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Halloween in Imperial Valley

Halloween always creeps up on me and it has always been a sticky tricky day for me. When I was a little girl in Imperial Valley, I had to do what I could to make it fun. Then as an adult I tried to ignore the day as much as possible, like my ama tried.  Imposible! kids don’t let you ignore it. One of the biggest candy hoarding days of the year, parents need to recognize, verdad que si? 

Planning Halloween 

As a little girl, it was the one holiday that I rallied for as far as dressing up. Don’t get me wrong, I was not trying to be a princess or any silly girly character. But the unwritten and unspoken rule was that to trick or treat you had to be in costume. I would start working on my mom and sisters a few days ahead. I needed three things to make my day a success. Primero, I needed permission and a chaperone or partner to go out and knock on doors for candy. Luego, I needed money for the yearly carnival and finally, I needed a costume. Halloween was up to me, my ama didn’t highlight the day in any way shape or form. She kind of dreaded the day, because all the kids in the barrio knew she had her tiendita, and they expected some great candy from her store. Halloween almost always meant bankruptcy for her negocio.

The week before Halloween the kids were talking about what they were gonna dress up as, or what costumes their mom had bought them. I was always embarrassed that I wasn’t getting a cool costume so every year I said I wasn’t dressing up. Every year I said it was dumb and every year I didn’t mean it. Y cada ano I’d give into the pull of trick or treating. 

Now that I think about it, my ama  always enjoyed my silly chicanadas that I called costumes. I would jimmy rig a costume mostly out of my apas clothes and get into my sister’s makeup. Que one year a baby, another year a hobo, a fat man, a farmer. Basically the same idea always with a different name.

Photo by Daisy Anderson on Pexels.com

12 Year Old Transition

In small towns I think growing up and getting to that serious behavior that a 12 year old should have, takes a little longer. I was not serious about growing up and morphing into a teenager. I didn’t care much about being cool, I couldn’t start thinking of makeup, gracias a Dios! Wearing Makeup was taboo for us younger girls.Silly boys weren’t noticing me yet. Pero, I was real serious about getting lots of candy. 

One particular year, I had secured permission and a partner to trick or treat, my sister Patty was gonna keep an eye on me. I always had to work extra hard on begging and pleading with Patty. She hated taking care of me, she was already in that cool teenage age and walking clear across town to trick or treat was not cool!  I promised to give her a lot of candy and quien sabe what else I promised, but in the end I prevailed upon her. 


DIY Costumes

All I had left to create was my costume for my night of fun and candy.  I had the same old options so I think I decided on a combo costume of an old fat hobo man, muy original verdad? Being giddy with excitement I decided to go extra on the fat and stuffed my pants and shirt, bien exagerada, I could barely move. I was ready, with my big bag on hand, we left. The getting to the carnival part is a fuzzy memory, I’m guessing that somebody gave us a ride there because I can’t imagine Patty agreeing to all that work. Anyway, we were at the carnival for a short time since my pocket book was very light. It didn’t matter to me anyway, I was anxious to trick or treat a lot of kids already all over town, I didn’t want to miss out. 

To maximize on trick or treating candy you have to have a lot of energy and a good plan. Patty wasn’t interested in the plan I had mapped out in my head. She gave me one option. Leaving the school grounds and walking past the middle school and the elementary school, all connected, then turning left would land me on the West side. Going further, past the Circle K then turning right going several blocks further got me to the Rich side of town. Guess what Patty was pushing for? She was getting crabby and I was getting anxious, especially since I was pretty slow with my fat man costume. The padding kept creeping down my leg, almost tripping me. I kept having to re-stuff myself and hold on to my backside to keep the pillow from falling out. 

El Cucuy

But God had mercy on me and we got to several houses that gave lots of candy before she headed us toward home. I milked it as much as I could knocking on doors as we made our way home. I was whiny and grunting and she was so mad that I had tricked her into doing this, we were both pretty tired by the time we reached the railroad tracks. Suddenly our senses were very alert and we had to put off our tired feelings, and watch out for danger, of the El Cucuy kind. We were on Mainstreet, it was way too dark to take the shortcut. Huge semi trucks occasionally passed by and we so appreciated the bright lights those trucks flashed, we stayed dangerously close to the pavement, hugging it. I, the “fat man” was behind Patty and every time I heard crackling, or scraping sounds, I was sure El Cucuy was behind me, I couldn’t turn around, it would be my demise, so I quietly whined, hating my sissy lala emotions.  I’m not the hugging type, but that night I was ready to pounce on my sister for support. Talk about a Halloween nightmare on Mainstreet, hijole! Crossing the tracks and walking that long dark road just before we saw the houses of the barrio was maybe a 10 minute walk but my stuffing and the darkness made it the longest walk ever. Suddenly, I could appreciate why my ama banned us from being out at night. Halloween was one of the few exempted days and I wondered why that day was ok? We walked fast as I was trying to keep my belly intact. 

It wasn’t too late in the night, but those railroad tracks and the empty lots made it the perfect scene in a scary movie, I had imagined it all in those few minutes. Such relief flooded us when we entered  the safety of our barrio. Kids were still out and about and Patty loosened up. I took advantage and knocked on a couple more doors in my hood. All was well that Halloween. Pero que susto!

Booty

We got home exhausted. I tossed my hefty candy bag onto the table, happy with my loot. Oh how sweet home was. I plopped myself down on the chair in the dining room, I was coming undone. So as I was pulling the stuffing out of me my ama was laughing at the image I created.

Ama: Como te fue?

Me: Ama, fue el día más feliz de mi vida!

My mother let out a gleeful carcajada.. Her way of laughing started from the bottom of her belly and rolled out past her mouth. I loved to make her laugh, it was always so contagious. She had  quite a laugh out loud moment.

 Counting all my worldly experiences of all my 12 years of living, I had declared, this had been the happiest day of my entire existence. I had already forgotten the pain in the butt it had been to walk. El Cucuy didn’t come for me, the tracks and all my fears were forgotten. 

LOL


I was pretty proud of myself whenever she told the story of my “happiest day of my life”. I’m so happy to have that treasure in my vault. The contagious laughter has carried on through her grandson Jonathan, everytime he has that LOL gut roaring laughter I remember my feisty ama.

What is your favorite trick or treating memory?

Mis Quince Años 

Feliz Cumpleaños – Happy Quince

This will be another post on birthdays, inspired by a birthday celebration this week. That first day of your new year should be highlighted with hopeful wishes and if possible splashed with happy events. I’ve got quite a few birthday celebrations and shout outs for October on my calendar and of course, mi cumpleanos is this month too. I always love the happy birthdays I receive all day long. My dear friend’s daughter will be 15. Wow! Los años vuelvan, they pass so fast you miss the details. That whole birth story is a miracle in itself! Pero, I’ll leave it for another post. I do remember when she called to tell me she was in labor. After an agonizing attempt at labor, she had to have a C-section, then her little girl was placed into her arms. Before we knew it, we were talking about her fifteenth birthday! Quince anos! hijole. Of course, quince, triggers images of quinceañera traditions.

For those readers who do not know what a quinceanera is, I’ll give you the Rosie understanding. Basically, it’s fiesta that embarks a 15 year old latina to womanhood; a rite of passage.  It was predominantly a Mexican tradition that spread across Latin America. Although it is very likely that mesoamerica culture influenced these rites, the arrival of the Spaniards brought in the Catholic tradition. This milestone unites family far and wide and for the 15 year old chica who hasn’t experienced much grownup socializing, she is presented to society and will lead the way on her big day. In my case, as I flashback to my big day, I was dragging my feet. 

A Quinceañera looks a lot like a wedding day celebration, when Ben saw my quince album he was shocked to see me looking like a bride. It dawned on me that it is the precursor to a young woman’s wedding day. Creanme! It truly does provide that intense level of stress in preparations.

How far a family takes a Quince will depend probably on the pocketbook and the Joneses. 

Check List

Here’s a minimal list (don’t read that as one word, because Quinceañeras are probably not for minimalists) of some of the traditions seen in a  Quinceañeras.

