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Two Days With Ama

Checking my Calendar

My cell buzzed on Monday evening, Nevaeh my nieta was calling me, she’s right between Maricella and Rachel. She was the self appointed spokesman for this plan my three granddaughters concocted.  

Me: Hello

Neveah: Hi D’ma, we were wondering, now that we’re on summer break and all the testing is done, we thought that maybe me and my sisters could spend 2 days and nights with you.

…..silence…..as I mentally reviewed my next 2 days. I was tired and I knew I would be more tired after 3 little girls milked me for all I was worth. 

Neveah: D’ma?

Me: I don’t think that will work because you have church on Wednesday night.

Neveah: We can just come to church in Clairemont. Oh wait, it’s ok, my mom says she will pick us up in the daytime.

Me: Well ok, when are you coming?

Nevaeh: We’re almost ready and we’ll be there soon. Bye D’ma.

And so it was that my neitas kicked off their summer break with two days at D’mas. Talk about pressure! I know my granddaughters, they are full of expectation. 

Grandma Rules

Right here I’ll interject a little of my grandmother “mode of operandi”. Somewhere in the transition from mom to grandma I didn’t quite switch hats correctly. I was a pretty strict parent, by today’s standards, ya se, sounds silly, but that’s what I’ve been told. I find it difficult to be an alcahueta with certain things. Turning a blind eye to lying, disrespect,  disobedience or manipulation were never acceptable or excusable to me as a parent, but all of a sudden, abuelas sometimes ignore those things in their adorable little grandkids. “Pobrecita, she didn’t mean to lie, or disrespect me, she didn’t disobey, she just didn’t hear me Hijole, that’s where my hats get all jumbled up. My beautiful little “chiquitas, bonitas” (That’s what my apa called them) are old enough to know my rules and obey them, sometimes (very rarely) in the middle of my  ama practices when they are tempted to commit an infraction, I must warn them in my most sternest voice that correction will be swift if they aren’t watchful. Their dad, my first born, says that I’ve gone soft in that area, but as long as the girls don’t know it, I’ll pull out that mother hat occasionally and use my stern voice and to really bring a point home I’ll knit my eyebrows together.

Ok back to the pressure of 2 days with my granddaughters. They are like the energizer bunnies, especially esa Nevaeh! I don’t have a pool, nor can they be on the computer or phone constantly. Those 2 days were getting longer by the minute!

Day One

I had warned them that I was having company for lunch and they must be on their best behavior. Of course they needed to know what I would be serving. I decided to go out of my “field of expertise” and make fettuccine alfredo, it was their favorite, I only hoped my friend liked pasta too. I would serve it with a green salad and bread.

Making bread is a Greene family tradition so, I figured it was time to teach them to make bread. They were excited, I was looking for a better word to describe their giddiness but couldn’t find one. But they were, I had been worried that they might not last through the whole process or find it boring: mixing, kneading, waiting to rise, rolling and shaping it and more rising and then baking…Hijole, just typing it made me tired. Imaginate, here I go with a showing off moment. I was very proud of the little loaves that they rolled out. Their Tio Thomas, the family baker, would be proud of them. They were so proud of their bread making and enjoyed that little loaf of bread through the 2 days! Que toast, que grilled cheese, buttered bread, they tried their bread in different ways and loved it.

While I was enjoying my fellowship with my dear friend, chatting and just relaxing, they were getting impatient. Porque? I had foolishly told them that after sister Vilma left we would go to the bay. I forgot you shouldn’t tell kids ahead of time these things. I felt really bad that maybe my chiquitas bonitas had rushed her out of the house! Note to self: Teach the girls about hospitality and how it takes time to build friendships. Of course my friend was gracious and even enjoyed the girls with me.

We packed our bag with towels, snacks and sunblock and went off to the bay. They loved the moment we crossed Coronado Bridge, seeing the little boats from so high a view. Beautiful San Diego indeed! I purposely invited no other women or kids because I didn’t want to be distracted from my time with them. It was fun to watch them and talk to them. I forgot one factor though, other kids at the bay. A couple of friendly kids would moved in on our time, and after Mari scrutinized them she relaxed, and we enjoyed our time with them included. Our afternoon was topped off with a visit from their Tio Emery, who came to join us. That did give me some good platica con mi hijo. Acuerdate que, when they grow up, you must wait for them to have time for you. Thankfully, we do enjoy the time we spend together, our family. 

Our first day was passed before I knew it, we were home, showering, eating more fettuccine and homemade bread and getting cozy for bed. It had been a successful day. I should say a fun day and enjoyable day, but I feel like the mission was accomplished. I was pretty wiped out.

Day Two

After a short quiet time before they woke up on our second day, I was praying for another beautiful day. In my house, the girls wake up hours before their normal time.

Having homeschooled my kids I’m still one of those parents that looks for fun in the lessons of life. Again, I went back to my mothering days and used the simple everyday activities to make it a good and busy day.

Little children love to help, or at least they think they’re helping and so as moms we let them right? Pero yo no. Nevaeh spoke up again and said “D’ma we need to earn money to buy ourselves a hoverboard, we’ll need more than $100 each.” She also informed me that Rachel would earn money to buy her own scooter. So I informed her that I liked to get what I paid for. If they worked en mi casa, they would have to do a nice job. She has a way of looking at you, a mix between confused and sizing you up, her long eyebrows do the calculating. After a few seconds, the deal was sealed. 

Mari cleaned in detail my living room-vacuumed, dusted and made sure there were no surprises under the cushions and then straightened the throw pillows, bien duro el trabajo 😉. She had to stop and serve herself a glass of ice water, ahhh! Nevaeh was in the backroom organizing the messy books that were all over the place, nevermind that it was mostly their own mess. Plus, she was to vacuum the backroom. She finished with a heavy sigh and said “house work is a lot of hard work D’ma!” Rachel worked hard at picking up all the scattered crayons and wiping the dining room table, she had never ever seen my table so clean! Mira nomas

Recycling

Then came time to recycle. I told them that their daddy had earned his first wages here in the recycling centers. They wanted to follow in their fathers steps. They crushed the cans, separated plastic bottles, then loaded everything into the car and off we went. I love the honest raw expressions that children make when they are in unfamiliar territory. The recycling center was stinky. The recycling containers were gross. While Mari held her nose she studied the people doing their recycling, just like her dad, watchful and wary, occasionally, her left eyebrow shifting upward. The two older girls transferred the cans and bottles into the containers for weighing, a dirty job for sure, I didn’t let Rachel off too easily, I was tough ama and she was instructed to pick up a can or two that had fallen to the ground. While they stood in line to weigh their recycling the bees buzzed around them, it was definitely a stern voice that I had to use to get them to be still. Those bees were making me antsy. As fast as we could we collected our pay, the bees and the smell ran us out!

We finished our mandados quickly because their momma was coming to get them and they were anxious to get back home to get their pay. Before we left the house we had written out 3 envelopes with their names and their fund name: Maricella Greene Hoverboard Fund: $100 and one for Neveah Greene. Rachels was a Scooter Fund $50. I had told them that they could make money in 2 different ways; ask for it or work for it. Nevaeh said “We’ll work for it, because I would feel bad if they gave us the money they needed for themselves” I will have to remind her of that when she asks me for money, although, now that I think about it, she doesn’t ask for money, she asks for things😁.

In Conclusion

I’ve read a book about grandparenting, telling me all the “how tos” as far as activities, and dividing my time well, especially as my inheritance multiplies😍. Some grandmas, do all the girly stuff. Once in a while they corner me into doing our nails, but I hope I can teach them some basketball soon, you know, I used to be a basketball coach when I was in high school (that’s for another post). Being their ama has been my blessing and I haven’t confused my hats very often. Are you a Grandma? Nana, Wata or Ama? What’s been your experience?

Relationships Through Letter Writing

Getting personal letters in the mail is such a fun experience. Something I’ve enjoyed through the years. When I was in middle school I was linked to a Japanese pen pal. This might have been my initial experience of letter writing and the U.S. Postal Service. My pen pals name was Youko, I could tell by her letters and the photo she sent me that  I was writing to a rich & refined girl. She described a life I couldn’t even imagine. I truly don’t remember what I wrote to her. I definitely didn’t have any cute pics of myself looking poised and reflective, or any pics at all come to think of it. I did however enjoy the whole idea of my apa bringing home a letter addressed to me, I liked it so much that I kept writing back.

