Everything Old is New Again

The first day of 2012 was a bit like many nights in 2011 and yet, it was different from many days in 2011.  It was different in the sense that Juan and I hosted an open house for the New Year, something we haven’t done before.  In previous years, we entertained a lot, hosting  a big Christmas open house, and several dinner parties throughout the year.   2011 came and went, and except for a family dinner in September and Thanksgiving, we did not have anyone over for dinner, or drinks, not even a sandwich.  I realized that I needed to change that so, at the last minute, we sent out E-vites and invited people to come over. It was a really good time. Even though we did not have as big a turnout as we would have liked (I think something went wrong with the emailed invitations), we had a nice mix of people from our church, our work, and even our neighbors.  I made black-eyed peas for New Year’s luck and we had a good spread of appetizers and drinks.

January 1, 2012 was also a bit like many of the nights we had in 2011. In 2011 we spent a lot of time at doctor visits, and waiting rooms in hospitals and urgent care centers.  About halfway through our open house, Erica started feeling really bad, with symptoms she had experienced before.  She toughed it out for a couple of hours, and as soon as I was able, I left our party and took her to the ER. Luckily, all the guests that were still at our party, were very understanding and gave me the excellent advice to go to a different hospital, away from the craziness of Pasadena on the night before the Rose Parade. Erica was treated quickly and we got out of the ER in about 3 hours. Unfortunately, by the time I returned to my party, it was over. Ah well. I heard from all the guests, and Juan who stayed behind to continue hosting, that the party was a lot of fun. I just hope that we can get through 2012 with more parties, and fewer hospital visits!

During our party, one of our guests invited Juan to go to the Rose Bowl.  Juan accepted, but after the last guest left and the party clean up was over, he felt tired enough that he began to regret that he committed himself to getting up early and going to an all day event.  I told him that expanding our social circle was one of our goals for 2012 so he had to go, and he had to have a good time. When he came home from the game, his voice was hoarse and his face sunburned, but he had a fantastic time. Even though he didn’t have a favorite team to cheer for, the friends he went with were Oregon fans, so Juan ended up sitting with the Duck fans, and cheering right along with them.

Juan and friend in a sea of Ducks.

While Juan was enjoying his first ever Rose Bowl game, I stayed home and tried to get some house projects done. I was feeling the anxiousness that I usually experience when I have to return to work after a long weekend, or the end of a vacation, and I realize I haven’t accomplished what I planned on getting done.  I spent most of my morning packing up Christmas, grateful that we had pared down on the decorations this year. It only took 6 plastic bins to contain all my Christmas decorations.  Despite the fact that it was a gorgeous day, with temperatures in the mid 80’s, I stayed indoors, packing up decorations, doing laundry and cleaning. Then, Diego asked if I could do something special with him.  He wanted to take a ride on his scooter.  I thought to myself, it’s a new year, and there was laundry and cleaning to do in 2011 and there will be laundry and cleaning to do in 2013–I need to do something different, now. So, he got on his scooter, I got on my bike, and we took a ride around our neighborhood with our neighbors.

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

We ended up a our local gourmet ice cream shop, Carmelas. The place has all kinds of interesting flavors, Salted Caramel, Spicy Strawberry Sorbet. I had the Meyer Lemon, and Diego had a cup of Brown Sugar Vanilla Bean. At $3.50 a scoop, it isn’t cheap, but it’s not everyday, that you break out of the old habits, and get a fresh start on a New Year.

Diego at Carmelas.

 Two days into 2012. How’s your New Year going?

Sunday Offerings – Three Simple Joys

It’s a Sunday in Summer and, I confess, I didn’t make it to church today.  But, I did spend some time thinking about the following simple things that bring me joy and make me grateful.

!. Dodge Ball

Yesterday, Nico came home from a week at Boy Scout camp. He was covered in grime, and filled with stories of his camp adventures. He told me what he did each day, but when he told me about his last day at camp, his ever-deepening voice was filled with pride.

