Monday, March 30, 2015

* And all the roads that lead you there were winding. And all the lights that light the way are blinding.There are many things that I would like to say to you but I don't know how

Yesterday was Silvia's wake. Her body was there in a closed casket but her spirit was present in the animation when people talked about her, in the grieving and the loss apparent throughout the room, in the fact that people stayed for hours, no one wanting to leave, and in the wild and raucous profusion of brilliant colored flowers crowding the room. Silvia was a color warrior, and this amazing excess of vibrant blooming flowers was a fitting tribute.

Silvia's oldest brother, Manolito, was still in Cuba until I was an adult, but he was the thread of loss throughout her childhood, the piece that her parents were longing for. Now Silvia is gone and the remaining six siblings are again left bereft and longing. My heart broke at the moment where the six of them walked her casket out of the church.

Today at the mass to celebrate Silvia's life I read a piece from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans, at my cousin Carmen's request. I was honored to be a part of the service, although the words of faith that would have brought Silvia so much comfort don't speak to me the same ways. Here is the poem I choose in the private tribute of my head, and the public one written here. Poets give me comfort. 
In Blackwater Woods
Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars
of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,
the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
Mary Oliver,
New and Selected Poems
The time has come to let Silvia go, far too young, far too early, and with all of us left longing for her light and sweetness, but grateful that she was calm and ready, and secure in her faith when she crossed over this black river of loss. 
This is a poem my husband Jeff wrote, read by him, that was filmed by our daughter Cassidy. It's also a fitting tribute. 

Ultimately I am so glad to be considered part of her family. Ultimately her light still shines, and will always be shining, an example, a compass, an anchor, a guiding star. 

*Wonderwall by Oasis

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

*you belong among the wildflowers, you belong somewhere close to me

My cousin Silvia, playmate, partner in crime, eternal optimist, lender of velour shirts and the person who showed me how to feather my hair, passed away last night, March 24, 2015, at the age of 48 and about a year after getting diagnosed with a rare and very aggressive uterine cancer.  Growing up I spent a month in Miami most summers with their family since my mom worked and theirs didn't (outside the home).

My very first memory of Silvia is from when I was four and she was five and my parents left my brother and me in New Orleans with her family for a week so they could take a trip. Chivi (Silvia's nickname) was so fun and a GIRL which made her so much BETTER than my brother who I was usually stuck playing with! I remember she was all fired up about these canteens we could get if we sent in Rice Krispie box tops. Which her mom did, because her mom rocked. Chivi was also good at the kinds of games I liked to play which generally involved long imaginative scenarios sometimes where we were princesses or pirates if my brother wanted to play. Here is a photo from that visit of the three of us with her mom.

She and her family are inextricably woven into all the things that make me myself. This is a visit in 1971 to our house in San Antonio. Silvia is next to me on the front row. We are pictured here with all her siblings (except her oldest brother who was still in Cuba), her parents, my mom, my brother, and my mom's brother. They had a big and awesome family. You can't contain that much awesome in just a couple of kids. Even so, Silvia was the mother lode of treasure.

When her oldest sister, Carmen, (pictured above in the orange striped top) came to live with us to go to college, Chivi was fine with it, right up until Carmen was leaving and she realized that she wasn't going with her, at which point she was pretty upset. I found out why, as Carmen is aces at older sistering, and I got a dose of that in the years she lived with us. I would have been pissed too. Typically, Silvia never seemed mad at me about it.

Silvia is pictured here in the top porthole, followed by her sister Hope just below. Carmen and I are in the bottom row.  

 Silvia and I went on our first diets together and stayed up all night talking to boys on the phone and walked all dressed up and excited to the Jack in the Box up the street, LIKE ADULTS, and feathered our hair. I remember hanging out with Chivi and singing I Think I Love You at the top of our lungs (but what am I so afraid of?) to annoy her older glamorous gorgeous sisters (I'm afraid that I'm not sure of a love there is no cure for). We were very good at being annoying. 

Last summer things looked dire, and I rushed to Orlando to see her, having found out that she was to be released to hospice care. The bowel obstruction, that was thought to be her tumor though, partially cleared the night before I got there, and the Silvia I got to see was purely, and sweetly, her sunshiny self. She was lively and funny and chatty and my husband, Jeff, and I spent all day there soaking her in. The picture below is from that day. I am so very grateful for that one day, especially since it has to last me forever now. I was lucky to get it.