Writing letters, buying stamps and putting them in the mail for delivery is almost a thing of the past. That makes me sad and I am making an effort to keep the letter writing tradition alive between me and my grandchildren. This was initiated by my 5 year old nietecito, Braye, who told me he wanted to be my pen pal. How could I deny such a request? Oh, that I might water that seed and one day still receive letters from my 15 year old Braye.  

You know what else is so enjoyable and also emotional? Rereading the letters you’ve received through the years. Minimalists might not encourage you to do this, but I’ve saved many of the letters I’ve received through the years. This has helped me through my mourning journeys. Letters from mis hermanos y hermanas. Letters from my mother in law, letters from dear friends and letters from my love. 

I’ve said it already, but it’s worth repeating, girls love to talk and letter writing is a way to talk without interruptions. However, when you are done talking in the letter, waiting for a response kills you! I am embarrassed to admit that I’m an impatient conversationalist, I tend to interrupt, or not wait for a response to the question I asked, so letter writing has definitely built character and patience in me. Dicen por hay, that “patience is a virtue” 

My relationship with my suegra was long distance, mostly through letters. She also saved her letters, when she passed they came back to me. I have found myself nervously laughing or shuddering at my style. I expressed myself in too familiar a tone with my dear mother-in-law. My ama would reprove me, que malcriada! In my defense, I was not trying to be disrespectful, I was attempting to balance two cultures and sound…. casual? Sauve? And I especially wanted her to know my new role was very comfortable, and it was, except for in-law adjustments. Just reading “Dear Nancy” still seems too casual.

In the old, old days letters were much more formal and when I wrote letters in spanish they were also quite proper. For some of the spanglishers or non spanish speakers here’s a thought on manners that I haven’t quite translated well. You is translated usted which would be used to show respect or formality toward a stranger or an older person or perhaps clergy. Then, when you’re familiar with a person, we use with people of the same level age, rank, or friendship. All that to say that to call my mother in-law by her first name felt squeamish. However, it did not stop me from writing and relating to my suegra, and her responses kept our letters flowing.

WESTPAC

There was a time when it felt like receiving letters was critical to my very existence! Porque? because immediately following our fireworks engagement, I had to experience a long separation from my fiance, mi amor, my comprometido. I didn’t know much about the engagement process, but I knew we had a marriage to prepare for and a wedding to plan and it would have to be done from a distance. 

I braced myself for a west pac separation, Ben was on an Landing Craft Unit: LCU within the USS Juneau,  a deployment that consisted of port stops into Hawaii, Guam, Hong Kong, Korea, Philippines, and Australia. It was Bens dream to see the world and these beautiful places, but things had changed. He was leaving his girl behind. Meanwhile, being apart affirmed the idea that I screamed in my head that I could not make it as a military wife. All my fears were crowding in on me.  Miedo que se iba a olvidar de mí, scared that his mom would reject me. Afraid that maybe… Anyway, ya te imaginas, it was the longest six months of my life! Those few days before my flaco left, there were few words spoken, he couldn’t find any and I was choking with too many emotional words. We agreed that I would focus on our simple wedding (another time I’ll tell you about that planning, or lack of planning) and he was going to save money to get ready for all the upcoming expenses. This plan would keep me busy and  time would fly by. 

Love Letters

Going to the mailbox and seeing letters from my sailor brought inexplicable joy. 

Writing to my Benjamin was kind of like talking to him in person!  I unloaded it all, all my fears and concerns. Days and sometimes weeks passed before I “heard him speak”. My sailors FPO address made deliveries interesting since they were in the middle of the ocean and I imagine mail was delivered between ports. When mail did get delivered I would receive it in bundles all at once, then nothing for days. While he received letters all mixed up in dates. We ended up resorting to numbering each letter to keep track.

We were young and I was a typical novia, the important things were: 1. Do you still love me? 2. Do you really miss me? 3. What shall we do about our wedding planning?  Through all letters our common faith in God was the glue that kept us focused and hopeful.

I knew it was going to be hard. In fact, even though I hadn’t experienced it yet, I knew I would barely survive and to think he still had two more years to go in the Navy. All you military wives with years of experience are probably chuckling or rolling in carcajadas at my imagination, verdad que si?!  What memories come up in your mind as you read this?

I say hats off to military wives who endure these separations and keep their family boat afloat during these deployments. Thank you also for your sacrifice.

When I was rereading the other day, the 55 year old mature me, was bien avergonzada at my chillona, rogona letters. My goodness, I really believed it was all about me! Besides telling me very often how much he loved and missed me, he resorted to throwing in some Tagalog and spanish. He called me “maganda”, and I was like Que?! I was his beautiful Rose, I melted and embraced it.

So began our long distance engagement. He reassured me often, calling me darling and his dearest, making me yearn for him. I declared my hopeless devotion in an overboard manner. I quote, “ Benjamin I love you so much…this countdown is making me crazy, it makes me think of you TOO MUCH… When we get married, Ben, I’ve got so many hopes and dreams and I’m believing God for them to come true…I can’t wait till you come home.”

I asked a million questions that he had no answers for, pero, when I asked about a wedding budget. I quote “I have no idea the costs or the arrangements you have made with the exception of the cake, but let’s, if we can keep it under $400.00. That really should be plenty, I hope.” Daniella and I had a nice little laugh at this recollection, when planning her wedding he offered similar sentiment assuring her that $3,000 should cover the costs. If you know anything about planning a wedding, you can imagine the horrified look we shared. Needless to say the princess prevailed and she had a beautiful wedding.

Almost 33 years later Ben and I had a wonderful chuckle at young Benjamin Greene at sea, the ocean waves had lulled his senses.

In conclusion: 

In this day and age, an email and or a text is the closest some people get to receiving “a letter in the mail” I know that my grandkids love to “get mail” and so do I! I encourage you to write a nice love letter to your amor and your amorcitos. While you’re at it, consider writing a letter to a soldier that’s out to sea, Ben appreciated receiving letters; especially the ones from me, his comprometida.

Acuerdense, be extra nice to your mail carrier, they work hard to get that mail to you.

waiting for my sailor
welcome home at last

The Evolution of Girl Talk


Let’s Talk About Me

Como dice Toby Keith in his song?  “Every once in a while I wanna talk about me” Porque? Because girls love to talk.

Recently I have laughed with my peers, about what our conversations have come to. Asi es, las doñas comparing what life at halfway to 100 and beyond is like for us now. These conversations usually don’t happen with our menfolk because they fizzle pretty quickly. Hmmm, maybe it’s just with my Benjamin? Mira, here’s a sample of an afterwork conversation:

Benjamin comes home and greets me with a kiss:

Ben: Hello.

Me: Hi Honey, how was work?

Ben: good.

I wait to give him a chance to describe some of the good in his day. Too long a pause, I can’t wait.

Me: Oh, where did you work today?

Ben: Pt. Loma.

I wait. A longer pause. That was the end of that conversation. With my guy, if I want talk, I have to roll up my sleeves and work hard to extract it.

And So I Need Girl Talk

Girl talk goes up and down a long and windy path…and back again through the different seasons of life.

When I was a wee little girl, I jabbered about the latest coolest toys. Little Debbie always had the latest fads.

When I was a big little girl I talked about boys, how  they were disgustingly yucky in every way, not to mention annoying. 

When I was an awkward preteen we whispered about our periods. I was the last one to get mine, I wasn’t surprised, Zepedas were always last.

When I was 13, we shared our secret crushes and dreamed of being noticed. We didn’t know we were still quite awkward, so we strutted, swinging our ponytail as we walked and talked, aware of possible onlookers. Gone were the days of two pigtails.

When I was 15, we were openly discussing the cute boys and the current couples. I wasn’t allowed to have a boyfriend, pero, the one I crushed over definitely crushed my daydreaming. 

When I was 18 I worried about surviving college life. Serious, downcast talk with my one and only amiga. They included our grades, social life and more boys. Deep stuff.

When I was 20, I was changing my view about marriage and I talked with my friends, wondering if I’d ever get married. Imaginate! I was getting muy vieja.

When I was 23 and a young new wife I worried that I’d never ever have a baby. I worried with my friend that maybe there was something wrong with me? We talked anxiously and strategized and held our breath for our cycle, hoping it didn’t come this month.

