Solitude and a #2 pencil

My niños are going back to school. Now it will just be me and Suegra home alone all day. I’ll miss the kids, but I’m happy that I’ll have more time to write uninterrupted – (though with Suegra still here for another month, I shouldn’t celebrate too early.)

Yet, there is something about the smell of school supplies and the chill in the morning air that makes me not just ready for change, but desiring of it, maybe just as much so as the leaves on a maple tree. This year has been no different and so it came to be that yesterday I asked my husband to buy me a desk. I decided I needed a more solid place to call my own, something more substantial than the solitary papsan chair in the corner of the room.

I intend to write – not think about writing. Write more than blog. Write and repress the urge to check Twitter, the news, and my E-mail box, in an endless cycle. I will write because one of these days, tomorrow, or 70 years from now, will be my last, and I will wish I had written more.

And so tomorrow, while the niños are at their desks at school, I will be at mine.

La niña (a poem)

La niña sits
snuggled close to her father
A stranger’s smile
sends her burying her face
into his cotton dress shirt
which smells of sunshine
and Palmolive
orange-red sopa
is set on the table
hot! – hot!
(caliente y picante both)
oily circles float on the surface
looking like the puddles at a carwash that Papi says not to touch,
but this, he says,
Eat. Coma. Andalé pues,
and puts a warm tortilla into her hand.

- Tracy López

Today’s show brought to you by the letter “P”

(If un-ladylike language upsets you, read no further…and honestly, maybe you’ll want to avoid my blog altogether since you never know when I might let one slip out.)

“P” is for “pissed off”
“P” is for “peleando”
“P” is for “pinche”

In “real life”, I don’t usually cuss in polite company but as a writer, I love words, and that includes the dirty ones.

Latin America has a colorful rainbow of cusses to choose from, words as diverse as the countries themselves. When I first started learning Spanish and picked up a book subtitled “the words your teacher won’t teach you”, I was like a kid in a candy store, picking and choosing the words I liked best and committing them to memory. I noticed that most of the words I chose had a (mx) symbol next to them, signifying that the word was of Mexican origin. Ah, Mexican vulgarisms! They were by far my favorites.

And so it came to be that “pinche” became my word of choice. I love the way it looks, the way it sounds, the way native speakers linger on the first syllable, and the creative stream of unpredictable language that follows. It looks so cute and harmless to native English-speaking eyes, a false cognate for “pinch”. I’ve heard that in Spain the word simply refers to a boy who works in the kitchen, and in other Latin American countries it can mean various other things which are equally mild. Really, there’s no way to know if someone will be offended by it, whether they be Mexican or not, but that doesn’t stop me from using it once in awhile. (Something I’ve discovered my husband fails to appreciate.)

The other day el macho and I got into an argument, which isn’t really news in itself. The thing is, our arguments have a new dimension to them now that we have text messaging on our phones. This allows me to not answer his calls but continue fighting through my preferred method – writing. Está chévere, no? Well, my husband doesn’t think so.

When we were finally face-to-face once again he said to me, “Stop texting me when we fight… And stop using the word pinche!”

“Hey, you can’t tell me what words to use. I’ll use pinche if I want to.”
“I hate that word. We’re not Mexican.”
“I’m not Salvadoran either, what’s your point?”
“Pinche is a Mexican word.”
“Y qué? I don’t tell you how to speak English. You can say ‘bloody hell’ like Harry Potter for all I care.”

In the end, I knew that this conversation simply couldn’t have a happy ending, and so I just walked away muttering, “… pinche tonterías…”

Cómo volver a ser feliz

I am usually a nice person but lately that doesn’t come naturally to me. I find myself getting frustrated and angry too easily. The worst part is that I know that the things that are upsetting me are cositas – little things. I feel like my tolerance and patience levels have dropped like the out-going tide before a tsunami. I’m not quisquillosa, yet lately if anyone so much as breaths the wrong way near me, I feel like I’m going to lose my mind.

I think the problem is that I’m introverted, and introverted people require time alone to recharge. With Suegra living with us, plus the niños home for the summer, I never get that. It exhausts me to never be able to complete a thought without the kids barging in and asking me for a snack while a telenovela blasts from the television in the next room.

Last night I found myself kicking a soccer ball up against the wall in the bedroom repeatedly for a solid 15 minutes in order to compose myself. This has become one of my coping mechanisms. My husband used to chide me as if I were a niña playing ball in the house. He used to say I’d damage the walls. Now he leaves me alone because a damaged wall is better than the alternative.

Today even kicking the soccer ball didn’t make me feel better and when my husband came home, I explained to him how I was feeling… He listened until I was finished and then after a minute, he offered to buy me ice cream.

I can see why he thought ice cream was the solution. Ice cream has been the solution in the past and why stray from a tactic that works? But I had to explain to him why ice cream wouldn’t fix this. Of course, my calm, rational explanation came out more like, “I don’t want ice cream! I want to be alone!”, followed by sobbing.

My husband handed over the car keys and told me to go.

I got into the car and started to drive, sin rumbo y sin dirección. I listened to bachata music and just enjoyed the luxury of uninterrupted thought. Eventually I stopped in a parking lot, pulled out the moleskine journal a friend gave me earlier this year and began to write.

So, today I finally got that pedacito of solitude I needed, but I go to bed knowing that mañana is another day and I won’t always get to escape to a deserted parking lot. Tomorrow I may just have to settle for ice cream, but I’m prepared to demand sprinkles.

“Cómo volver a ser feliz…
Cuando este día se parece al fin del mundo?
Cómo volver a ser feliz…
Si tu partida me ha tirado a lo profundo?
Solo tú sabes mi amor….
Cómo volver a ser feliz…

Más que hablar
Solo intento despertar algún motivo en tu conciencia
Solo quiero en recompensa encontrar lo que tú eras…

-Luis Enrique/Cómo Volver a Ser Feliz

Ser Padres Magazine

Checa esto! I have a small piece, (“Diferencias Culturales En Los Cumpleaños”) on page 47 of the June/July issue of Ser Padres, (Spanish language counterpart of Parents magazine!)

Oye, I know I didn’t win a Latin Grammy but I want to take this opportunity to give a special gracias to my family, friends and readers who have encouraged me to keep writing, to the bloggers and writers who have mentored me and allowed me to guest post, and to my husband for putting up with my locuras.

SpanglishBaby and TikiTiki

I have been featured on two different super cool bilingual blogs this week.

I wrote an article for for their week of Mamás Blogueras Christmas traditions edition, called “Christmas Time: A Complex Dance Between Two Cultures

And the blog post I wrote about Latino vs. Anglo Birthday Parties, was featured at

Feel free to visit me over there and I encourage you to look around and meet other awesome Latinas and Latina-hearted people with great information and stories to share :)