Aaay! The Showers of Change

#52essays2017 47/52

 

This happened earlier tonight:

“The time has come to change Mama’s shower curtain. Tried to find something Daddy would like. As I was looking, I started telling the señoras working there what I was doing and, like true Latinas, they do that “aaay” thing, hug me and tell me their stories of throwing things out/saving things that their parents left behind and we were all almost crying. It did feel nice to be completely understood tonight.”

It’s a kinship borne of sadness, bittersweet memories, of feeling like there’s a hole in you – some days, it feels all-consuming, others it’s more of a dull ache.   And then when you finally are able to laugh, feel happier, able to move forward from your loss, you still miss them.    Once you lose a parent, you 100% understand what a person is going through when their mother or father passes.   No words are necessary.  And, yes, you really do feel that “aaay” in your heart when you know that someone has lost their parent!

It’s so hard for us to throw any of Mama’s things out sometimes.  I had to text the Torres5 to gently let them know that we would be changing the shower curtain, I feel like, if I don’t tell them or “ask” their permission to make changes, that Mama won’t be right with it either.  And knowing my mother, she would be all for my changing the shower curtain.   Her shower curtain had circles of green, blue, and lavender so I chose more “guy” colors – black and gray with his own circles.  Dad really liked it.   Even though I feel like “aaay”, it really is time and Dad has really been working on beautifying our bathroom lately so he’s excited to change-up the look of the place.

Dad is so funny.  Right away, he starts working on one of his “home-improvement” projects and typical me, “OMG Dad, que haces?”.  Turns out he’s making me a little shelf for me to put my “jabon” on, a soap dish, that no one else can use.   Big smiles that remind me how blessed I am to be able to enjoy the simplest things in my life with my father, that it’s sometimes OK to move forward and keep living life.

We all do change in different ways, at different levels, on different timelines.  Sometimes, those “aaay” moments are a good way to track your progress (or not), the “aaays” certainly keep you honest and, if you’re lucky, you are able to feel your feelings instead of backing them up, holding them all in.  What a relief to be able to feel sadness, joy, anger, uncertainty, pain, loss, blessings…isn’t it funny how a simple shower curtain or a soap dish can change your outlook on life?

To be able to share your “aaay” moments with people who understand is even better.  Thank God for those women in Walmart who “got it” and helped me see that, sometimes, change is a positive thing for me, for Dad, for my siblings, and for Mama.

 

Mike Torres, my father, working on my soap dish for my “jabon”… aaay!

Advertisements

“Cuidate!” sez Inner Chingona (and Mama)

#52essays2017  45/52

If you could see me now…hair is in complete disarray,  my feet were cold and all I could find was a black sock and a white sock, my clothes look baggy, maybe I’ve lost more weight, I had been unable to keep anything down until today, and it’s been tea and egg/beans in a corn tortilla.  Still weak, and believe it or not, I’m actually way better than I have been for the past couple of weeks.

I’ve never been sick like this in my life, ever.    Started off with a bad sore throat and fever, did I stay home?  No.  Another week passes and I’m still not 100% but there I go, with a cough starting up, still working it.  Cussing myself out because I knew I wasn’t doing the best job in caring for myself, that I was not feeling right, and I hate doing meetings when I’m not at my best.

When the doctor saw me last week, the first thing he said after he put the stethoscope to my back, near my lungs, and asked me what my lifestyle was like, he said that “you have nothing left”, and that I would need to put that phone away (as it was buzzing constantly) and rest, rest, rest, rest and then rest or else I’d end up with full-on pneumonia and in the hospital.    I had a very short burst of energy after I got home from this appointment and then I was OUT.   That was exactly seven days ago.

My dreams (and nightmares) have pretty much been related to all of my projects and work, things left undone, people depending on me.  I’d wake up practically in tears because I was completely unable to do anything, and, as fast as I woke up, I’d be down again and out of it for another 3 to 4 hours.   The crazyass coughing felt like I was getting beat up, little by little.  The fatigue was nothing like I’ve ever felt in my life and I knew, that no matter what was happening in event-land that there was nothing that I could physically do about it — except what I was doing, getting rest.

This is what scared me the most:  that I would stuck in this intense ‘cansancio‘ mode forever.     Thank you JesusLordVirgenOfG, today I was able to get up and stay up, albeit sitting in Mama’s chair watching TV with a blanket and sleeping on/off all day, but I was up – finally. You better know I wanted to clean this house and Dad had to stop me from myself LOL.

