Tia Wisdom…What? QueQUE?

#52SlicesOfChingonaLife  #52EssaysNextWave 17/52

I love the humor and the fun sayings that come from the motherland.  The majority of my family no longer live in Michoacán, México;  we all grew up on The Ranch, land purchased by my grandparents on my Dad’s side of the family.  These people are straight-up hilarious, not in the telling jokes kind of way, but they are the best storytellers ever and we constantly marvel at how these folks, our parents,  in their 80’s can remember EVERY detail of their lives since they were little. What makes them so funny is that they don’t even realize that they ARE funny, they are being their 100% authentic selves, isn’t that the best way to be?  My siblings and cousins can attest to the fact that one of my tías (aunts) will say something, como si nada, and the entire room is busting up with laughter.

What really gets me, though, are the random phrases and sayings that they throw out without even realizing it. Soooo fun. It’s life lessons from my aunts — Tia Wisdom.

Una Hora de Burro

I don’t even remember what we were talking about, but one day my Tía says to me, “ay mijita tú sabes, todos tenemos una hora de burro’.  Whaaat?  I completely lost it!  “Una hora de burro” literally means “An hour of donkey or ass”.  “Burro” is slang for “stupid”, meaning that, at one time or another, we have all done something dumb in our lives.

15 Minutos de Pendeja

The other one my Tía threw out was, “como decía mi mama, todos tenemos 15 minutos de pendeja”, that is, 15 minutes of stupid, how true is THIS one?  We were talking about someone’s relationship  I as I recall.  How many of us have done something so stupid in the name of love?  I know I have.  As I write this, I gave my laptop a look that says “Okaaay?”.

These statements are so powerful, so true that, after you laugh,  you’re often taken aback, you shut up, and feel the truth hit.  But what I love about hearing phrases like “todos tenemos una hora de burro” or “todos tenemos 15 minutos de pendeja” is that they keep it real but they’re not cruel, it’s more like “we’ve all been there”, “I get it”, “it’s ok, you’re not the only one”.   These kinds of statements totally mitigate the drama and I find myself saying things like, “y si”, “yep”, nodding my head in agreement hands up in the air.  They’re like old school hashtags, right?  Shutting it all down with perfect comic timing.

No one does BOOM statements like the old school, and everyone has tias, grandmothers, mothers, sisters, cousins, comadres, daughters, and friends who can be counted on to say the most random thing, often funny, at the perfect moment.

Spend time talking to the elders in the fam.  You’ll always learn something, and you’ll likely hear it in the most unique way…love my tías and their Tia Wisdom, no one on earth like them.

Peace in a Pandemic, QueQUE?

#52EssaysNextWave 16/52 #52SlicesOfChingonaLife

Trying to find peace during a pandemic should be easy, right?  I mean, all we have is time, right?

Some days it works, others not so good.  Like now, I cannot stop staring out of my window where I can see the green leaves of the tree swaying in the breeze, and more important, I can feel the cool breeze hitting me which relaxes me instantly.

Music is playing.  My music, songs that I really like, with every song I do that thing with my face, that tilting back of the head, the happy frown, the closing of eyes, and I shake my head.

Some days, it’s what heals the depression, the anxiety, the nerves, it shuts down the what ifs screaming for my head, even for a little while.  There’s nowhere that I really need to be so why NOT give in to the peaceful, easy, afternoon?  Isn’t this what I often wished for when I had a stressful day at work?  To decompress, to relax.

There are many ways to heal during these pandemic times:  I think that I have found what works for me.  Being still.  Appreciating the blue sky.  Enjoying cool breezes on my face.  Listening to my favorite music. I can feel the broken parts of my soul being put back together.  I allow myself to feel the fear, the hurt, the anxiety, the anger, everything.  And then, like magic, everything is calm.  How many times did I wish for a little private spot, moment, time during a busy day to deal with my emotional things, things that I didn’t necessarily want others to know or see?

The two things I miss most are my writing spots and long drives.  I do most of my thinking, letting go, crying, screaming, practicing how I’m gonna say this or that, behind the wheel of my Jeep and sitting in front of my laptop.

