Happy Halloween

This is not my favorite holiday. Not because it is evil or of the devil or anything like that.

It's because it wears me out. Plain and simple.

I know those of you with your adorable 2.5 chil'rens get them all dolled up with their goodie bags, you take lots of pictures and then you hit all the rich and/or white neighborhoods for candy. Eh.

In truth, my kids just started dressing up about two years ago. Again, not because we didn't believe in celebrating Halloween, just because it took too much out of me to get all their costumes together. And it was too expensive.

So this is how Halloween goes down in the Cortes household. You get to be whatever you want. Grandma-mama had generously supplied us with a huge bag of costumes so they were able to go through them and decide if they wanted to be a pirate (played out), a ninja, a Power Ranger (last year Diego wore this and his brothers laughed at him because you could see his "bulge"), a tiger, Superman (complete with built-in six pack), Anakin Skywalker, Darth Vader, a Bionicle, a bumblebee, a 70's girl, a Hello Kitty Princess and an indian. So what did the chil'rens choose to dress up as?

One of the Furies from The Warriors.

A headless hockey player...don't ask me, I have no idea how he came up with that.

Diego said he wanted to be a biker so he could get all the hot chicks...but to me he looks like a 70's porn star!

The only one I could force to wear one of Grandma's costumes...Miss Maya as a Hello Kitty princess. She was ecstatic about wearing makeup.

Where were the rest of my kids? Xixi wasn't feeling well and Cyan, well, Cyan didn't want to get dressed up so he went wearing his usual stee-lo. Airbrushed t-shirt, baggy jeans, and trucker cap off to the side. What can I say? They have a mind of their own.

I am glad this day is over.


Happy Birthday, dear

Today I cease to be the horny old cougar married to a younger man. I am eight months older than Michael, and he loves to snicker about it, so I have earned that title. Heh. I kinda like it, too. But for the next four months, we are the same blessed age. Only I don't have gray hair.

Have you ever felt like you want to do something nice for your loved one on their special day but life just keeps getting in the way? That's what I felt like today. I want to do something sweet for my man but there didn't seem to be enough time in the day, enough energy in my bones, enough creativity in my brain and enough money in my pocket. I am, at this very moment, making him his favorite Pineapple Upside Down cake so that is a little somethin'. Then there is the gift that keeps on giving, that is free, so that is alot of somethin'. Teehee.

I thought I would list ten wonderful things about my man, in celebration of thirty-five years of life and love.

1. He is always kind and searches for the best in people and he never gossips.

2. When he is happy, his smile and booming voice warms our home and it makes everyone else happy and secure.

3. He is a very tender and loving Daddy and our children strive to be in his presence, whether it is to play video games, to go for a bike ride or an early morning hike up Mt. Rubidoux, or to airbrushing alongside him in his studio, they just like to be near Daddy.

4. He trusts me to make wise decisions for our children...when I said I wanted to homeschool our kids, he didn't bat an eyelash...when I said I wanted to try giving birth at home, he agreed and that it was the best option for us...when I struggled with breastfeeding, he supported me and didn't think it was weird when I tried a hundred different things to make it work...when I suggested herbs and homeopathic meds, he swallowed them. Pretty much any weird and/or subversive idea I've had, he has embraced them. It reminds me of Proverbs 31:11, "The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain."

5. Because he was my friend first, we can still hang out with one another and laugh together like friends do.

6. He is an awesome big brother. When Angie gave birth to her last child and was going through a heart-breaking divorce, she didn't have anyone available to help her with her new baby and her other little ones. Michael stayed at her apartment for a couple of days, made her meals, cleaned her place, watched her kids and helped her out with her new daughter. Now that is love.

7. Many of the unique, entertaining, creative, funny and bold traits my children have inherited come from Michael. When they walk into a room, they greet everyone, give them a hug and a smile. I know they get that from their Daddy, who is the same way and it makes me feel like I made the right decision to fall in love and marry this man.

8. He makes me laugh. I mean, really laugh. I feel like I can be my true self with him and he will still love me. Lumps, bumps, warts and all.

9. The chil'rens believe he is a super hero. He told them it was a secret and that they couldn't tell anyone. I have showed them the picture above, taken of Michael when we worked at a visual display company in L.A. in '93 or so, and they believe it even more.

10. I trust Michael with my heart and my soul. I know I will never meet another man like him. Sure, there might be more organized men, less stressed out men, more educated men, men with fabulously manicured lawns...but they don't have my sweetie's heart and his devotion to me and his family.

I could go on and on. Happy Birthday, Love. You will always have my heart and I will always have yours.


Every woman needs a Spanx

Well, that's what seems to be the general consensus. So, I actually broke down and bought a Spanx. I heard so much about them over the years and we all know that Oprah Herself wears them so I thought I would try it.

Sure, as a fat girl I have plenty of other shapers. Understand, they are no longer called girdles or fat lady panties...they are shapers. Recognize. From what I understand, all ladies can benefit from a shaper. Even them skinny hoes. Who would pass up something that smooths, contains, sucks in and shapes all your lumps and bumps?

