The Power of Mariachi Music

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The Torres household was not unlike other Latino households in that, we too, had to endure early Saturday mornings with the mariachi music going full blast.  But the difference in our house was that we might be hearing those rancheras on record, on the radio, in a JUKEBOX that was in our house for years, or with Mike Torres playing and singing live!  Our father is a lifetime mariachi and regularly rocks his charro suits.  This is my very favorite picture of his, happiest when singing with the mariachi.

So I’d be in that bed trying to will myself back to sleep, trying to close my eyes, trying not to think that, along with the music, that house cleaning wasn’t far behind.   Finally, I’d give in and wake up, laying there hearing the sounds of the house, the smell of breakfast cooking, knowing that in a few minutes, we’d get Mama’s call to get up and help do this or that and, through all of this, la musica ranchera a todo volumen en friega …music at full blast.

Back then, it was like “rolling the eyes” irritating on some days, at least those first few minutes of being up and about.   Maybe if it were another kind of music that I liked at the time, I might have had a better attitude.  Maybe not, I was and still am, to this day, a night person.   This familia of musicos are also night people so we all have to tread lightly every morning so that we don’t offend each other as we try to wake up.  And when we are all still living at home, we Torres5 used to regularly try to compete with Dad by turning the TV up, Dad singing/playing louder, TV up, music louder and on and on.  LOL

A little while ago, I was sitting here, all desvelada complete with that headache that you get from little or no sleep, and, just as I was thinking, “I’m gonna go home and take a nap“,  the music in my shuffle changes and I actually jumped as “El Son de La Negra” comes on trumpets blasting, all loud and proud.  I actually smiled as I felt this music wake up my soul with its invigorating and empowering energy, I was this close to saying ‘VivaMexico!’ but don’t know how my Starbucks table neighbors would deal with it LOL.

Gone are the days of “rolling of the eyes” when I hear musica de mariachi.  I have the gift of my father who, at 82 years old,  STILL plays the guitar DAILY, who still blasts his musica, who is a walking encyclopedia of Mexican music and who knows all of the fun chisme folkloric back stories of songs, musicians, mariachis.  You better know that we Torres5 know so many of these songs word for word.  And, every time I hear “El Son de La Negra“, I am ready to get my grito on and sing all of the words to these great great great songs, songs that I have heard forever in my house, songs of the motherland, songs that make me proud to be part of such a colorful, vibrant, always-at-full-blast culture.  These songs or powerful “sones” are guaranteed to give you the chills when you hear them, go anywhere in the world, watch (and hear) the reaction when this song comes on.  Gritos can be heard from every inch of the place almost as loud as the mariachi itself.  The pride and joy are in full effect — from the mariachis to the audience, these songs regularly bring any house down, anywhere, anytime.

And, songs like these probably still drive people crazy on Saturday mornings because, yes, they are some of the best songs to clean house to.  Enjoy “El Son de La Negra”… listen, watch and tell me you don’t feel it!

 

 

 

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Turning The Tables: The Waiting Game

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Waiting.  I am not a fan of waiting.  Especially when this person doesn’t respond to my many calls to see if all is ok.  Waiting and worrying, a sure-fire way to make myself go crazy, so I’ve decided that, today, I will not worry if this person is dead on the side of the road, worry that this person has indeed been picked up and is in jail, or in a hospital, or worse.

This person does not owe me any type of explanation whatsoever and is waaay over 21 to be asking permission to go anywhere.  And it does not matter how many times I sit here and wait for this person, it is still the same:  is this person dead?  alive?  sick?  well?  in jail?  hurt?  and is anything wrong with this person’s fingers that I get no phone call?  I have been known to make myself crazy with worry, calling and calling and calling.  Getting furious with this person and with myself for getting so alocada.