As I ease back into my life, I know that I will need to take care of myself as I have taken care of others — I’m deathly afraid of a relapse and found these tips on how to get myself back on track, maybe they’ll help you too:

1. Sleep more than you ever have.

I am talking 10 hours. This is my number one secret — even when you already sick. Seriously, this season, before you go out and by products, pills, medications and so on — start with giving yourself 10 hours of sleep for three to five days. Repeat this once every month. Ten hours (or something significantly more than you’re used to) is great way to give your cells extra repair time and your immune system enough time to recharge. Studies clearly show that sleep deprivation weakens your immune system.

2. Shelter yourself.

If you’re starting to feel run down or sick from stress, crawl into your turtle shell and opt out of all stressful situations for a few days. This holds true for work, home, or physical stress. Your body is telling you that you need to take some time for yourself. The world will not fall apart, and you’ll be stronger and ready to take on more once you’re well. There’s both animal and human studies that show that stressful situations can lower the various arms of the immune system.

3. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.

Eating a better diet not only helps your body recover faster – it helps build up your immune military so it’s more resilient and dynamic. Specifically, the things that make the most difference: eat more cruciferous vegetables, cut out the processed foods (although it’s still unclear at this point which additives might be the culprit). Last, but most important: cut the sugar.

4. Eat — don’t buy — your micronutrients.

There’s little evidence that popping a bunch of vitamins or supplements with micronutrients helps boost your immune system. I recommend eating micronutrients in whole food form, meaning a lot of vegetables and fruits, or a vegetable juice.

5. Nurture your microbiome.

Good bacteria can be the immune systems best friends and allies in helping protect you from invaders. They work symbiotically with your own immune system. So please refrain from antibiotics (good bacteria killers!) unless it’s absolutely necessary. Eat probiotic foods (but again, supplements have mixed results). Remember, probiotics aren’t only in live culture yogurt; they’re also in kimchee, kombucha tea and natural pickled veggies.

6. Take vitamin D.

This is the one supplement that helps boost immunity. This is helpful in people who are deficient in vitamin D, which is most of us. Vitamin D3 at doses of 1000 IU to 5000 IU is what I take.

7. Consider herbal remedies with evidence supporting their use.

There is ongoing research on vitamin C, aloe vera, astragalus membranes, echinacea, ginseng, Glycyrrhiza glabra, Chinese herbal remedies and many other concoctions that claim to improve immune functioning. however, this shouldn’t be your first line of treatment.

8. Exercise less.

When you exercise too much, especially hard or long cardio-based exercise, you actually weaken your immune system and you’re more susceptible to infections. Combine that with sleep loss and poor diet, and your immune system becomes impaired. The idea is that your body is repairing the inflammation in your muscles, joints, elsewhere instead of doing what it’s supposed to. That’s why taking a rest after intense exercise is necessary.

9. Know when to go to the doctor, and when to stay home.

Online Blog Article:                                                                                                                                                                                                       Shah, Amy, MD.  “9 Steps To An All-Natural Immune System Makeover”. mbg health.  December 2014

 
It’s up to me now.  I may not use all 9 of these tips the first day but I need to handle this now.  I’m too smart to be this SonsaTontaPendeja.  As I sit looking at Mama’s pictures all over the place, I can almost hear her telling me (maybe yelling at me)  that I need to take care of myself.  

The Power of Mariachi Music

#52essays2017  43/52

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!

 

 

 

The Breeze Through Mama’s Window

 

#52essays2017  27/52

It’s Sunday afternoon, between one and two in the afternoon, and, as I sat down to eat my lunch, I looked down at my plate, glanced at the TV, and looked out of the window, I had to smile, then I had to laugh.

I am eating mac and cheese, watching some movie on Turner Classic Movies, and enjoying the breeze from the window on this hot day. Why is this funny, you ask?

This is so something Mama would do.

This is Mama’s time of day.

This could almost be her sitting here eating her favorite macaroni and cheese, watching one of her classic movies and looking out of her window. As I sit here, I can hear myself asking her, “Mama, what do you feel like eating?” if she didn’t know, I would read off a list of her favorites…fruit and cottage cheese, tostadas, mac and cheese, salad…and 9 times out of 10, it was mac and cheese.

The breeze from Mama’s window is the BEST in all of the house. I remember, many times, how Mama would give a little sigh when we would open her window as she sat in her chair or was in her bed. At first, I was completely mortified that a hospital bed would take residence in the living room – especially when Mama had a perfectly good bedroom. Now I get it, the great breeze and being in the living room allowed Mama to keep calm and cool, to stay connected in her part of the world, and to live life with all of us instead of being holed up in a room in the back, in the back where the window was higher up and with no breeze.