When I was a mom, we talked about raising babies. Nursing or bottle fed? Could breastfeeding be the one way to bond with your newborn? Yikes! My almost 11 lb. baby didn’t care nothing about connecting to his ama, he wanted to eat! Gerber? Or do you puree your own food? Then there was the dilemma of cloth diapers or Disposables, hijole! I remember those pails of dirty diapers! My resolve didn’t last long. Later the talk was about choosing the right brand, Huggies or Pampers? Those conversations have not quite ended, but now they now include “back in my day.”

When I was carrying my 2nd baby, It only made sense that I should get a girl. But, these conversations were only with God. Sabes porque? I was so dang worried about having a girl!!! Raising a girl is a whole different level and I was just barely getting used to boys. What in the world was I gonna do with a nena in my arms? In my care? I went back and forth. Dios mio dame una niña ...But what would I do with her? It looked like they were more demanding. In fact, I knew I was pretty high maintenance as far as emotions go. What if I didn’t know how to dress her pretty like? What if she was a chillona? 

When I was 30, it looked like I was done having babies. I talked about being done with the older ladies. I shared the plans I had besides having babies, and they smiled. Ellas ya sabian.

When I was 35, I was talking about weight loss and exercise. Thankfully, since I wasn’t done having babies after all, I tweaked my conversations to not getting fat during my last pregnancy by eating healthy and exercising.

When I was 40 something and raising teens, or was that facing teens? I was definitely talking to the other moms, wondering if I was the only mom in the world that felt that teenage disdain of “I know mom, I know” They know it all.

When my teens had crossed over to adulthood, I was having good talks with them. Increible. I’ve enjoyed some girl talk with my girl, I’m not so scared of her anymore.

When I was really close to the ½ mark to 100 and becoming a mother in law, I talked to my friends, it was a very hard role to step into and most of them were not in that place yet. So those talks were more about the “what ifs” to come. Almost 10 years into the mother in law shoes, I sometimes find my heels are too high, pero ni modo I have to walk real nice, like my mother in law did for me.

When the Abuelita title came knocking at my door. I cringed. Two of my abuela friends were called Nana and the other was Grandma, Que? These were my homies, my Mexican American friends. Why weren’t they called Abuelita or Abue? Maybe they cringed too? Then I remembered my ama was called ama by her first grandkids. That was perfect. Talking to my girlfriends I realized that kids will call us what comes first, or natural to them. One of my friends is called “Wata”…ya se, I’m not sure how that evolved. Another one is called “Wela” I told my kids I wanted to be “Ama”, they were on board and when my first grandchild started addressing me, she pronounced it “Duh-ma” and so it is. These days ama, wata and grandma talk about the growing brood of grandkids… Did I mention that number 8 is on the way? 

Lately, when I talk to my peers, my homies, my comadres, guess what topic is always dying to come forth? Yup! Our aches and pains. Yesterday I talked with my friend about everything and winded down to our stiff bones and achy muscles. 

Today I spent a good long hour talking to my bestie about our grey hair. Asi es. Last month I was done with dyeing, this month I’m not sure. Should I go grey? Yes! Free yourself of the burden of beauty! No! You’ll look like a vieja, or an abuela…please don’t get me out of my delusion just yet. To grey or not? That is my question. We talked about the “appropriateness” of a woman my age coloring her hair in dark tones. She suggested I ease into my grey, como? By dyeing it! It was a deep discussion, involving age, investment, and facing reality.

In conclusion:

We girls need to talk. These seemingly insignificant topics are packed full and very important.

I still jump into the other cycles because maybe like the bible says “let the older women teach the younger” And, a bonus for me is that I have learned quite a bit in this rapidly changing world from the younger women. 



Most important in my opinion and Gods book is that girl talk can be, should be, good talk, fun talk, edifying talk. Girl Talk should be comfortable enough to have Jesus right there in the mix of the masa. 

Happy Independence Day!!!

Did you know that American independence was declared on July 2, 1776?! Deveras! Happy original independence Day to you all, enjoy your 4th of July commemorations. Maybe you’ve seen the movies? Perhaps you’ve read the articles written about our independence? Or, hopefully in history class you got the whole tamal regarding the road to our independence. 

Mi Familia, last Fourth of July

Now it’s History Class, pon atención

Visionaries who had originally felt the relief of freedoms in the new world and established a viable growing territory now had to fight to keep their prosperity and their peace. 

While colonists attempted to grow and flourish in America, the British government used a heavy hand to implement taxes and military rule. Americans would not be suppressed. They established their own form of government, defended themselves through various tactics and fought against their oppressors for years before striking out in rebellion. 

Finally Richard Lee Henry, a delegate from Virginia, proposed and submitted a resolution absolving the 13 colonies from loyalty to Great Britain. Independence won the vote on July 2nd, 1776, making it the first option for the independence birthday. However, after two days of editing and approving the formal public document, it was sent to print with July, 4, 1776 printed on the top. The Declaration of Independence; it was what the public would see and celebrate. 

It was almost a decade before the American and British negotiators could sit and talk peace. What a tremendous victory our nation’s founding fathers gained. Freedom in all stations of life, with incredible speed this land became “the land of the free” Where it seems if dreams could come true it was here. 

Now for Mexican-American Girl’s Own History

Right here, I make a sharp right turn and make this history telling a very personal one.  I was walking on that American dream road, practicing my religion very piously. I was enjoying the benefits of my version of financial freedom. I was experiencing liberty as an official adult away from my ama and my apa and la familia. Education=degree=money=material things. I was on this road to success, why in the world was I quite miserably lonely and scared. 

Asi es, that first adulting year when a person leaves the comfy nest of home life is muy differente.  

It was in this state that the idea that I was a sinner was presented to me. Oh my goodness! My good girl reputation was grated. Una pecadora? Obviously my sister had forgotten that I was a good person, I never sinned, well at least I didn’t do the big sins! I was just beginning to try smoking, only one who knew was Patty. I’m sure lying hadn’t become a big sin, like… anyway, si me entiendes verdad? There I was in my American dream struggling with the education part of the equation, and for months my heart was getting pricked with my own goodness and Gods goodness. Porque?! Was I really a person who “transgressed God’s divine law by committing immoral acts?” I couldn’t grasp the idea that I was offending God and even wilder was the idea that the God of the universe had eyes or time for me?! Increible! I could almost forget that he would call me a sinner. During those months the God I said I believed in was really just church attendance on Sunday.  

It was on 4th of July weekend where I experienced my own freedom. This new freedom released me from that angry bitter unforgiveness that I had clung on to with so much pride. It made me no longer a mentirosa. To this day I hate so much even the stupid little white lies. From self righteousness to Gods righteousness. He gave me wonderful choices, como dicen en el Norte, “it’s a wonderful life.”

I am so very grateful for our country, oh that God would continue to bless America!

This weekend, I’m celebrating 37 years of freedom with my bestie of 36 years!
Right now we’re on our way to hear my little Ben preach about complete independence.

The Fruits of My Freedom:

Surviving a Morning Rush

Calmer Days

Recently I’ve experienced some really calm and quiet days…which is an almost supernatural circumstance for my life, so I’ve had time to reflect and read through my files and journals. Looking back to noisy, busy and chaotic days, I’m not necessarily missing them and I’m amazed that I, or that we all have survived.

Vamos a ver que piensan de esta reacción.

This is an excerpt from my journal after a packed day of going to and fro, coming in and going out, and even running in circles! Should I give you the backstory? I think I need to for my sake. 

It was the time of the year when things slow down for Benjamin Greene’s Painting and we were feeling the financial squeeze.  I had taken a new driving position, asi es. Then I took a 2nd one, a food delivery job. Que facil! My apa at this point was only with me part of the month. Also, I’m that mama and abuela that feels compelled to be needed and to be busy. So it is that in my life, I must have my cafecito with Jesus, then I can face the day. While this is a wonderful habit that has blessed my life, busy chaotic days still get the best of me.

Quizás se han encontrado aquí alguna vez, maybe you’ve been here a million times!