I got to thinking, if I have to wear a dress for this marriage retreat, I have to bring out the big guns. The material of the dress I am wearing is pretty thin and not very camouflaging. If I don't want to feel the fat from my ass jiggling behind me like a hot mess of flan...I had to go out and get me that Spanx.

So I hit up my neighborhood friendly Torrid, which is basically another Fat Girl Heaven but way more expensive. I had to decide if I should just get the regular Power Panty (which are basically glorified biker shorts)...or should I go the extra mile and buy the Higher Power High-Waisted Power Panty? I figure, the Higher Power panty will eliminate chub rub (big girls with big legs, ya'll know what I mean) and muffin top. Geeeeez, I might as well just wrap myself up in a rubber tire suit. Or a full body corset.  

I already have a Hanes shaper that cost me all of $9.99 from Target. And that has served me well. Nevermind that when I pull it down to pee it looks like a rolled up pretzel. I was wondering how going to the bathroom was going to be possible with the Spanx. But then I discovered that the Spanx came with a large opening in the crotch for the ahem, Va-jayjay. Wasn't that ingenious? If I really concentrate my urethra, I could pee right past the opening and not get any spillage. Yeehaw.

So I ordered it. The full-on Higher Power panty. I got it last week. But it's been sitting in my closet since that first day. I am afraid to try it on! It looks really small and binding. It looks like there is absolutely no way it is going to fit me. I've been trying to get up the courage to put it on but...it's mocking me.

It's sitting there in my closet and mocking me.

Those three skinny hoes on the package are laughing at me. Girl, you think you are going to fit those thunder thighs into this little thing? You are trippin'! Hahahahaa! They have skinny girl voices that sound like Paris Hilton.

So I sit down. Take a deep breath. Turn on the TV and realize that a marathon of America's Next Top Model cycle somethingorother is on, and I am fortified in my soul that Tyra wears Spanx and she is fabulous. I put one stubby leg in, being mindful not to stick my foot out of the hole meant for me to pee out of (!)...and I get as far as slightly above the knee. It was soooo tight. I couldn't even manage to put the other thigh in. I was confident I would've made the Spanx burst.

I would be the first woman who caused a freakin Spanx to explode on contact!

And that was just one thigh in. I can't imagine what would have occurred had I gone through all the trouble of getting it up over my boo-tay. Because I have alot of boo-tay, you know. So I gave up trying it on. I did not want to be That Woman who walks into Torrid and plops down a shredded and tattered Spanx on the counter top and wants a refund because her fat ass ripped it in two. I can just see all the tatted up, pierced, big girls with weird hair that work at Torrid just snickering at me.

So, I am settling for the regular old Power Panty. In the next size up, thank you very much. I will still get the coverage, just not up to my throat and down to my knees. I already called Torrid and yes, they had it in stock and yes, they had it in black and yes, they had my size. Hallelujah. Now I can look semi-civilized, sit down, eat, schmooze, dance and pee.


Firestorms everywhere...

This is a rough time of year for Southern Californians. All the beautiful expanses of land, trees and flowers become dry and brittle after the long, hot summer. And when we are supposed to be experiencing cool, fall weather, we get hot wind, the Santa Ana's. I don't mean breezes blowing through your hair. I mean wind gusts that you can barely walk through...that shakes your car when you are at a stoplight...that coats your teeth and the inside of your ears with dirt.

It destroys your yard and your home. Forget your cute flowers and landscaping. I have trash lined up against the fence from everyone else's yard because my home is situated in the corner on a pie-shaped lot. Dry, crunchy leaves are everywhere, in piles. Dirt, soot and black ash is in every corner. My mom has several trees on her property, some that have been there for over twenty-five years, and they just split in two like toothpicks. I woke up at 4am. Sunday morning because the wind was howling through the open windows. When I saw the trees twisting outside, I immediately knew what I had to do. I jumped up and secured all the windows to keep all the dirt and soot out.

With all this dry, hot, windy conditions brings the threat of fire. Things can go up in flames in an instant. There are fires everywhere. And we are in the center of all of them. We have fires to the east, west, north and south. It's scary. My heart goes out to the families who have lost their homes, their pets, their treasures...their lives.

I woke up this morning to an eerie orange-darkened sky. It feels like impending doom. You can see great black clouds of smoke far off in the distance, in every direction. It reeks of smoke. I am afraid to let my kids play outside, especially the one who suffers from asthma. Michael hasn't been able to sleep properly in days because he just can't seem to clear his lungs. I feel like my eyes are scratchy and watery, and my throat is sore. Xixi has had hives for almost four days now. So for now we are holed up in our home, with all the windows shut and the fans blowing. I have stopped watching the news because it makes the chil'rens fearful.

I guess this is the price you pay when you live in such a warm, sunny and beautiful place like California. But it hurts my heart to see so much of our land just burning up and so many people suffering. Pray for us here in Southern California.


More fat girl musings...

It never ceases to amaze me how many times I have been told, oh, you can carry your weight well--it's all in all the right places. I've heard other people go on and on about fat girls with style, plus size fashion, how having lots of curves are sexy, etc. etc.

But when it comes down to brass tacks, these very same people don't like to think of themselves as plus size.