  • A gown for la quinceañera. (I couldn’t, wouldn’t wear a gown, that was my sisters and mothers first battle. My heart was in the volleyball, basketball courts and in the baseball field, there was no place for a dress in my life, much less a gown! My dress had to be simple, easy to walk in, easy breath in. If it was possible to be comfortable in a dress, I had to have that dress! It wasn’t like I was getting married anytime soon, acuerdense, in my book, marriage was for the blind)
  • A Tiara and bouquet and all the nice accessories. (Thankfully I was only required to wear a flower in my hair. I did have to hold on to a bouquet, it was so awkward staring into my bouquet during pictures trying to look soft, serene and grown up.)
  • You need a church for the mass. This is the formal or serious portion of the rite of passage. A ceremony that would involve prayers of gratitude and commitment to living a moral life. (In my small town there was only one catholic church, so there was no searching needed just booking a date, this might have been the least stressful portion of preparing)
  • You must obtain a hall for the fiesta following the mass for the rest of the celebration.
  • A court traditionally requires 14 damas and their chambelanes, this could be equivalent to bridesmaids and groomsmen in a wedding. The court is dressed elegantly to accent the quinceañera in her procession. (Do you know how difficult it is to find friends to fill these positions? Thank God, I wore my hair short in those days because I would have pulled it all out just choosing a style of dress, forget about the color. Then, after all that drama, the parents decided to pull their kid out, the expense on their formal dresses was too much. I ran around asking good friends, then friends, then acquaintances. It got so desperate that I was ready to ask strangers to help me. Honestly, in the end, ya ni se, I don’t know how many kids actually accompanied me that day)
  • You need a valtz, this is one of those Spanglish words that evolve from simple mispronunciation. The word is waltz. (Things I remember about the valtz is just trying to coordinate practices, not easy when everyone plays sports and practices after school. Then the other thing is the dread of dancing, last time I had participated in a formal choreographed dance was my 4th grade square dance!)
  • A Madrina y Padrino are called upon. These godparents are chosen from the close friends or family that are invested in your family. They help with the hardwork and with some costs. (In my case, my big brother  and his wife were the designated godparents. It’s  tricky because, how weird is it to call your own brother and sister-inlaw nino o nina? How about addressing them by usted, when they had been tu all my life.)
(left to right: My cuñada Mary, my big brother Angel and 15 year old me)
  • The dinner: These meals can get really elaborate. Proper place settings with the charger, then the plate and each side has salad and dinner fork, knife and spoon, topped with a nice linen napkin. (For the Zepedas, bring on the birria,with no stiff formalities, just good meat con arroz y frijoles and of course tortillas)
  • You must have cake. Like everything else in this celebration,  Cakes for Quinceneras are wonderful. (By the end of mi Quincenera I was ready to have my piece of cake and eat it.)
  • You must be a grateful quincenera! Asi es, everybody is working hard for your special day (putting on a gratitude attitude would have been a huge blessing for my ama)

My limited list is based on my experience. When I look at my photo album, I realize it was a simple 1980s presentation. Pero, not so easy to do for my hardworking parents. I wish I would have had a better attitude about my quinceanera. My older sisters were into it, happy to help our ama while I was a sulky 14 year old, niña chiquiada! I was a spoiled little girl, not willing to wear that beautiful big gown, they had dreamed of wearing. Hijole! Thank God they got to wear their beautiful big white wedding gowns.

En Conclusion:

I started this post by boasting about how much I love my birthday celebrations and mostly I have enjoyed all the attention. I do regret not being more grateful for all the investment and effort my parents gave to my birthday party at 15 years old. Here’s a resolution. I’ll keep my eyes and heart on Jesus and when I get to heaven and see my parents and sisters I’ll tell them thank you and I might even hug them 😊 (I’m one of those rare Latinas that is awkward about hugging). Meanwhile I’ll ask my sis who is here and tangible, to accept my love and gratitude. She always celebrates my birthdays and now after 40 years I can see clearly and appreciate the labor of love.

What memory stands out in your quinceañera? Or what new traditions exist for today’s quinceañera?

Don’t Get a Red Card for Your Parenting

Do you have any parenting regrets? Those early years go so fast and the firstborn can often be a guinnea pig receiving all the mistakes first time mothers can give.

As I was frantically looking for my wedding day photo with my ama, going through picture after picture, my eyes scanned the images like flashcards, or flash photos, a lifetime on fast forward. Despite my worry at not finding that picture I couldn’t help smiling, remembering and even yearning for all the days gone by. 

Then my eyes were arrested on a memory of one of my kids’ birthday celebrations. Once again the regret of that day creeped up on me. How can some things be so vivid so many years later? It was no big deal to him, he enjoyed himself and he forgave me 😊 but the lesson I learned that day affected and changed me. 

Parenting gives us too many opportunities to respond quickly. All kinds of images conjure up verdad? Here’s one: A friend once told me that in her third trimester of pregnancy she was at a pool party, things were great until a toddler fell into the pool, hijole! And what happened? Everyone froze! Seconds ticked by in slow motion, but she immediately jumped into the pool and pulled that child out and saved a life. Mil veces! Thank God that her big belly didn’t slow her quick response. As parents we need that, but the quick response I’m talking about is with words and judgments, asi es. 

Sometimes people, that means me too, tend to be quick with words and responses, not stopping to consider a situation more closely. This can be costly or hurtful. Here’s a lesson I learned as a newbie mother. 

Although I was new at parenting I recognized that follow through was critical. Follow through meant your word was reliable. If you said you would do it, then you should. Maybe I was incredibly strict with this because God had delivered me from habitual lying. It was no longer my habit. So how does this apply to parenting? Bueno, God really helped me teach my first born and later my other kids that lying was sin, an ugly violation which only led to bigger lies, problems and unnecessary hurt. What I said to my kids I meant. If they were misbehaving and I threatened with a certain consequence, I followed through, I needed to be careful with my words verdad? Mira lo que paso, 

My 5 year old was starting kindergarten and it was nerve racking for all kinds of reasons I conjured up. At his Spanish Immersion School, he was going to learn Spanish since his mother was miserably failing at teaching him. No me juzguen, don’t judge me, just hear me out. Although I speak, read and write Spanish well enough, it’s not at the forefront of my mind. Acuerdense, I was born and raised here in the United States. Besides, in our home; the Greene household, we spoke English. Needless to say I needed help if I wanted my son to learn Spanish, so off to the immersion he went.

Spanish Immersion

 Immersed in Spanish, like when you get dunked in the pool was my 5 year old at school. Teachers, aids, administrators, most all adults spoke only in Spanish, he was lost in a sea of spanish words. For Kindergarteners communication was mostly charades and facial expressions for survival in those first few months. 

Good Card-Bad Card

The other thing they got immersed in was color coded behavioral cards. Each teacher; Senora o Senorita, had her own “code of conduct” color system. It might have been like this: green, yellow, orange and red cards. Every child started their day with a the green card for good behavior (no association with my name 😏 ) As the day wore on and infractions happened a child would get warnings for disrupting and get their card changed to yellow. If they continued to digress, they would be demoted to orange. Finally, after several warnings a child would get the dreaded red card. Shame! Shame! Daniella called it “the walk of shame” as the guilty child had to walk up the aisle while all eyes were on him or her and change the card under his or her name to the repulsive red card. Only if it wasn’t too late in the day, he or she might be able to regain the good conduct green card.

The Red Card

After getting over his nervousness of a new environment Jonathan was enjoying his independence, maybe too much. He tended to talk to his new friends in English, at the wrong times and with no volume control. He tends to be loud like his mother, a naturally booming voice. (I must say that today he is a good preacher :)) Pues ya te imaginas! It got him in a lot of “red card” trouble. La Maestra had already pulled me aside on Open House night to tell me about Jonathan’s talkative ways. I tried all kinds of threats and disciplines to get him to change “the error of his ways” By the time March rolled around, I was tired of the red cards. I must tell you that Jonathan when he was confronted by the teacher about disrupting, if he was guilty, he admitted it. He didn’t wait to be found out, he always disclosed the truth about the red card even though he knew he would get in trouble, he didn’t want to be a liar. Those red cards became his thorn and my nightmare!