This was the time of day when Mama would really rest.  It was usually quieter, and once I opened all of the windows in the house, the breeze would kick in, and she could relax and sleep knowing that one of us was in the house.  Even now, when I notice Mama’s time of day, I try to keep things quiet JUST in case she wants to stop by and visit us.

The day the folks came to take her bed away, the big sister in me kicked in when I saw my siblings faces filled with sadness. I made them bring in a table that minute so that I could set up a table with Mama’s pictures and things. We still have that table all of these months later, the table is right against Mama’s window and my sister changes it and blings it up throughout the year. Mama’s chair is in the exact spot where her bed was right next to her nightstand. If you sit in this chair facing the window, it’s all about “aaaaah” the minute that breeze hits your face.

As a family, we did everything for our mother and, for the most part, this family has decided to mourn “happy” – we miss our mother so much and we like her right there in the mix with us as we go about our lives.   It is very comforting knowing that, in some way, she is still in her favorite spot of her house.   Maybe the breeze is her way of stopping in to say hi to us.

At least I like to think so.

Man of My Nightmares, Mother of My Dreams

#52essays2017

I was sitting down to dinner with one of my roommates when the doorbell rings. My roommate gets up to answer and it is our landlord, a very nice East Indian gentleman. I had just put a spoonful of papas into my mouth and tried to chew it up really fast before going to the door. “How are you Carmen?” he says, “Fine, what’s up?”, “Would you mind coming with me to the office please”? He didn’t seem that worried and, as the offices were really close to the apartment, we didn’t have much time to talk.

As I walk into the office, he asks me to follow him into the back room. My heart fell to the floor and I was in disbelief with what I saw.  I couldn’t believe that he had done this again, always trying to find me, always showing up at random places.  There he was, tied up like an animal, wearing a red and black checked shirt, one of those flannel ones, as it was cold outside. His head was turned so all I saw, at first, was his black hair. Then he turns around, face full of anger and rage, and then I hear his voice, “get me the f#$% outta here! tell this motherf#$%^&* to let me go!” In desperation, I was screaming, “OMG whyyyyy do you keep doing this!”. My landlord asks me if I want to call the authorities and then tells me that he was going to give this guy enough money to get to Elk Grove (?) and for me not to worry. All the while it is scream and cuss-out city with this man.  All I kept thinking was ‘just get him out of here and out of my life!’

So like a sonsatontapendeja, I let my landlord handle the situation thinking “all is good, he’ll be out of here” and actually go back to my dinner. The doorbell then rings again, and there he is, freed from the ropes that held him a few minutes earlier, and he is not screaming this time.  He quietly informs me that, “This is it.  Either you come back to me or I take matters into my own hands”  I remember being stunned, stunned that he actually showed up at my house again, scared of what he was going to do,  angry that I didn’t just call the police,  wondering where my phone was, do I scream? or not?  In the next second, he puts the gun to his face, pulls the trigger, and blows his face off, blood everywhere.

I woke up crying and completely freakiada that night.  I had been having nightmares for well over a week, every night, every time I woke up and fell back asleep, there would be another graphic, violent way that this person would kill himself.  I was getting worried about these nightmares and afraid to go to sleep.   I called the Crisis Center and, luckily, was able to set up time to speak with someone about my troubled and disruptive nightmares.   Turns out they were flashbacks of very negative, drama-filled, bitter times of my life when I did not yet have a handle on my situation.  I felt lucky that these flashbacks didn’t really occur when I was driving or in an important meeting or anything and was able to get some valuable exercises for working through flashbacks/PTSD and to remind myself of how far I have come from those days of madness.

So, guess what I dreamt last night?

I was at the Ranch in our kitchen.  We were all home as I could hear people talking in the other room and the TV was on a low volume.  I was taking out my small red crock pot  so that I could make beans like usual, and she says to me, “I don’t know about the beans in that crock pot…”  Como si nada, I respond, “you’ve never even tasted anything made in this pot,  how would you know?” ” I just know so make the beans on the stove”  Muttering, I start to prepare beans as she tells me to do so.    On the counter, I see a bunch of vegetables thrown all about and I’m like, “what is all THAT for?”, “I thought that I would make some soup for your Dad too so help me cut the vegetables”.  At first, I almost rolled my eyes, and then, in the middle of the dream, I get the knife to cut up the vegetables and smile at her and my mouth drops open. “Mama!!!!!! I’m not having a nightmare! And you’re HERE!”   There she was, Margaret Torres, looking beautiful, w a l k i n g, no cane or wheelchair in sight, she had a dress on and I could hear the click of her heels.    Mama tells me, “I’m always here, you know that;  you should trust more and stop worrying, I’m always here” and then I woke up!

