I write about my life and life itself seen through my eyes for who can write through the experiences of others if not their own?

Sunday, September 04, 2016

I Saw You

I don’t know I should feel bad about seeing you and not feeling anything.
I don’t know that I should feel good about seeing you and not feeling anything.
I don’t know how I should feel. I did notice you. There is that.
I thought you would last forever, but forevers have a deadline.
Maybe it was because the memory I kept of you was greater than reality.
Or maybe I let go.
That is sad, isn’t it?
Maybe I made you be who you never were and like all statutes you fell too.
No wrong on your part, I’m who created you.
I’m who let go.

Friday, September 02, 2016

I Am The Daugher Of An Illegal Alien

I am the daughter of an illegal immigrant.

My mother, was an illegal alien. An experienced accountant, she left her country for reasons that were not money related, even if money was not necessarily abundant.
Not every immigrant is destitute, uneducated, low life. Most are not and she certainly wasn’t. But one thing she was:
An illegal alien.
She embraced her status bravely. Working two shifts in factories under difficult conditions where she never made minimum wage. I remember her fingers red with blisters caused by the “long play” records she removed hot from the press. Her tired smile sent in pictures to her family in Colombia walking to a train station in freezing temperatures. I remember the time she worked through the fever of bronchitis unable to take a “sick day” and without seeking medical care because her status didn’t come with health benefits, and seeking them was a red flag for deportation.
I am the daughter of an illegal alien.
An honest, hardworking illegal female immigrant.
Other members of the family followed. All illegal. All worked in similar conditions. All hard working honest people. Under their illegal status, their federal pay check deductions were left behind unable to file IRS return.
Their challenges are not new. Their slow acceptance into this country was not smooth, and that’s not new either. Other groups suffered as much.
I have a hard time thinking that any of them robbed a citizen of a job they would have taken under similar circumstances for less than minimum wage and no benefits. I have as hard of a time believing they received anything they didn’t work hard to get.
They didn’t run back to their country when their status changed. They stayed, invested in the economy and raised a family.
Their lives were not easy. They lived in fear, and they worked hard. And they were grateful. When you have nothing, you are grateful for everything.
It’s difficult to sit back and watch how they are depicted as criminals and to hear about the glamorous easy life they supposedly had as illegal immigrants.  None of it is true, at least not to this immigrant family.
I’ve never been illegal, but I am of an illegal family. It is from them that I learned that deep commitment to work ethics and integrity that now I pass on to my children.
I am the daughter of an illegal alien and I am proud.

Best Medicine

Every fitness magazine will tell you that daily exercise is the best medicine.
Weight loss, low blood pressure, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease are but the tip of the myriad of benefits.  Research shows that running reduces anxiety and stress and calms your emotions.
Being out there, just you and the road, is therapeutic. It’s being in sync with oneself, it’s peaceful, it’s prayer from within, and at times, it’s ecstasy. I don’t mean to imply that these moments of delight make every run easy, but I can attest to the benefits to the mind and soul.
Running has been my companion in my doggiest days. It was my aid when I fought an illness. It gave me the strength-- more mental than physical-- to go on. During those days, when getting up and lacing the sneakers was difficult, running provided the calm I needed. It has not made life better, nor adversities less, but it certainly has made difficulties more tolerable. If nothing else, running has provided a pause before reacting, and has given me time to think before making a decision.
Let’s face it, if you had a fight with your partner, you won’t love them more after a run, but you’ll be less likely to kill him or her!
There are many other benefits. Just ask Enrique Murillo, addiction counselor. Thirty-four years ago Enrique went for his first run two months after having had his last drink. Alcoholics Anonymous had helped him stop, but he needed a resource to keep him from relapsing. He had to deal with the newly found sense of reality he faced without alcohol, and running was the healthy habit he needed. “It provided the axis for my recovery,” he says.
It doesn’t just happen, though. Murillo stresses that you must embrace it, form the commitment, develop the engagement. Make it a habit that becomes part of yourself. Jesse Bailey, one of the clients Enrique counseled in the RECAP Center in Middletown where he works, agrees. Four years clean, he credits running with the mental strength needed during his struggle. “It was the only time I felt good that first year.
Enrique is documenting his findings. He hopes to prove that of the dozen addicts he has counseled, those who embraced running or walking have remained sober longer. His goal is to demonstrate that an exercise program is an essential part of the recovery phase.
Those who are looking to make a change in their life physically and mentally, start by going for a walk, a jog, sign up for a 5K, and feel the calm and energy flow. Self-prescribe with a dosage of the best medicine there is.