 A Chemical Reaction

  • 6:00 am Start the day right. My habit, the comfort of devotions assures me it’s going to be a good day. A good bubbly feeling is released. I’m ready to tackle the things on my list.
  • 7:00 am I should expect to have an interrupted day with my new driving jobs. Heavy sigh. Why did I add two jobs to my already busy schedule? Well because I like the chump change that gets dropped into my account weekly. A little bit of tension creeps in. Really?
  • 7:05 am I should be making my husband’s lunch for work, instead I bring up the lack of work… again… Isn’t there anyone who can afford to paint their house after the holidays? Did you talk to your customer in Scripps Ranch? What about the general contractor you occasionally work for? Nope. No work today…again…worry shows up.
  • 7:15 am Subject changes to the actual earnings of my driving jobs. Something stirs within. He doesn’t say much, theres a bitter taste in my mouth.
  • 7:30 am Cell phone rings, it’s Brian, the first driving job operator. I stare at the phone as it’s singing, and choose not to take his call. I do have a choice, but I still feel guilt, or is it regret? What if this one could have been more than chump change? Really, is money such a thorn? I have to get ready for the 2nd driving job. That one is much more structured. My block starts in 30 minutes, and I can’t be at 2 places at once.
  • 7:45 am Sister texts, she’s on her way. Stress. Is she ok? I need to leave.
  • 7:50 am I plan on leaving my homeschooled high schooler busy with his assignments. He won’t be interrupted and he will be productive. He can do his assignments alone. Happy juice released, he is my last child in school and at least my husband will be home.
  • 7:55 am House phone rings. A possible job lead for Ben, hopefully it leads to income. Relief.  Ben has to leave. Stress… Thomas will have to put off some of his school work, no computer use without parent supervision.
  • 8:00 am It’s time to log in. Ben leaves to chase that lead. Hopefully I’ll have time to go potty before….ding ding ding….the first offer pops up….$7.63..Really? Sorrento Valley. I do feel pressure to take it. More stress. The deal is, during my block I need to accept as many offers as possible if I want to get paid minimum wage aside from the actual job. Minimum wage, chemicals secrete…. I feel them stirring. 
  • 8:05 am I’m off to Sorrento Valley. 13 min. I should be on time. I’m early, I wait for the order. Off to deliver, I should be on time, ETA is 8:30 am
  • 8:15 am Wait?! How am I supposed to get the order to the person?…stress times 3, call the customer. No answer…anxiety. Call for help. Do I want to take a short survey after the call? Anger, stress, anxiety. “Just help me!” In the elevator the words resound, but just in my head. Ding ding ding, view and accept the offer. Did I just accept another offer? “Get off the script and help me!”, this time the words come out. Regret. Ding, another offer. Reaching the top floor. ding ding…times running out…view and accept, I can’t take another offer just now! As I step out of the elevator, I ask “Can I leave the order at the front desk?” The operator is compelled to stay on his scripted monologue. Knots bunch up my stomach. Ding, accept the offer? “Yes, you can leave the order.” Thanks. I delivered it late. I wish I could do that survey!  Ding. The next order is ready now. 
  • 8:35 am I’m late. Juices are building and bubbling up. I have got to hurry. The Mall! Oh no!? Veggie Grill? I’ve been there. Where is it? Arrived? Siri said I arrived. Where is it? Frustration. Anger. There it is, between breaths I pick up Abbey’s order and try to look cool as I rush out. Ding, my order is ready for pick up at the Corner Bakery. What order? When did I accept this? I hate this! Minimum wage, really?…this is stupid! Where is the Corner Bakery? Of course I have to walk back across the mall.
  • 8:45 am I have both orders, where’s my car? My phone is singing? Not Brian? 312 area code… Hello? Yes,  Abbey’s order was to be delivered at 8:30 am. yes!…please…skip the script! I swallowed those words in frustration! Blah blah, Anger! What? Yes, I am on my way to deliver for Abbey and then Jeffrey…yes…ok! I feel the juices and they’re not sweet. Where in the world did I park?
  • 8:55 am Just down the street. Huge luxury apartment complex! No parking, now what?
  • 9:05am Risk it and park in a designated numbered spot. Run to elevator, 3rd floor, number 312….to the left? Nope, the other way. Argh! Please God, help me with the customer.  
  • 9:10 am Deliver Abbey’s order. She’s calm. I leave and feel the sweet relief.  Run to Jeffrey, a quick drive. He’s waiting for his breakfast..
  •  9:15 am A business. Where’s the lobby? Anxiety. Late, late, late! Please God don’t let me get yelled at, I won’t handle it well.
  • 9:20 am Deliver to the lobby, won’t see the customer. I catch my breath and go sit in the car.
  • 9:30 am Done, my  block of time is over, I sigh and log off.
  • 9:35 am Back on the freeway again, now I need to pick up my daughter and her boys for her 10:00 o’clock appointment
  • 9:35 am Forgot to take meat out for dinner “Hey Siri call Thomas.” Thomas is my helper in the kitchen. He tells me Tia is waiting. I’m coming. Nothing for a quick meal. No help from home, no dinner plan. More stress about my sister waiting. Knots tighten.
  • 9:45 am Daniella and kids get buckled up and we rush to appointment.
  • 9:55 am We make it. We’ll wait in the car. The boys are quietly playing. That’s unusual. Click, Click, Click, Click. Click
  • 10:55 am Good, she’s coming, we can leave. Buckle up the boys. Hurry Lala. I turn the key, but the car doesn’t start. A dead battery?! I had left the key in with the ignition turned. The lights were on and the boys tinkered with the overhead lights. Tears. 
  • 11:00 am The boys are looking at me keenly aware of the brimming tears. I call Ben, he’s on his way, drops everything to come rescue us, 5 minutes. Where is he?!  What will I make for dinner? Ben shows up, he fixes everything. That didn’t matter for a moment, entitlement creeped in. He took his time. I felt no gratitude.
  • 11:10 am No relief, just more rushing. My heart is tight. Ben kisses me and turns to go home. I drive the other direction. A tense ride, Daniella gives me space.
  • 11:15 am Dropped Daniella and kids off. Bye. No dinner plan.
  • 11:20 am On Ashford street, a slow car, I hit my brakes. I’m in a hurry! … Screaming! Speeding. Wailing. Speed bump shocks me. What is wrong with me? What happened? Tears are streaming down. My shoulders slump. Feels good to cry. I slow down.
  • 11:30 am At home Thomas is oblivious, my tears have dried up. My heart rate is normal. Ben asks if I’m ok…I cry again…different tears. My sister’s ok and the morning is just about over, and I’m grateful for Ben and our life… but I still need to figure out what can I make for dinner? 

Happy Juices

Cortisol is a big deal for our body’s well being, just the right amount. Pero, every time I try to ‘help’ our situation my way, that cortisol is released at rapid rates. Luego, me pongo mis moños and I insist that ‘my’ plan will work. Those happy juices that come naturally to us with certain choices and activities we take on, they stay locked in the vault. Ya saben, I dropped those driving jobs as quickly as I could. In the end I chose to trust God to provide through my Benjamin for our needs. I’m sitting here bien agusto at my desk, after that season, appreciating the happy juices that flow.

A Gift on Fathers Day

Fathers Day is tomorrow, it has been creeping up and almost catching me unawares.

As I’m sitting here pondering my dad and the dads I know, I’m leaning toward writing about a dad and his girl/s. I wish you could see my son with his 3 girly girls. He’s a tough daddy, a busy guy, but not too busy to take his little ladies on a date. I’ve got a kind hearted nephew who patiently chases after his tough tiny little dynamite Rosalie with her little sister in his arms. I’m not sure what amazes me more, his consistent patience or her endless energy.

Watching my Benjamin and the one little princess who quietly tamed the males in her home and her hardnose mama has been intriguing and sometimes frustrating, afterall I’m the queen of my home…Verdad que si? 

Hats off to Dads

 I’m so grateful for fathers who put their hands to the plow. Providing, praying, playing, platicando and just plain participating in the lives of their children 

From what I can tell, dads have an interesting dilemma in their hands. They’ve got to be generous, gentle, protective and  they’ve got to be tougher, smarter and faster than anyone else’s dad, hands down! For the record, my apa was.

The “solito” is a Zepeda family tradition

The Value of Words

My dad wasn’t a man of too many words. He said what he needed to say and rarely did he repeat himself. He didn’t pull out useless degrading words to accuse us with, but on the other hand, words of endearment for us were not heard from him. That was my norm, it was ok, until I became my Benjamins. I didn’t realize how much I truly did yearn for words of endearment and words of approval, quizás un poco exagerada with my need for them. 