My son’s birthday was around the corner. How could a red card put such a gloomy outlook on a birthday? February was closing in on us and the red card taunted me one Thursday afternoon. Como pues? I said to my not so self-controlled 5 year old “If you promise not get a red card for the next few days we’ll have your birthday party, otherwise we won’t”  What did his birthday have to do with the red card? At that point I wasn’t asking for a green card (no pun intended) I was asking for any color but a red card. 

The race was on. Red was chasing him through the class room but he finished the week with no red stains. It worked! Then it didn’t. He stepped off the bus the next school day and he wasted no time in telling me about the latest red card. We both cringed at the ugly truth. 

Que iba hacer? Birthdays have always been a “Let’s have a big party” occasion for me. Invite friends, family and have a great feast and fun. Everything was set and the invitations were out. I had to cancel, Jonathan got a red card and the judgment had already been pronounced, there was to be no party. Porque dije eso? Why had I threatened to punish him like this? Really? No birthday Party? Oh God, I was wrong to speak without thinking. I truly am not sure which of us was more sorry. 

I took him outside to the backyard and there I explained as best you can to a 5 year old that his birthday party would be cancelled. For a moment I think he believed his day would be erased from the calendar, then he realized he wouldn’t have friends over. The piñata and the candy wouldn’t be used and worse still, was all the gifts wouldn’t be lavished on him and he was sad. I cried because I regretted my words. I got a red card that day.

En Conclusion:

I did follow through and cancel his birthday party that year, we quietly celebrated his birthday with pizza and cake. His amigito Richard came to dinner that evening. 

Dios Mio! I learned a valuable lesson that day in parenting, beware of loose cannonball words and foolish empty threats because what you say matters. Thank God for His mercy, my son grew into a man of God. He’s using that powerful voice as a preacher today.

Pastor Greene and his proud Mexican-American Mama


Me imagino, that every parent has that “lesson learning” parenting occasion in life that makes you stop when you feel the pinch of reprimand and you recognize, “O.k. I’m not going that way again” Andale, tell me, what have you learned from your kids? Have you turned that “red card” day into a lesson learned and a profitable tool?

My Wedding Day Planning

Maybe this post should be titled “How Not To Plan Your Wedding.” As Jane Eyre cried “Gentle reader, may you never feel what I felt then”  It was an excruciatingly, emotional, anxiety filled season. Que exagerada verdad? Little did I know that that was easy-peasy, compared to the weddings out there in the big wide world beyond my life. After assisting a daughter, and a daughter in law in their preparations, I can see that I barely scratched the surface of all the complex wedding planning details that are out there.

The days after I was engaged to my cold blooded Englishman I didn’t even think about the wedding, I thought about my flaco, he was gone on Westpac and I was sad and lonely, pobrecita noviecita. I wasn’t a child bride, but I certainly felt like a little girl who had lost her favorite teddy bear.  I stared at my engagement ring and wondered if I really would be married to Benjamin Walter one day. In front of the mirror I sounded out what would be my married name, Rosalba Greene. That sounded weird. I think it was supposed to be Rosalba Zepeda Greene. Hmmm? Would I ever get used to this new name?

My days were busy with work and church, still no planning. Some of the families at church might have been feeling sorry for me because I was getting many dinner invites and I was truly appreciating my friends. Soon I was getting letters from mi fiancé and we were counting down the days for his return. Talking about married life, wondering what our kids would look like, but no mention of a wedding day. Three months into engagement, I was feeling like I could make it, especially since I was truly enjoying all that home cooking, so much so that I was putting on weight.  

Wake Up Call

My roommate, who was my bestie and my appointed maid of honor, came home from a long trip overseas. She took one look at me and said something about my weight. She was shocked and I was…. Hijole! I was sad? Mad? Definitely no longer glad to see her! Gorda?! Is that what she called me? Had I really gained that much weight? Unbeknownst to me, I had gained 25lbs in 4 months. Imaginate!!

The drive home from L.A. airport was not a happy one, I was sullen and she was tired and she had more to ask. 

How’s your wedding planning going? Que? Wedding Planning?  That opened up the floodgates that would remain open probably until my wedding day.  I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know what I wanted. Are you kidding?! It took 2 years to sort out my emotions and heart about marrying my gringo, how was I supposed to know what color scheme my wedding should have? The dress is supposed to be white right? We would have enough color variety in our lives in marriage! For the next 2 hours she drilled me about the wedding date, my wedding dress, our invitations, the ceremony and reception. What kind of bouquet would I have? What about her dress? What did I want her to wear? Dios mio, what was going on? I had to choose a dress for her? After the barrage of questions, like a true maid of honor she walked me through a simple plan, bueno, it was supposed to be simple. 

The race was on now. The first real ceremony and reception I would ever plan and I discovered that planning a beautiful reception of any kind wasn’t my calling. Thankfully, marriage is about life after the wedding (porque, I can cook a delicious meal for a beautiful reception).. I figured out my wedding date. That was a tricky because we wanted to be married as soon as he got off the boat from WestPac in July, but we had to settle for a day in September.

I had my dress, and after a tedious time of choosing paper and envelopes my invitations were printed in both Spanish and English. I breathed a bit easier when they were all mailed out. My color scheme was settled (colors I don’t even like, I don’t know why I chose them?) Someone helped me with a plan for my flower arrangements and bouquet. My wedding cake was ordered. Ben bought his suit overseas and his wedding ring. Those are the big parts, and that pretty much sums up wedding planning.

Vamos , Let’s go to the week before the wedding day. My Benjamin had been home over a month, we hadn’t rested, he was getting fidgety, his mom and brothers were coming to town just before the weekend, just the thought of meeting my future in-laws for the first time made my stomach churn. Did I mention that the stress of planning my muy sencilla wedding  had knocked off those 25 lbs.? That was a Romans 8:28 situation for me! Asi es, I was my skinny size. That Sunday the week before my life changed and I would become Mrs. Benjamin Greene, I was tired and anxious but I was looking forward to my life with Ben. 

Stop The Wedding

Then I got the call. Mi ama, she was in the hospital, she had had a stroke. We didn’t know much else, so I packed my bag and waited for my sis Marina to pick me up. This would be the beginning of a long relationship with Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley Ca. 

It was a quick 2 1/2 hour drive, but they were also the longest 2 1/2 hours of my young life. I had never seen what a stroke could do. My family was in the waiting room. My ama was stable, but resting, I could tell she was different.

The next couple of days were fuzzy and confusing. I had to be at work and what about my wedding? Marina and I drove back and forth a couple of times, so tired and blurry eyed,  and in those times I barely saw Ben, we were both feeling the weight of this. Then I got a call from the person taking care of my wedding flowers. She said the whole deal was off, she said I wouldn’t be getting flowers from that vendor. There would be no flowers for my wedding. Would there be a wedding? I cried, I didn’t know what to do. I had to talk to Ben. 

I calmed down and was alone with both my parents in that hospital room. My ama’s expressions were marred by the stroke. She knew she wouldn’t be at my wedding and she was sad, I didn’t want her to miss my wedding. It was hard to see her like this, I told her I would postpone it until she was better. She wasn’t speaking, she really couldn’t. My dad spoke for them. They had talked after the doctor had talked to them. Mom would be at least another week in the hospital before they could transfer her. They didn’t know how long her recovery would be. They didn’t know where she would go for recovery. I think we both remembered my graduation day, we both cried. Ama had missed my graduation day, she had been in the hospital then too. I still didn’t know what to do. As my mother held my hand, Dad explained that I must go on with the plans for my wedding, he talked about them being old and me starting my life. He assured me that he would be at my wedding for both of them. I am a person of many words but I couldn’t speak the words I had within. Of course I wanted dad there, but how does a girl get married knowing her mother wouldn’t wear the pretty dress she bought for the wedding. No flowers and no mama on my wedding day. There is a chasm of forgotten feelings, I truly don’t recall how I moved forward.

Ben was much relieved to know that the wedding was still set for September 25.  Y asi paso, we were married that day.

