer. More of our friends and family leave us on earth to move on to their eternal homes. It used to be so sad for me that I was afraid of it. I dreaded anything that had to do with death.

But then my mother was in that mix. Mama was unafraid of dying, in fact, she was looking forward to the journey and asking when she would go. It was super unsettling for me to have to hear my mother actually WANT to be somewhere without us. I was super angry at first but, as the weeks wore on, I was becoming very peaceful about it all. Mama embraced it all and taught me that living was a part of dying.

As I start thinking about my Dia de Los Muertos Ofrenda Altar for this year, I am reminded of the family members and friends whose pictures will be added to the ofrenda altar. It’s important to remember as many of our departed ones as we can.

RestInPeace to my cousin Raul Espinoza Jr., Genevieve Peters, Rita Cuevas, Micaela Camargo Garcia, and Sr. Luis Segura, and they have left us all in a matter of a few weeks. It’s super important that these individuals are super prayed up and on an altar ofrenda so that their journey to their eternal home will be an easy one.

It’s almost time.

El Dia de Los Muertos is on Wednesday, November 2nd and altars should be up on or about October 28th, I will post the information here on the blog.

QueQUE? I Feel Ugly Today

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From UnleashingYourInnerChingona this morning: 

My heart hurts for my lil mamita who woke up feeling “ugly”. So instead of regular prayer, I had to lift her up and tell her how beautiful she is which is not a lie, and that, if she forgets, that she needs to remember what Nina just told her. Tears in her eyes, she thanked me. God bless my lil mamita, may she grow to know her worth and have a good day at school.

How many times have we gotten up in the morning telling ourselves “I Feel Ugly Today“? And how many times have we wanted someone to tell us that, no, this is not true and you will be ok today? My lil one came out of her house, backpack on, sparkly pink lunch pail in hand, looking super cute with her ponytail and shorts. She IS cute.

Our lil girls have a hard time sometimes, from “you’re so dark” to “you’re gordita” to you-name-it. Looking back, all of those things that people would say to me would HURT. As I got older, these imperfections became my features, the parts that I liked best about myself. Accepting your imperfections is key, because no one can do you like you can. But how to get a little girl to learn this concept?

I’m going to ask her what she thinks of as ‘ugly’ about herself and then find affirmations, pictures, anything that she will understand, and we are going to turn that narrative around. I want her to walk out of her house in the mornings ready to face the day, to face the haters, to face her negative self image and grab her power back, pray for the haters because they criticize things and criticize people that they WANT to be like, to say things like, “my bangs may be short today but, at least, my hair won’t be in my eyes“, “if Rosa tells me that I’m too dark, I’ll just say that at least I don’t get sunburned“, who knows? The thing is to get my girl used to THINKING that she is so worth it, so that she is not afraid to speak up for herself, and will be able to accept that perfection is an illusion and that being real is what makes you beautiful.

All things that I would have LOVED for someone to have told me or shown me when I was little.

It’s not about having the perfect thing to say, it’s about acknowledging the sadness, and turning the negative self talk into positive self image. Social media and society have their opinions of beauty and it’s important for us to be in that mix as well, to show our girls another side of the story. I want my girls to believe that anything good is what they DESERVE. It’s my job to have them see themselves as I do: confident, sassy, fearless, and beautiful.

Caring On Our 11th Day

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Regular readers know that “Our 11th Day” is the day we remember our mother and celebrate her life each month.

Yesterday was Our 11th Day. I get a call from one of my sisters, a family friend needs our help. I admit I went into dramatics at first because I had just gotten off of work, didn’t feel like doing anything or going anywhere. Impatiently, I tell her that I will wait for her to come to my house. I step outside of my office and see my other sister’s car, she’s there to bring dinner for Dad. Coincidence?

What were we asked to do? We were asked to show our FamFriend how to move her elderly aunt from one side to another in order to change and bathe her. This aunt has ALWAYS been good to me, always happy to see me, to talk with me. I knew that I would go help her, that is, after I threw my fit. There were four people at the house with the Tia and I thought to myself, “why did they call us? they could do this.

As it turns out with many families, they DON’T know what to do, just as the five of us were with Mama. We didn’t want to hurt her, we didn’t know if she would LET us help her, and we were overwhelmed. Just as Tia’s CareCrew looked. They wanted to help her but did not know how.