It was the first night that I slept well in days, and, as it turned out, Mama still WORKS it for us, of this I am 100% convinced.   I need no man in my dreams, I do, however, need to see my mother sometimes.  The dream was so real.  I haven’t felt this comforted since my mother passed away in 2014.   That I was able to have a conversation with her was so great.   Thanks Mama!  MargaretLivesInMe.

#52essays2017

Get Your Song On: Music Appreciation Torres-Style!

#52essays2017

As I was sitting in the front seat with my lil niece goddaughters in the back, they were singing kiddie songs for a while, the cutest sound ever is listening to my 2-year-old baby niece-goddaughters, both of whom are barely learning to talk, sing out the words!  Imagine “chee” for “tree” in their little high baby voices …. looove them.  I didn’t want them to know that I was recording them so you’ll see the road as you listen to the cuteness.

After they sang their songs, I turned on the radio, which I always do for my 8-year-old niece-goddaughter, this girl knows ALL of the top songs on the radio and, as I was listening to her sing all of the words to song after song, I love that she knew all of the words and I also know that there was no way that she could have really understood what she was singing – as many of us did when we were that age.  And she kept saying what we’ve all said, at one time or another, ‘ooooh, this is MY song, I love that song!’

There is so much music that I get into these days that I’ve loved for years, but only NOW do I get it.   I usually find myself saying, “yup”, “y si!”, “oh yeah” or “umm hmm!” and think to myself, “wow, what a great song, I love the way he or she sang/wrote this!” Songs may as well be musical blog entries:  they usually talk about one feeling or emotion or event or person because songs usually fit into 3 to 5 minutes.  The song hooks repeat over and over again and I see them as blog titles or clever hash tags, don’t you think?  It takes a little bit of living, loving, losing, or lamenting to really have a lyric hit you right in the face.  It takes a little bit of courage to admit, even if it’s just to yourself, that you ‘get it‘ and, in that way, music helps you recognize the good, bad, and ugly in yourself and can either help you heal, get you mad enough to change your situation, to realize that you were right (or wrong) about a certain person or situation, to, as my famfriend Jorge says, ‘get your drank on and cry like a lil bitch’– especially if you were telling yourself to be strong and not cry.  Music can be some of the best and cheapest therapy ever!

I grew up in a musical household so I’ve had music in my life since like forever.  Music in English and in Spanish.  My father, Mike Torres, is a musical legend in our community, he sang Spanish Mass for many, many years at our church, he was part of the local Mariachi Los Jilgueros as a guitar player and singer,  he founded the Trio Los Torres as well as The Mike Torres Band, a straight-up fun party band! The MTB is now managed by my brothers and sister and has included, from time to time, cousins, nephews, and nieces.  Dad now plays whenever he feels like it, he’s earned it.  To this day, my father practices his music e v e r y day.  My parents also communicated via music — what they could or would not say to each other, they would play or sing at each other:  Mama would play a song LOUD and/or Dad would sing a song. Depending on the song, we could surmise when it was ON  or when they were making up LOL!   My father has also said that music has ‘saved’ his kids’ sanity:  nearly all of my siblings and nieces/nephews have been part of school bands, rock bands, latin bands, sing, rap, in both languages.    Music in the house always, and we are surrounded by music:  my current next door neighbors are a small garage studio and a larger recording and rehearsal studio used daily by one family member or another and their fellow musicians.   The video above is our 4th generation of future musicians LOL;  below you will see the first, second, and third generations.  This won’t be the last time that I feature my fun and superblessedtalented musical familia and this is only some of them!

I am constantly being asked why I’m not in the band, or if I sing?   I have mad respect for musicians and lack the patience to sit and learn how to play instruments.  Does karaoke count?  Because I do have the nerve to do karaoke and without drinking shots LOL.  Mostly, I am a fan of all types of music and of my awesome fam:  please enjoy part of Music Appreciation Night Torres-style!     #52essays2017

 

My godson nephews having laff attack with their grandpa LOL

Here is part of the 3rd generation, STE2 and MT3, once they stopped laughing,  singing the classic “Nunca Jamas” with Grandpa Mike Torres.

Below are Mike Torres I, Mike Torres II, Mike Torres III singing the famed Mexican corrido “Siete Leguas” at what was a very happy day for our familia, at a 40th Anniversary celebration of The Mike Torres Band.