I was able to order a bouquet, guess where? A big chain grocery store! Besides not knowing what I was doing I was in a daze on so many different levels. The grocery store flower shop had flowers in my color scheme peach and teal, (ya se, peach and teal??? maybe it was popular in the 80s?) and the florist seemed excited to put together a bouquet for such an important occasion.

So I married my Benjamin and shared a meal with our guests. Then we rushed to the hospital, like I had done on my graduation day and got on the elevator with my esposo y apa. There was ama all by herself on that hospital bed and her face lit up when she saw us come in, the stroke couldn’t hide her joy.  I leaned on her as she laid there. My beautiful ama welcomed my Benjamin into her life. We both leaned into her as the nurse took our picture. I wish I knew what my mother was thinking that day, maybe like a mother does she felt anxious for my happiness, no se, she couldn’t really speak. I was different again, now I was a married woman. De veras? A married woman! 

When we got back from our honeymoon, I went straight to visit mom at her rehab here in San Diego. Now I would be able to be with mom everyday and help as much as possible in her recovery. Her stroke recovery was difficult for her, she never quite fully recovered, she went home to be with Jesus a few months after she went back home with my apa.

Lost Treasure

I cried again as I remembered these days, I cried harder when I couldn’t find my pictures with my ama. I felt the loss all over again and I have to tell myself just now that I’ll see her again one day in my wedding dress. My treasures weren’t completely lost, my Benjamin uncovered my most important picture after some digging and praying, “Oh God, help my wife find this picture, in Jesus name”.

With 33 years behind us we have many many pictures.

Our Cord of Three Strands – 33 Years of Destiny

A marriage contract can sound so serious, verdad? How about a wedding vow, a heartfelt promise, a covenant, I remember using all these to consider the weight of marriage.

I just got back from a sweet country wedding in the beautiful state if Oregon. My bestie’s son was married. Oh how I appreciated the “Cord of Three Strands” tradition, a beautiful picture of marriage with God in the mix.  As it always happens when I am at a wedding, I am pulled back into the  memories of my own love story. 

Watching the young couple, I caught my breath, as I remembered the butterflies that  grabbed me on my own wedding day. Today marks 33 years of marriage with my Benjamin, my flaco, my orejónel amor de mi vida. For Ben, I wanted to shine and I did. It was a simple wedding, no embellishments, no glitter except what comes from pure and genuine love.

The Truest Love

I come from the 80s, and I come from dysfunction. Marriage wasn’t something I wanted or cared for. Having a boyfriend was cool, but I saw too much heartbreak in marriage to hope for any good to come from it. My 18 year old self felt a strong conviction that marriage was for the blind.

Pero una noche, on a clear hot dessert night, the truest love came. I gave myself completely to the only one who could heal my heart. Imaginate! I was a new girl and I began to view marriage differently.  In His hands my broken heart would be mended and one day I would marry the right one, at the right time. 

Then came Ben. Otra vez me enamore, I fell in love again, but we came from different worlds. It’s true, opposites do attract. He liked me, I liked him, he was cute, but he was too quiet. I couldn’t figure him out.

I wish I could say it was a lovely transition, a beautiful dance of courting. It wasn’t, neither of us can dance. Ya se, how can a Mexican have no rhythm? My desire was there, I liked that foreigner from the East coast; un gringo! My heart fluttered whenever I looked at Ben.  He couldn’t be the one. White wasn’t on my radar, I wasn’t trying to choose him. Ben had chosen me and when his gaze lingered on me, I could not deny what was unfolding. I needed time, I needed assurance, and I needed God in the mix of it all. We took our time. Have I told you that Ben is a patient man?

Marriage was a serious matter for me, I was apprehensive about the “embellishments” of a mixed marriage. As usual, I sorted out my thoughts, worries, and emotions and I clung to my terapista (my journal)!  I laid everything out, all the intricate parts of my thoughts, what I considered pros and cons, and ALL the differences… It helped me come to a good conclusion and move forward. I’ve never played with legos, pero, if you have kids then you have seen and felt the intricate pieces of a “lego work” when it’s laid out. Ouch!  That’s how writing can be, words thrown onto the pages of my journal or notebook, for later use. Saco todo, I just kind of unpack everything in my journals, eventually I circle around to it again. (37 years of journaling books do take up space pero ni modo, I’m old school, I’ve got to have the hard copy!)

When the time came to say those precious vows, my whole heart was ready.

I, Rosalba Zepeda, take thee Benjamin Walter Greene, to be my wedded husband from this day forward…. Oh what sweet love….

I wrote this poem a few years ago about that journey to the altar, remembering those promises I made as a starry eyed young bride. Here’s a glimpse of that walk down the aisle to my Benjamin. 

Destined

He wasn’t my first love, or even my choice

As I walked in my new life, I happened upon him

Two different worlds, the East and the West

A cold-blooded Englishman was calling on me?

As I walked in my new life, I happened upon him

He seemed not to notice my very brown skin.

A cold-blooded Englishman was calling on me?

He weathered the time and my chaos within

His strong white hand covered my young brown skin

As I poised for the battle, he watched with few words

He weathered the time and my chaos within

 God lighted the path that I carefully took

As I poised for the battle, he watched with few words

An array of bright colors our differences made

Our God lighted path we joyfully walked

He wasn’t my first love but with time he was my choice

Our Cord of Three Strands

More than three decades might not seem that long, but it is most of my adult life, more than half my lifetime. Mira nomas!  God’s hand has been on our marriage covenant. 

I don’t want to discourage anyone, especially my two bachelor sons but, some of those 12,045 days of the last 33 years were lived in reverse and the only one who could push us forward was the third person in our marriage cord, Christ. Through Him, with Him I can confidently say “I do” again and a again. I’ve seen the blessing of him holding us together.

The echoes of laughter resound in my mind as I remember our moped drive around the city of Mazatlan Mexico. Young, inexperienced and without credit cards, Mr. and Mrs. Greene moved along the busy streets to see what we could see, enjoying each other more than the beautiful beaches surrounding us. Life came hard and fast. As a young wife, I felt the gape of loss when my ama passed into eternity, who would guide through the early years in my kitchen? Y mi amor, my quiet Benjamin never left my side. I still hear Ben’s calm voice  saying, soothing my fearful cries, “It’s ok, it’s gonna be ok,” when the doctor told us he would have to do a C-section to deliver our first baby. Then I was there again on that operating table, ready to receive our second boy. Imaginate el gozo! When our little bundle was a wee little girl!

Oh how I felt the chasm of east to the west when Ben had to leave me to be with his mother as she finished her days here on earth. I had to be strong, I couldn’t be needy, Bens mama was dying. Pero que feo sentí esa separación. Separations were and are hard for me.  Again I say, hats off to the Navy wife. A heartfelt appreciation and salute for our military families

These are only a few recuerdos, highlights  from the first decade of our life together. God has given us an abundant life together. It wasn’t perfect or painless, but it was beautiful. A marriage covenant with Jesus in it, is the way to go.

I am a Writer

I probably spent way too much time just trying to come up with a catchy title for this post. Hijole!  This post feels like a desperate plea to get approval or accreditation. Who is gonna give me that final stamp of approval? If this feels like an explanation as to why I’m even here, it is. I need to remember, quizás mi propia voz, my own loud voice needs to tell me to get to writing!.

Voices In My Head

The many opinionated voices inside my head make me lose my way. Esperate! No estoy loca, or maybe I am just a little crazy. You know those sneaky mockers question why am I here, in this blog? Doubting Thomas (not my Thomas 😆) truly questions: Que fregados estas haciendo?! Deveras, sometimes it’s the loudest voice screaming: What the heck are you doing? Really? You think you belong here in Writers land?

Some days my voice is really soft, if you know me, that’s pretty incredible to believe, ya se. It whispers to those loud intimidating voices. “I want to write” Que?! They laugh at me and some days those snickers push me into a corner and I won’t write. Pero, gracias a Dios I don’t stay there long, because I want to write. 

Me gusta escribir. Sometimes it’s a lot of work, pero I like it anyway. When I was in university so long ago my english T.A said “you’re a good writer” Deveras? Was a good writer supposed to put some of her dirty laundry on paper? Especially on papers that were graded? Still, I allowed myself some flattery in that comment, it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling inside. 