I guess that, no matter how old you get, that you will always find it difficult to discover that, yes, your father has a life out of this house.  It could be for a minute, or for hours, that he is late getting home, and the tables turn q u i c k. On the one hand, my father is not chained to the Ranch, he regularly is out and about.  I tend to forget that the man is 81 years old.  But like anything else, you know the signs, or should I say smell the signs:   The smells of soap and cologne envelop this house, his good hat is gone, and, while he usually lets me know when he’s leaving to go anywhere; when he’s in “going out” mode, I get no notice LOL.   I immediately revert back to when I was younger, when the house never felt right when the “adults” were away, when I’d watch out of the windows looking for the white light of their car headlights driving into the Ranch.

Thankfully, I did get a call letting me know where Dad was/is and that he is ok.  While we may have to go and pick him up later, that is better than not knowing where he is.   I now get it when my parents worried about me not calling, not picking up the phone, not answering.  Karma, que no?  I also get it that I gain nothing by worrying myself to crazy and getting all mad at my father for wanting a night out.   I suppose that I should learn to relax and be blessed that I have an 81-years-young father who is still in good health, strong and sharp as ever.

This healthy, strong, sharp man still needs to let a daughter know whassup though…that’s another battle for another day I guess!

 

Going Home. Ni Modo. Sometimes You “Have” To.

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I was struck by a television show I was watching earlier tonight: the character was Latino, and he had come home to find his mother lying on the floor, she had fallen. The caregiver had been gone for a couple of hours and the character was furious and went after the caregiver with the can of whoopass. At the end of the show, this character was going into his mother’s home, where he tells her how beautiful she looks, to which she responds that she had to look her best because she was so happy that her son was moving back home. And then the mom starts being a mom – “come sit down with me, watch my show, can you make me a sandwich?”  I had to laugh because I sooo related to this and this proves to me that I am not the only one who has “had” come back home.

As I write, I’m now in my “apartment” AKA the “girls room” – the place where I grew up. It is sooo deja vu right now, the way the light looks, the way the house sounds kind of quiet, the way I’m playing the radio low, and, as it is tuned into a classic oldies station, it feels as if I am back in time to when I used to be in the room doing my homework! LOL


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My view in the “girls room”

Regular readers of my blog know my story of moving back home to be with my folks. Mama has since passed and it’s me and my father. While I admit that I  miss my former life profoundly which consisted of spending time with my now FamFriends, going out a lot, working a lot, trying to work on having a meaningful relationship in my life, and finding my place in the world.  However, I now realize that I was always looking for a sense of family and togetherness in every city I have lived/worked.  As I was alone with family far away, I didn’t really have to deal with work getting in the way of family things plus I was usually far enough so I wasn’t mired in the day-to-day routine.   To my amazement, I now realize that one of the things that I missed was the sense of ‘home’ – that peaceful feeling of being able to relax completely, to be yourself, to know that you are totally safe and loved.

I’m now all up in the day-to-day trying to keep this house in order, always watchful of my father.  Tonight, he seems down and, while I try not to get all up in his business, I feel better knowing that he’s not by himself.  My fear is coming home to find him fallen down or hurt or worse.   I just want him to be safe and happy.   I know now that familia has to work together to contribute to the peace, safety, and love that makes our house feel like a home.

This peace and joy did not come easy.  Caregiving is not an easy gig and the struggle is real because, at the end of the day, you are NOT their parent, even though it feels like it a lot of the time.  You are all up in their things and, in this house at least, no one likes it when you move their stuff around.   Also, in this house, Mama used to say that her kids were all chiefs as we all have our opinion on everything LOL.    She was right.  I especially would go crazy when things did not go my way and when this family would not follow the schedule that I made for us.  I had to learn to bite my tongue and to pick my battles.  I had to stop judging them for a million things, and just love them.

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For any of you who have “had” to move back home, these tips really helped me to make it a little easier.