So we immediately went into our roles: Sister 1 was talking to our FamFriend to see how she was, and what kind of help she needed. I was in Tia’s room (with Sister 2) telling the CareCrew what needed to be done as we got ready to move Tia from one bed to the other, bathe, change, and wash her hair. Once they saw me move Tia from one side to the other a la brava, the CareCrew kind of gasped at first, but then they saw how much more comfortable she looked (and was). Sister 2 also let the CareCrew know about Tia’s medication and gave instructions on how/when to give to her. FamFriends were very grateful and told us that they couldn’t have done it without us.

Within about an hour or so, we were back in the car on the way home. I was quiet, unable to place what I was feeling. I felt Mama with us the entire time, I could almost hear her reminding me what had to be done, to treat the lady with dignity, to cover Tia with a towel so that she wouldn’t get cold or exposed, to let Tia know what we were going to do, etc. My mother knew what her daughters’ strengths were: Sister 1 the “counselor” always made sure that Mama was in a good space and that she knew what was happening. Sister 2 was the “doctor” and dealt with all things medical and hospice. Me, I was the one who organized everything and everyone. I’d scream and shout, of course, but I got things moving. We 3 were able to really help the CareCrew move through their overwhelm and relax a little.

It’s no coincidence that this happened on Our 11th Day, I knew that it was Margaret guiding us, once again, reminding us what needed to be done. I smile. Mama (and my sisters) always know when to do the right thing. I’m happy that we were able to celebrate this day together.

The three of us work well together. I’m grateful to be part of this team of sisters…and Mama.

My Tribute to “Magic”

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I was in the car on the way home awhile ago when I was flipping stations and heard a “Remembering Olivia” tribute. I stopped the car to check social media and, yes, I read that Olivia Newton John had indeed passed. I have literally been sitting here listening to her song “Magic” over and over for an hour at least. When I write, and I’m inspired, I regularly listen to one song over and over and over again.

To be honest, she wasn’t one of my favorites, yet, how is it that I know every song she ever recorded? Her music was all over the radio, it would be almost impossible NOT to know the words to her songs. The other key to this memory is radio. I remember that I was between high school and college radio stations when this song was popular, where I was truly learning about what I called “white” music. I remember struggling a little to pronounce these names as I announced them, not because I didn’t know English, but because I wanted it to sound completely natural and believable that someone named Carmen, who loved to pronounce her name rolling the r’s, would actually LIKE this music. I not only liked this music, I loved it along with so much more.

Radio has always been a key to open me up to new worlds, new people, new places, new music. Yes, my heart hurts at the passing of this remarkable icon, but her music lives on. I am incredibly grateful, blessed, and lucky to have had a great start to what ended up being a great career. Is radio still relevant? That’s for another conversation.

Today, I will remember how cool it was to hear a great song like “Magic” on the radio back in the day, and how fun it was to hear it on the radio today. Olivia Newton John’s music was a part of my childhood and the soundtrack to my formative radio years.

Rest Easy Olivia Newton John.

Such a great song, “Magic”.

We have “visita” – whaaaat?

Golden Gate Bridge in Fog

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Whaaaat? All of my dramatics kicked in at once. Family was coming to stay in a matter of days, family I had never met, and I was streeeeessing about how I was going to get the house ready, where would they stay? about planning meals, how would we get them from airport? You name it, I was screaming to high heaven about it.

Fast forward a couple of days, I’m driving into the Ranch from the grocery store and I see this car in front of me going toward my house. It was the family, who showed up early. Ni modo, now I had to be a good hostess. First thing I hear is “Hola Carmen!” from a person whom I’ve never seen in my life. Turns out that our grandfathers were brothers. My cousins wanted to know more about the family and came to meet their tios — my father and my aunts.

Their excitement to meet us calmed every fear that I had, they were so happy and so fun that was impossible for me to stay stressed. I asked them what they wanted to see while in California so we decided to go to the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a foggy day but we walked the bridge, it was fun and, yes, we were happy to get back in the car and sit. The rest of the weekend was spent visiting and getting to know each other. I really loved watching my primos with Dad and my tias – they treated our parents like royalty and I was grateful.

A fun weekend.

Does this mean that I’m going to stop with my drama? Unlikely. But I am prepared to apologize again if need be. It’s always great to have more notice when folks will be visiting too especially as it’s always a good time when we are around our familia.

Dad and I are now tired from the weekend and in recovery-mode LOL

Glossary: Visita – visitors; primos – cousins; tios – aunts and uncles, ni modo – oh well.

Que QUE? It’s On The House

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Today was super hot, at least 101/102 degrees.

Since early this morning, I was already trying to get out of this commitment. I kept telling myself, “he won’t remember that I said that I would be there today”, “it’s gonna be too hot to take him on an outing today”, “I’ll just go tomorrow”. But then I got the text that said, “he’s doing well today, he’s alert” code for he’s ready to go somewhere.