Then, years later, a very important person in my life asked me to write a letter of recommendation where I described my relationship with the person requesting the letter. When I was done and the letter was submitted, that person said “You’re a good writer” Pues ya sabras, it was like yeast in my brain. The idea grew, was I a good writer? If that person thought so, then it must be, verdad? Now it was more that a good feeling inside and it was more than therapy.

My Writing Plan

Photo by Jess Bailey Designs on Pexels.com

In a different post, I describe my writing as a therapeutic relief, and it is. Mapping situations out with some embellishment, helps me work things out. But all of a sudden, when I got inspired to  write a short story or a skit, I began to do it as if someone else would one day read it. Yes, I neatly, or not so neatly filed  it in my different folders, almost ready to be read by other eyes. I totally enjoy just getting the scenes out of my head and onto paper, quisas someone would enjoy reading them? That yeast was really growing, imaginate! I was bold enough to create my first blog. Asi es, choosethenarrowpath.blogspot.com, was born. I did this toda solita. All alone in the blogging world I began to learn a lot about the hard work of writing, but the desire to share wasn’t quenched despite my lack of skills in the tech world. The lack of readers did slow me down on that platform, but my folders kept growing. 

As the idea of sharing my writing grew, another one did too. The fact that I had never finished my degree bothered me now. Going back to college and finishing my degree, or at least improving my writing skills seemed doable now. I had been way too busy and focused on raising my children and teaching them to walk on the narrow path while juggling life. Besides I had absolutely no time, energy or money for my schooling. Luego, Thomas, my last child, entered high school and I had time again. Did abuelas go to college? 

Back to School

I was glad for the opportunity and  I shyly shared with Ben, my family and dear friends my dream to be a published writer. Going back to school would boost my confidence and sharpen my pencil. It was the weirdest, oddest feeling. Walking back into the college culture, I felt like I was walking back into the 80s, back to UCSD.  A 50 something year old grandmother feeling those butterflies, those awkward moments of not knowing anyone. Inside I was 18 again, but thankfully, God kept me grounded as I stayed focused on the academics and I loved the stimulation that came with learning. Pero, it was short lived. Ya se, the roller coaster of life. My apa needed me. As a full-time caregiver I didn’t have time again, and I chided myself “tonta.” That was silly, of course I was too old and too busy for schooling again. I was disappointed, but my writing didn’t stop.

 My collection of stories grew, especially since my apa was unloading all his memories. I worked on my historical fiction short stories and I hung on to my blog. As dad grew weaker my writing experiences grew further apart, for a long while my journal was the only book I wrote in.

As my apas last chapter in life came to a close, I grew frantic with writing. Como pues? How could he just leave? Was tercera edad, 96 years of living reason enough to close a chapter? I hadn’t gotten my collection of his stories in rough draft order. How would I get the stories out if he left? 

In the midst of a busy emotionally packed season of caregiving, the idea for a different blog came up. My daughter and I brainstormed about a title, and presentation. It would be here that I would bring my experiences, my fathers y todo lo demas, all things pertaining to Rosalba. I was finding my voice. What was my voice anyway, besides loud that is? Daniella, is a visionary, and she said, “Mom you just keep writing, don’t worry about things.” For me it’s a good plan 😉.

Man! It felt good to write like I talk. In my other blog, I write like I think. I hope that makes sense. I have a million questions on the most important person of my life; Jesus, and there I ponder on “the deeper” stuff. Daniella describes it as reflective or thoughtful. “My diary in the corner of the internet”. My besty often wonders “what must it be like in your brain” She says it’s constantly tracking! Anyway, all that to say, I found my voice and it was comfortable.

With all the emotion that came in those last days of dad’s passing, also came a need to write, a renewed desire to write, a desperate clinging. I wrote and Daniella handled the rest. We’re a good team, she’s alot like her daddy, muy paciente. ☺

In conclusion,

Today, with things a bit more settled, I’m back in school and on the write path. This is the beginning, but just getting on this path was a journey in itself. Hijole! 

I imagine that everyone who has a dream or passion jumps on the  hope train and has to travel sometime before they arrive at their destination.

A Wedding Day Miracle

Todo el mundo is wanting to know about my little nietas hemangioma story. Miren, I had much interest in the Sippy Cup post so I’m going to share more of Rachels experience, because it was definitely un besito de Dios, for my daughter in-law Denise also.

Rachel’s Birth

Rachel was born a few days before her due date, she weighed in at just over 6lbs. and 19 inches long. All was well when she went home from the hospital the next day. 

On their first day home Denise noticed that Rachels bottom lip was tight,and red on the right side. She also felt excruciating pain when the baby couldn’t latch, this was just the beginning. 

Protocol required that she take her baby for a followup within 2 days of birth and Denise was relieved, she needed to know what could be happening to her baby. 

It was a routine check up. All was well, the doctor said, Rachel was fine, and she had been, no signs of pain or distress other than the issue with nursing which brought up the question of the tight, red and a little puffy skin on the area of her lip. The doctor re-examined her and concluded that her lip was simply chapped! Nothing to worry about, a little balm on it would heal it right up. Oh! And be sure to schedule Rachels 2 month appointment. Pero, algo estaba mal. Denise felt uneasy about the baby. 

After the appointment Denise asked others about the red mark and soon discovered it was a ‘strawberry birthmark’. She began to research strawberry birthmarks. Everything she read said that they were harmless. She learned that it would grow and eventually after a few years it would most likely fade. This helped ease Denise’s anxiety. 

Denise had her 6 week appointment and her gynecologist confirmed that it was “a strawberry birthmark” As the days progressed, Rachels birthmark had spread across to half her lip and down her chin and it had puffed up, but still she was ok. 

Two Month Appointment

Rachel was 2 months old and her birthmark was dark red and puffed out. When the pediatrician saw her she was surprised at the size and rate it was growing, just a little concerned she said she would give her a referral for the dermatologist, there she could get a cream for it. 

One look at lil Rachel and the specialist knew that it wasn’t just a strawberry birthmark. Rachel was dealing with a hemangioma  which is common and more so in girls and caucasion children. Pero mira, What I didn’t tell you is that because of where the birthmark was situated, on her lip, it was probable that she could be dealing with a more severe and rare condition called PHACE syndrome. “the uncommon association between large infantile hemangiomas, usually of the face, and birth defects of the brain, heart, eyes, skin and/or arteries.” Ya se imaginan how my poor daughter in law must have felt. The doctor needed to find out immediatamente which, if any of Rachel’s organs were affected, her life depended on it. An MRI and several other major tests were requested. She would have to go under anesthesia to endure the testing. Luego! To make matters worse, her skin had stretched to such a degree that it had begun to ulcerate. 

As the family waited for an opening for the testing, Rachels ulcers grew deeper and with it came  pain. It was so difficult for the poor baby, whenever she nursed she yelped in pain, then she began to skip meals. Dios mio!, how difficult it was to watch our baby suffer.

The day of the testing fue un dia largissimo! A long and almost too hard to endure day. My dear 2 month old nietecita had to fast for 12 hours and be sedated for the tubes to go down her nose, a  camera that would reveal her internal condition. Oh what immense relief it was to discover that her organs were fine. Now, the doctors could implement a plan to control the rapidly growing hemangioma with a strong medication called Propranolol Hijole! Such a strong medicine but now there was the issue of the open ulcer that was continually open and painful. 

The medication was started immediately, but en realidad, the more urgent matter was the desperate pain lil Rachel almost constantly felt. The doctor had also prescribed a numbing gel that relieved her for about 45 min when applied. Things were getting desperate. 

Its hard to look at these photos and remember how difficult that time was. you can see how desperate we were and imagine how much pain she was in.

(Around this time, the sippy cup story took place.)

