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El Amor De Los Abuelos

It’s Thanksgiving week, de verdad que, it’s a good time to see God’s hand at work, he leaves his fingerprints all over our lives. I’m getting old you know, I know you can’t tell …Pero, with more than 5 decades of living, I’ve got some good living experiences under my apron. Imaginate! Soy abuela. Not abuelita or grandma, pero  D’ma or Ama . One of my greatest pleasures is that Grandmother title. How can I describe it? 

It is a daunting time when your first baby is placed into your arms because he wants to nurse, demanding his hunger to be satisfied. His well being, his provision, protection, shaping of his character and his prosperity is in your hands. In that moment all you can think of is calming down a screaming baby and from that point on every one of your senses studies and learns that child and the ones to come. A realization is born that what I do matters, mother bear is on alert. Pero, when that welcoming door to grandparenting opened wide for me. I never would have imagined how that mixture of parent and Santa Claus molecules transfer into your mind and heart once you see that little part of you. That pregnancy announcement is a thrilling chemical reaction to new grandparents!

As a child, I never did experience the love of a grandparent. Mine passed away long before my existence. My apa did give me a tiny pinch of what my grandparents were like, where sometimes I might even see some of my abuelo Angel or my abuela Rosarios genes in us. I have often wondered what life is with a grandparent nearby and accessible. My kids had their Tata mostly in his older years. I do remember how crazy with love my ama would get when her grandkids were near. “Que cosita fina”, she’d utter as this fine little delicate thing laid in her arms. It is an amazing wonder to experience. Almost as if a whole new well of vibrant love is dug up in the land of my inheritance, just for a grandchild.. 

Thanksgiving day is a hustle and bustle day in the kitchen for me. Starting with Ben’s sourdough pancakes. This Thanksgiving was no different except that my apa wasn’t with us and I missed him. En la cocina, I was busy cooking, enough for an army and cleaning to make room for the next dish. Ben led us in prayer, but before that he thanked God for me. Then we prayed my apas prayer and Ben remembered the Greene family prayer too. Now, we could pounce the counter top where the feast lay unawares. I enjoyed my familia, then I stayed on my feet til not a creature was stirring, I dropped into bed sometime before midnight, sweet sleep until the clock struck midnight. A text, then a call from my son, “looks like it’s time Ma, can you come?”

Immediately I was alert. I calmly got ready, making sure I had the important stuff, coffee and Daniella’s pumpkin cookies. I was in my car within 20 minutes. Hijole! No gas for the 20 minute drive. Pues hay voy, getting gas at 1 a.m. before getting on the freeway. It was a smooth drive but Jonathan and Denise were already in their car, he was calling me, I was 5 minutes away. I:53 a.m. After a brief check on Denise, calm and focused, they were off. I quietly went into the house to laydown with Jeremiah. This 2 year old uses a whole king size bed! Twenty minutes later I asked if all was well. “She’s at 7 centimeters” Wow! Yet I dozed off anyway. Jeremiah stirred, reaching for his momma, touching my face in the dark as his little body got close for a snuggle. Yikes! His little hands didn’t recognize me and he sat up and peered in the dark, I kept my eyes closed. Oh how I wanted to comfort him. I felt so sorry for my little grandson. Los Mexicanos, or maybe it’s just the Zepedas have this saying, along these lines “te va a tumbar el burro muy pronto” Which means, you’ll no longer be “king of the hill” or the baby of the house because another is coming. I wondered if little Jeremiah could know how his life would change, especially as he was going from baby to big brother in a matter of centimeters. Jeremiah was studying the situation and his surroundings, probably wondering how his D’ma was in the bed. He looked around and after a while he said, very sleepily 

“Hi Ma” He was calm. He seemed reconciled with the situation and I was relieved. 

“Mommy?” He said. 

“She went to get the baby.O.k.?” Like it was the most normal thing to do. Maybe it is? Her water bag broke at midnight and she had to go out in the dark to get her baby.

“O’tay” he quietly responded, like he wasn’t surprised.   He seemed reconciled with the situation and I was so relieved.

He sat there for a long time, his head heavy with sleep, but he did lay back down and we both had a moment of sweet slumber before I heard the door rattling open. Que?!