My uncle has dementia. Some days he’s in a good place, other days it’s very difficult.

Last year, we made the decision to help him get into a better place to stay. I shocked myself by taking the wheel of this project and now handle his care, try to get him out for awhile, and mainly try to let him know that his family is there for him, that he’s not forgotten. Sadly, he doesn’t really remember things anymore. But he does remember people and, as I’m the one who stops by every other day, he does remember me. This uncle has always been a free spirit, a loner, and always preferred to live alone. We hadn’t really seen much him in years until we took over his care a year ago.

When I arrived today, Uncle was not happy because he wanted to shave and didn’t have time to do so. I decided to take him to a barber shop that we’d visited before. When we arrived, I could tell the girls would not be able to handle the job. They suggested another shop that was on the other side of the parking lot. Easy enough, but remember it was 101 degrees out and Uncle uses a walker. He felt like walking so off we went.

We get to the other barber shop and, once we walked in, the cool air was super refreshing, we didn’t have an appointment, and there were people waiting. I ask the guys if they can give my Uncle a shave. The first guy said ‘no’ and the next guy took a look at Uncle and said, “I’ll do it”.

I could see the transformation in my Uncle as Jose carefully shaved his face, neck and even his ears. He was starting to relax and then smiled. Uncle felt good, and looked good. Uncle then asked for after shave and, as Jose, smiling, started to take the barber robe off, I gesture to him, “how much?” to which he silently mouths back, “on the house”. How cool was that?

It took 10 minutes for Jose to make Uncle feel like a million bucks. I couldn’t have done that.

It takes a Village to help with our elders, help comes when you least expect it and from whom you least expect it. Embrace your village, you do not have to handle someone’s care alone. Jose is now part of the village to help me keep my Uncle looking sharp, one less thing for me to worry about.

Kill the Messenger Day

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Some days.

Some days, it’s so hard to find patience.

Patience with the weather, patience with sound, patience with others, patience with yourself.

Maybe it’s the heat but today has felt like “kill the messenger day”. No warning, nada, I have been getting told off by everyone. To be fair, these are not people whom I know. These are folks whom I am interpreting for. Their frustration and energy was starting to rub off on me, and I felt myself being short and impatient. Not good.

How to find peace and patience so that you can keep communication positive? I found this important tip from totalwellnesshealth.com blog:

Be Mindful (totalwellnesshealth.com)

Thanks to the rushed culture we live in, it’s easy to feel the need to multitask and balance everything in life. Most of our activities have us focusing on what’s behind us or in the future, but rarely what’s actually in the moment.

Easy steps to practice mindful behavior:

  • Take pause
  • Ask yourself what you’re actually doing
  • Reflect on how you can focus your efforts
  • Let go of perfection
  • Skip multitasking as much as you can
  • Think about your breathing

When you pause and reflect on your behavior, it offers an opportunity to change activities that don’t serve you. It also allows you to think about how others view you and your impact on their own behaviors (I.e. If you’re stressed and always rushing, it may rub off on coworkers). Tap into the power of mindfulness starting today.

–I’ve noticed that I do get short and lose patience when in front of people, and it had to be really noticeable today when on the phone, at least it was to me. It’s time to slow the eff down, concentrate on the call at hand, and make every call a positive experience. If I notice THEIR rudeness, impatience, and shortness, then they must notice mine. It’s not like I’m “trabajando en el fil”, I’m in my office on the phone — normally, I really enjoy interacting with and helping others.

Deep breaths taken, smile on my face, bring on the next call.

Glossary: trabajando en el fil = working in the fields

It’s Only A Sofa

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Not the actual sofa LOL

Recently, I was gifted “new” sofas from my tia. I would have to get rid of the existing sofa in order to make room for the new ones.

The existing sofa was Mama’s. Especially during the last weeks of her life, when her bed was in our living room, all of us sat or lay on that couch, sleeping near our mother. Especially me, as I moved back home during that time. That couch was my bed, an extra table as I helped Mama get dressed, and more.

However, what I remember most were the times that we would talk late late late into the night. I don’t think that any of us likely slept through the night in those days. It was usually quiet, we were more relaxed and at peace than any other time of the day. I remember being able to say almost anything to my mother during those times. It was super comforting because she seemed to me more open, present and strong during those times.

That being said, I believe that she would have been the first to tell me to let go of that couch. It’s only a piece of old furniture now that Mama is gone. Her essence is so much more than a lumpy, faded couch. I just wanted to honor that old couch and to say “thank you” for helping us hold things together for Mama up to the end.