Wedding Bells 

During all this time, Denise and Jonathan (mi hijo) were doing all they could to keep life as normal as possible. The older 2 girls were feeling the absence of their momma. Many evenings Denise sat in their dim lighted bedroom comforting Rachel. In the midst of all this, like a spring bouquet, the family was having a wedding. My nephew Emmanuel (aka Meño) was to be married to our unofficially adopted daughter, Sierra, Oh happy day! Meño is a loyal primo, he picked Jonathan to be his best man. Hemangioma or not! Jonathan would do all he could to help his cousin on his wedding  day while helping Denise take care of Rachel.

Just days before the wedding, things hadn’t improved for Rachel, in fact, the hemangioma was quite large and the ulcer was constantly open. Laser treatments had only left a deeper gash on her lip and didn’t help. The doctor had pronounced that another level of treatment was needed. An infusion of the medication would be introduced the following week, the infusion would reach her heart quicker and thus hopefully affect the hemangioma and stop it from growing. ¡Qué desesperación! What a desperate feeling to see your baby in so much pain and growing disfiguration, 

Denise was desperate, the doctor’s solution was not her only hope. She clung to God’s word and allowed the popular song Even If by MercyMe  to comfort her. Through tears and desperate cries while the family prepared for the wedding, she held and comforted her baby and cried out to her God. “God I know you can, you are my hope, regardless of what doctors tell me. I’m gonna pray everytime she cries, I’m gonna beg until you do something Lord, because you’re my God.” The Wednesday after the wedding, plans for the treatment would be set.

Wedding Day Miracle

“Even if” tears came on the Sunday morning of the wedding, Denise knew there would also be tears of joy on Meño and Citas wedding day, she dressed her girls, then herself joyfully. 

In Jesus People weddings everyone is invited to the ceremony. The bride is not necessarily the center of attention. although all eyes are on her. In that beautiful magical time while the bride and groom look into each other’s eyes and promise themselves one to another “til death do them part” Rachel rested, the numbing gel had not worn off yet, so Denise breathed easy, sighing as the groom kissed his bride. Mr. and Mrs. Zepeda were introduced and the cheer went up, Rachel stirred. 

In the midst of hugs and kisses through joyful tears, someone bumped Rachel and we all froze. Seconds seemed to drop noisily as we waited. Que?! Where were the piercing cries? Denise took her quickly to nurse her. Since she still hadn’t cried out in pain she would wait for the numbing cream. Despite all the commotion of a wedding reception somehow both Rachel and Denise were at peace.

At home that evening Rachel still hadn’t needed the relief gel medication. She nursed and was quite content even though her ulcer was quite open and messy. The next day Rachel was still muy agusto, nursing and happy all day long. Denise was so relaxed herself that it wasn’t until she looked down at Rachel in her arms and saw a line across the ulcer of her lip. It was closing! That’s when reality hit her. Jesus had healed Rachel! Since the day before at the wedding she hadn’t had piercing painful cries and she was nursing without a struggle. Y ahora, she could see the wound beginning to heal. 

The next day, Tuesday. Jonathan took his family to SeaWorld to celebrate. 

Now they couldn’t wait to see the doctor the following day. 

At the doctors office, Denise could not hold it in. The moment the doctor walked through the door into their examination room she blurted out “She has no more pain! Jesus has healed her” But of course the doctor must examine Rachel, after all the strawberry birthmark deformed by the ulcer was still very visible. The doctor speculated that perhaps the medication was taking effect? That couldn’t explain how the ulcer was closing and the pain was suddenly and completely gone. 

While I am eternally grateful to doctors for their hard work, on this occasion God stepped in to help our little Rachel. It is our wedding day miracle.


Rachel Daniella’s first 3 months of life were incredibly difficult but as soon as God healed her, she got on with her living. She is no longer the baby, but a big sister and she’s well into her kindergarten year and absolutely loves it. Denise swears by Abeka Academy for her homeschooling needs. If you look closely at Rachel you’ll see the scars of the days gone by and I can only thank God for his goodness always.

Mi Spanglish Dictionary

Someone, suggested that I create a Spanish/Spanglish glossary for my readers, especially as I’m putting in order my writing and organizing my dad’s stories. I consulted with my editor and tech team, also known as my daughter Daniella about this and we agreed that  it made sense. Although I write as if everyone will understand me, the suggestion reminded me that not everyone speaks or reads spanish or spanglish. Some posts will have more spanish words or  popular phrases woven in. Some of those words will probably be recognized only by people from my SoCal region, aka my homies. 

I have to make a disclaimer, see if you can follow. I think in English, but will easily and comfortably slip into a volley of English to Spanish and back to English  depending on who I’m talking with. However, In serious Spanish conversations, like when I cannot resort to English because I’ll confuse the “only in Spanish” speaker, a fuerzas I must slow down. My english thinking mind must translate and put the words in correct order before they’re launched.

My Mexican-American Voice

My dilemma is that I like to write in my “take it easy” Mexican American tone. Therefore I skip the accents in the proper places and I use the tweaked spanglish words, like carro for car instead of the more proper automobil. I learned to read and write on my own, self taught, hay si muy muy. I thought that was a  pretty good accomplishment. By the time I had to earn my credits for a foreign language in high school, I chose spanish because you see, I already ready knew it all. Then a few decades later, after we raised our kids,  I enrolled into an advanced Spanish course. Hijole! That’s where I faced the tilde (accent) head on! A nightmare, trapped in a textbook of tilde lessons, the cannonball tildes fired at me in class, and out! My Spanglish self went to hide away. I’m still quite afraid of the tilde, especially when I consider that I will have to face her again. I mean a tilde can change the meaning of a word aside from the pronunciation of it. I would ask the serious Spanish speakers and readers,  tengan misericordia on me. 

A Brief Phonics Lesson

Don’t worry, we won’t get into the particulars of the tilde and conjugating verbs.

A, E, I, O, and U sound like: ah, eh, ee, oh, oo (there are no long and short variations like in english, the E makes a short e sound and the I makes the long ee sound.)

H is always silent.

2 ll’s together sound like this “Ye” with a short ‘e’ sound.

The ñ sounds like “enye” with a short ‘e’ sound.

Y” sounds like “ee”.

Estoy segura, that there are more rules I’m missing. With all that said and in consideration of the non-speaking Spanglish person, I hope this limited glossary will enlighten you a bit. Here’s an introductory list of some words you might see in my posts.  It’ll most likely grow as I continue to loosen my tongue.

Mexican American Girl’s Official Spanglish Dictionary:

Abuela/o-grandmother/father- It might be the official title, but my grandkids call me Ama

Ahora-Now

Ahora mismo-Right now or This very moment

Al Ratito– In a little while

Al Menos– At least

Ama– mom

Apa– dad 

Amonos– lets go

Amoroso-loving

Apurate- Hurry

Andale– come on

Andale! – On target, or Bulls Eye

Arroz-rice

Asi nomas– just like that

Bas-Bus

Basta– enough

Buena onda– good vibe

Bueno– hello (when answering the telephone)

Buenos dias– Good morning

Buenas tardes– good afternoon

Cabezon-Big head, or stubborn

Callate la boca– Shut your mouth

calladito/a– still and silent

Caldito– a little soup

Caldo de res– Beef soup

Caldo de pollo– Chicken soup

Calmate– calm down

Calsones– underwear

Carne-meat

Carne Asada– beef for grilling

Carne para asar– meat for grilling

carnal/a– brother or sister. Also used to greet a friend

Casa-house

Casi nada– almost nothing

Chale– no

Chancla– sandal or flip-flop

Chicali- Nickname for Mexicali, a city in Baja California MEX- (We went to Mexicali almost every weekend, amongst us kids cutting one out a syllable was way cool)

Chino/a– person with curly hair

Chonies– underwear

cochino-dirty

Como dice el dicho– as the saying goes

Como dicen por hay– I’ve heard it said

Confleis– cereal

Corajudo/a– quick tempered person

Culeca/o very proud

Deveras? Really?

De Repente– all of a sudden

Dicho– Saying

Dios te bendiga– God bless you

Disculpa- sorry 

Dolares-Dollars

Don– used respectfully for an older man. Don Manuel Zepeda (long o sound)

Doña- Casual, but respectfully used for women, married or older. My ama was Doña Chuy. 

Dulce-sweet

Echale ganas– Give it all you got.