Here is the fun-loving, energetic, Mike Torres Band…Dad, front and center, Mike, Jr., on accordeon/vocals, sis Christina on keyboards, brother Martin on drums, nephew STE2 on sax … this vid is a few years old and the band lineup has changed slightly but I love it because this captures how much fun the family has onstage and how they can fill a dance floor faster than most bands, maybe it’s because, once they start the first musical note, they are onstage with no breaks for up to four hours!  I don’t think that Dad has to worry about his musical legacy with the 3rd and 4th generations of Torres musicians learning, playing and practicing and appreciating the gift of music.

Turning The Tables: The Waiting Game

#52essays2017

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.

1213929079575_f#52essays2017

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


img_20170207_213205

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.

stop-judging

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

 

Back On My Own … For A Few Days Anyway #52essays2017


take-me-back-to-my-own-home

#52essays2017

It’s funny, I’ve been on my own for years, had my own place, paid my own bills, did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, slept all day if I wanted to, be gone for days from my place as long as I wanted to, cleaned it, didn’t clean it, walked around in my bra and ‘chones‘, walked around completely nude, cooked one meal and ate out of the pan or used a tortilla to eat out of the pan, same meal, all day long LOL It took me a long time to feel comfortable living alone, I had always had roommates, ten roommates total throughout the years. I was nervous at first about living alone and then that was it – I loved it.

 

I never thought that I would move back home again – ever.  I have always been one to sleep in my own bed or, at the very least; I always carry my own pillow and blanket EVERYWHERE.  No matter where I stayed, even when I’d come back home, I always had my sleeping materials covered.  My family has always compared me to Linus, the character on Charlie Brown, who always carries a blanket.  Yet, here I sit in my pajamas and bathrobe, at 8:00 at night, on a day where I have not changed out of my pj’s, gone nowhere, and alternated from Mama’s chair to the couch to my bed in the “girls room”, on what has been my most relaxing day of the year.

lose-the-blanket-linus-9781481441292_lg

Flash back to a couple of years ago, I came over on “my night”, you see, we 5 Torres siblings decided to divide up the week to help care for our parents, and on this night, I could not make myself leave.  My mother, who had been ill for some time and who was undergoing dialysis treatments, was getting weaker.  What hurt me most was not the physical weakness, what broke my heart was the sense that Mama was getting tired of it all.  I thought to myself, I want to make her days/nights easier.  My nights were spent waking up once or twice to check on Mama and on Dad; I could never manage to sleep through the night.  I didn’t have much time to miss my life and my bed.  I think that, during that entire time, I slept in my bed two or three times.  When Mama passed away, we were all so grateful that she was not in pain or distress that she went peacefully.  As a family, we were all completely exhausted, we had all spent the last couple of months completely at Mama’s side 24/7.

 

Fast forward to now, our house is so different now, there are many full-house nights, we host many more family events here at the house than ever before, Dad always has some project he’s working on in or outside of the house, there is music on and this night owl house rarely has lights out.  I finally moved my bed and things into the ‘girls room’, which is now my “apartment”, and while I sleep more, I still wake up at least once per night to check on Dad.  Trying to keep this house up is no easy task, especially, as Dad tends to leave things wherever he leaves them.   I’ve claimed one huge victory by getting Dad to stop throwing paper onto the floor and into the wastebasket LOL.

 

As Dad and the family would be gone for a few days, I was elated to have my life to myself for a few days in a row!  It was if I were going on vacation, what would I do?  Where would I go?  Who would I see?  Or NOT?   Well, the first night, I stayed up writing all night and had my music blasting – just like I spent many nights at my place not too long ago.  As I was battling the flu, I didn’t really do anything but move all of my blankets to the living room couch and spent the next day and night moving to and from the couch and chair, sleeping, watching what I like to watch:  msnbc, Oprah’s channel, chick flicks, and binge-watched TV, puro heaven. With every single nap, every minute spent under the blankets, in my favorite outfit ever, my piyama, watching only the TV I wanted to see, kicking back, I could feel myself getting healed physically, and felt myself coming back together as Carmen, the person, I felt like me, not a daughter or a sister, just me.

 

It was GREAT to be back on my own, even for a few days. Loved being back to cleaning only once (and the house staying clean), filling up a small trashcan only, using one roll of toilet paper the entire time and the kitchen stove getting a break as well LOL. Well, I wasn’t really completely alone, Mama was all up in the mix from her table and I’ll bet that she, too, appreciated the peace, quiet, no-heater blasting, girl time.

 

Make time for yourself, have your own back, spend time with YOU, reconnect with your InnerChingona, get your power back, even if it is for a few minutes on a crazy/busy day!

i-got-my-own-back#52essays2017

 

The Minute I Mop the Floors…The Eternal Battle

how_to_mop_a_floor

#52essays2017

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.

c-010

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.

cinderella-scrubbing-floor

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