As an adult, words are my commodity. Bad words and name calling are worthless, so I don’t carry them in my vault, except maybe to call myself a mensa, not good, I’m sure God doesn’t want to hear me calling myself a dummy. Good words of appreciation are valuable to me and I make sure I use them generously as needed. Now, words of endearment are like costly jewels, I do have a wealth of them in my heart and my mind, but it costs me a lot to hand them out. Esperate, it’s not because I don’t want to, I’m just afraid they’ll get thrown or lost in a bin of multitudes of words.  I didn’t realize how much I truly did yearn for words of endearment and words of approval, yet it’s when I don’t get them from my loves that I realize I need them, me entiendes? My Benjamin shows me everyday that he loves me by his actions. His willingness to care for me and our kids, his patience to help, ves? But when he looks at me and tells me, “I love you Rosie” Hijole! That cold blooded Englishman steals my heart again and again.

Learning to Appreciate

 I’m very thankful for my apa. In his old age and in my “mature” years, I’ve been able to look past the days of trouble and appreciate the earthly father God gave me.

For too long I saw his terrible shortcomings and focused on things that I didn’t get from my apa. Now that my apa is gone, now that I’m not too busy taking care of him, I can look back and see what he did give me and I appreciate him.

 I know now that I would have loved to hear these words from my apa “Si hija, te aprecio mucho” It was a bit awkward to even write it. Pero, I’ve also learned that his part in my life demonstrated his love and care and I’ve chosen to embrace the love he offered and put it on like a comfortable mantle.

Now I can look back into my experiences with him and see his love for me. Mira, I’ll show you 🙂

Middle School rite of passage

Middle school was a hard season, hay si! Picture every middle schooler in America feeling my extreme pain right now. Let me fill you in,  I was desperately and hopelessly in love with a boy who didn’t even know I existed since 5th grade. 3 años! Then, ALL my friends we’re all grown up, they were real teens, I hated when one of my friends said “Oh my god! I’m gonna die, I started my period today” and another said, “Oh I know, I was so bloated last week, all I wanted to eat was limon and chile” I would roll my eyes, so jealous for those terrible pains. Ya se, ya se, there had to be something wrong with me. I was probably the only 13 year old and eighth grade girl in the whole world that didn’t have a period. It was so humiliating when the girls would look at me and ask me with their eyes if it had come and immediately their eyes would pity me. Sometimes we would discuss the whole matter, describing their first cycle, telling me what to expect and what to do. I didn’t want to hear it. 

And so it was that I suffered like this well into the school year. Now that I think of it, my poor ama! 4 feisty lil latinas to raise. Patty & I gave up watching for the possible symptoms. 

One morning as I dressed for school I fed my moodiness thoughts about how terrible life was treating me. My red polyester dress pants matched my red angry mood. Argh! And that day, the pants were quite apretaditos. I wanted a reason to skip school, but no, what if today would be the day the love of my life noticed me? I walked to school lost in my touchy thoughts. It turned out to be another long hot unnoticed day. 

After lunch, we were back in our homeroom classroom. I could hear my dad saying “Para acabarla de amolar”! And to make matters worse, we were having a test. Hot sweaty, sticky, pero I finished my test and got up to turn it in. When I walked back, my friend whispered that I had sat in something, my pants were wet. I turned around and rushed to the teacher for permission to go to the bathroom. I was ready to die! Why in the world hadn’t I noticed? What did I sit in? Ya saben right? My long awaited visitor showed up. Wow! How could I even welcome her with this mess in my hands? I couldn’t go back to the class, I needed to get home? But how? Everyone would know.

 I rushed to the nurses office and told her my terrible dilemma. No catching her breath in an “Oh my” She asked how I felt and started trying to figure out how to get a hold of my apa. Que?! Oh no. He worked for the city, he was busy. They just needed to find my big sis Marina. She would take care of this. Worst case scenario was that since I was feeling fine I could walk home alone, she could lend me a sweater from the lost and found to wrap around my waist. I sat there feeling quite miserable, knowing dad wasn’t gonna come, then he walked in. My apa looked at the nurse and thanked her and didn’t ask her any questions. He looked angry, but then again we Zepedas always look angry. I tried not to look at him, I just got up and walked out with him and hopped into his truck. I was worried he would see my stained pants. We had a 5 minute drive to the house, the longest drive de mi vida! He finally asked “Que paso?” and looked over at me. This very brown girl turned dark pink with humiliation! I didn’t know how to tell him, by this point in my life I was a liar and never had any problem making things up. But the dark pink face told another story. “Se mojo el pantalon” Like my pants walked over to a puddle and got wet all on their own. He knew, and he didn’t look angry anymore. That was it. He dropped me off at home and had to get back to work, his break was short.  I was relieved, he knew and accepted my story. I was happy, I was an official girl teen, pimples and feminine napkins and everything else! 

My ama was surprised, then worried to see me. The “not talking about your period or any femine issues” taboo talk is probably for another conversation, even now I can hear her say “de esas cosas no se hablan”. Somehow like we “women” do, we communicated with our eyes and she provided what I needed for this very important passage. 

I never forgot this moment with my apa, but only these days have I been able to grasp the covering of love my apa gave me that school day, in this small detail, which was HUMUNGOUS for me, with very few words he participated in this growing up passage of my life. 

The Gift of Healing

Sabes, he has given me, given us, my siblings too, some more invaluable words and a view of what his heart was experiencing as he transitioned into the very difficult  tercera edad. 

Very slowly I’ve been gleaning still through his belongings and his paperwork and to my delight I discovered some of his journal pages. Refreshing, like our San Diego breeze. 

His life turned upside down at 80, otra vez, I’ll have to tell you in a different conversation about his 80th year. It seems that he tried to cope with the difficulties through journaling. He wrote on his 81 birthday “This year was very hard for me because of the things that happened to my body…Thank God that he helped me so much. Also, I’m very grateful with all my children who all gave me their support and help” 

Can you feel what this dramatic latina felt when she read those words of approval and appreciation she longed for? I am shouting on the mountain tops, telling the whole world, my apa wrote, bien clarito, about his appreciation for us.

My apa has given me a valuable gift of words this fathers day, written in his own script. 

Feliz Dia de los Padres!!

Happy fathers day to all fathers and men who step in the gap to fill those fatherly needs. A personal hats off to daddys who give a part of themselves to their little girls, press on, don’t let their dramatics intimidate you, hopefully and thankfully we grow up to appreciate our apas.

My Last Pregnancy

The Children God Gave Us

My last baby is 19 this week. I suppose he’s not a baby anymore. My thoughts about him have provoked me to write this post. Does this mean that I must turn in my mothering card? Officially, he’s been an adult for already a year. Who decides such official classifications anyway? And what different children God gives us, verdad? Our kids have definite traces of their parents and sometimes that pleases me, and other times I cringe! I definitely play favorites with my children. My favorite firstborn, my favorite daughter, my favorite middle child and my favorite last baby. They truly are my favorites. 

When my babies, were not so baby anymore…

Wait on God

I’ve written about my pregnancies and about being muy vieja to have another baby. Pregnant at 36! Hijole! After Thomas I would never experience pregnancy again. I ached at the closing of that chapter of our lives. When I experienced baby fever, no amount of Tylenol could remedy that ill. When I felt the phantom baby kicks, regret would flood my spirit, I yearned to be pregnant again. It is one of those decisions, that if I could “do over” with Ben again, I would wait on God and his timing. When a young wife asks me about permanent birth control, she usually is tired and weary with little toddlers at her feet. I share my mourning time and encourage her to wait, time changes everything.

I do thank God often for the opportunity to carry my four children, and as for my last child, his arrival carried a lot of weight.

I was moving right along with living. More than 13 years of friendship with Jesus, 10 years of marriage, 3 kids, not just ordinary kids, mis hijos. Life was good and I said something along those lines to Ben as we celebrated our 10th anniversary. I remember feeling or noticing something sinister as those joyful words came out, ya se, dramatica! Pero, It’s true, something didn’t sit right as we entered our 2nd decade of life together.