He told me that on the last day of camp, the camp staff challenged the scouts to an epic game of dodge ball. The game started out with about 30 boys playing against an equal number of staffers. Little by little, as the camper or staffer was hit by the ball, or failed to catch the ball, the player was eliminated. The game got down to Nico, the lone camper, against 3 of the kitchen staff. Nico threw the ball at one of the staffers. The ball hit the staffer’s legs and bounced off, hitting the second staffer, and both in one throw. With the game down to Nico and the last staffer, Nico threw the ball at the staffer. The staffer bent down to catch the ball, caught it, and then dropped it! The other campers who had been eliminated but were still watching the game let out a loud cheer for Nico.

The scouts won! Nico proudly told me how he was carried back to camp on the shoulders of his fellow scouts. What a great moment for him. Nico, the last man standing, triumphs in dodge ball!

2. Magical Cups

I have been helping my mom go through some of my grandmother’s things since my grandmother’s passing. It has been difficult and discouraging because she had so much stuff. We can’t just toss it out because some of it has value, even if it is just sentimental value. I took a few plant cuttings from my grandmother’s garden in the hope that maybe, in her death, my grandmother’s green thumb will have magically passed onto me. Yeah, we’ll see how that goes…

I also took these:

These are metal cups. They are the two remaining from a set which is long gone. When I was a child my grandmother would serve me milk in these cups. The milk always tasted so good when I drank it from these cups. Even though my stomach can no longer tolerate milk I wanted the cups, so my mom let me have them. Yesterday Diego, who rarely drinks milk, asked for a glass to go with his PB and J. Juan served him milk in the cup. Later, Diego asked for more milk from the cup. He said he had never tasted milk like that before. He told me the cup was “magical.”

I may not have my grandmother’s green thumb, but I have her magical cups.

3. Greener Pastures

About two weeks ago, Juan declared war on the grass. He looked at the patchy, yellow, poor-excuse-for-a-lawn we had in the backyard and said, “You and me lawn. I am going to win.” He went out and bought grass seed, lawn topper and set our sprinklers to automatic. Friday, we came home from a couple of nights out of town and we saw this:

Juan Wins!

Grass. Growing. And it is green!

Yeah. Maybe my grandmother’s green thumb went to Juan instead of me?

What about you? What simple things bring you joy? What simple things make you grateful?

What’s in a Name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

You have probably heard these lines before, but in case you didn’t read the Cliff Notes along with your assigned high school reading of this scene, Juliet is pining away, after meeting Romeo and learning he’s a Montague. The Montague’s are family rivals to Juliet’s Capulet clan. Juliet muses that although her newly beloved is a  Montague, what matters is who he is, and not what he is called. Ah, love.

We all know this is true. What matters is the person you are and not the name you are given. Unless, of course, you are a young boy with a spanish sounding name, growing up in a largely white, suburban neighborhood, like my husband, Juan Rafael. Or Juan. Or Ralph. Yes, Ralph. He became Ralph when he was in first grade and the nuns at St. Hedwig couldn’t say Juan Rafael.  Now, with a name like St. Hedwig, why the nuns felt compelled to give Juan a more English sounding name is beyond me.

Juan Rafael is a beautiful name, and sounds especially nice when it’s said with a Spanish accent. But, when my husband was growing up in the 70’s  and the nuns at his Catholic elementary school couldn’t pronounce his name, they asked him to for the english equivalent. He told them Juan was John, and Rafael was Ralph. They nuns decided to call him Ralph. He was Ralph all though elementary and high school. Even his Colombian family called him Ralph.  When he got to college Ralph took back his name and became Juan. He also changed his political party, joined MECHA and became active in politics, but that’s another story.