A Good Run

On weekends, I like to start my day early so I can enjoy as many hours as possible. Oddly, weekends and vacations, I wake up the earliest.

I love to run. It’s my time to decompress. Sometimes it is my silent prayer. When it’s only me and the road, I find peace, and many times I think of solutions to issues on my mind. But as much as running offers me, most of my runs are only to maintain my fitness level or my mileage. Few are remarkable.
On Sunday I drove to Bethel, New York. I started my run early to avoid the impending daytime heat; the skies were pale grey and the town slept.
The roads were quiet. Animals fed in their farm. A distant rooster greeted the morning sun. Cornfields lined some of the roads of the Vintage Run Half Marathon course I was following.
Ducks, chased by a dog, landed on a pond across the street.
The trees that four months ago were bare were robust now with green leaves that would change to a plenitude of colors by the time of the Vintage Run on October 1st. Their perennial change is a reminder of the cycle of life we cannot escape.
The lack of rain exposed rocks in the streams that normally run full.
I passed two silos standing tall on the green acres of a farm on Old Taylor Road.  Hay bales lay piled alongside the barn. I caught my breath after the long hill and wondered who lived in this remote place bursting with tranquility.
My pace was slow. The heat was rising and my lack of long distance training showed. I timed my walk breaks with the hills, snapping pictures of the gorgeous views that surrounded me. I breathed in this peaceful time alone, so needed in today’s hectic life.  I realized I had not turned on my iPod, but I was glad for the silence to be so in tune with nature.
The town was awakening. Kids in their pajamas ran around in their yards, people walked their dogs, cars emerged heading up to the Woodstock monument. A woman asked how many miles I was running and offered water. “I have only a half mile to go,” I replied. “I can’t hardly make it to the end of my driveway,” she said with a smile. “Neither could I years ago. It’s a matter of giving it a try” I assured her.
I made my final turn and tackled the last hill. I was tired, but felt surprisingly good. I got to my car and waited for the sweat to stop pouring before getting in. I smiled. I was happy.
Sunday was a good run, a peaceful run, a remarkable run. A time away from the steel and concrete of the city. It was about being out there for the simple reason that I could be. 


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Ring

I see it on their finger as they pass by me. It’s visible when they hold their drink. I don’t think anything of it, but I notice it. It’s obvious.
They are married and not afraid to tell the world.
I like seeing it. I would have liked to see it in the finger of the man to whom I gave a ring during our wedding vows.
Maybe it was too much to ask? Maybe it was too much to wear?
Maybe it didn’t matter.  I wore mine. I was the only one who did in that relationship.
I could have used a reason why it was never worn, a lie perhaps. I could have done without the mocking in front of friends and the outright “I don’t want to”
Funny how simple things dig so deep in our soul.
So deep one day we take our own ring off and walk away.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Show It. Don't Post It.

We had not seen each other in like forever. We both had gotten married within months of each other and since then our communication via letters had become scarce. Well, not mine. I kept writing, but in the rare occasions when I received one of hers, it was brief with the endless promise to write more later, and in every note (they were too brief to be called letters), she reminded me of how immensely happy she was with the wonderful man God had gifted her.