Storms of Life

One day, as I was cleaning my house, I was hit with one of those trials in life that can rock your world. A time of tribulation and testing we’re coming my way. I was dumbfounded. Impossible, I thought, I’m a child of God. Deep pain couldn’t reach me, right? For this Southern California girl it was like a long, cold and harsh winter season, I declare in a muy exagerada fashion that I did not think I would survive the trials and tests of my life. Right here I’m feeling the chuckle of my dear friends who experienced life with me during these years. They knew God was right there with me. 

It took some time, but after many days, when the sun began to shine again, our hearts began healing. Oh what glorious moments I felt as the sun melted off the ice cold days.

Our small family of 5 was settling down. I was getting into my routine. My first last baby was gonna go to school in just another year, and I hung on to this last baby for as long as I could. Then, as I saw the end of busy toddler days I considered planning some projects in the house. I was busy with three young kids; 1 toddler,  2 school age. Lunches, school work, volunteering, housework, ministry, ocupadisma! 

Sorpresa

When I began to slow down and had to sleep in the middle of my day I chalked it up to my age. Then it was the changes in the weather.  Maybe a summer cold? Hormonas? By the time I faced reality, it was unreal! Pregnant at 36! A terrific time I had on that roller coaster of shock! Denial! No puede ser! I was so consumed by negative thoughts that I let them rob me of the wonder a momma feels when she knows a little life is growing in her womb. 

I was afraid. Afraid to be criticized for having too many kids. Quizas mi ama had felt that way? I was her eight baby. I was afraid that I was too old, should a woman my age be having a baby? I wonder if anyone told my ama that she was too old to be having a baby at 40, then another at 41? I was so scared that I wouldn’t be able to get the weight off. I already had 3 pregnancies and gained 50 lbs each time, hijole! 

Getting weight off me has never been easy and I dreaded it. Somewhere out there I had heard that when women passed 35, losing weight was a losing battle! Now I’m hearing that same line for when we turn 50. Mentiras!

Worst of all, was the miedo I felt, an inexplicable dread that this 4th child at this stage of life would snatch away the peace that had just come to us. That was it! Nunca mas! No more babies, no more pregnancies. Although it wasn’t my decision alone, Ben was kind of in that same mindset; we were done.

Another Baby

There I was carrying our 4th baby and as the “woes” of 1st trimester dissipated, thankfully, so did the blues and by the time I entered the 2nd trimester, I was ready to share the news with our kids, then the rest of our world. We did get interesting and unexpected reactions. The kids were surprised, but it wasn’t a big deal to them. Someone said “What? Another baby? Si! Y gracias a Dios! It felt good to honestly be able to thank God for my baby. Someone else asked “How old are you?” Young enough to have a baby.

Every once in a while, the question was “is this your last baby?” The more we answered that question, the more we convinced ourselves that this was our last baby, but we dreaded the idea that we had to do something extra, something permanent to stop a pregnancy from ever happening for us again.  

Most people around us congratulated us. Asi es, felicidades! Our small family was growing.

Making final decisions

As our baby grew, I think we both enjoyed this gestation period. I was watchful of my eating and exercise and he made sure to move about in his cozy womb. Everything was on schedule, he was a good size. I was winding down, and the only thing left was names and a final decision on permanent birth control. 

We couldn’t agree on a girl’s name. I was leaning toward Adriana, he wasn’t leaning that way at all. He wanted a family name, his family. Nancy? Jane? Claro que no! All his kids had his name already! Thank goodness we quickly agreed on a boy’s name. A family name. 

There was that question again, “Will you be having more children Mrs Greene?” Should we? Could we? Would we? No, we wouldn’t, we would not have any more children. The decision was made. After labor, delivery and recovery we would do something more.

Labor was something from a textbook or maybe a fairytale. The kind of labor I would have wanted 3 times prior! Contractions began and progressed. I went to the hospital as labor intensified. My water broke, I fully dilated as my little boy worked his way down that birthing slide. I pushed about 15 minutes and woosh! Bienvenido amorcito

Face to Face

Thomas Walter Greene born 6/9/02 Sunday evening. 8 1/2 lbs

Oh my beautiful baby! What an absolutely incredible experience it is to meet your baby face to face for the first time. I had been talking to him for 6 months already, he already knew my commanding voice, now I was hearing his demands. 

Even with my 4th experience it was new and unique and beautiful. I bet my ama cried every time her new baby was placed in her arms, even the 8th and 9th ones.

Had I truly once regretted this baby? No! Oh God forgive me, thank you for giving me the privilege of carrying my baby, Gracias Señor por mi hijo! Our 4th baby’s arrival marked the restoration and blessing that flowed.

Thomas Walter Greene

His name is Thomas Walter. It represents family legacy. My primo Tomas, was my amas own beloved nephew, who himself was generous and kind. I loved the idea of this family name. On Bens side, his ancestor Thomas Rogers had been on the Mayflower ship to the New World and my flaco appreciated what that meant for him. Walter is my Benjamin’s middle name, which was his fathers name and his grandfathers. It means army ruler. Perfecto! Our son can be described as a gentle giant and a go-getter.

Thomas Walter Greene

Nineteen years later, Thomas Walter, our friendly, people person son has demonstrated what a grateful heart looks like.  With this child of mine, saying his complete name doesn’t mean he’s in trouble, it just has a warm ring to it. 

Thomas is always quick with a kind greeting and never stingy with his hugs. He truly is genuinely happy to see you, everyone else in our family needs a minute or a cup of coffee before we can be so friendly. 

When he knows there’s pain in your life, he wants to offer comfort. If there’s celebrating to do in your name, he’s ready to honor you. When he’s being celebrated, he absolutely loves it and knows how to appreciate it, graciously and joyfully. 

Our youngest child grew up trusting his siblings and loving them, he is a loyal little brother and works hard at winning over his nephews and nieces. I could go on for days but suffice to say, that from our last baby we all have gleaned so much.

The Promises of God

Looking back to those days of restoration I see the fingerprints of God as we stayed on course and trusted him. He sheltered us when the storms came, and he strengthened us as our family grew. 

“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust…” Joel 2:25   

This was the promise from scripture that my pastor reminded me of one day at the altar as I prayed.

Mexican-American Girl Goes East Part 3: The Cousins

It’s The People That Matter:

I’ve really enjoyed myself as I’ve taken this trip down memory lane to New England. Pero ya se que, I have done very little justice to the beautiful New England scenes. My eyes are mostly captured when something is familiar. Quisas, that sounds narrow, and I’m working on expanding my vision. So it happens that when a breathtaking scene grabs me, I always want to insert one of us into the scene. I want to memorialize it that way, but Ben probably considers it a photobomb! He sees the beauty of nature or historic sites and captures pictures all along a trip. People matter to me, when I look back at a memory, it’s hardly about the landscape and the climate. In the early days when Bens family was just Bens family, I was nervous about every aspect of relating. Comprendes? Now that they are our family, asi es, this Mexican American is a true Greene today.

Mother in Law Dance

Meeting my mother in law was  súper overwhelming, most every young wife will agree, that across the board it can be intimidating. My head was already filled with worries that I was not going to meet her standards. Can I insert right here, I am a mother of three boys, now men. mis hijos are guapos y trabajadores! Can another woman see to all their needs and wants? Hijole! Madre Cuervo! I heard my ama share this little tale more than once. You can imagine my fears, verdad? What will she think of me? Que va decir de mi? Maybe she had another plan for my Benjamin? Anyway you get the picture right? I have no idea what my suegra was thinking of me because she was very New Englandish, polite and reserved. Recently I picked up a book called “The Mother Inlaw Dance”. Check out the subtitle “Can Two Women Love the Same Man and Still Get Along” It was a good read, Heartfelt stories that described both sides of the relationship.

Brown Skin and White Skin

Now top all those worries with anxiety about my being different from Ben. On the day Ben went to ask my parents for my hand in marriage, my apa looked at Ben as he put our arms next to each other and asked “Do you see her color?”  Being in New England for the first time, I truly felt my fathers concerns. Could Ben take care of me and make me feel safe? Would his cousins see beyond my skin color? Would I see past the white? 

The Hostess

My mother in-law Nancy getting ready for the family meal.

Settling in and taking in all the personal history the old Manse held was unreal. De veras, some of his family were very much a part of American history in the making. Imaginate? Ancestors from the Mayflower! Once here in the New World, they were considered immigrants! That knowledge should have comforted me as the first house guests arrived. 

To keep things in order, during family meeting weekend, any family member not in residence has to “reserve” their room with the hostess as needed. Nancy was a fine hostess, situating us, the cousins and organizing the potluck lunch, in her quiet demeanor.