“Jonathan! What happened?”

“Didn’t you get the text I sent Ma?”

I looked at my phone and there in my phone, laid my 8th grandchild in his fathers arms. “Que cosita tan fina” He had come into this world just before 3 a.m.

For her 5th delivery Denise had chosen to have her care and delivery at a birthing center; Best Start. Mi hijo didn’t know what to do with all the holistic and natural techniques! He’s used to the clinical methods of the hospital 😀 

“Do you want to get in the tub with her?”

“Do you want to stick your hand in the water to touch the baby’s head?”

“Do you want to keep the placenta?”

“Do you want to take your shirt off for skin to skin with your baby? 

For Denise, it might have been her best experience. She was given liberty to choose her positions and nature took its course. The midwife quickly prepared the tub and herself as mi nuera warned that she needed to push. Mi nietecito poked his head out, decided which way he would make his appearance and tada he made his entrance. Denise was cleaned up and ready for some rest… which she would do at home as soon as Jonathan ran home to get her things. Baby was born at 3 am and by 7:45 a.m. she was back home and by nine his apa came to meet his name sake. Benjamin Walter holds Uriah Benjamin, bien chulo! This little Ben was our 3rd generation of Benjamins, I knew my flaco was honored, I had said to my son that it was fitting and a new tradition for the San Diego Greenes to name their 2nd son Benjamin.

This sounded like a fitting labor and delivery experience for this “get it quick” era. I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences.  It was definitely a beautiful experience for us all, it seemed to close with “HappyThanksgiving and bienvenida es la Navidad. Merry Christmas.” We’ve all had a chance to meet the new baby and rejoice with our son. I am a pleased abuela and very thankful for more increase. 

En Conclusion

Mi hijo says that I’ve turned soft in my abuela era. I don’t know about that, mis nietos know I don’t mess with serious infractions like lying and disobedience and straight up rebellion. I’m quick to put on my mom hat, but I do put it on super lightly. I mean, la abuela doesn’t truly bring down the hammer right? So here’s how it works, if I put out the warning I must follow through so I’m careful how I warn, pues, they are my grandchildren after all and I will show the tough love if my must, but I truly prefer to display the soft sweet love. Gracias a Dios por mis amorcitos

Thank You Jesus For This Food, Amen.

Sharing food with mi familia has always celebrated milestones, created memories and filled our home with so much joy. This weekend I’ll be busy, maybe even in panic mode getting my ingredients together to feed my familia. Ya se, all those well prepared planners are way ahead of the game, pero yo? Well I just hope I find everything I need and if I don’t, I’ll just do like my ama taught me, work with what I have and keep my family happy. It’s a long day in the kitchen for me but I truly do love it when we gather around the table and counter. I am so very thankful for Thanksgiving, and thankful for my food.

Pero, before the Thanksgiving feast food coma, and before the frenzy of grocery shopping I’m thinking warm and fuzzy food thoughts. Remembering those foods that connected me to a love. I’m basking in those occasions that left a jewel in my heart. These are not necessarily Thanksgiving memories, but food memories that I’m thankful for. Mira:

  • I remember my amas avena during the cold desert mornings. Creamy avena for us was either oatmeal or cream of wheat, slowly cooked in leche with a cinnamon stick and teaspoon of sugar (or more) The chilly weather lately has me cooking avena, como me acuerdo de mi ama. She was adamant about avena with breakfast. We couldn’t leave home without a nice breakfast that always started with hot creamy avena.
  • I remember the fresh flour tortillas she whipped up for breakfast lunch or dinner. Absolutely unacceptable to have a meal without tortillas. She taught all her girls to make them, but my older sister Lupe mastered the “art” . One shelf in her fridge had a flat container of premade bolitas, dough balls; that way she only made dough a couple of times a week, and fresh tortillas were served daily in her home.
  • Nancy’s homemade bread- Ya se, from tortillas to bread. That’s how it is in a Multicultural familia. My suegra taught me how to make homemade bread. I’m so thankful for it and I think my family and friends are too since I enjoy sharing it, especially during this time of the year. 
  • Sourdough Pancakes- A Greene family tradition. This is my Benjamins show. Bien presumido! He loves to show off his sourdough pancakes, he absolutely believes the world is missing out not having his sourdough pancakes. They are pretty delicious though. Plenty of times he gets carried away inviting friends over for breakfast on Thanksgiving, a feast before the feast. My boys get so worried that there will not be enough pancakes for their usual 2nd and 3rd servings. 
  • Yams- These are not a big hit in our house. It used to be my sister Patty and I that loved the oven baked brown sugar and marshmallow yams, now it’s just me, it could be that Patty is having her own yams in heaven? Yams at Thanksgiving are another little tribute to my sister.
  • Cranberry sauce- This made the list because every year Ben insists he must have me serve it. I somehow remember to get the cranberry sauce and every year I forget to put it on the table. Asi es, cranberry sauce an old Thanksgiving dinner tradition, or some kind of berry. Pero, my cold blooded Englishman doesn’t notice that it wasn’t on his plate until after the food coma sets in. 
  • 3 Step Cheesecake. Exactamente just 3 steps. We have tasted better cheesecake, sometimes it bakes too dark, but I stick to this easy recipe. It’s easy, it’s inexpensive and now it’s tied to the Greene family. Thanksgiving without our easy 3 step Philadelphia cheesecake is unimaginable.
  • Pumpkin Pie- I can’t make my list and not include pumpkin pie, even though Thomas just uncovered to me this month that pumpkin pie is not a favorite of his on Thanksgiving- is that even allowed to be spoken? Esta loco! Pumpkin pie with whipping cream y un cafecito, mmm  
  • Broccoli salad- Pues, it’s supposed to be Joan’s Broccoli Madness Salad, pero ya sabes, it has becomes Rosies “lito bit of this and that” Broccoli salad. Again, it started off that Patty and I enjoyed the salad, now it’s me and Daniella. My one and one child that eats veggies, likes my broccoli salad. Provecho Daniella! 
  • Thanksgiving Leftovers- Is it possible to cause division in the camp because of leftovers? Sometimes you feel the tension. Patty and I made a pretty good team for our Thanksgiving planning, she forked out the money and I forked out the labor, a win win. One year she had also wanted to buy a turkey dinner from Honeybaked Ham Co. and I told her that was silly, que exagerada. She came prepared with her containers for leftovers. She was shocked and disappointed that she had leftover empty containers. Que langaros! We ate so much she had minimal leftovers to take home that year, or at least that’s how she saw it. Daniella and Thomas help themselves, no questions asked or comments made. Pero Jonathan, he’s  like his tia Patty, he wants to make sure I make enough for him to take home leftovers. Emery, he’s my lil flaco, he doesn’t pay attention until he comes around looking for leftovers then wonders who took them all! Ben simply expects to be served some leftovers the next day. 

The busy days before Thanksgiving make me a little crazy but of course I wouldn’t have it any other way. This Thanksgiving is lined with some sad thoughts. There will be a missing place setting for my apa and it is a second Thanksgiving with Covid hovering, but Gods hand in my life is undeniable and I must remember to Thank him for his goodness and provision. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Acuerdense, that feast is about storing up food memories, not calories.

It’s not about the food really, its about the people we love. When all five senses come together to celebrate with the people most dear to us, the memories last.

Thankful for my Ama

I am thankful for the short 22 years I had with my Ama. She gave a lot for her family, and it’s only in hindsight that I can see the trail she left behind so that I could follow it to find my way. Isn’t it always the case that afterwards we see better? She was a daughter, sister, friend, wife, in-law, mother and grandmother. Looking back makes you see and regret what you missed, it makes me sorry for all the things I didn’t do to make her life easier. I’ve definitely regretted  the attitudes of ungratefulness and the sassy disrespect. Ahora si, I understand un poquito what she must have felt with the weight of her decisions. If only I could tell her all the decisions, sacrifices and labors I’m grateful for. I am praying and believing in God for the opportunity to say all this to my Ama in person one day. Cómo dicen por hay, “Practice makes perfect” I’ll start now:

10 Reasons I’m Thankful For My Mother

  1. For coming to El Norte with my apa. You left so much behind. You left your ama, not knowing when you would see her again. You followed your heart with your ama’s blessing and big brother backing. I remember those days when you spoke about your big brother El Chino. The one who stepped in when your father died. He protected and guided you and took care of you. I remember the respect and grateful heart you held for him and I remember your yearning to be near him again. 
  2. For coming to America, my fathers dream. You gave up much of your culture and comfort to follow him, you gave him all your love and brought it into a new home for him and your growing family.
  3. For insisting on “En esta casa se habla espanol” I’ve managed to retain my Spanish although some might call it my spanglish.
  4. For raising us with some tough boundaries. Thank you for not letting us bully or manipulate you into compromising our safety and our future. 
  5. For persevering in your marriage. When things got difficult and you wanted to throw in the towel, you didn’t. I am eternally grateful for your willingness to establish la familia Zepeda.
  6. For teaching me the unseen side of homemaking. You worked hard and cooked with love in your kitchen. My flaco is thankful too.
  7. For opening your heart and home to your in-law children. Even though you and Ben didn’t speak the same language, your hospitality communicated your acceptance. Your kindness took away my fears.
  8. For keeping us connected to our extended family. I’ve learned so much about you through them.
  9. For believing in me. You always saw good things from me. Yo se que I was a selfish little teenage brat and an insecure young adult but you thought differently of me. Mom, I can’t wait for you to meet my kids- they are great! You would be an abuela clueca with all your beautiful grandchildren and great grandchildren. 
  10. For pointing us to the God of the Universe. Teaching us that our hope rested in the author of our lives. Gracias, that you embraced the things I learned in my born again experience and you rest in peace today. No me canso, I wait patiently (most of the time) for that blessed hope when I see you again ama. 

Mil Gracias Ama (A Thousand Thanks Ama)

Questions for Ama:

I have some snippets of stories told about my amas life, like puzzle pieces. But the puzzle is incomplete. I have so many questions I’d ask her if she were with me today. Those details that mostly us girls are interested in. Ama? What was your wedding ceremony like? Was there a celebration on such a grand day? Ama? What did you feel like the day you knew you were having your first baby? Did you ever think you’d be away from your mother? What did you think when you found out you were having your 9th baby? The questions multiply as I experience things she experienced too, the latina in me creates novelas with such climatic endings. 

Feliz Cumpleaños 

Although I wish I would have had more time to forge an adult relationship with her, I am so grateful for the years and memories I do have. She lived her life in love with her family and it showed by all she gave up. This coming week is her birthday and I wanted to remember her again. Ya sabes, birthdays are for celebrating. Imaginate, God took some time to form and shape us and it’s nice to appreciate Him for that on our birthdays. I’m grateful He shaped my Ama and that He chose her to be my mother to shape me. 

Gracias Te Damos Señor

Tis the season to be thankful. I take too many things for granted, in these strange and difficult days. Good health and strength is something I’m so grateful for, especially as I’m climbing that mountain. Wait! Or am I…. descending the mountain? A healthy mind to process life does not go unnoticed in my book anymore. I’m recognizing again that we have things for seasons and sometimes we get special one time experiences that a grateful heart will tuck away into the memory, sometimes dormant, until something triggers it. Today was a trigger day. 

Usually when things happen they pile up needing attention ahorita mismo! This entire week has been chaotic, as all hands are on deck to plan a baby shower for our 8th, asi es 8th grandchild. As you can imagine everything is a mess, and with the weather being dry, everything is dusty and dirty. De repente, I get notice that I’ll have guests, que exagerada! It only felt like all of a sudden a grenade was launched and I had to get busy to save my life! The room I had to prepare was my apas room. I call it Tatas room. His room has had use, but not often in these past 11 months. I use it and it is not weird or painful to go in it, no mas que ahora I had to do some deep cleaning, and dusting reaching areas that require moving furniture around, ya saben. I had wiped down photo frames with images of dad and family. These faces look right at me whenever I go in, they’re part of the room. Suddenly I was transported back to those initial transition days of taking care of my apa. It was such a confusing and difficult time for him. He said he could do life alone, and he truly believed he still could. He stood his ground, there was nothing wrong with him he argued, he wasn’t stupid and he certainly wasn’t a baby. Dementia was already present but of course he didn’t know it.