*Wildflowers Tom Petty

Monday, March 23, 2015

*the moonlight held her breast as she easily undressed

April 2006. Harrison is a few weeks old.  I'm at the pediatric dentist's office trying to alternately hold down Griffin, an 11 year old with autism who is not at all happy about having hands in his mouth, and is super pissed that the VHS copy of Fun and Fancy Free he watches at the dentist's office can't be found and maneuver a boob into the mouth of a newborn who is not at all happy to not already be fed. End result - poor dentist with averted eyes had to chase Griffin around the chair a bit and sweaty me stood in the room with a disposable breast pad having escaped my bra and migrated to my thigh, one boob free and unfettered, giant target dinner plate of a nipple glowing neon and dripping milk in the sterile room and a screaming red faced pissed off infant. 
How am I going to do this? Anytime I need to go anywhere that's when Harrison MUST nurse. Ideally I wouldn't have to go anywhere but I do have 5 kids and they all have various appointments. And even if I can make it to my destination first, I do not have the skills yet to cover up and feed the baby. Or maybe I just don't have the right clothes and accessories. I'm a fashion disaster. I do have a pouch sling but my attempts to nurse in it have been ridiculous comedy gold. Who the hell invented you, pouch sling? 

*Arlo Guthrie - In My Darkest Hour

Saturday, March 21, 2015

*Maybe Baby I'll Have You

Yay! Today I cooked lunch for my uncles from Wisconsin. Arroz con pollo. Ensalada de aguacate y mango. Flan. I was too busy making it all to take pictures. Suffice to say it was yummy! It was wonderful to see them. I wish I could've seen more of my family but only because I am greedy. Lunch was delicious and they brought a wonderful bottle of bubbly.
Here they are with Harrison.

Yay! We got to see Ponytrap at the Dive Bar for SxSW featuring Hilary and Quentin and robots! 
Aren't they super cool? I totally try to absorb cool points by hanging out with them. How am I doing? 

Yay! We got to see Harrison perform as tiny Han Solo in tiny Star Wars!

He's on the platform using a lightsabers to fight Darth Vader JUST LIKE IN A NEW HOPE SHUTUP. 

Yay! I'm reading a good book - Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. It's a first novel set in the 80s and told from the perspective of a young girl who has lost a beloved and wildly creative uncle to AIDS and her connection to the partner he leaves behind. Brilliant and moving. Which is kind of a boo, really, but I'll keep it in the yay column because I'm cool like that. PS - I am NOT freaked out that setting something in the late 80s is now a period piece. AM NOT. 

Yay! We talked about visiting Cuba next year and my uncle Ricardo said just to tell him when we wanted to go and they would go with us. WOOOT!

boo - average sleep the last few nights 3.5 hours. What the heck, body? Why you gotta be that way? On the other hand - more time for reading and behaving badly. Always a plus. Think I'll move this to boo plus or yay minus. 

YAY! I love the Texas mountain laurel that blooms this time of year. I love it so much I named my oldest daughter Madison Laurel. We didn't have one though until a few months ago when Jeff bought one and planted it in our yard and it bloomed! My very own Madison Laurel! 

Yay Yay Yay - life is so good y'all. I found this journal entry from ten years ago when we decided to have another baby (and boy howdy were people shaking their heads over this decision given how many kids we already had!) I called the potential baby a maybe and wrote this letter. That maybe baby is almost nine now. 

February 5, 2005

Dear Maybe,

Right now you are a twinkle in your father's eye and I want to capture this for you. Maybe you will read this when you are a grown up and it will be wonderful for you to know how we thought about you before you ever came to be. I spent ten minutes today looking at tiny little sneakers and trying to imagine your feet in them. I am in love with your fingernails and your little thumbs and your round belly. I want to know if you will come to be. I want to know if there will be just one of you or two (or three!) Since Madison and Griffin are twins we are preparing ourselves for the possibility that there might be two of you. We like to joke that you will be two boys and we will name you Jean Luc and Gandalf. By the time you are five you will know what those two names mean. By the time you are born (if you are born) your brothers will be 13 and 11 or older. By the time you are five it is likely that you will be able to do more things than they can do now. Sometimes I am sad about that. Still, little Maybe, I am confident that you will be able to do all the regular things and that we will be very proud of you.

Sometimes when I read a very good book I can't get out of the bookworld in my head. I like to live in there and talk to the characters and think about the things they do. These days, Maybe, I can't stop talking to you and thinking about you. Will your eyes be big and blue like Dylan and Cassidy and your Daddy? Will they be big and dark brown like mine and Griffin's? Or will they be that light sparkly brown like Madison's eyes?

There was a very sad poet named Anne Sexton who once wrote about her baby "I made you to find me". You will not be made to find us, we know where we are and it is a good and happy place. You will be made to find you, a piece of us we love very much.


*Maybe Baby - Buddy Holly

Thursday, March 19, 2015

*"Oh Havana I've been searching for you everywhere" a very special From The Vault Honeysucklezilla

These are my paternal grandparents with their firstborn, my dad. This photo was taken in Cuba.

My grandparents and their brood of 6, five boys and a girl, fled Castro and came to the United States in 1960. It must have hurt to never see your home again. 