Egoista-selfish

El Pasado– The Past

Enchilado-red hot angry

Enchiloso– hot/spicy

Entrale!– Go for it!

Esperate– hold on or wait

Estoy– I am

Exagerada– Exaggerate 

Feliz Cumpleanos– Happy Birthday

Feria- money

Fiesta– party

Fijate– look

Fil- Field

Flaco/a– a thin/skinny person

Flojo-lazy

Frijoles– beans

Frijoles refritos-refried beans

Fuerza– force

Gracias a Dios– Thank God

Gringo-A white American of European decent

Gordito/a-chubby

Gordo/a– fat

Guacamole– avocado dip. 

Guapo/a-good looking

Guerro/a-light skin tone person.  

Hace mucho tiempo– A long time ago

Hamas-Never

Harina-flour

Hediondo-stinky

Hermana/o sister or brother

Hermanos-siblings or brothers

Hijole!– Yikes! Or Man! 

Huevos– eggs

ito/a– ending a noun with ito/a will make it a little person, place or thing. 

Jefe-boss, also used to speak about your father

Justo– just

Kernitos- This was gibberish that my sister Patty and I created to great a sweet baby.

Listo– Ready

Loco/a-crazy

Luego-Then

Mal agradecido– ungrateful

Malcreado– rude

Mancha-stain

Mas– more

Mechudo/a-messy long hair

Mentira-Lie

Mira nomas! – Would you look at that!

Mina-Mine as in Mining

Misericordia– Mercy

Mochate– kick back or share what you have. 

Mosca muerta– Someone pretending to be innocent and shy

Mugrosa/o– filthy

Muy– Very

Muy muy– very very.  Usually we use this when someone is trying to be extraordinary. Mostly showing off. For example, someone drives by in a beautiful fancy car, someone else will perceive it as being a show off, so they’ll say “que muy muy”  

Nel– nope

Necio– stubborn

Nieta/o- granddaughter/son

No manches– don’t mess with me or You’ve gotta be kidding!

Novela- soap opera

Nunca-never

Orita– could mean right now or in a minute. I would tell my Apa “Orita vengo” meaning I’ll be back in a minute. But he would say “Orita te vas” meaning you’re leaving right now.

Paisa– someone from your country or region

Papi-daddy

Papitas– Potato chips

Patron– Boss

Pero– But

Pero como? How in the world?

Piedad– Mercy

Plebe– a kid

Por-for

Pobrecito– Poor thing

Pollo– chicken

Porfa-Please

Poquito– a little bit

Prieto– dark skin

Prima/o -cousin

Pronto-quick

Que?– What?

Que onda?– What’s up

Quizas-Perhaps

Quinceañera– 15 year old, also a big celebration for a 15 year old girl

Rollo– issue or story- Everybody has a rollo to unload

Sacate de aqui– get out of here

Sal– salt

Segura/o– sure 

Si-Yes

Simon– yup

Sinverguenza– without shame

Tele– Television

Tenis-sneakers

Ten/Tengan– have

Tercer Edad– elderly

Tia/o– aunt or uncle

Tilde- accent mark

Transa-hustled or hustler

Troque o Troke– truck

Tu-You when addressing a peer

Ubicate– get your bearings, get situated

Usted- When addressing a stranger or older person

Viejo/a– old

Viaje– a trip

Wacala!– yuk

Yo– me

Zorillo-skunk

As I wrote this post, I felt like I was in class again, I’m shaking off that tilde for now. This will be a growing list, if you have a Spanglish word or dicho to suggest, share it, porfa, we can add to the list and help our non splanglish readers!

I Want to Publish My Dads Stories

I have shared my dream and hope to write and publish a collection of my fathers stories. My sister and I began our caregiving for dad more than 15 years ago, it was quite a journey that ended just last December. I now have a decade and a half of experiences tucked into my journal, where I tend to process everything. A journal is a very inexpensive therapist and a patient listener. 

As I moved along in my caregiving experiences I realized that my apa was telling his life stories and experiences, hijole! I am thankful that I started taking notes.

I had to have a pen, paper or any available writing tool and surface to record his stories. The most random activities or situations provoked dad’s early memories and I had to be quick with the draw of my pen. Sometimes, I was quick enough to open up my notes on my phone, but other times, napkins, newspaper pieces, scraps of packaging or backs of cartons, asi es, I began to capture his story. Ya se, you’re probably wondering why I just didn’t video him. I did try a few times, but I’m terrible with my phone and it’s camera. Grabbing a pen was quicker.

As life would have it, my apas life, se fue gastando poco a poco. As dad got weaker we got busier with his needs. It was too hard to remember to write notes, I had to focus on the present with him. We had to talk about current things so he wouldn’t forget his children or brothers. He had too many nietos y bis nietos to even try to stick them into his memory. I had to lay aside my yellow folder where I collected my notes. I didn’t realize that those current events would soon also be stories to share.

Closing A Chapter

In those last days as I watched my father close the chapters of his life, I was frantically writing posts for my blog. It was therapeutic, quizas a desperate attempt to hold onto him here on earth. What in the world was I gonna do without my dad? It was rough to turn to the last page of our time with dad. I had a lot of time to plan this moment, it wasn’t supposed to happen asi nomas. Really, I don’t know what I hoped for or wanted to see in this last page. 

Since my dad’s passing I’ve kept writing, but his stories had remained in my files barely opened. My yellow folder sat tucked away in my desk drawer. 

I have plenty of reasons, excusas, to explain my paralysis in writing the “collection of my dads stories” book. One big one was the lack of information. Many of his memories lack description or have gaps. Could his accounts, his memories be considered a story if they lacked detail? I mean, he did give me all the information he considered vital. So I’ve sat at my desk, many days just twiddling my thumbs, wondering how to proceed.

Renewed Vision

Out of nowhere, mi prima shared some youtube videos of the history of my apas childhood towns! La Mina del Amparo. It was right there on the world wide web! Pero como? She saved the day, the book, and maybe even the writer.

Esperate, I had researched El Amparo and did have some info already, it was all buried in my files, like the treasures in the minas of old. Something revived in me and I had my vision again. Pues entonces que hice? Unfortunately some things come to us almost too late at times, but I am thankful for whatever I can get. I made plans to go visit with 2 of my apas siblings.

 My prima, who is one of the daughters of one of my dad’s younger sisters, helped me make arrangements for a day trip to see her mom, my Tia Chepina (Josefina). 

It was time to see dads brother and sister, I hadn’t seen them since before dad passed. I was on a mission to get more information and get a link into my family history. Anything and all things would be written down. I pulled out my yellow folder and opened up my files. I had a lot of gaps to fill. I got organized, hay si, muy professional, I wrote down all my questions. I called my sis hoping she would join me, I needed her back up or support, and she jumped on board . Did I tell you I can always count on my big sis?

One of my dad’s younger brothers, Jesus (Tio Chuy), lives here in San Diego, so I picked him up and we drove to Los Angeles.  Mira nomas!, everytime my sis and I looked over at tio Chuy, we saw our apa, unable to describe what happened there in our gut. 

A Sea of Emotions

It was day packed full with emotion. My father was the oldest of 9 children, 7 boys and 2 girls. He was 6 years older than this brother and 16 years older than his hermanita. Tia said that there was 2 years between each child and Tio sadly pointed out that there were only 4 siblings left.

Tia Chepina cried so much at the loss of her 2 oldest brothers who died within months of each other. She had been unable to see them or attend their funerals, covid pestilence marred her final goodbyes. In those last days with my apa, I called her so she could at least speak to him.

It was five days before he passed, and his birthday. He stepped into his 96th year and she was wonderfully amazed at his longevity. 

Apa: (speaking very loudly) Bueno!?

Tia Chepina: (speaking just as loud) Manuel! Hola hermano, como estas? Feliz cumpleaños? (Tia wanted to make sure he would hear that clear resounding happy birthday wish 🥰)

Apa: (speaking just as loud) Bueno!? No se oye. (His last few years the phone always confused him so he was unable hear it clearly)

A few days later, marque su número, easy to dial when you don’t have to look up a number. I hoped hearing his sister’s voice would spur him on in his new year. She cried and expressed her love for him, he wasn’t responding anymore, but her words did not fall to the ground. My dads sister lavishly gives us the love she had for him. 