Today, I decided that things are what they are, that if I’m going to ever find peace, then I’d better start where I’m at this minute…in a tiny corner of my ‘apartment’ where I can look up to the sky and feel the fresh air in my room, helping to rid the room (and me) of any negative, pent-up, stale energy.

Self-help is really important during this cuarentena.  We tend to give up our time to other people but this week, even if it is for 15 minutes, do something for yourself, something that soothes your soul and re-energizes you.  You’ll find that this little break will empower you to keep on keeping on during these crazy Covid 19 times.

With that, I’m back to closing my eyes, singing to the song playing on my shuffle, feeling this cooling breeze soothe me back to me, myself, and I.

Tápense La Cara …Cover your Face!

 

Tápense La Cara  #52SlicesOfChingonaLife  #52EssaysNextWave 15-52

All I have seen is one fight after another from people who refuse to wear masks and while we are in a PANDEMIC.  These folks have politicized the mask, when it is a health issue, where thousands of people are testing positive and dying not just all over this country, but all over the world.

The Pandemic is affecting my community especially hard.  Many Latinos are essential workers and have been working through the entire shutdown – in the fields, in hospitals, in restaurants, in hotels, in food trucks, in construction, and more.  Add to this, many of them live in close living quarters to others and travel to/from work in crowded trucks, vans, cars, as well as public transportation.

Also, the importance of wearing masks is all over Spanish media.  Granted, not all Latinos speak Spanish but no one can say that organizations are not trying to get the word out to them.   It’s amazing how many Latinos just do not get the seriousness of the matter.  Or if they do get it, they’re actually embarrassed to wear the mask for fear of what people will think.

I saw an exchange in a grocery store last week where 2 señores said hello to each other.  First man says, “y tu mascara que?” (where’s your mask).  Second man’s response, “nombre, pa’ que quiero eso?” (why would I want that?)   While it brought out a chuckle from me, it also hit home that some folks are very into ‘el que dirá’ what other’s think.   Now is not the time señores to be thinking about what your compas think about you, how they’ll tease you, telling you that you need to man up.  And while women are better about it, I’ve seen some straight-up defiant women saying that “a mi nadie me va a mandar” (no one’s gonna boss me around).  Again, I say, put that attitude aside and think of your children and your viejitos’ lives and, while you’re at it, respect the fact that I would like to live too.

When I think back to our Ita, who sadly died, and how sick she got at the end.  I’m convinced that she had contracted Covid-19 and, had she been hospitalized a few weeks later, we would not have been able to be with her.  The thought of her being alone and afraid would have been too much to bear.  She was having such a hard time breathing and there was nothing more that they could do for our beloved Ita.

My nieces both contracted Covid 19 and, thankfully, both are doing well but it was scary to have this disease hit so close to home.

A good friend of mine contracted Covid 19 and he documented his journey on social media.  His first Facebook posts were so forlorn, so sad, almost hopeless because he was so sick, and no one could be with him.  Thankfully, he was released a couple of weeks ago and now posts that he’s walking around the block, something he didn’t think would happen, he has a way to go to recover.

In order to greatly reduce chances of being infected, one of the best things you can do is cover your nose and mouth when you go out.   You are really helping others as all it takes is a droplet from a sneeze or a cough to spread this infection.   Que te valga madre what people think of you or how you look with a mask, lose that fear and be part of the solution, and not part of the problem.

 

Cuarentena Chisme Sessions

#52SlicesOfChingonaLife #52EssaysNextWave 14/52

It’s now been weeks of sheltering in place and staying home due to Covid19, and I realized that I truly missed talking with friends.   I’ve always been the one to set up get-together’s because I wanted to see everyone.   I decided to set up a Zoom call with college friends, I have tons of friends and the only requirement was that those of us on the call had to know each other.

These were my “movement” friends, we had all been involved in MEChA, Student Government and various political movements.   It was an amazing time for me anyway, I was at my most “woke” ever and I’m sure that I drove them crazy when they were not at my level of commitment back in the day.   Trust me, I know I banged my head once or twice because of them too.  Most of us were all on our own for the first time in our life and we were ready to take the world by storm.