My grandfather was a small neat man with silver hair. As I flipped through photos for this post I often found ones of me standing next to him or in his arms. I adored him. This is me at 7 1/2 months in his arms, with my mom (how cute is she?), brother and great grandfather, December, 1967.

Here I am with him again, and my grandmother, father, and brother. October 1968. I am two years old. (Also how cute is my dad in those aviators?)

Abuelo saved caramels and Brach’s nougats with the bright and rubbery fruit gels in them in his desk for me. A crisp new white paper bag every couple of weeks.  He always had a stash of sharpened pencils and pads of paper so I could draw. He liked all my drawings. He sharpened my pencils himself with a knife. He was the softest touch in the family for a quarter for the ice cream truck.  Until I was 7 we lived in a duplex with my grandparents on the other side and I wandered as freely through their home as I did our own. It was an idyllic way to grow up and not an experience usually provided in this country. This is my grandparents with me and my brother and my little cousin, in front of their half of the duplex. I love his face. Also, I am finally seeing that my youngest kid does look like me.

I would often spend the night at my grandparents. I remember laying on my stomach on their carpet – head propped on my hands – watching Lawrence Welk and Hee Haw. He made these awesome sandwiches and sliced the meat himself paper thin, the cheese shaved off the block, then mustard. Ham, mustard, swiss and a pickle. Delicious. Big family gatherings were often at the house my parents built when we left the duplex. This is one from Christmas of 1975, where I am enticing him to dance with me.

When I was in high school I lived with my grandparents for a short while and he seemed (whether or not he really was) absolutely delighted to have me there. He knew the names of my friends and boyfriends and liked just talking to me. When I learned to drive I got his old car – a brown Chevette.

I moved away to college when I was 17 and the first time I noticed we were losing him a little was a couple of years before he died, at a family party in Houston, when he kept saying we were in Austin. Easy enough slip, but not for this precise man. 

He was diagnosed with cancer in January and died March 19, 1990 at the age of 80. I didn’t realize how lost I would be without him until he started slipping away. I started spending as much time as I could with him in San Antonio. In his head he had wandered away to somewhere in Cuba. Sometimes he thought I was his sister. He let me feed him, but was often difficult when others tried. I never corrected him when he commented on our surroundings as if we were in Cuba. Some small part of me felt glad that I was seeing it all with him. 

Today my extended family will gather at the cemetery to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his passing. I can't be there but hope to see some of them before they scatter. That's where it will really feel like honoring him to me, because that's where I can still find him. 

I miss you so much, Abuelito, my prince of the silver hair.

*Rosalinda's Eyes - Billy Joel

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

*I don't need a cure. I'll just stay addicted and hope I can endure

When I was 17, I worked at Showbiz Pizza. Do you remember Showbiz? Like Chuck E Cheese but with the animatronic band the Rockafire EXPLOSION, featuring Billy Bob the Bear, and repetitive renditions of "Hooked On a Feeling" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" among other 70s pop classics.

One duty we had as "party hosts" was to put on the Billy Bob the Bear suit and walk up and down the restaurant greeting the kids. I can stretch to 5 feet tall on a good posture I was a particularly petite and accessible bear, easily brought to the ground by a little boy's soccer team. Great job. Good times.

The suit smelled a little like pee (uhhhh WHY???) and very much like B.O. and the tiny plastic fan in the nose seemed to be a cruel and taunting joke. There was a fur suit that covered your arms, legs, and torso; fur paw booties that fit over your shoes; fur paws for your hands, and an enormous plastic bear head that had metal snaps to connect it to the suit.

When a little kid had  a party, the party host would dim the lights, get a spotlight on the table and bring out the cake with Billy Bob. Billy Bob would hug the birthday kid and wave his furry paws during the singing of Happy Birthday, then scurry back to the changing closet so the curtains would open on the Rockafire Explosion, complete with Billy Bob, singing the Beatle's "Birthday".

I had a crush on the team leader, who happened to be party host one day when I had bear suit duty. In the tradition of 2nd grade boys, I could only express my crush by bad and attention seeking behavior. He brought me/Billy Bob out for the party and the spotlight was on me. At first I just goosed him...multiple times...while we walked. He took that in stride. This little birthday girl was a wee beribboned tulle and lace and ruffled Latina princess. Maybe 4 years old. When the party host lit the candles on her birthday cake Billy Bob leaned over and blew them out. This happened twice. The party host's frustration was mounting but his cool did not crack. He lit the candles a third time and Billy Bob leeeaned over to blow them out...and the snaps on the head gave way and Billy Bob's enormous sweaty fur covered head plopped right into that ice cream birthday cake, splashing a bit up on the birthday girl. The spotlight was on us, clearly showing my messy ponytail and very surprised "What have I done?" face. The crowd hushed right up and then out of the silence came a sweet, pure little voice, "Billy Bob's a GIRL!" The cake covered head was jammed rapidly onto my shoulders - backwards - and I was shoved out of the party room.