  1.  Respect that it is not easy for your parents either:  someone, even their daughter, coming into their space can feel disruptive and they may be embarrassed that the house isn’t as neat as it used to be, or that they can’t do the things they used to.
  2. Dignity goes a long way.  I learned this first-hand when I was the one “assigned” to clean and change Mama’s clothes.  I was so concerned that she was comfortable as fast as possible that I didn’t cover the exposed parts of her body like I should have  One day, I just watched Toni, one of the hospice nurses, as she moved and bathed Mama with such care and dignity so that I could try to make her comfortable.
  3. Live like roommates and have the roommate talk:  This sets simple ground rules and has worked wonders for family unity and understanding.  It allows everyone in the house to live their lives, work, spend time with friends and work out issues.
  4. Respect each other’s space, get out of each other’s way when need be.  I have, on occasion, dropped Dad off to have a few drinks and sing with the mariachi and then pick him up … talk about Turning the Tables! He, on the other hand, is always telling me to get out of the house and go out, that he’ll be alright.
  5. Create Your Support Crew:  You may need help getting folks to appointments, getting meals handled, picking up meds, cleaning the house or to listen to you vent.  People do want to help how they can and, even if it’s just for a couple of hours, let someone be there for you as you care for your parents.

Change doesn’t have to be disruptive forever.  The way I see it, my parents gave us everything we needed to get out there in the world and as, nothing is free, it is important for me to be here now for my father.  Respect, dignity, open communication, support system, and stepping back when need be can make any situation bearable, even fun.  My Dad and I, thank God, are able to talk to each other.

Hablando se entiende la gente.  I’m smiling right now because we just had what is a typical nighttime conversation between Dad and I:  “Mija, quiero un taquito para tomarme la medicina”  he usually likes a snack when he takes his meds.  This Daddy’s girl says, “ok but ‘con tortillas de maiz‘ because it’s late.”   My father is Team Flour Tortillas all the way and I’m Corn Tortilla girl — and this is how we compromise LOL .  There you have it:  Another peaceful night at home on the Ranch.

#52essays2017

 

Your Mama Says “Hi” #52essays2017


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As I got home tonight from work, Dad told me that he went to see Mama at the cemetery. He always says “Your Mama Says Hi”. I have been missing “Señora” big time today.  It’s cold, it’s dark, and I’m just getting over flu/bronchitis and sometimes all you want is your mama to make it all better. That’s it, that’s all I wanted today.  I love it when he tells us that ‘your Mama says hi’ like as if she’s going to be home in a little while or something.

I don’t know what it was about being near Mama, I felt safe, she wasn’t the ‘huggy huggy’ type and I didn’t feel offended because I think that she may have wanted to be more cariñosa with us but she was embarrassed, and maybe she thought that she didn’t know how to be more physically affectionate, who knows.  A lot of ladies from her generation were the same way.   I learned how to live with this but I just always k n e w that my mother loved me because she felt things so deeply. I could always sense when Mama was sad or hurt; maybe because I am the same way, my feelings run veeeery deep.  However, Mama always connected really well through writing, thank God. I have so many loving notes and letters from her. I treasure them all but I really love the stuff she’d write after she had her stroke, when she had to start from zero and learn to write with her left hand (as the right one was paralyzed), where a small note would take her hours to write, when she was as close to her inner chingona as possible, when she had decided that, by holding things in, she had a hand in her stroke changing her life forever. From that moment on, she always always always told us to never keep things in, so that we wouldn’t end up like her – in a wheelchair, walking with a cane, no longer able to drive or move about carefree.

Many many times she’d tell me to “calm down, don’t be so emotional, stop crying‘, and in the next breath, tell me that she was exactly the same way at my age.   Someone, somewhere along Mama’s life, must have told her to keep things inside, that it wasn’t cool to cry and carry on.  Maybe Mama’s generation were afraid of emotion, afraid of losing control, afraid of not being able to come back from an emotional outburst.  I didn’t, and still don’t, understand how one can hold in every single feeling, it would make me physically sick to hold so much in. I’ve learned thru life (and shots of therapy) that letting go and losing it all is a great way to get yourself back on track.  I would give anything for Mama and those of her generation to have believed this, they would have been happier and more fulfilled I think.   I always try to be affectionate with our #TorresBabies, no matter the age, breaking that cycle I guess.