The night before the call, I was super-nervous, just like I get the night before a big event!  It might have only been a Zoom call, but what if it didn’t go well?  What if no one was happy to see the other? My mind was going crazy with what ifs LOL.

However at 10:59am the next day, as I was getting ready to log on to the call, I was suddenly calm.  It was just like the minute before doors open at an event, you think to yourself, lo hecho hecho esta, I’ve done all I can, it will all work out great.   I had a one-hour call, therefore, I had to run it like an event, to make sure that everyone could participate and catch up.

It was so cool to catch up with my friends, everything seemed so familiar even though, for a lot of us, it had been YEARS since we last spoke to each other.   The time limit worked well too.  It was the perfect amount of time to catch up, not too short, not too long.   People could keep up with their day as no one had to travel to meet each other for lunch, or dinner, or drinks.  The pressure seemed off, which was great.

Everyone on the call wanted to do it again next month which will make for a fun morning of chisme!  We got to go out without going out 😊   I’m already thinking about who will be on the next Zoom!

Chisme = gossip

The Backseat of Justice

#52SlicesOfChingonaLife #52EssaysNextWave  13/52

 

Sitting in the Backseat of Justice?  When I first heard this concept mentioned, I kind of stopped in my tracks.  Who rides in the backseat during protests, marches, and calls for justice?

With judgement, I knew that this person was not me.  I was not old, I was not that jaded…

I remember the very first time that I was at a protest march and can still feel my heart practically beating out of my chest with a mixture of excitement and fear.  Excitement that I was walking the talk, and fear because there was a line of police waiting at the place where the march would end.  Would we get arrested?  Will things get out of control?  Out of breath, I decided that I didn’t care, the message was too important.    I could always be counted on to participate in these kinds of things.

When the George Floyd murder happened, I almost dismissed it, thinking ‘there it is again, what can I do?’  While I’ve still been unable to watch those 8 minutes, 49 seconds of agony in its entirety, I do know that something did snap inside of me, I kept hearing this screaming in my head, ‘this is wrong!’   I knew that I could not sit there and do nothing, say nothing.  However, I didn’t know what to do.

I looked around to see what people in my age group were thinking…didn’t see much and the stuff I did see/read sounded a lot like fear, not wanting to get involved, hoping it would all go away.  I kept looking for someone who was doing something…as I admit, I was overwhelmed with fear, doubt, and I just didn’t know how I could contribute.

Where did I find that hope that I was searching for?  In the fearless voices and actions of young people, who tell it like it is, who put themselves out there to help find a solution, unafraid to stand up for what they believe.  These are the folks I will learn from and learn how to get involved.

Here is the BOOM statement from a young friend that made me see that, maybe the time had come to pass the torch of justice to these eloquent, fearless and ‘woke’ folks:

“There’s no such thing as racism against white people AKA Reverse Racism.

And before some Irish folk try coming at this post, y’all were indentured servants.  Not slaves.  There’s a major difference.

Indentured servitude meant you were bound by a contract and carried out work for a limited amount of time AND HAD MORE RIGHTS THAN SLAVES.   Slaves were treated like property.  They were seen as lifetime investments because they were ‘owned’ unlike servants, which if we get technical, were essentially rented.”     –Marcel Romo

This statement wasn’t overly radical, and it was the truth.  His words rang true and I’ll admit, I was kind of envious that I wasn’t able to put my thoughts into a ‘boom’ statement such as this.  Statements that made me want to rise up and get involved.   I soon realized that my lack of involvement or inspiration was for lack of practice, I had gotten into the routine of life, working, taking care of the familia, and  WATCHING the news and social media more than staying truly woke.

It takes commitment, drive, and an almost blind faith when you are at the front line of making change.  I realize that the young folk are now at the wheel and driving the car.  I am in the backseat.  Here to provide help, to point them to contacts who can help them, here to do a lot of the important back end work that these activists need but don’t know how to do, here to remind them of past incidents of racism and injustice so that we are not doomed to repeat history.

When I look at this way, it doesn’t bother me to do my part, to recognize my new role as advisor.  I have many ‘community mentors’ who’ve helped me along the way, it is now time for me to help shape the future leaders.