My little sister has always been the skinny beautiful sister but while she was pregnant with her first child, her legs started getting thick and she began to fill out in places she never filled out before. So, being the older, spiteful fat sister, I used to torture her about how she could be a plus size model since they are a size 14. It was all in love, of course. She freaked out every time I told her I would take her to all the cool fat girl stores. She was like, how dare you insinuate that I could fit into plus size clothing, much less be a plus size model? Whatever. She just had her second baby almost four months ago, and she is basically back to her pre-pregnancy size by working out, eating whole wheat pasta and lean meats. We are now back to skinny sister fat sister mode. Oh well. It was fun while it lasted.

I used to go shopping with my sister-in-law Angie at Forever 21. She would take a pile of clothes with her into the dressing room and she always ended up looking like a sweaty, rolled-up sausage because she insisted on trying on a medium. And of course, it didn't fit because Forever 21 clothes are made to fit girls who are built like 12 year-old boys. Come on, my cankles couldn't fit into a Forever 21 size medium. So I tried to talk some sense into her in a very calm, rational tone. You know, like you are trying to get someone to put the gun down. Um, Angie, I think you need a larger size. Why not just try on a large? I think a large would fit you a little better. Laaaaaarge, sweetie. And she would become irate. Meanwhile, I would be standing there amongst all these size two wenches, scratching my head like, dang, can you just try on a bigger size so we can get out of here and get a Cinnabon with extra frosting? Or a pretzel with a large lemonade at the very least!

Yesterday we drove out to Chino so I could buy a few things for myself at Fat Girl Heaven, a store that carries stylish, inexpensive plus size fashions. No, it's not really called Fat Girl Heaven, it's a term of endearment. But I think it would be a pretty good name for a plus size store. The entire store is for big girls...not a couple of pathetic racks in the back...not a bunch of muu-muu's and sweatsuits that a fat lady in Nebraska would wear...not a stingy little half of the store like some places I have been too. It's the whole store. All you skinny girls are spoiled--you don't know how good you got it. A whole store of big girl clothes...wow. So I will make the pilgrimage out to Chino for this and brave the smell of cow's ass.

So I bring my friend Maria Guadalupe Josefina along with me. She is strictly not a plus size. I tell her that alot of the plus size models wear a size 14 or 16--to which she is scandalized to hear because she herself wears a size 14. We discuss how the majority of American women wear this size and that it should be considered normal and healthy. She laments that her size is the first size to sell out, which means there are many other women out there who wear this size and wouldn't consider themselves plus anything. She is still scandalized to hear that she could probably find something that fits her at Fat Girl Heaven and she could probably be a plus size model.

She looked around and said, "Oooh, this really is Fat Girl Heaven! I understand what you mean. I have to stop looking around or I am going to keep on eating because I know there are cute places to shop!"

Hmmm....excuse me?

Okay, so what's wrong with needing to shop at the fat girl store? If it is stylish, fairly priced and you will find clothes that actually fit you and won't cause you to fantasize about having an eating disorder...what is the problem? I just chuckled and continued shopping. It was Saturday afternoon and all my fellow fat girls were out in full force, getting ready for a night out on the town and circling the clothes like sharks chasing after chum. I had to get my shopping on, yo.

As I take a couple of items into the dressing room that smelled like feet, Maria Guadalupe Josefina walks into the next stall and tells me she is trying on some black trousers. Good for her, I think. Then I hear some shuffling, some sucking of the teeth and some mumbling. Uh oh. Houston, we have a problem.

"OMG. These effin pants don't fit!"
"Are they too big?"
"No! They are too small!"

And I am laughing silently in my little, stinky dressing stall. Maria Guadalupe Josefina probably thought she could easily buy off the rack since she wasn't a plus...she probably thought she could grab the smallest size the store offered and she'd be swimming in the pants...she probably thought she would walk out of there believing that she was too small to fit in anything at that store affectionately called Fat Girl Heaven.


And that is what I call fat girl vindication.


Tortillas mean Love...

You will never get a man to marry you if you don't learn to make tortillas.

I found this little banner on some one's myspace and I loved it. It's true! No self-respecting Chicana would not take the time to stand alongside her mother and her grandmother and learn how to make tortillas after she understood the joy it brings to your man and your children. It took me many years to get this cultural nugget of wisdom into my head.

I grew up with a light-skinned grandmother with amber-colored eyes, my Nana. She was short and round and soft and she always smelled like Oil of Olay. It has been over ten years since she went home to be with God but I still remember what her hands looked like. She was always cooking something delicious in her tiny kitchen and it seemed like she could feed multitudes on her little stove. She fed my family, my cousins, my aunts and uncles and whoever would stop by. She was always making chili con carne, chili verde, huevos rancheros, tortilla soup, nopalitos that she cut off from the neighbor's cactus that grew on our side of the fence--they were delicious scrambled in eggs, and the eternal pot of frijoles. There was always, always a pot of beans simmering nearby.

On those cool, overcast days, armed with her apron, she would put her comal on the hot stove and then take out her flour and her rodillo. We all got excited because we knew what that meant. Homemade tortillas! She would just toss in her ingredients, never consulting a recipe book or measuring ingredients...some flour, a little bit of baking powder, a handful of salt, whatever oil or shortening she had on hand and some warm water. And that short, round and soft lady would knead the masa until it was smooth and pliable and she would set about making these round patties that she would eventually roll with her worn, familiar rodillo. Then after letting us sample the first few, she would cover them up and guard them or else we would eat them all up before the rest of the meal was even ready!