So, when I was pregnant with our child,  and Juan and I learned it was a boy, we began to consider names. We knew we wanted something that would translate to Spanish, but we had a hard time agreeing on anything. Then, we recalled where our son was conceived–in Acapulco, Mexico, during a celebratory wedding weekend for some family friends. The groom was named Diego. Diego. It was perfect. Not too ordinary. No tricky spanish pronunciation, but a name that translated to Spanish. We announced to my family our intention of naming our son the Spanish equivalent of James.  My dad, Jesus, loved the name we’d chosen. My dad, whose name is a popular choice among latinos, and who probably fought his own demons because of his moniker, thought Diego was a perfect choice for his only grandson who would be born of two latino parents. But then again, my father, who has a strong sense of pride in our own Mexican culture, would have been happy if Juan and I named our son after the Aztec ruler, Cuahtemoc. My mother wasn’t too sure of our choice. She asked me, “You’re really going to name him Diego?” Yes, I really am.

When our son was born, he did not look like a “Diego.” He looked like, well, a red, squishy faced, hairy little monkey.  One day I sat down to nurse my little monkey and turned on the TV.  As I  changed channels I came across Nickelodeon TV and I I saw this:

What? A kid’s show with a little brown-skinned explorer boy with jungle animals as his friends, named Diego? The show was “Go Diego Go.” It was kind of cute, but still obnoxious enough that I suddenly began to doubt my choice of moniker for my little monkey. How often would he be teased about his name? Would the theme song follow him onto the school yard and beyond? Luckily, I had been living under a rock and didn’t realize how popular the show was. It was a favorite among the pre-school set. By the time Diego entered pre-school, the name had a certain cache to it. My mother even came around, and told me that Diego’s name suited him perfectly.

I felt very pleased with myself about the name we had chosen. I even celebrated it when I planned his 3rd birthday party with a Go Diego Go theme.

One day, not long after Diego entered kindergarten he came home telling me about the friends he’d made. There was Ben, Ethan, Chris, Matt and a little boy with a biblical name, Oshea. Diego asked me why couldn’t he be named something else. Something more simple. Why couldn’t he be called Ben or, even better, Oshea?  Sigh.

I am Butter Pecan. You are Chocolate Chip? Or, Still Surprising Me After Eight Years Married.

Eight years ago today we were married. I woke up next to you on our wedding morning and you surprised me. You excitedly asked me, “Do you know what today is?” I thought, “Of Course!” It’s the day we will marry. It’s the day when you and I will become husband and wife. It’s the day when we will officially become a family.” But,  you were thinking of something else. You told me that the KISS/Aerosmith concert tickets went on sale that morning. Yes, you surprised me. And you made me laugh.

You surprised me later that day, before we were getting ready to walk down the aisle. When one is marrying a man who already has two young girls, and the bride has a young son of her own, the wedding isn’t just for the bride and groom, it is for everyone. It was a ceremony so we could formalize this thing called “blending a family.”

The room where we all waited before ceremony started, was filled with commotion. My parents, your parents, the kids, the photographer, the bridal coordinator. When I thought my head would explode with all the excitement, you surprised me again. You told everyone that you wanted us to be alone. The room cleared,  and it was just you and me, and the kids. You took charge of the room and took control of the moment. And me, the micro-managing control freak that I am, was happy, relieved to have you in charge. And then, you gathered us together, and we held hands in a small, family circle. You led us in a prayer together and asked God to bless us, bless our marriage and bless our family. That could have been our wedding right there, in that moment– I felt it was that special.

During the ceremony you surprised me again. We did not write our own vows, so I did not expect it when, in the middle of our ceremony, you asked for some time to speak to our guests, the small group of friends and family who joined us that day. I didn’t know it was coming, but you told them our proposal story. You told them how you proposed to me that night in New York in a carriage in Central Park. And then you read to them, as you had read to me, the poem you wrote, inspired by St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. I didn’t know you would do that during our wedding ceremony, and so, predictably, I wept. Predictably, you had your handkerchief ready to wipe my tears.