I’m ok with that.

 

 

 

 

 

The Ranch Tales: The Day We All Burned the Frijoles.

#52SlicesOfChingonaLife2020   #52EssaysNextWave2020  12/52

Now that we are “forced” to stay home, it kind of reminds me of when we kids had to stay home during summers and our parents were at work.

Summertime at the Ranch, A L W A Y S very hot, and all of us likely had one of the ‘to do’ lists like the ones that Mama would leave us.   Lists like, “wash the dishes, sweep the floor, tidy up the living room, etc.” 

Looking back, we could have finished the ‘to-do’ list in an hour, less if we were all working together’.  Many times, we would START the list less than an hour before Mama would be home.  I would be stressed out, afraid that we would get in trouble for not doing our assigned chores.   If something on the list involved taking out meat from the freezer for dinner and we waited too long to take it out, that meant that dinner was delayed at best, ruined at worst.

A staple in most Mexican household is frijoles AKA beans.  Every few days, one of the tasks included making beans.   Making beans is completely normal in a Mexican household.  Cleaning, soaking, and putting pinto beans onto the stove to cook is something that all of us has done at least once.

One summer day, I was in charge of getting the beans cleaned and cooking on the stove.  I put the pot on the stove, filled it to the top with water and let the flame do the rest of the work.    You’re supposed to check the beans every few minutes to make sure that they still have water so that they don’t burn.

On this particular day, a strange smell was what summoned me to the kitchen stove.  To my horror, I saw a pot of dried up very dark beans, almost black and non-salvageable.  While I did try to save them, I knew that I was going to be in trouble, so I threw the burned beans out and started the process all over again.

We Ranch cousins constantly visited back and forth throughout the day and I don’t really remember how it was that, on this day, every single house at the Ranch had burned their beans!     All I remember was hearing my cousins react with that same mixture of fear and ‘I dodged that bullet’ as they told their stories of the burned beans.

These days I still make beans.  However, I make them in a crock pot – takes a little longer but I haven’t burned any since… I take no chances LOL.

My lil slow cooker LOL

Washing Machine or Lavanderia Status?

#52SlicesOfChingonaLife #52EssaysNextWave2020 11/52

When I woke up, I felt sad.

I couldn’t place it exactly.  That is, until I looked outside and saw the clothes hanging on the clothesline.

Clothes that, yesterday, were dripping wet.  Wet because our washing machine had decided to give out right as the clothes were getting to the SPIN cycle.

This washing machine had messed up years ago and was taken out of the house to the backyard.   Somehow, my Dad got it to work again.  I remember yelling at him that I would never, EVER, use that funky backyard machine ever, and OMG who does this?

One sunny day, the temperature was just right, the light wind was just right, and the clothesline was steps away…so I used the funky backyard machine and it was awesome.  My clothes had that fresh air smell that, no matter how many dryer sheets you use, never smell this good when using a dryer.   I was forced to be out in the fresh air because I had to hang the clothes and I could do other things around the house as I waited for my clothes to dry – much better than hanging out at the laundromat.

Today is a perfect wash day.  Blue skies, great wind, temperature just right.   It struck me that, for years, I never thought about a good wash day as I’m sure that Mama did when we were little.  A good wash day is synonymous with a good safe place.   With the Coronavirus pandemic, I have been grateful everyday that I have a safe little bubble at the Ranch, where I rarely have to go out.  Now my safe bubble has been broken.

I am grateful for the many years of service that this funky backyard machine gave to my parents and to my family.   I am grateful that, for the most part, my safe haven at the Ranch is still intact.

Now the search is on for a washing machine…and my peace of mind.

FridayFinanzasChingonas: Facing Your Mess

#FridayFinanzasChingonas #52SlicesOfChingonaLIfe #52EssaysNextWave2020  10/52

A couple of weeks ago, I woke from a dead sleep about 2:30 in the morning, worried AGAIN about how I was going to make it through the month bill-wise.