Sometimes I would take a turn trying to roll out a perfectly round tortilla but I never could. It always shrunk back down or I tore a hole in it or worse--it would turn out crooked and misshapen. One of my mother's favorite family stories about her father was that he would not eat crooked tortillas. So when my mom was young and learning how to make them, she would use a plate to cut out a perfectly round tortilla for him. What a tyrant! No wonder my Nana always made perfect looking tortillas--she was well-trained.

Over the years, making tortillas became less and less frequent. My Nana was always busy gathering her donated supplies to take on mission trips to the little Indian villages in Mexico. My mom was a single mother and the last thing she wanted to do was stand over a hot comal after a long day of work. But on those cool, overcast days, out would come that familiar, worn rodillo and the big sack of flour. And it never ceased to make us feel happy and loved.

When I became a wife and mother, I really wanted to learn how to make them so I could be a blessing to my family. I had to be fearless at first, throwing caution to the wind and tossing in the ingredients just like my Nana did. No measuring, no recipes--just a quick phone call to my mom for reassurance. And they always come out tasty. To my relief, my husband and my children aren't picky when it comes to tortillas...they don't care if they aren't rolled out round and perfect, or if they first few come out a little crunchy. They are too busy spreading butter and rolling up their freshly made tortilla to care about all that. And Michael, well, he always has a special little twinkle in his eye for me when I am standing there with my relatively new, bought from Bed Bath & Beyond rodillo, with flour smudged on my chin and all over the front of my shirt.

So yesterday, since the weather was cool and somewhat overcast and I already had a big pot of beans simmering, I thought I would make tortillas. Really, it was a joint effort since Josh and Raquel were there to help. I even made Raquel flex her tortilla rolling skills. In the end, the front of her black shirt was covered in flour too...she will make a man very happy one day.

As long as she understands the power of the homemade tortilla and it's ability to make her family happy and warm with a full belly...and a man with a twinkle in his eye for her.

Patting out the little balls of masa before we rolled them out.

Josh and Raquel working hard.

Real men know how to make tortillas, too.

Josh making fun of Raquel's jacked up tortilla--it was still tasty though!

White people love my salsa. I don't know what it is, but they can't get enough. Here I am worshipping at the salsa altar.

It's hard work but it's fun when you have friends helping you.


Wife/Mama/Sergeant/Love Slave/Child of God/Artist

As I was thumbing through some old pictures yesterday, I found this shot of a figure study I did about twelve years ago, while in college. Wow. That is pretty good. I impressed myself.

I remember the model. She had a bit more meat on her than the other models, that's probably why I remember her. I just began my studies at Cal State Long Beach and I was having a tough time feeling like I belonged there. But I knew sitting in front of an easel in a figure drawing class...that would level the playing field.

When you take a figure drawing class, the model's don't wear any clothes. No, there aren't any robes or shawls or cover-ups or stage props. They are nekkid. After you get past dude, this person is naked! and you resist the urge to giggle like an idiot, and you to avoid eye contact with anyone...you really learn how to draw the human body. As you walk into your class and set down your stuff by an easel, there is no worrying about getting a good spot. An experienced model will walk in, take off their robe and give you a series of really dynamic poses. And they were great to draw from any angle. Unfortunately, there were also times when you got the not-so-great angle. Some days you were stuck with a fat lady's (400 plus!) rolls of back chub and dimples...the backside of a guy with lots of stretchmarks on his butt...a woman with shaved genitals and super long nipples...the chocolate spider...droopy testicles that tea-bagged the platform. It wasn't pretty. But it was art! All I can say is thank goodness the poses usually only lasted a couple of minutes--the longest was five. Then they moved and you were thankfully given another view to draw.

I stared at it the photo for a long time. I actually had good drawing skills. I had some potential to do something with the gift God gave me way before I started having all these chil'rens. And I started to contemplate this thought. Am I still considered an artist even if I don't really paint and draw consistently like an "artist" does? I haven't been in an art show in I don't know how many years. Would any talent and skill I had just dry up out of non-usage? That thought really bugs me! Sure, I do other sorts of creativity but it isn't the same as walking into an artist's studio, sitting in front of an easel and taking out your charcoal and just drawing. I just loved the atmosphere, the creative energy from the other artists, my art bin with all my supplies. All I needed was a black beret and a curly moustache. But I know one day soon, I will be able to get back to doing some of the things I love doing. Then my daughter's little voice snapped me out of my thoughts.

"Ooooh, mama, did Daddy draw that?"

And I chuckled to myself and I told her, "Nope. Mama drew it!" And she looked at me in disbelief. Silly mama, you couldn't have drawn that! And that makes me so sad because I want my kids to be proud of me...I want them to see me as a person who does more than cook and clean and yell and clean their ears and wipe their butt. I know my worth as a mother is more important than anything else...but I also want them to see me as a person and not just mama.

And when they are able to see me as a person, then they will want to be my friend.