We brought my dad’s pictures from his home into his new room.

The straw that broke the camel’s back, was yet another fall in his daycare facility, a blow to the head that sent him to the hospital. My sister and I scrambled. One of his caregivers was with him in the ER waiting for test results and for me to arrive. I already had a room ready for him in my home.

I’m going to attempt to describe what it is to battle Dementia, or mejor dicho, what me and my sister experienced with our apa. Dementia refers to memory loss and the loss of other reasoning abilities. It  is a progressive disease, which when severe enough will alter a person’s ability to function daily. Our apa dealt with dementia of the Alzhemiers kind.  It gets into the brain and squashes out memory and spreads until it reaches across the mind. Many sundown experiences put us into a twilight zone episode where we spun around in circles getting nowhere. “Redirect him,” the nurse would tell us, and when we weren’t bound up in frustration and angry emotions, we could manage that. Some of the more successful evening battles against dementia usually involved dad telling a childhood story from his long term memory archives. I tried to always be prepared with my writing  tools. 

Sometimes the skirmishes at  sundown left me confused! Today, deep cleaning this room, triggered a night time conversation I’d had with my apa. That first night in his new surroundings he was uncomfortable and awkward. We had settled him into bed and he wondered where I was going to sleep since he had taken my bed.

Me: No apa, es su cama

Apa: No, mi cama esta en mi casa

Me: Esta es su casa

He chuckled, like I was being polite, you know how we latinos open our home up, “mi casa es su casa.”  Que casualidad that he remembered that he wasn’t home. Sometimes dementia made me suspicious that perhaps he wasn’t confused, could he be faking it? Apa was worried about where I would sleep. I assured him that I was going to my room but if he needed anything I would hear him call and come check on him. I had a good monitor that picked up even the sound of his breathing.

Apa: Y Ben donde esta?

Me: Apa, Ben esta en nuestro cuarto.

He chuckled again, looking at me sideways. 

Apa: Ese no es Ben! Hijole! Dads long term memory only remembered the young Ben not the… hmmm… mature one 😀

Of course I was offended, dementia or no dementia mi apa was insinuating that another man would be in my bed! Imaginate! I stood up for myself of course and explained and explained again, four or five times, that Ben was the only man for me. I eventually resorted to the redirection trick and it worked. We survived our first night, apenas!  Another thing to be grateful for is my flaco who was patient and kind even though his suegro many times thought he was a stranger in the house.

Dementia torments it’s victims and their caregivers. Y por supuesto, my outlet has been my writing. It cages you up sometimes. At times I felt sorry for my apa and other times I was right in the cage with him. We experimented with him living part time in my home and part time in his, but we realized after a few months that it had only confused him more.

dementia is a humbling experience for both the patient and the caregiver.

I wrote this after a long evening of confusion for him and fatigue for me.

Caged

When are you taking me home?

Dad, you are home.

This is my home?

I must be losing my mind.

Where’s Lupe?

Your wife died last year.

What? I saw her last night.

I must be losing my mind.

Is my mother alive?

She died a long time ago.

Why didn’t anyone tell me?

I must be losing my mind.

Where’s my wallet?

In your pocket.

Where’s my keys?

I must be losing my mind.

Is my car outside?

It’s right outside.

I can’t see it.

I must be losing my mind.

Tell me about your family?

Your husband repairs tires?

That’s my sisters husband,

My husband paints houses.

I must be losing my mind.

When are you taking me home?

You are home Dad.

Don’t you recognize the pictures?

I must be losing my mind.

Dad voiced those words many times when he couldn’t remember and then he would get confused and plenty of times angry because we didn’t understand him. It was a vicious cycle.

Today, I was sad for a moment about that trigger that led me down to that memory, but then I was glad for the opportunity to have lived it.