There's no moral to the story or anything. I wasn't especially punished for my jerk behavior (Because  17. Because minimum wage.)  and I did eventually end up with that guy. But when I left my writing class tonight, having committed to a blog post every other day for a week, I started thinking about being hooked on a feeling- which inevitably made me think of my time gigging with the Rockafire EXPLOSION. (ROCKSTAR!) I'm glad I am taking this class. It's cool and fun and awesome, and helps me remember not to forget to be (awesome). DFTBA, y'all.

*BJ Thomas Hooked on a Feeling

Sunday, March 15, 2015

*wherever you are and whatever you face these are the people who make you feel safe in the world

Yay! For the last few years we have gathered together to eat pie - a little holiday called PIENANZA! and this year we had an epic Pienanza since we could have it on Pi Day! We had Key lime pie, strawberry rhubarb pie, mushroom cheese quiche, buttermilk pie, beef and veggie em-PIE-nadas, salted caramel pie, blueberry pie, seafood pot pie, and veggie pot pie.  Later there was singing and guitars. In fact, three big dudes with tiny guitars around the fire pit. Kids jumped for hours on the trampoline on a crazed sugar high. Great friends. Great fun. 3.14 represent! Awesome holiday!

Boo - my 5 year old laptop has taken ill, poor old thing. It periodically decides to just have a black screen on boot up. That happened today and I decided to go buy a new one. As soon as I came home I tried my computer again and tada - a screen...with 

Yay - but I decided to keep the new laptop anyway since the other one is now Old Unreliable. Woohoo!

Boo - earlier this week I spent some time straightening out a surreal situation with United Healthcare where they denied coverage for my son, Dylan, on the basis that his other UnitedHealthcare policy was primary (it isn't) on the same day that they paid multiple claims for him since he had surgery that day, but also requested treatment records. I called to straighten out the who's primary issue and they wouldn't reprocess the claim because they had requested treatment records. I called the provider and they said they already sent the records only to be told the claim was denied. I called United Healthcare and was told the provider would have to re-send the records. And then I was pretty sure I was in an avante garde play by Ionesco and I got a tiny bit filled with rage and bile. 

Yay - I am stubborn, well educated, and absolutely sure I will win in the end. 

Boo - Jeff picked up our son Griffin from the group home today and he looked....kinda skanky. His shorts kept falling down, he had not been shaved, his hair was dirty...I hate that. I hate that I have to call AGAIN and talk about this. 

Yay and Yay again - Griffin isn't one bit bothered by any of that AND he was super happy because I fixed his computer and got it back to the group home and all set up. While at our house he treated us to some classic perseverating on Ladybug's Picnic. 

Yay - it's Spring Break - and although I couldn't take the week off I had to change my work hours to come in later this week and still leave at the usual time because of the hours my son, Harrison's acting camp runs. WOOOOT!!! Sleeping in until 7 every day - like a celebrity! Fancy!

Yay! My extended family will be gathering this week and I hope to get to see them. 

Life is good, y'all. 

*Tim Minchin - White Wine in the Sun

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Goats to Kill

My brain is a weird, weird place. Especially in the pre-coffee shhhhh don't talk to me, isn't it too early? times.  My husband, Jeff, often plays music in the house. Sometimes I tune in and sometimes it washes over me. At one point I tuned into my brain's internal glee club while waiting for the coffee to brew and realized that the brain radio was singing "Goats to Kill" to the tune of Guy Clark's "Boats to Build" which had been on heavy rotation here.
That Decemberists song "Make You Better" has been big for him lately. Brain Radio interpreted "I want you, thin fingers" as "I want you fish fingers" (and custard apparently - amirite Dr. Who nerds?) so there you go. My pre-coffee brain is a scary place.
So I got cast in this super cool show
and almost everyone cast had a cool site to hyperlink to except ME (and one other lovely) so I resurrected this blog which I took up (and abandoned because it's hard to be as open as you could be with the nice livejournal from circa 2003). But still - here I am, a middle aged middle manager with a (slightly) checkered past.
Are you wondering about honeysucklezilla? In 2000, when I started dating my husband, whom I had known for twelve years and never kissed, he wrote a poem for me and one line of it was "The girl I'm seeing now, her kisses are honeysuckle sweet and honeysuckle soft but still somehow strong....honeysuckleZILLA, feathery and nectary and knock you out like good tequila"
Yeah - the me I see through him? She's okay.
So I feel a change coming on. Things are brewing. By the way that Guy Clark song? Here are some more lyrics:
Days precious days roll in and out like waves
I got boards to bend I got planks to nail
I got charts to make I got seas to sail

yeah dude, even if they are pretty normal lyrics that don't involve sacrifice.