Turning the Tables: Bonus Parents and Change


Earlier this afternoon, I was in hospital helping feed our Ita her lunch, I had to fight off my emotions big time.  Ita AKA Aunty Cathy has been my bonus mother my entire life, my aunt who never had children of her own and who help raise us Torres and a bunch of my Grijalva cousins.   Almost no words exist for me to express how important Ita is to me.    And there is no question that I will help care for her no matter how I can now that she’s having a rough time.  The funny thing is that she instinctively KNEW that, although we live far from her, that we would be here to care for her.  She said hi to us like she saw us yesterday, we are not ‘company’ LOL.   So fun to connect with my siblings and cousins who feel the same way about Ita as I do.  We have been told, more than once, to keep the noise down in the waiting room LOL.

What got me emotionally was that Ita and a lot of my bonus parents and parents are at that age where we’ve got to be there for them now and it is hard.  Hard to give up a big chunk of your life to be there for them, hard to deal with the frustration and burn-out, hard to deal with the guilt produced after you get frustrated and burned out, hard to know that they are becoming different people with different needs, hard to see these strong people who were always there for us now NEED to know that we are there for them.

I shocked myself as I fed Ita, I actually thought about how much easier their care would be if I didn’t have my job…that simple statement is very huge in my world:  I’ve always been very driven to do what I want to do, when I want to do this.   For many years, I relied on my fam to take care of the important familia issues and I would just do what was left, the minimum.  So, when I came back wanting to reconnect and be there for the fam, I was over-doing it trying to compensate for the years that I could not be bothered with it.  But, earlier today, as I said this to myself, I almost started crying because I really believed it and really wanted to be there for my parents and bonus parents, first and foremost.

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I remember when I got into a car accident in 2006, where my first Jeep was totaled after a semi sent me flying all over the freeway…WHO took care of me when both my hands and wrists were broken?  My parents and bonus parent Ita.   They even moved in with me for a couple of weeks when I had to go back to work and helped me get around.  More than helping me out physically, it really helped me emotionally to know that, at the end of the day, not only is familia is always there for you but I got to be comforted by the fact that my parents were there for me – nothing like feeling a parent’s love and support, no matter your age, when you feel sick, they WORK it for you!

I don’t know what or how it will happen, but commitment to my parents and bonus parents is there now and it is very real and sincere.  It’s a big day in Carmenlandia … it’s not all about me anymore and, quite frankly, I’m relieved and happy that this is where I’m at…now I’ve got to start working on this:  put my thoughts in order, refocus, and put new priorities into motion.  Will it happen overnight?  No.  Will it happen?  Yes.  The best thing is that I’m ready to start working on it!


Working My Way Back: Inner Chingona and Red Flags


I have just had an opportunity to see someone ‘calling me out’ or, should I say, read about someone calling me out…and I am A N G R Y. Angry, that after all of the mess of the past year caused by this individual, that this person still tries to justify all of his negative, crazy, traumatic behavior. More than anything, I’m angry with myself for not knowing better how to recognize the “red flags, for not listening to Inner Chingona when she screamed “watch out!”.

Make no mistake, this person’s actions have put him right where I imagine I was exactly a year ago: at the absolute bottom. The difference being that I had to work hard to come back from it all and HE, on the other hand, is likely now living in the desmadre that he put himself into once he started this raging war against me, where the desired result would be in my destruction or at the very least, where my reputation would be in the gutter, my relationship with family and friends non-existent, with no prospects for work thus the end of my career. I could not control this person’s actions and there was no way to see any of this madness coming, as he would let his destruction out in phases, only he knew when things would go down, I never knew what would set him off. Well, I am done walking on eggshells worrying and not knowing what will happen next…walking on eggshells is the first “Red Flag.”

Red Flag: I learned that there is no rhyme or reason for a person with violent tendencies to go off (or not) on someone. Red Flag: There is always someone or something to blame for his actions: drugs, alcohol, rage, me, not me, not alcohol, not drugs…and huge red flag: watch it if this person does impulsive things like throw loud or ‘silent treatment” tantrums, scream, shout, throw things, destroy property…it’s very likely that YOU will be next on the receiving end of their rage. I may not have gotten hit physically, but it felt like I was hit straight to the face when I would either hear about a phone call he made to someone or see all of my business ONLINE via random postings on social media, via email, with pictures, without, with references to familia, colegas, and friends, some even had phone numbers included, all meant to destroy my reputation — you name it, I saw or heard it.

So much of my life fell thru the cracks and, I got a random surprise the other day, a traffic ticket that I had gotten last year right when the storm was hitting me from all sides. Do I remember getting pulled over? No. Do I remember why I got the ticket? No. Now it’s in the hundreds of dollars that I’ve got to pay and it made me realize just HOW bad things had gotten for me last year – during this time, this individual was regularly calling both my oficina and familia to let them know that something might happen to me, etc. It seemed like all I did was drive from one place to the other so the folks could see that I was alright and that, no, I hadn’t been hurt or killed that night/day. Bigass red flag: I spent all of my energy worrying about what he was going to do next instead of taking care of myself! Not cool.


What have I learned? A red flag is your inner chingona trying to get your attention. Sometimes, we don’t want to see the pinche red flag, much less pay attention to these very important warning signs/red flags! Pay attention to your inner chingona, that all-powerful intuition, it may save you from drama, hassles, danger and, more important, save your life. Below is a great list of “red flags” to look for…BE informed, I was NOT. NOW I AM.