I am Hip-Hop

Are you?

I know I'm a few days late on this, but dang. Tracy Morgan was grillin' fools on the 2007 VH-1 Hip-Hop Honors. Heh. I may not have been raised in the Marcy projects like Jay Z. I may not have a baby daddy. I may not have beef with 50 Cent. And I may not have been shot in front of Hot 97. But I do know about gov'ment cheese and shelltop Adidas and b-boys and graffiti writers and all that scratchin' is makin' me itch.

When I heard who was going to be honored at this year's show, I was really excited. Just getting the chance to see all these really great artists in one place, under the context of honoring them and their contributions, it's really cool. Whodini! Flashback to a chubby little girl with a handheld recorder and cassette listening to "Five Minutes of Funk" over and over so she could write down all the lyrics. I still remember them to this day!

A Tribe Called Quest. They were the first hip-hop group to sample jazz in their beats. They were all about elevated cultural consciousness--they were the opposite of N.W.A even though I liked them both. They will always be close to my heart because Michael was the one who turned me on to them. Bonita Applebum, you gotta put me on. It was good to see Busta Rhymes come out and do his thang on "Scenario". He said, "My adrenalin level is at about five trillion!" He wasn't kidding.

Snoop Dogg. I was confused as to why they would honor him before Dr. Dre, but I wasn't complainin'. Being from the West Coast, gangsta rap was just something you listened to. I was into Ice-T all the way back when he was a pimp. But when Snoop dropped DoggyStyle, it was on. I know that album backwards and forwards. Deez nuts... and I won't say any more than that.

New Jack Swing. Daaaaang! I was all about the New Jack Swing back in the day--Guy, Today, Heavy D, Blackstreet. The Gumby fades, the baggy MC Hammer pants and all those crazy dances, they bring back fond memories. Growing up in a pretty much all-white neighborhood (most of the latinos I knew milked cows at the local diary--they didn't look at all like me) made it pretty scandalous to date outside of your own race. It was around this time that I had my first African-American boyfriend...Brandon was his name. Ain't nuthin' wrong with the chocolate.

I have to give props to Missy Elliot. She has the sickest beats around. You can't help but feel like dancing to her music. Work It will always be one of her most memorable songs because of that dope Run D.M.C sample. It never fails to make me want to shake my ba-dunka donk donk!

And lastly, what about Wild Style? That was the movie that pioneered the lifestyle of hip-hop and influenced a generation of kids, just like my husband, to channel their creativity into the four elements of hip-hop: MCing, DJing, breakdancing and graffiti. It was good to see the film get the recognition it deserved. Is it just me or does that cat Fab Five Freddy never age? He is a little thicker but basically the same. I guess it's true that black don't crack! On that same note, Michael was bummed that Kool Moe Dee was an old fat dude. I mean, he sounded pretty much the same but you could hardly recognize him. The only fine specimen that looked even better than he did when he was younger was none other than LL Cool J. In my next life I would like to come back as LL Cool J's warm-up suit and Kangol. I need love.

The best part of Hip-Hop Honors is they seat all the honorees up in this balcony so you can see them enjoying the show. They really look like they are getting their groove on, having a good time, dancing and smiling. And they know the lyrics to everyone's music. That's really cool.

I can't wait to find out who are next year's honorees. It's high time for KRS-One, Run D.M.C and Cypress Hill to be nominated. Who would be your choices?


Across the Universe

Today the stars aligned with the moon and the heavens and Michael and I got the chance to go to the movies and then for a quick bite to eat at Chipotle. I wish I could say that we have regular dates, but that just isn't the case. It's really tough because of Michael's workload, finding a babysitter (grandma) who is willing to take on six chil'ren for a few hours without going crazy and lastly, we can't always fit it into the non-existent budget.

Months ago, I saw a trailer for this movie called Across the Universe. It looked really cool and I couldn't get it out of my mind. So we finally got to see it. It started off a little slow and you could practically hear crickets chirping in the background the theater-goers were so quiet. One would think everyone would be all excited to hear these awesome Beatles songs. But nah...the only sound I heard was my husband's hollow head as he munched on popcorn.

The movie starts off a little High School Musical with all the singing and dancing. But as the movie went on, it got better. It was very creative. Anything set in the 60's and I am a sucker for it. The time in history, the clothes, the music, the protests, the feeling that you could be or do anything--I love it all.

The highlight of the movie was when Max was back from Vietnam, and he was recuperating in a veteran's hospital. He was strapped to his hospital bed, obviously in physical pain and mental anguish. When the time came for him to get a shot of morphine to numb his pain, five Salma Hayek's came out as the Bang Bang Shoot Shoot Nurse!

Heh. What is so special about that? You may be wondering. Well, my husband is under the impression that there is a little latent lesbian underneath every woman's carefully guarded hetero-ness. Well, I don't know if he thinks that about every woman...probably just me. He just can't understand how I used to snuggle at night with my girl cousins and my girlfriends. How we would sleep in the same bed and spoon each other. Helloooo, to keep cozy and warm! He just thinks its strange. I don't see what the big deal is. I am confident in my sexual orientation. I'm not confused! Between you and me, I think he is just concerned because I used to be a softball player.