Later, I think we both surprised the kids when we asked them to join us in front of the altar,  and we gave them silver medallions that were in the shape of family circled in an embrace. I think we surprised our kids when I made promises to Olivia and Erica to care for them and support them, and when you promised the same for Nico.

That day, was filled with surprises, and laughter and love. But it was only the beginning. Last night, when we took the kids out for ice cream, you asked me if I could guess your favorite ice cream. I am embarrassed to say that I could not, even though you knew what I flavor I would order, before I even ordered it. I guess I was surprised you knew that I was Butter Pecan, but I was even more surprised to learn that you were not Pistachio, nor Coconut Pineapple, but Chocolate Chip. I like that I am still learning things about you. It makes our life together a little unexpected, even if it only is ice cream.

I know you joked that you wanted to start your own blog to write about the things your wife doesn’t know about you, but I hope that blog won’t have too many posts, because I think I do know you–at least the important things about you. Like the way you care for our family, how much you love us, the strength of your character, your goodness. Beyond these things, I hope we will still find new things in each other. I think it will keep things interesting. I look forward to many more years of love, laughter and surprise.

Happy Anniversary.

 

You might also like, Happy Un-Anniversary to Me.

A Change of Light in the Gloom of June

Around here I can usually tell it is June because of the gray skies,  known as June Gloom, the blossoming Jacaranda trees, and the inordinate amount of end of school year activities, family birthdays and anniversaries. This week I noticed the trees were filled with purple flowers, the cool,  grey mornings required a jacket, and there was nearly a daily occurrence of birthdays, school assemblies and a very special kind of anniversary

Ten years ago this week, Juan and I made plans to spend a Saturday afternoon at the beach with our kids. It seemed like it should have been summer already, but instead,  the overcast skies signaled the beginning of June Gloom. Still, we had young kids and wanted to keep them busy,  so Juan invited me to join him and the girls at  the beach.

Nico and I at a beach play date with Juan and the girls.

Juan and I had become friends through work . We supported each other through our sometimes messy and often painful divorces, and since our kids were close in age we would sometimes get together for weekend play dates. Juan had already asked me out for a date,  and even though I thought he was kind, funny and found his obsession with the rock band KISS to be a bit quirky,  I didn’t feel the romance, so I declined.  We agreed we should just remain friends.  But, something changed that cool, overcast June afternoon. I saw Juan in a different light. The way he played with his daughters; the way he flew kites with my son; and the spontaneity and lightness of the day made me see him in a new way, outside of being a serious lawyer. Perhaps if I had known that several months later he would show at my door looking like this, I would have changed my mind earlier.

He showed up looking like this one night, after attending a KISS record release event after work.

But I digress.  That evening, after we ended our afternoon beach play date with the kids, Juan and I spontaneously decided to go to a party given by one of our co-workers, at a Karaoke bar, in Koreatown. I think we both must have felt the desire to prolong our day, and not part each other’s company. Juan insisted on driving me to the karaoke bar.  When we got to the party, we drank something we now refer to as “Korean Lemonade.” Whatever it was, it was tasty, and strong. And it helped Juan lose some of his inhibition and get on the Karaoke stage with friends and sing. When I saw him up there singing, something clicked. (And, it was definitely not because he was a good singer.) I started to think, maybe, despite my injured heart, and his poor rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody, I should go out with this guy.

Really? Should I go out with him?

That Korean lemonade made Juan feel more than just brave–it also made him feel like couldn’t drive home.  I drove his car back to my house.  Juan must still have been feeling emboldened by that lemonade because he asked me for a kiss. I said yes. Was it the beach day, the Karaoke, the lemonade, or was it just a shift in my heart that allowed me to take a chance on this lawyer-dad-KISS-fan? Whatever it was, I am glad the sun came out in the midst of the June gloom, and the light changed enough for me to see Juan in a new way.