I am thankful for those years with my dad and for all the years I’ve had with family and friends. I’m grateful for every year that I have a healthy mind, to cherish, understand and appreciate my loved ones.

diy halloween costume graphic

DIY Halloween Tradiciones

Halloween is upon us, my children are all grown up, but my DIY costume shenanigans live on in them and in my grandchildren. The costumes and events of halloween past are popping up again so instead of tucking them away I decided to display some of them. These may not be costumes you’ll find at the thrift store or or at Party City. We usually assemble pieces from around the home for our creations. I wonder what I’ll come up with today for our church’s harvest festival!

DIY

I tread on sacred ground with this DIY acronym. I am surrounded by incredibly talented women who can take an theme and visualize an entire hall beautifully arrayed for a special occasion. Por ejemplo,  “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth” The girls, my daughter Daniella and my adopted daughter Cita, and I are working on a baby shower for my daughter-in-law. They have exploded with ideas and DIY creations. Yo? I pictured arrows in certain directions, and a nice clean area to feast in. 

The harvest festival is next and the ladies who know me will laugh out loud wondering what kind of chicanada I will come up with and call a costume. 

To Halloween or Not to Halloween

Should Christians do the Halloween thing? In those early adult years before having children, Halloween was easy to manage. Our church promoted the gospel on trick or treat day by offering elaborate haunted houses. Lots of preparation and investment went into these presentations. Perhaps a more accurate description would be “reality houses.” A dramatized reality of the consequences that come from our choices. They were exhilarating as we boldly shared what Christ had done for us. My biggest worry was getting myself ready and believing God for a fruitful harvest.

Then came kids… Kids with eyes wide open, excited with expectation of halloween fun. Oh how I felt like my mother! I didn’t want to deal with Halloween like that! Celebrate El Cucuy? Were Christians supposed to do that? Hijole! What a roller coaster ride I got in with the Halloween celebration dilemma. Ya se, my kids just wanted to dress up and get candy, what was the big deal?  Que dramática verdad! Well I sat on that ride for several Halloweens. My older kids, sort of, kind of, mas o menos dressed up.They got some candy, nothing like I got when I was little. I was trying to stay neutral. They managed to not miss out on costumes. One October Jonathan was desperate to wear his cowboy boots and vest to school, and the teachers always accommodate their need for the costume parade. 

Finally, as my older kids were almost into adulthood I came to some resolution about October 31. Ni modo. It is another day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad. Que facil verdad? I need to take a closer look at them and see if they were scarred by those haunting wishy washy, “Que si, que no” ways.

Resourceful Costumes

So, taking my childhood experiences or habits of “costume making” I encouraged them to figure out a costume and dress up. I wasn’t sold on the idea of outrages expense thrown into a store bought costume, sorri. Look in the closet, look out in the yard for natural resources or dig out of the recycle bin the cardboard and reuse it.  Maybe I can take some credit for “encouraging” my kids to be creative and feed their talent? Jonathan stitched together a hot chile pepper costume one year, Another year he was a platano. My middle child Emery, would not, could not think of accepting a costume that wasn’t absolutely perfect! He’s my artist child, ya te imaginas! All of us pitched in to make costumes for Thomas, el baby. Well, honestly, like all things I get an idea and then expect them to create it with my limited resources 😀 One year I thought Thomas could be a peacock. Asi es. In our neighborhood, there was a peacock that strutted around his street, literally, like he owned the pavement. He showed off and carried himself with such confidence. My little Thomas was such a character, he might still be 😀 When it was all said and done, his huge cardboard peacock tail was hard for him to carry around gracefully.

I always enjoy the costumes these young talented moms create for their kids or have someone make for them. One year, my little granddaughter was a football! Carried by the quarterback, mi hijo. Last year, mi nietecito was a cop and his dad, Jonathan, was the jailbird. Now that I think about it, all those years of suppressed costumes are still coming out.

 Once I remembered that God created all of the days and decided to chill out about October 31 I have enjoyed them. This year it falls on Sunday, gloria a Dios! With all the changes that have happened because of COVID what are your plans? Today I’ll be working in one of the booths at our church carnival. I haven’t come up with a costume yet, hijole! I will add it below when I figure it out!

If you’ve DIY’d a costume this year, tag me on Instagram! I’d love to see and share.

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.