It all started when I checked my bank account balance.  Low.  How was I going to do it this month? I was near tears and then it hit me.  I needed to see, this minute, every single folder marked “bills”.  I decided that I needed to put everything into one single pile that instant.  I even went out into the car that second and took out every purse, work bag, file folder that might have a bill stuck in it.  Once I had all my bills piled on top of my bedspread, I put my hands on the pile and started to pray.

I prayed for the strength to face the mess in front of me and to learn how to plan to handle my financial life.  I needed to make a road map that night.

One of the best tools in learning how to manage your money is to PUT TOGETHER A BUDGET.  This budget, if done honestly, will show you how much money is coming in (i.e. your income) and how much money is going out (your expenses).  In the perfect world, the total numbers from your income and your expenses balance out.

From my bills pile, I started to WRITE DOWN ALL OF MY EXPENSES the total amount of each bill on a separate sheet.   Aaaaay, not easy to see my financial life flashing before my eyes.  It was very hard to find anything positive in this pile.

Now that I had the pile, I had to SORT THEM INTO CATEGORIES.  My big categories are:  Bank, Auto, Wireless, Medical, Storage, Cable.  The secondary ones are:  Auto Insurance, Cell Phone Insurance, Dental Co Pays, Prescriptions, Medical Co Pays, Lab Work, Internet.  I have another category called Outstanding Debt and once-a-year expenses like Roadside Service, DMV tags, Taxes.    There is no right or wrong way to make a category.

Now that I had the expenses and categories down, the next step is to RECORD WHAT I ACTUALLY SPEND IN ONE MONTH.  While I was much better at handling my expenses in the past, even following a calendar showing me what came out of my bank account on what day so that I would be sure to have money in the account.  This system worked until I went through my savings after losing a job.  Everything depended on my getting paid twice a month.

My life is very different now.  I am starting from zero almost literally.  I’m part of the “gig economy” with a significant amount of my time spent on collecting income for my services from different clients.   My income still doesn’t match my expenses as I’d like.  I saw where I could make cuts:  gone was Cable, in came the antenna for regular TV.  Found a cheaper storage and am purging more and more so that I’ll no longer need storage, found a cheaper wireless plan, and a more efficient auto insurance plan. And, if I’m really gonna be honest, OMG so much spent on fast food and café that it was insane – it’s all about using my stove and ‘cafetera’ now.   My challenge is to rework my budget and payment calendar so that it reflects things now versus a few months ago.  It has not and will not be easy.

You’ve got to be specific when wanting to make financial changes, which means you need to know what you owe, how much you need to make to handle your finances, and what you will need to do in order to make that happen.  Everyone is different, everyone’s finances are different, everyone’s plan to handle their finances is different.  However, there is one important first step that we ALL must make:  no matter how scary, whether we do it alone or in front of others, we MUST FACE OUR BILLS.

After my middle-of-the-night financial meltdown and prayer session over my pile of bills; I felt a huge sense of relief.  And a sense of purpose.   I now know exactly how much money I need in order to make my monthly bills which now includes a percentage toward bringing down my outstanding debt.  I want to make this happen.  With this important information in hand, I’m now ready to go onto the next step in my financial journey,

Good luck sign as I was looking through all of the bags and purses for bills…I found a birthday card from last year with the $20 still attached!

Shelter In Place: Walking The Circle

 

#52EssaysNextWave 9/52 #52SlicesOfChingonaLife2020

Shelter In Place.  We are all stuck at home.  For some people, it must be complete madness.  For me, however, it is turning into completely the opposite.

Yes, I’m getting stir crazy and need fresh air some days.  Well, I can go outside of my door and get out into the fresh air.  I’m going to make a point of walking the Ranch.

It’s amazing how we take things that are right in front of our faces for granted.  I live on The Ranch – the property my grandparents purchased years ago and built each family a house, the house where we live to this day.  This entire Ranch has been as my disposal for most of my life yet here I sat, bemoaning the fact that I wanted (and needed) to go out and walk to clear my head, to not feel so cooped up, to keep moving.

As I started to write this post, it was going to be about something at the Ranch and then I wrote, “I’m going to make a point of walking the Ranch”, and then zaaaz! It hit me, I should just get my fatass up and WALK, I should stop getting embarrassed in front of my family, especially my brothers, who were outside when I announced that I was going to walk to the end of the Ranch.