Mama’s presence was always enough to calm me.  If she looked calm, I would stop freaking out about this or that.  If I called her and her voice sounded strong and happy, I knew that it was a good day.  Wheelchair or not, paralyzed or not, if I needed an attitude adjustment, advice, or someone to listen to me go on and on and on, Mama was down for it.  Today I so needed to get her take on things, to help get me on track, to have her tell me things like “LetGoAndLetGod” and then telling me to stop rolling my eyes and believe LOL.

She’s been gone 26 months now, and sitting here in her house, near one of her pictures (which, note to self,  needs to be surrounded by lights so that I can see her face at this time of night), I feel her presence and the one thing, the one thing, I want right now is to feel her warmth, to see her face as she helps me figure things out, and to hug and kiss her goodnight.  Maybe her message to me from Dad was her way of letting me know she’s here.   “Hi Mama! Dad gave me your message!”

 

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Mama & Me   #52essays2017

The Minute I Mop the Floors…The Eternal Battle

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Whatever went through this family’s mind when they decided the the house needed WHITE floors has dumbfounded me for years.  I understand the reason for the floors, it was easier and much safer for Mama to walk on, as she had been left partially paralyzed from her stroke.   When she was alive, it was difficult to come in and clean the house.  First, she did not like us getting into her “stuff” and so it felt like I was always cleaning around the stuff.  Second, I was here once a week or so, not that much, as we Torres5 had our schedule of cleaning/cooking for the folks.

Fast forward to now.  Dad and I are roommates and he is fun to be around.  I still am not the greatest housekeeper but I feel that I have, respectfully, stored a lot of Mama’s things after her passing thus cleaning around things doesn’t happen that much anymore.  Our house has become a very social house and I try to keep it relatively clean and presentable in case anyone wants to stop by anytime.  Thus I find myself cleaning constantly to try to keep up with the mess.   Mopping floors is a given.  As we live on the Ranch, you better know that dust, tierra, leaves, lodo, are all up in that mix.  If I let the floors go more than a couple of days without mopping, it is not attractive.

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I do everything to let the fam know that it’s “no ins/outs for 20-30 minutes” – tell them, yell it out, text them.  Everyone gets the message except for Dad.  The minute I put the mop into the bucket, and I hear the sound of the mop sloshing the hot water around, I think, “there’s no way he’ll hear it”, as I hear the sound of the plop of the mop onto the floor, I think, “he better not decide to walk this way/go to the bathroom/get up out of the chair/get out of bed”, even after I tell him I’m mopping the floor.   Sure enough, I will have JUST finished one side of the house, or just finished mopping the bathroom, and I’ll hear him moving about.   First word in my mind is usually ‘chiiiiingado‘, and then if I happen to catch his eye, he has to hear me go on and on and on with ‘DadTeDijeWhyDoYouAlwaysDoThis?‘, and then I just have to shake my head because yavaliomadre and he has tracked all over my clean floors to go to the bathroom or whatever y ya.

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By the time I mop once more, I’m still shaking my head, but my rage is gone.  I have always taken care of my father – I’m partly to blame if he’s chiquiado.  Daddy’s girl here has always made sure that he eats, that he’s taken care of, that the house is presentable so I’ve enabled him for sure LOL. While I could sit there and talk it out with him, which I have done many times, I know that I am dealing with an 81 years young man who will not change overnight, he does things MikeTorresStyle, in his own way, in his own time.    As I mop the floor again, I wonder HOW is it that he KNOWS when I am going to mop the floors LOL?!? I tell myself, ‘NEXT time, I’ll do this or that, say this or that” and then I have to smile — I’ve “lost” this round, and look forward to being able to brag on the day when I can mop the floors of this house uninterrupted.    And then I hear it…Oh no, there goes the heater on full blast again…..Sometimes you have to pick your battles.  Gotta love Daddy.  #52essays2017

The Power Of Writing: OMG Dad is finding his Inner Chingona

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Dad and I have spent all week thrown down sick at this house. All it has been is puro coughing and misery. For the past few days, neither of us had the energy or desire to do anything.   One of things I’ve started to notice is, that lately, Dad and I have the same tastes on lots of things, including writing.  I took these pics of us a couple of weeks ago, he was writing in one room, and I was writing in another. OMG Dad is finding his Inner Chingona!