Now that they are in la tercera edad, my tia is 80 now, they’ve given up their main house and live in a cozy loft upstairs for just her and her husband, disculpa, mi tio Mundo. When we arrived she was busy making caldo de res, imaginate! Que sabroso! I will always put up with L.A. traffic for her cooking. We shared a simple, wonderful meal and I was overwhelmed. While it was sweet, I felt my fathers absence. I rolled my tortilla and gazed across the table to my Tio Chuy, apas little brother. He head bent down, he focused on eating his caldo. Did I mention he is 89 years old, a strong man! Zepeda genes are strong, I’m picturing dad sitting straight up, proving his agility at 95 still. 

Some Missing Links

I came away with some missing puzzle pieces. How my parents met, this was a gold nugget! That’s for another post.

 I got a very small glimpse of my amas mother and I was left thirsty for more. She too had a large family. 

I came away with a better view  of when dad came to America. That time line of his early adult days trying to “find himself” como dicen los gringos,  I loved my tias description of seeing my father for the first time again since being in America. 

Tia: Llego Manuel con su pantalón de mezclilla. Yo y Consuelo no podíamos dejar de mirarlo. Usaba esos pantalones Americanos. She was getting her first eye full of the famous Levi Strauss jeans and couldn’t stop staring at him.

Me: Levi’s? Con botas y sombrero? He had to have been also wearing his cowboy boots and hat verdad?

Tia: Si. Tan guapo que se veía mi hermano. Creo que nos trajo unas muñecas.
With a sigh she admired her handsome big brother and remembered as an after thought that he brought them dolls del Norte.

Tio: Si, todos se fijaban con esos pantalones Americanos, eran muy diferentes. Tio was impressed by those jeans too!

Tia: Manuel siempre fue muy guapo. (She was making sure we all knew it wasn’t just the pants that made him so guapo! 🙂

Oh my goodness, my heart pitter pattered at the idea of her seeing her big brother so handsome looking like a cowboy, my brothers Arturo and Hector look alot like him. Of course Marina and I looked over at each other. Claro que si sabemos how good looking he was, some nurse was always shocked at his age because he looked so good. Imaginate, if she would have seen him in his youth, olvidate!

I must say that while I did ask muchas preguntas and they were absolutely in their glory remembering their youth, I left with plenty of questions  still unanswered, and many new questions. Each new puzzle piece fills in a piece of my dads history and reveals more still to uncover. I’m not sure if I’ll get much more answers, pero we were all happy to have spent the day together. My sis and I cling to whatever we can of our father. I’ve made plans with my prima to do this trip again.

Holding on to My Dad’s Prayer

These past few weeks have been trying times. Sickness hovers over our lives trying to scare us into a corner of not living but existing. Hard times and bad news, make us desperate por tener un momento de tranquilidad. As we hold our breath not knowing what to expect, tears wash out and my heart aches for those loved ones I will not see again until eternity. Not knowing the appointed time, the wait feels endless. 

 I will not lie and say I’ve sat and “waited” for the day I see my ama again, she’s been gone for over 30 years, but I have longed through the years for that mother/daughter relationship & connection. I have a sister in Christ, my  friend who has five beautiful daughters, and oh, I can tell those girls have connected with their momma. Me acuerdo, when I was a new homemaker, “building” my own home. I was barely a few weeks on the journey, I was given a chance to call my ama. I was having a cooking crisis and she rescued me, the stroke she had (a post for another time) didn’t hinder her from coming to my aid.

In her cooking stilo, como todas las mexicanas she set me straight: 

Me: “Ama, ¿cuáles son los chiles que se usan para la carne con chile?”

Ama: “Pues ¿cuales son los que tienes? “

I had forgotten those cooking lessons with my ama! The main lesson was work with what you have, but make it work! I wonder if I’ll be able to share with her my mothering experience with my one daughter? Aguanten me por favor, Un poco culeca. Mi ama would see my daughter and fall in love with her immediately.

Y mis hermanas, Patty and Lupe, se adelantaron! They rushed ahead of me and Marina almost 13 years ago and beat us to heavens gates. I won’t pretend that I wasn’t angry. I had quite a few things to teach my “older” sisters and they me. In the middle of my busy life, while we 4 sisters were enjoying and sharing the episodes of life,  they finished  their race within 3 months of each other. In shock I had to say goodbye for now. Pero sabes, death always feels like that, when you expect it, and while you wait for your loved one to pass, you’re still shocked by it, when you don’t expect it, it knocks you down and takes your breath away.

My apa, no tenia prisa, gracias a Dios , almost took him a century to walk this road on earth. Geographically he was in very small places, almost insignificant, but he broke up much fallow ground and planted many seeds of experience and left quite a legacy of children and grandchildren to carry his name on. Eso! Don Manuel!

 He has only just gone home 8 months ago and the void of his departure esta muy tierno aun. In our home our backroom is still “Tatas room”

I will say that I’ve occupied myself with a goal, a hope or God’s plan to see them again.

My Dad’s Prayer of Gratitude

This long season of pestilence has caused me to examine life.  What are the things that I’m grateful for? The big things and the minute details of my life that I tend to take for granted sometimes, like my daily bread and the very air I breathe that God gives. It was a solidifying reminder to finds my dads prayer.

For as long as  I could remember my apa prayed this prayer at meal times. I can picture him now at our table, ready and waiting to see if he would be called upon to pray. 

“Gracias te damos Senor por estos alimentos que no nos hacen falta.  También  Señor te pedimos por todos aquellos que no tienen alimentos. Ayúdalos y dales la mano, no los desampares. Perdónanos nuestros pecados , pero  siempre que se haga tu santa voluntad. Amén”

Sometimes a line or two was switched up, but it had the same meaning:  

“Gracias te damos Senor por estos alimentos que no nos pones en la mesa.  También  Señor te pedimos por todos aquellos que no tienen alimentos. Ayúdalos y dales la mano, no los desampares. Perdóna nuestros ofensas, pero  siempre que se haga tu santa voluntad. Amén”

 As if someone switched on the lights,  I have truly paid close attention to my apas prayer and realized how profound it truly was. Too many times we throw our prayers out to God without any real conviction, especially at mealtimes, were hungry and we’ve been waiting for that good food so were in a hurry. Hijole! Imaginate, as God sits down to eat with us and hears our “Thank you Jesus, bless this food” my fork halfway to my mouth already, I say “amen”. Maybe it’s because I’ve had a good morning in my prayer already  that I am careless when I thank God for his provision. Whatever the reason, prayer at mealtimes in my life has been lackadaisical. Once in a while, I whisper in my mind, I really am grateful Lord, y si estoy agradecida! despite my mouthful.  My apas prayer has reminded me to be grateful for my life, for the blessings and most importantly grateful for the Blesser.  

Aguanta otro ratito while I unpack his prayer. 

“Estos alimentos que no nos hacen falta”

Thankful for his provision. These days as many fight for their lives, the very air we breathe is a gift from God. ALL our basic needs are remembered in this simple line.

También  Señor te pedimos por todos aquellos que no tienen alimentos. Ayúdalos y dales la mano, no los desampares”

Thankful that we can approach the very throne of God for our needs and our loved ones. They’re too weak, too tired, too much in pain to ask for themselves, but we can stand in the gap for them. A thoughtful prayer that remembers those that are struggling and asks God to also help them in their time of need. Orita mismo, I can think of several friends, loved ones, and friends of friends that are in desperate need.

Perdóna nuestros ofensas”

Thankful that God, the creator of heaven and earth graciously forgives our trespasses. I find it interesting that this line for forgiveness is after asking for the basic needs for ourselves and others. Asking forgiveness of our daily trespasses, my apa knew that even while our needs are endless so is God’s  comfort and grace. A prayer that humbly acknowledges our sinful state that without God in our lives we would be wretched and lost. 

I’m so glad that finally my heart has grabbed ahold of this prayer and I agree with Dad in it and say yes and amen!

 Today let these words  provoke you into true thanksgiving.