“Walk the Circle” they tell me.  No, I insist that I’m going to walk to the end of the Ranch which is almost an acre long, with long grass, and who knows what is living under it LOL.  So I decided to walk the circle:  it is a large circle made by the tracks of the band’s bus tires.

40 minutes later and I’m more ‘myself’ since the start of the #Coronavirus.   I’ve decided to walk the circle every day that I am required to shelter in place.  If nothing else, I will have gotten out of this house, out into the fresh air, walking as I love to do, opening my mind more than closing myself off from the world.

Thank God for #TheRanch.   Helping us all more that we ever thought possible.

The Ranch Tales: Tecua

#52EssaysNextWave 8/52 #52SlicesOfChingonaLife

My brother just said it.  We are blessed to have the Ranch to come home to.  With all of the uncertainty in the world especially with the #CoronaVirus, we are able to come home where, thank God, there is still a parent in every household, where, for the most part, no one but family comes down our Ranch road.  The Ranch is the ultimate safe place, it’s home for so many of us, whether we live here or not.

This used to be a working ranch, complete with housing for some of the workers who worked the crops in the area for my family.  The majority of these shacks are gone now.   However, one of these lil houses remains, halfway between the houses in the front and our houses in the back. This house belonged to a man called Teocaltiche.  As Ranch kids, we rarely saw this man so he was kind of like el cucuy and it was like a haunted house of sorts.

Only when Tecua got too sick to stay in his shack and my father taking him to the doctor did I find out his real name.  He was one Eulalio Sanchez, a cook by trade, and a musician as well.  Mr. Sanchez was a longtime cook for all the workers who labored for my grandparents Juan and Lupe Lucio.   According to my Dad, Tecua came to the US in 1950 as a bracero.  Due to his participation in a murder in Mexico, he was never to return again.  He was also a guitar player who taught Dad to play a couple of songs.  Add to this, Tecua was an alcoholic who drank daily until the last couple of years of his life.  It was only when Tecua lived in a care home that he stopped drinking as he could no longer have alcohol.

When I asked my father about Tecua, he started telling me a story about Tecua and my grandparents that make him bust up laughing to this day.

Our grandma always went back and forth to Mexico, always.  And on one of these trips, Tecua was standing near a stream with other workers and with the boss, my grandpa Juan.  Tecua wistfully asks out loud, “cuando vendra mi Lupe?” (when will my Lupe come back?).  My grandfather, upon hearing this, reportedly grabbed this man and, using some choice words, proceeds to throw him into the water!

Yeah this story may bring a smile to your face but to hear Mike Torres or any of my aunts TELL the story…priceless.  In some way, all of MaLupita’s children inherited her hilarious sense of humor and her animated way of talking.   We have heard so many stories our entire lives, and to hear my dad and my tias tell ANY Ranch story is amazing and so funny – especially as they remember every single detail.  These stories are even more poignant now as all of our parents are in their 80’s.

Was Tecua in love with Lupe? Or was Tecua grateful that Lupe was family, who always watched out cared for him until his dying day?  Who knows?  Tecua is part of the folklore that makes up the Ranch.

We also learned about the ‘bondad/kindness’ of our grandmother Ma Lupita.  Grandma always took care of the people who took care of her, her business and her family.  That she helped out Tecua for the majority of his life, since he came to work for her in 1950 is very typical of our grandmother.

There have always been people visiting whom our grandparents helped on their feet when they first came to the US.  My grandmother always took care of the people who took care of her, her business, and her family.  After Ma Lupita passed away, the visits became less frequent, but no one denies the impact that my grandmother Lupe/Lupita has had on their lives to this day.  If we are ever around any of these folks from Michoacan, the respect and regard that they have for our parents nothing short of amazing.  It’s so cool to see our parents with rock-star status and everyone running to see them and to talk to them.  More than once, I’ve heard stories of how our grandparents and parents helped people out, these folks hold our parents in the highest regard and, if they are ever around any of the Michoacan folks, it is everyone running to see them.

Dad in front of Tecua’s house.