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Dad’s been wanting to write his life story and for YEARS, he had been using his typewriter, yes, a typewriter. Well, yesterday, he decides that he’s going to use his laptop to put his story down so that I could review and edit it later. It was transforming. Dad was INTO it, into using the mouse, into learning the keyboard, into putting his thoughts down, sitting down at the table, happy, into it. As it was, after all, the middle of the night, I went in to check on him and almost told him to go to bed and then I stopped myself. I stopped myself when I saw his face deep in thought, eyes glued to the keyboard, I saw “it”. When one is in the I “have” to write mode. Where one is in that zone of pure creativity, on it, focused, working it. Where your fingers are working completely in synch with your mind and where your work is at its most authentic. Maybe when this creative surge is over and we review his work later, we will find that some things may need to be revised or removed, but there is usually always SOMETHING salvageable from creative surges of writing. Therefore, it was very important for me to let him be, to let him finish his train of thought.

I know this feeling well and, for many years, I would suppress my love of writing as something boring or something that people with no lives do. Once I got to that space where I decided it was time to embrace writing, I started making more and more time for it. Now writing is a permanent part of me, an expansion of my voice, much more than a hobby. I think to myself with a lil bit of sadness, “how long did Dad want to write and dismissed it? I also think about Mama and about people no longer with us who left without doing the things that they wanted to do, things that would have made them feel more whole, things that would make them happier.

So now it’s all about me embracing the fact that Dad “needs” his writing as much as I do, maybe more than I do, he’s 81 years young, and he wants to get so much out on paper.   Making things easier for him will be what I am supposed to do, help him work the laptop, teach him Word so that he can save things easier, showing him that the computer is nothing to be afraid of.  I think that it’s fun to be able to share something with my father.

#52essays2017

Happy New Year 2016

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Happy 2016! As I reflect upon this past year, I realize that it has all been about one thing: taking a step back to breathe.

Mama’s passing took it out of me in many ways and much of the year was spent dealing with the fact that she would not be here anymore and that I no longer had to caregive at the level I had done with my dad and siblings for the past few years. For many many weeks, I still woke up at every noise and every few minutes to “check” on Mama. I didn’t really know how to fill the hours when it was “my” day to take care of her.

Carmen was a woman who screamed and shouted for much of this time about how “I want my life back” and how all I did was live out of the boxes…so once I made the decision to STAY at the Ranch and take care of my dad and familia, I even shocked myself. Somewhere along the way, my priorities not only shifted, they completely changed.

My former life had no room for family, friends, or even me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my work and all of my activities and was shocked when this work could no longer sustain and motivate me. In my business, aside from knowing your stuff, you really have to have the drive to push yourself forward to work it, if you want to succeed. Anything less is not enough. I’m sure that it’s like this everywhere but broadcasting is different, the stakes always feel higher, it’s a very small world and the ups and downs in our industry are dramatic to say the least!
6 months into the year, I parted ways with my stations and, instead of feeling devastated, I felt a little bit of relief. I needed something and I needed to find out just what that was.

Now I realize that the past 6 months have been about taking care of me, something I haven’t really ever done. I’m finally listening to my mother and all of the times she used to tell me to take care of myself and to let others help me. This new attitude has made me much stronger emotionally and I make better decisions these days. Family is who is there for you when you cannot be there for yourself; the family foundation is what grounds you as you try to find your way.

There is no room in my life for negative drama; there is no room in my life for anyone who is out there trying to disrupt me by harassing my friends and family. I intend to keep moving forward from this madness that has nothing to do with me anymore and everything to do with how this person deals with, or doesn’t deal with life’s challenges. I can, and will, have my life on my terms, not on anyone else’s. It’s all about standing up for myself, my peace of mind and keeping the important stuff close to my heart and more private for now.