I didn’t realize that it would be my turn to hostess one day.

Meeting the Cousins

Those cousins that lived in town walked over to the Manse to greet and meet Nancy’s new daughter in law, at least that’s how I felt, yet I feel my friend again saying “Esa, it’s not all about you” But I was anxious, should I have changed out of my shorts and calmed my wild hair down. That humidity was doing a number on my hair. Should I look a little more presentable to meet more of Ben’s family? 

The Frenchies

Dorthy and Jacques girls on Mt. Manadnock

 The Teddy Greenes from down the road came by to say hello and talk about the family meal for the meeting. Cousin Teddy was intimidating, in the New England way. He was very tall, lanky, serious and quiet. Except for meeting him I didn’t really share words with him. Mira nomas! Los Greenes have a French branch in the family. Ben had always teased that his family was already multicultural, now, I was meeting Frenchies. Quien sabe if cousin Dorothy is 2nd cousin, or a cousin once removed? She married a Frenchman and remained in France.

I Wanted to Run and Hide

Very friendly primos, but I was being a “ranchera” that’s what we call someone who’s too timid and gives off a rude vibe, I’m really tempted to blame it on cousin Teddy 😑. Dorothy’s husband, Jacque, introduced himself, thick accent and all, that helped calm my anxious nerves. Still the differences felt like huge chasms, not just my Mexican, but the economic status. I wanted to run and hide in the Cannonball room (remember the rooms have names), but that was scary too! 

 The cousins from out of town started arriving, first was Banky and his wife Sue. Banky was Nancy’s 1st cousin, we call it “primos/hermanos.” Ya se, something about latinos that we intensify life with such intimacy, can you get closer than a cousin/brother?. Cousin Bank was friendly and a little forward, which added to my nervios. 

When small talk ensued, he told me about his career as a school principal. Andale! That’s why I was uncomfortable. Mr. Hinkle, our basketball coach turned principal, would roam the school grounds to see who he would bust! Not a settling first impression. Then he disclosed that he was a minister. Mas nervios! I was saying things like “I don’t do religion anymore, I have a personal relationship with Jesus” Hijole! 

 Banky was curious about my upbringing. I was guarded. Why did he ask if I spoke spanish? Pues si, I am Mexican. I forgot that not all Mexican Americans spoke spanish, that it all depended on location, preferences and convictions. He did inform me that he dealt with spanish speaking students; Puerto Ricans and Newyorkicans, but in my eyes that’s a whole different language.

I clicked with his wife Sue a bit easier when she pointed out that she too was an “out-law” in the family. She shared her initial reactions to life in the Manse and discreetly? Or quietly and calmly encouraged me to talk about myself, Hay si, like that is ever difficult.

It was Bank and Sue’s long time tradition to spend several days in Jaffrey in the Manse during family meeting days. They had their daily routine and planned their various dinner dates and forums to attend. When they talked about going to a forum that first summer, I didn’t let on that I didn’t know what a forum was, it sounded so technical, so clinical. Una junta? Just a meeting?! A place where people hear views and opinions on a specific topic. In my world, we met at the dinner table, and the loudest voice interjected his/her ideas and the platica proceeded through the meal. 

Cousin Jane

Jonathan and his cousins

On Saturday morning, the day of the family meeting, I met Cousin Jane. She was a little bit different. Like, she veered off my New Englander compass somewhat. Yes, she was a little severe. I learned pretty quickly that she took her heritage, her projects, her jobs and her views quite seriously. She voiced her opinions with some feisty tones sometimes. Cousin Jane was a woman with goals. From what I can tell, when she took on a cause, like women’s rights, she gave herself to it. It did take me a minute to recognize that she wasn’t necessarily bossy, but her hands were in the masa 😉. As she chatted, she filled me in on the Torrey relatives, her brother Fred and his family. She asked questions, wanting to know what my plans were or even what I had accomplished thus far. Hijole! I wanted to react defensively, especially since I had done a quick inventory on my accomplishment and knew I had nothing great to share, at least not what I thought she wanted to hear. Instead, I smiled and told her about myself, no fluff added, porque, there was none.

Cousin Jane was not a typical Torrey, don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t loud, but she spoke her mind. My bestie could easily pass as a New Englander, she’s got a quiet voice, a calm demeanor and when she listens to you, she also studies you, both ears and eyes are paying attention. Sometimes that makes me want to squirm. This is how I would describe the Torrey side of Ben’s family. Comprendes? 

Homemade Ice Cream Tradition

Cousin Jane & her daughter, cousin Debbie

Cousin Jane was in charge of the wonderful sweet tradition of making and sharing homemade ice cream on family meeting day. She brought her prepared fresh peach mixture, her recipe, rock salt and ice. The antique hand crank  ice cream maker was at the Manse ready for use. She recruited all the kids, teens, and toddlers. She used any willing person that wasn’t in the actual meeting. A little kid stood on the lid to secure it while a big kid cranked the handle, spinning and freezing the ice cream. Good old fashioned hard work for sure. Traditions were important to Jane and even with something like ice cream, it seemed that she did not minimize the experience or change the patterns. 

Daniella helping with the cleanup after the ice cream was cranked

Offenses Will Come

How do you publicly speak about first impressions and not offend? My typical latina self had several reactions at my first family meeting. Some things were strange to me. I tended to misinterpret certain mannerisms. My biggest hurdle has been the quietness and the lack of emotion or reactions to situations, even after almost 33 years I can find myself offended with my flaco for not feeling enough. Asi es, coming from an emotional familia and culture I sometimes still forget that lack of outward emotion doesn’t mean lack of feeling. In my world, the way we tend to control all other emotions is with outward stone faced anger. That will show a person to stay away and keep me from talking too much. Imaginate! Bens had to field that bomb plenty of times. The thing that keeps both of us grounded is that we are anchored in Christ, otherwise ni se sabe!

Conclusion: Different People can thrive together.

Today, there are many mixed marriages, but over 30 years ago, I really thought I was the only Mexican in New England, and we were the only couple with this formula; Mexican American + New England American, I was not alone and for sure in America we were not that unique. It didn’t stop me from feeling like my sailor on the high seas, bien solita en el  mar. 

I know now that with a willing heart couples, families can grow and prosper no matter the different stations of life.

Remembering Mi Ama

Today marks 32 years that me and my siblings have walked this earth without our ama. Que dramatica! Everytime a memorial day comes out of the closet I think I must be sad and well, and I am. That’s when I have to choose not to be a chillona and I must make a conscious choice to turn my sadness into something better. I’m gonna text my sis in a while and remember with her our ama.

Mothering Techniques

I miss her, she is a feisty latina woman! She had to be, with 4 strapping boys that had plans of their own and 4 feisty latina daughters! If her command and tone didn’t get the job done, she pulled out her secret weapon: “Vas a ver! Cuando venga tu Padre” Yikes! We never wanted my apa to get involved. Just writing this makes me sit up straight. 

In her house the rule was “Aqui van hablar espanol” and we did… our version, el Spanglish.

She wanted us well versed in spanish for when we went to visit la familia en Guadalajara. Ama wanted to prove that we were indeed Mexicanos to the bone. In our opinion, we were the best spanish speakers in the barrio, but when we were in the colonias of Guadalajara…and the primos laughed at our spanish, we showed them. We loosened our tongue into english mode, accent and all, they didn’t know any better. Hay si, muy muy is what they judged us with. We weren’t trying to seem songrones, stuck up, acting like we were better. But hey! Who wants to be laughed at? For our ama we stayed in spanish mode as needed and I’m glad I did, because today I’m muy bilingue, by my own assessment of course.

Mexican American

My ama worried that we’d lose our spanish and Mexican but because of her we didn’t even here in America. She was happy to know that even with my gringo I wouldn’t take off my Mexican. 

Hijole! I do regret not appreciating her enough. But, I am comforted to know that as long as I “stay saved” Christianese for stay connected to Jesus, allowing him to cover me over my Mexican American Heritage I’ll see her again and I’ll talk to her in spanish and maybe in Gods heavenly language.

I love you mi Ama!

Mexican American Girl Goes East Part 2

Last week we travelled back East to my first visit into Ben’s world and quietly made it through Connecticut. Although it was culturally shocking to all my senses, I was glad that my husband was so eager to share his life with me. 