RED FLAGS:   Watch it and LISTEN to your intuition, Inner Chingona, that voice that says, ‘BE careful’ if/when you see these signs:
• Abuse of alcohol or other drugs
• Don’t work or go to school
• Abuse of siblings, other family members, children, or pets
• Put down people, including your family and friends, or call them names
• Are always angry at someone or something
• Try to isolate you and control who you see or where you go.
• Nag you or force you to be sexual when you don’t want to be.
• Are physically rough with you (push, shove, pull, yank, squeeze, restrain)
• Take your money or take advantage of you in other ways
• Accuse you of flirting or “coming on” to others or accuse you of cheating on them.
• Ignore you, give you the silent treatment, or hang up on you.
• Make vulgar comments about others in your presence.
• Blame all arguments and problems on you.
• Threaten to kill themselves if you break up with them, or tell you that they cannot live without you.
• Experience extreme mood swings…tell you you’re the greatest one minute and rip you apart the next minute.
• Tell you to shut up or tell you you’re dumb, stupid, fat, or call you some other name (directly or indirectly).
• Compare you to former partners.
• Cheat on you or have lots of partners.
• Have a history of trouble with the law, get into fights, or break and destroy property.
• Don’t listen to you or show interest in your opinions or feelings…things have to be done their way.
• Lie to you, don’t show up for dates, maybe even disappear for days.
• Tell you how to dress or act

Working My Way Back: The Numbers Game


You should keep your number…you should change your number…you should worry about your number…you shouldn’t worry about your number…you should watch that number…you should watch for that number…you should, you shouldn’t, you should, you shouldn’t…your numbers are off…your numbers are right on…you live by the numbers…you die by the numbers…

I’m so not a numbers person.  Yet it feels like I’m surrounded by ‘puros numeros’!     After having to change phone numbers, address numbers, office numbers, and, after needing to keep a list of all kinds of numbers for all kinds of reasons;  I am determined NOT to let numbers get to me anymore, I will keep the numbers that I have for as long as I want to keep them, I will change numbers when I determine the time is right to make more changes.

So it’s all about embracing numbers:  be it paying bills, going thru budgets and projections, dialing numbers, and looking at phone numbers…or take it one step further:  to stop counting the number of times that I fall down and count the number of times I pick myself up!


Celebrating Celia Cruz’ 88th Year!


Soooooooo cool to see CELIA CRUZ celebrated on the ‘google doodle’ in honor of what would have been her 88th birthday! No doubt, the most original salsera EVER.  Who else could pull off Celia’s style?  Wigs of every color, great clothes, spectacular stage presence, and that distinctive, strong voice!   Celia Cruz was completely authentic, diva in the best sense of the word, classic.  Loved it that she held her own among performers, young and old, white and black, men and women.


I had the chance to see her perform many times and a couple of memories come to my mind:

1.  In the 90’s at a Radio convention in Los Angeles:  arriving by car to the hotel, as we are getting out of the car, we see Celia coming out of the hotel with husband Pedro…so there we go, todos starstruck, and she was the most gracious with us and I’ll always remember her saying, “bueno mija me voy porque me ‘ta e’perando en el cho en Paul Rodrigue”!  (I have to go because they are waiting for me at Paul Rodriguez’ show)  She was too cute!

2.  A few years ago backstage at the Cow Palace San Francisco:   I’m with sis LG and another friend and we are standing a little behind the stairs that we know Celia will climb to get onto stage.  A few minutes later, here comes Celia in this fabulous green outfit (you know I would notice this), everyone is trying to get her attention…in her rush to the stage,  Celia is shaking hands, etc,, and to Christy, she says, ‘ay gracias mija por venir’; and to my friend Celia says, ‘ gracias, señora por venir’.  I remember my friend was like, “why is she calling me señora, I’m not old!”  LOL

3.  Backstage at The Gift Center, San Francisco:  Again, I’m with sis LG and this time we are standing on one of the Gift Center levels backstage. We watch as Celia gets onto the stage with Pedro.  Celia didn’t travel with a band, so she would perform with a local salsa band.  So Celia is front and center;  Pedro is in the background directing the band.

We come from a musical familia, so when Celia sounded kind of off-key, both Christy and I look at each other, then look to the stage.  The band was NOT workin’ it and, from our vantage point, we could see Pedro furiously trying to get this band back in time and Celia looking back at Pedro totally frustrated and, dare I say it, completely pissed off.  All I had to do was look at LG, a musician, a percussionist no less, and the shaking of her head as she watched this was priceless.  But when the band messed up on “Bamboleo”, Christy’s like, “HOW could a band NOT be prepared to play THIS song?”  I kind of felt bad for the band for a minute, and then I thought, LG’s right:  the band needs to be on it’s ‘A’ game to play with the Queen of Salsa.

Below are a few of the notable tributes that I saw online today…Feliz Cumpleaños Celia!


FROM FANIA RECORDS FB PAGE:  Majestuosa e inigualable la Reina de la Salsa #CeliaCruz! Hoy Celebramos 88 Años de aquel dia en el que la Guarachera nacio y con ella un nuevo significado a la palabara “AZUCAR”


FROM CHRISTINA TORRES AKA LG’S FB PAGE:  Happy birthday to the late great Celia Cruz – Reina de la Salsa!!! She was a huge influence for me – so glad I had an opportunity to meet her. Gone but not forgotten.#celiacruz #reinadelasalsa #happybirthday


“Quimbara” Celia Cruz & Patti Labelle   AWESOME rendition!

“Guantamera” Sound Check Celia & Fania All Stars in Africa — POWERFUL even in rehearsal

Celia Cruz & Oscar de Leon – one word: Badass!  They complement each other perfectly!

La Vida Es Un Carnaval … Instant Classic!