Hey, I know what you are thinking but not all softball players were butch.

Women are just different from men in this area. I can appreciate a woman's beauty and not be physically attracted to it. I can say, nice rack but that doesn't mean I am thinking mmmm, nice rack. I am thinking, ooooh, nice rack--wish I had one myself. That's it. Maybe one day he will believe me.

Anyhoo, this thing with Salma will probably negate everything I just said. Heh. If I did dig chicks, I would most definitely want Salma as my woman. She is hot. Straight up and down. Homo or straight, you can't deny that Salma is gorgeous. Why on earth would I want a fat chick with a mullet in a wife-beater with her boobs tied down and wearing some sagging Dickies? I'd want Salma!

Duh...seems like a no-brainer to me.

Xixi strikes again

Being a parent is a messy job. Some days it is messier than others. I have said this before, I didn't realize motherhood entailed dealing with so much fecal material. And pee! Pee and poop, like, everyday. Kids are worse than puppies. I tell no lies. I have a daughter who is fascinated by her own poo. I don't know what it is but she has stuck her hand in the back of her diaper one too many times for my taste.

It is usually when she is in her playpen. I know, I know, she is already two years old. She is too big for a crib or playpen. But excuse the hell outta me...cribs and playpens a.k.a Lockdown, well, they are just beautiful things. How else can I get a moment of peace without Xixi digging snacks out of the trash or eating toothpaste or breaking every single one of my lipliners and eyeshadows?

Sometimes, she wakes up and doesn't bother to let anyone know. She knows how to jump out when she wants to. She knows how to open doors, too. But she is content to just sit there and play. It's just what she is playing with that concerns me. This is where she gets into mischief. But how she goes from mischief to I wonder what it would taste like if I smear my hand with poo and rub it all over my face....I will never know!

Today when we got home from our homeschool co-op, and I put her down so she could grab a late nap. A couple of hours later, Michael heard her making noise so he went to say hello and take her out. This is what he walked into.

All this on her vintage vanity. The savage!

Ooooooh, how could you, Xixi?!

While my husband bathed her, I was dry-heaving in her room as I scrubbed everything down and prepared the playpen for the dumpster--it just wasn't worth scrubbing the crap off the fabric that she rubbed into.

Xixi being properly disinfected by her Daddy.

Now that she is clean, oops, my bad!
I will never eat my potty again. My potty is not a toy!
And there she is, munching on a piece of bread as if this wasn't the scene of a very stinky crime just a half hour earlier.

And the audacity to still be hungry for a snack!

The end.


Mmmmm, soup!

When you are a mama on a tight budget, you gotta get creative with your meals. We don't really eat out that often because it costs as much as our cell phone bill. So I cook. A lot. But cooking meal and after meal, day after day...I get really bored with the recipe rotation. If I see another chicken breast or pot of rice, I think I will gouge my eyes out.

Now that the season has changed, it is time for soup. Yessss. I love soup. And if you saw me yesterday, having lunch at The Cheesecake Factory, you would have seen me totally into the Broccoli Cheddar Cheese soup. Dang, that stuff is good times! It was shameful. I was ready for them to lay me in a vat of that stuff with a straw. Yeh, I love me some soup.

So I got really enthusiastic because I found this new delicious recipe for Tortellini Tomato Spinach Soup. I also made garlic cheese toasts to dip and soak up all that yummy goodness. I was really pleased with how it turned out. It had a delicious flavor and it was very filling. That is why soup is so satisfying....you don't have to overeat to feel like your belly is a sparkletts bottle. So yeh, it was delicious blahblahblah. However, these are some of the reviews I received tonight. It really encourages me to keep seeking out new recipes for my lovely family to enjoy.

"It takes like tea."

"Are we supposed to eat these leaves?"

"It tastes nasty!"

"I want some more, mama!" (Xixi--who else!)

"It tastes like something is old in the soup."

"The pasta tastes....gross. In my mouth, it tastes gross. Why did you have to make this? Why didn't you just buy pizza? Why can't you make the food I like?"

"What is in these round things? Ugggggggh."

Sigh. Ingrates!

Parents are people, too.

I had an early lunch with my mom today and we were talking about a woman I know whose husband was cheating on her with a coworker. I ran into her at the grocery store one night and she said that she had things under control in her marriage, but her husband's "girlfriend" didn't get the hint that he was trying to make his marriage work, so she wouldn't stay away. The whole time she was talking to me I kept thinking, it's not about the girl staying away, it's about your man telling this girl it was over. What was she planning on doing, babysitting her husband for the rest of his life? Needless to say, I had a few things on my mind, so I posed this question to my mother.

When did you come to the realization that your marriage was over and it was time for you to do something about it?

My parents divorced when I was seven years old. I can still remember what the atmosphere in our home felt like the weeks and months before my mom announced to me that her and my dad were getting a divorce. Every night my brother and little sister and I would sit out in the livingroom watching TV and my parents would be holed up in their room having heated discussions, with the door shut. This was unusual for them, so I understood it to mean that had alot of things to talk about. My parents never fought, they never yelled, they never bickered.

Then very suddenly, my dad was away alot. He was "away on business" or he was "out of town".