Gracias a Dios que I spent my introduction to the Greene family with just my mother in law and Ben at first. The rest of the cousins I’d meet at the Manse. Another tweak,  Ben called everyone except his brothers, cousins. Asi es, either first cousin Will or second cousin Bankcroft and so on. Muy diferente than our classifications of familia. In large Mexican families it can get complicated. You’ve got tios y tias, then come the cousins. So my brothers and sisters are my kids’ uncles and aunts and my first cousins are also their tios y tias, get it?. Maybe I shouldn’t stir that pot huh?

The Mysterious New Englanders

With so many new waters to tread, I wasn’t sure how well I handled it all, and my suegra? Well she was just like a New Englander, cool, calm and collected no matter what she thought of this spicy or feisty latina! Aqui, right here, in the beginning of this post, I’ll confess that even after almost 33 years of communion with my Benjamin, New Englanders remain a mystery to me. 

Mi Suegra

Maybe Nancy, y no me juzguen, it’s actually very appropriate to use her first name, she encouraged it, no disrespect intended. In spanish I would probably have called her Doña Nancy.

Anyway, maybe she just put herself in my shoes. A young pregnant wife, away from her comfort zone. I’m very much like my ama, if I feel it I show it, if I’m not feeling it, I show it more. Then drench my culture shock with pregnancy hormones, hijole!  I felt like Ben needed to school me or warn me about the “New Englander ways,” but he didn’t. Nancy was gracious and patient as I discovered this new world.

In the fews months of marriage I knew from pictures and Bens descriptions that he came from an “upper middle class”. Imaginate! I didn’t even know there was an upper and lower deck to the middle class, and to be fair to Ben, he never really thought of it or considered what “class” he was in. I mean the family pictures on the boat in the ocean was a natural occurrence to him.

Through the house in Connecticut, I saw that Ben’s family was comfortable with money, but it wasn’t like I imagined or saw in movies. Their money comforts were not necessarily in rich clothes or new cars or showy things. My suegra drove a small white honda accord, Nancy was no showy lady. 

The Greenes appreciated history, personal history. “Rich” things were items passed down through the generations. They were “rich” in talent and displayed it and yes, they were quite comfortable in their material possessions but they didn’t make a grand affair of their stuff. This helped me to relax…poquito.

Bens Parents & his brother Jeremy

New Hampshire

After a few days in quiet Connecticut I was glad to be on our way to New Hampshire, I needed some distraction and activity, nature was too noisy for me.  It was another beautiful drive of winding back roads lined with huge trees. Everytime Ben turned around to point out a childhood memory, he’d have to wake me up. I was ripping him off of his reminiscing delights with my first trimester, I was nodding off with every curve we took.

It was almost time to meet some more Greenes at the family meeting.  They came from everywhere to gather time every summer. We pulled up into a long driveway in front of the huge house. I had already been seeing the white wood siding and green shutter trimmed houses with lots and lots of windows along the way, but this one was different. The Manse was personal, it’s where the Greenes reconnect. Que suerte, the house was empty. Well maybe not luck, but God’s grace, as I needed time to absorb it all. 

History

Acuerdense, los Greenes, they go all the way back to England, before the New World. Pero, no se asusten, I’ll only go back a couple hundred years 😉.

In the late 1700s Laban Ainsworth, the family patriarch, travelled with his wife, on horseback from Woodstock, Ct. to Jaffrey, NH. There he established his ministry and parsonage as the new appointed minister of the small town. Sounds pretty straight forward verdad que si? According to history and family stories it was a very hard time, but when I’ve heard the accounts from any “even keel” Greene, it seemed like no kind of trial ruffled them. I’m trying to tell it just as a Greene, without drama. Pero, surviving scarlet fever, enduring the American Revolution and escaping your house burning down es bien dramatico!

Heritage

The Ainsworth Manse has remained in the family for 7 generations. The Greene name, that’s Green, with an “e” at the end, linked in when Ben’s great great grandfather, Admiral Theodore Phinney Greene married Señor Laban Ainsworths granddaughter. Mary Minot Ainsworth. From this point the lineage is easier to follow, mas o menos. Their son, Frederick William Greene inherited the Manse. In his lifetime, the early 1900s, he made additions and “modern day” changes as needed. Fijense, check this out, the family has worked hard to preserve the F.W. Greene estate and many of the items within. Remember I told you that antiques are a serious thing in New England? I need to plug in that the other family name is Torrey, which came in when the Torrey brothers married the Greene sisters. These were Ben’s grandparents. 

The Greenes/Torreys have managed to enjoy and maintain the Manse in the 21 century, while hanging on to its 19th and 20th century heritage. 

Walking Through the Manse

The Foyer

 Pasenle, welcome to the Manse. The original house has a large dining room with a fireplace, where the cooking was done, a cooking pot hung in there. Hijole, I am glad the family didn’t insist on that much antiquity. The music room, off to the side, opens to a long patio. A long picnic table is there for dining during the nice summer evenings. It’s encased with a window mesh screen to keep the mosquitos out, but they come anyway! The foyer, a long wide hall where the staircase and front door are, separates the parlor and library. I imagine visitors waited to be escorted to the parlor, or perhaps the library? I’ve read about these scenes in books by Grace Livingston Hill. In my world, visitors called out their greetings from the yard, “Buenos dias Doña Chuy!” Sometimes, the whole visit took place right outside in the yard.

Laban Ainsworth and his wife Mary in the Parlor

At the Manse, maybe a person was admitted into the foyer hung their heavy coat on the coat rack and waited on the settee. Asi es, pero I had only read about coat racks and settees. Upstairs, each of the 4 bedrooms all had a fireplace for those cold fall and winter nights. In New England people know what four seasons are. The Large bathroom had a deep clawfoot tub. Gracias a Dios, that Ben wouldn’t have to lug water to fill it. The window was small enough, and I wouldn’t have to steam up the bathrooms for privacy.

The Prophets chamber/ modern day middle children quarters 😉

Then Ben showed me the “L” part of the house, this held the additions and improvements of the early 1900s.  The L consisted of a kitchen, a bathroom, backstairs and a storage room. These are all part of a long and dark wide hallway. At the end of the hallway, there is the barn and a privy; an “indoor” outhouse, which I always avoid. 

Back hall of the L/modern day hide and seek arena

Upstairs, over the L are 5 more bedrooms, and a  bathroom and way at end of that upstairs hallway is another privy, this one was a 3-holer, Wacala! 

Did I mention that some of the rooms had names because of the people who originally used them or some other notable trait? The Cannon Ball room, The Nursery, The Prophets Chamber, The Boys room, The Canopy Room, Uncle Freddys Room (not at all scary for a California girl 😬). I used to wonder about that tradition, but now I find myself having names for the rooms in our home: Emerys Room, Citas Room, Tatas Room, The Office, the backroom…

The Nursery

The house scared me a little, ok, it scared me alot! It is creaky and dark and it has a deep earthy smell. The ancestors portraits hang on the wall and their eyes follow you when you pass by. Old pictures dan miedo! That first visit, I never went downstairs alone, I’ve grown accustomed to the old house now, but I do avoid those eyes still!

The Manse, in Jaffrey NH is our summer home. Bien huyuyui! We share it with the other branches of the family, dividing up the weeks of summer so that we can enjoy it personally. Every generation has added their modern day comforts, which for the next generation are considered “old fashion” as the years have passed. Horsehair mattresses, yup. Pot Belly stove, utensils and cooking ware from each century, of course the older the more valuable. The Greenes/Torreys believe in hands-on experiences so nothing is too valuable to deprive a family member from using it, eso si, con cuidado por favor.  After all these years, I must admit that I’ve still got so much to learn about Ben and our kids’ rich History. Getting to family meetings in the summer has definitely helped my Greene growth and appreciation. 

Little Ben holding a family tree, Ancestry.com has nothing on the Greene’s!

Its such a rare treasure to be able to pass on so much history to our kids. This perhaps planted the seed to research my own history. Years ago Dad and I were stuck in the hospital for days. Talking kept him calm, and the conversation turned to memories. I started writing down his stories. While it may not be as well documented and preserved, I’ve spent years picking my dads brain, documenting those memories and researching all I can. I now have my own treasure trove of history.

Next week I’ll tell you about the cousins and the family meeting.