2016 will be about embracing the important things in life: hanging out with Daddy, being with my familia, enjoying all of the #TorresBabies, working out (we finally brought in the exercise bike LOL), getting back to church, being around positive people, situations, and projects in that order.

My wish for you in 2016 is that you find and embrace all that will make you laugh, make you happy, healthy, and successful.

Feliz Dia de Accion de Gracias 2015!

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What a difference a year makes…Last year all I could do was cry into my food that’s how painful it was to be without my mother. I completely lost my focus, my purpose, and have operated on auto-pilot for many, many months until just a few days ago. #MargaretLivesInMe and I am very thankful for my Dad, my siblings and our Ranch and Grijalva families. Our 17 #TorresBabies continue to bring us much pride and joy – and how much fun are we having watching our lil bebitos King, Yezi, Olivia, and Lucia do something new everyday? Keeping Mama’s traditions alive help me to stay connected to her and I’m thankful for God and for time, which has helped me heal, make my priorities crystal clear and pave the way for whatever comes next.

TAKE PICTURES with your loved ones during the holidays, you will never regret it. Happy Thanksgiving All!

 

 

My New Gig: Daddy’s Editor

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Check out Dad above, he’s reading me excerpts from his thesis on Mexican music.   After much cajoling (and straight-up begging),  Dad finally let me start writing and recording his many, many, many backstories about famous Mexican songs, composers, and singers.  I put something together for him to check out and he loved it…so now I guess I am his editor LOL.

I remember that I had wanted to do this with Mama.  In fact, I had purchased a book of questions to start writing her story…did I write it?  Sadly, no.   I was wasting time and energy looking for that dumb book to guide me when I could have just sat down, turned a recorder on, and wrote away.   Now that Mama is gone, I figure that I would just write and stop worrying about having the perfect questions ready.

This will be a fun project as anything music-related is always a lot of fun for the Torres family … plus, Mike Torres knows so much about music and he has some hilarious chisme to go with all of this!  I figure that this will be a great memento for our familia and for his fans to know this side of him.   Let me tell you, he is INTO this now and I made him break out the post-it notes to mark the many topics that he wants me to write about.  It’s fun to see him so animated about the project and I am happy that I get to be the one to bring his stories to life — let’s hope I do him justice and get it right!

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Keeping Our Spirits Up “Mike-Torres Style”

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Today was a significant and sad day for us Torres5 and TorresBabies17…one year ago today, Mama had made her decision to stop her dialysis treatments and we then knew that it was a matter of time, we were unsure of how long, that she would no longer be with us.  I have to give it to Dad, he has made it a point to honor Mama in small, yet profound, ways.  He made a beautiful garden in her honor and, what he did during the last couple of days really made us all feel so much better!

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Dad, along with the help of our famfriend Mary Rangel Hernandez and sis Kiki, got the ball rolling to remodel and paint the kitchen.  He chose yellow and asked them to match the yellow of one of Mama’s famous flowered plates.   The minute I walked in and saw this, my thoughts instantly flew to Mama!  The kitchen looks great and I also love how he kept the little shelf above the sink with some of the little things that she always had wherever she was:  her little clock that she always needed to see whenever she would lay down,  there was this silver thing, looked like a bolt of some kind, and Mama used it as a paperweight in her lil table like forever, the sugar bowls that we had since forever, some of the lil shot glasses that we would use to put her medicine in, at least I did, so that she wouldn’t drop the pills since she took so many 😦   Just seeing these things make us feel instantly comforted.  Love the new sink and counters too!

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Like most rooms in the house, one side belongs to Mom and the other side belongs to Daddy.  These bottles are, of course, his and love that they found a way to display them.  Most of these are gifts from his 80th Birthday party.   But we don’t really need these kinds of ‘spirits’ to keep our spirits up LOL,  we do need, love and appreciate, our Dad’s efforts to keep our familia together, happy and smiling.  Sure, we may have sad days but thank God we have Mike Torres to steady us and keep us going when things get tough for us without Mama.  I do not know what we would have done this past year without him.  God Bless him!