My mom plucked up great courage and decided that my dad just wasn't going to be the type of man that she would be able to raise a family with. There were other issues, of course. But she was still young enough (29 years) where she could find happiness elsewhere and go on with her life, she had family who were willing to help her, and my dad still wanted to be a part of his children's life. So she did it. She became a single mother. She returned to the workforce after seven years of being a stay at home mom. And she did was she had to do to move on with her life with a 8 year-old daughter, a 7 year-old son and a one year-old baby girl.

But even after all these years...nearly twenty-seven years to be exact, it is still rough to hear why my mom wanted a divorce. My mom has always been a discreet woman and she was never one to throw my dad's issues in our faces out of spite. And I have had many heart-to-heart talks with my mom but I have never been brave enough to ask why. To be perfectly honest, I don't think I wanted to know. In order to protect myself, in order to be able to keep looking at my dad like...he was just my dad, a separate entity from my mother. I just didn't want to know what happened between them that caused them to want to part and raise their three small children separately.

But to hear my mom actually form the words with her mouth and say it to me, it was like a punch in the gut. The kind of punch that you have braced yourself for but discover it still hurts.

When you become an adult, you get a much better understanding of just who it is your parents are, and how they dealt with their shortcomings. Who, after all, know exactly what your shortcomings are, in detail?

Your children, of course.

But I'm not a child anymore. So I have the choice of holding onto bitterness and anger at what I feel my parents should have been and I can carry that into our relationship today. Or I can just love them for who they are right now.

I have come to grips with the fact my parents are not perfect. They didn't always make the best decisions. They haven't always been shining examples. They didn't always put their children first. And yet, I still love them because I know without a doubt that they love me. And they are being the best parent they know how to be.

And that has to be enough.


Ragamuffin Soul on L.A. Ink

My dear worship pastor Carlos over at Ragamuffin Soul was on L.A. Ink last Tuesday. He got hooked up by Hannah Aitchison. She is an awesome artist. I am blown away by some of the sketches she does, let alone her tattoos! Also, I was very thankful that I didn't have to hear Kat Von D's man rasp while Carlos was getting a tattoo.

Scrub your eye makeup off once and a while, Kat. I bet you will discover that your cat is bald!

Anyhoo, I was so excited it was pretty ridiculous. When Carlos came on the screen I got teary-eyed because he and his family are so missed at our church. After all, he was the one who led me in worship for almost four years. They have now embarked on a new adventure with their family in Georgia. So to see him on the show and realize I won't be seeing him onstage on Sunday...well, it made me kinda sad. All you people in the ATL, you don't know how good you got it!


We'll always have the night

This is my dear husband, standing by some of his artwork. Funny thing, we were just friends at the time of this picture. He wanted to take me around his neighborhood and show me some of the spots he had painted.

Have you ever met someone who was just way out and didn't care about other people's opinion? That was Michael. Always outrageous, always entertaining, always unique. Always thinking outside the box.

This picture sort of reminds me of one of those Where's Waldo books, only a ghetto version. He's sporting a 'fro and some slacks, a dark green sweater and an oxford shirt tucked underneath. He was totally not the type of guy I used to be into.

But he was so fun to be around. He always took me on all kinds of adventures. He wasn't at all like the other guys I hung out with, who were content to play video games, get high, drink and watch movies. He called me up one night and asked me if I wanted to go out "sketching". Okaaaaay. Sure, I said. So we drove out to Hollywood, off of Sunset. We were all the way up on a dark hill, overlooking the city. It could have been one of those make-out spots from the 50's. Like Inspiration Point or someplace like that. He swears up and down that he didn't have any intention of making a move on me. And even though it bugs the heck out of me, I know he is telling the truth. I ain't gonna lie, I would have offered it up on a platter if I thought he would have went for it.

As soon as we got out of my car and slammed the door shut, I realized I locked my keys in the car. Great. It was after midnight, all the way in the Hollywood Hills, no cell phone (in those days cell phones were the size of shoe boxes--and don't get me started on the size of the batteries-- so we all had pagers) and no AAA. What are we going to do now?

So we walk allll the way down the steep hill to this gas station. I couldn't reach my best friend so my only option was to call my Dad. He was the only one who had a spare key anyhow. Very sheepishly I called him for help. As a one would expect, he was not very pleased. I just know he thought we were doing something we shouldn't all the way up there on that dark, secluded hill. If he only knew, there was no funny business going on at all!

While we waited I sat on a busy bus stop bench and tried to sketch all the craziness on Sunset Blvd. The freaks come out at night for sure! I must have looked pretty strange myself, sitting on a bench with a big sketchpad a one in the morning. I don't remember where Michael was at the time, probably tagging on something, but I do know he was pissed at me because I was the only who locked the keys in the car. Whatever.

When my Dad rolled up at nearly 2 am, his face said it all. Now, my Dad is not the overprotective, judgemental father type. For the most part, he has been the liberal, "you are an adult now so you can do what you want and it's your business" type Dad. But if looks could kill, he would have slayed both Michael and I.

In silence he drove us up the hill, handed me my keys, watched me open up my door and then he took off. Daaaang, Dad. It was unusual to feel my father's displeasure in something I had done. I think this was the first time we had this sort of father/daughter separation over a person, a man, in my life.

And then we were speeding down that hill somewhere in Hollywood, ready to get back to our usual mischief, in pursuit of some sort of creative endeavor.



When I was in the third grade, my teacher Miss Riddick went around the room and asked all of us what we wanted to be when we grew up. Believe it or not, this was an easy answer for me. When it was my turn, I said simply, "I want to be an artist, like my Dad."

But it is now twenty-six later. Unbeknownst to me, the job I should have said, the job that I have excelled at for nearly ten years, the job that I can do with extreme precision is this....sweeping up stuff off the floor. A janitor.

You know those people you see walking around sports arenas, theme-parks, and the mall, scooping up your crap that you toss on the floor like lowly peasants? The poor soul with the broom and upright dustpan?

That's me.

I use it so much that I need a freakin' holster for it on my yoga pants. Can we still call them yoga pants when the closest we have gotten to practicing yoga is the downward facing dog pose--and that was naked at 2 am? Hmmmm. I use it so much that one day two weeks ago, I was in a tizzy because I couldn't find the dustpan part.

"Wheeeeeere is my dustpaaaaaaaaan?!!!??!"

I stomped around the house and forced everyone to help me find it. I was starting to break a sweat. That dustpan and broom combo was perfect. Perfect size and height, not too heavy, not too cheap. It could pick up anything. It was almost like this missing appendage that I somehow wasn't born with. If I was a mutant like on X-Men, I would be Dustpan Woman, kinda like Wolverine but instead of knives on my hands, I would have a broom and dustpan. I wouldn't kill you, I would sweep up yo behind! No, no, noooooo, not my beloved broom and dustpan. Where are you?

Solomon said, "Oh, I saw Daddy throw it in the trash because it was all nasty."

So you know what I did, right? I begged the Man to please dig though the big, brown, putrid trashcan that was buzzing with all-day caca diaper stench to please find my missing appendage. I did not care how funky it was. I needed it!! He dug it out. Thank gawwwwd.

It is now safe and sound, just as it should be. Now I can go back to my life's work.


Message Boards can be very cool places...

I have been a member of a blended family message board for about six years now. It is the only board that I have returned to over the years. It's almost like a cyber family. You get to know people and their backgrounds, what their husbands look like, the names of their children, their stepfamily struggles, etc. The board is almost exclusively women (men don't seem to last there too long). And it's not the typical message boards around--there are no myspace glitter banners, no one is trying to hook up with anyone, everyone knows how to spell, etc.. They are some really classy, intelligent, resourceful and real people. I've learned alot over the years.

One nugget of wisdom I have learned is that some people hate their exes more than they love their own children.

Just to know that you have a place to go to where you can share your heart and vent about what you are going through is a lifesaver for me. There have been times when I can't even think straight about our blended family struggles...and some of these ladies have given it to me straight up, they have given me really useful advice, they have calmed me down...they made me look at the big picture. And it makes a huge difference knowing there are people who are going through the same thing you are.

It's funny, they keep a tally of how many posts you have and they give you a little category....member, old hand, addict, journeyman, pooh-bah and not in that order. What is my category? Shoooooot. Carpal Tunnel, baby. I've got over 4000 posts under my belt. What can I say? I needs lots of help.

There have also been times where I have gotten soooo frustrated with something a member has said to me that I'll just want to write them off. I'll just want to condemn the whole place! I will fire off a private message to the moderator and say, "Delete my account! I'm so done with this place!" But they have always given me room to cool off. And of course I came back. I've had numerous run-in's with members over religious beliefs, my stance on homosexuality, Christianity, sahm's vs. working moms, etc. It's all been very enlightening.

One little episode that sticks out in my mind was when Diego called this very large woman "fat" while we were eating in Subway. He didn't point or laugh, he just looked up from his sandwich and stated the obvious (in his mind), "She is fat." Well, the lady got angry and started saying all kinds of crap to him and about me. I sat there and looked at my kids. Do I break this lady off some or do I leave it alone? Since I was there with my entire tribe of kids (Xixi was just a baby at the time) while Michael was at work, I decided it probably wasn't wise to tangle with her at that moment. So I made my kids hurry up and finish their sandwiches so we could leave. I didn't force Diego to apologize because the lady was being really nasty and I was afraid of what she was going to say to a six year old boy. Sure, he got a tongue-lashing at home--I just didn't feel the need to subject him to a person who thought it was okay to be openly nasty to a child.

And newsflash, lady, you ain't exactly the tiniest thing I ever saw.

Alas, that was not the point, I know. Well, when I shared with story with the board and asked them what they would have done, some of the ladies ripped me a new one! Some said I was doing Diego a disservice by not making him apologize, etc. That that was probably why the woman was so nasty to us because we made no effort to apologize, etc. You have to realize, it was one of those decisions that you make in an instant. I still feel like I did the right thing. So, we went back and forth on the board for ages, debating.

What entertainment for this isolated stay at home mom! Woohoo.

Just last week that very same board member who ripped me a new one messaged me that she was going to send me this natural essential oil she formulated at home to help with my sinus problems.

See, we work through our issues.

I love these chicks.
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