On our first vacation I asked my husband to go with me to visit my friend. Our trip would be short, but enough to catch up.
In spite of the limited days we had, my friend never found time for “us girls” alone. Her hand always resting on her husband’s lap, or sharing a kiss with him, sometimes passionately. In our very few moments alone, perhaps when he went to the bathroom, she reiterated her immense happiness.
I left convinced of her self-proclaimed bliss. Perhaps a little too close, perhaps a little too much PDA, but glad she had found her soul mate and her paradise as she called it. I wonder about me. I was happy, but I never talked about it. Was I not appreciating the cards I was dealt?
Her marriage ended a year later with a list of infidelities by her husband and rocky times she had never disclosed.
Mine lasted 25 years.
Show it. Don’t post it.
It’s a quote I have shared a few times when and after the unrelenting effort some friends put in social media talking about their unbelievable happiness.
Unbelievable. That’s the key word.
When a relationship forces all others in the back burner, when an email from a friend is replied with no more than two lines, when calls and messages are ignored, it’s not a perfect relationship.
You are trapped in an illusion and in the exhausting job of convincing the world of what you are not convinced.
There are no perfect mates. Happiness is made of imperfections, of trial and error moments. It’s made of enough time away to miss one another and sufficient time together to feel confident, but not suffocated.
The (im)perfect mate is an addition and enhancement to your life, not a replacement of it.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A Comedy of Errors

If it wasn’t such a stressful day, I would have thought it to be very funny.
Got to Columbia Presbyterian for my test. Walked into doctor’s suite to register and get blood work. “No, you have to go to the catscan for that”
Last time I was told to come here first.
“No, that was not coordinated with us”
Go to Catscan waiting room. Drinking the barium fultate and waiting. Ten minutes before I asked “Am I going to get blood drawn before the scan as it’s always done?”
“We don’t know anything about that. We can’t see that information. Go next door to the lab”
Went to Lab: “You are not registered. Do you have the script?”
Back to catscan “I need a script”
“We don’t have that information here.  Tell them to look you up”.
Back to Lab “Look me up”
“You are not registered plus you are already drinking the barium sulfate.”
Back to scan waiting room. “Lab won’t do it”
“They’ll test you here for kidney function only before the scan”
Get to scan…no kidney function test.
Inside of tube nurse asks “do you have a skirt on?”
No, shorts.
“We can see the zipper”
“Maybe you should have told me to lower my shorts like it’s always done? You do this every day. I don’t”
Nurse gets her arms inside tube, tells me not to move while she lowers my shorts.
I would have thought taking me out to lower my shorts and redoing the images would have made more sense.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Piece Of A Puzzle

You would think there is no interest in locating a man who walked away when I was five years old and whom I grew to fear in the next four. You would be right. He was the reason why my mother emigrated from our Country to put distance between us. To protect us.

There has been the occasional spark of curiosity, now that I live in a country of immigrants where everybody knows about their ancestors, to know where the light brown hair I inherited and the green eyes I didn’t come from. But other than that, I never made much of an effort to find my father.
What would I say to a man who didn’t make many memories with me, and some of the few I have are of a child hiding under a bed afraid of being taken away from my mother?  There were no answers he could have ever provided and I never had any questions I cared to ask.
I did make a phone call in my early 20s and located my uncle. A very pleasant man, he told me my father lived in another city and didn’t visit much. “Like a comet, we only see him every so many years” He told me there were other children he had fathered and that, as important of information, didn’t resonate with me. I hang up and never made another effort.
I grew up with a brother whom I love dearly. We played, we made memories. We are siblings of blood and upbringing.  I had no desire to find any others that were not part of my life. Like my father, what would say to a complete stranger?
Until today.
I found one of my brothers. I couldn’t be happier.
It’s like realizing I’ve been living in the corner of my existence and I’ve found pieces to the rest of the puzzle.
And I did have a lot of questions to ask this complete stranger who after a few messages felt comfortable like an old friend.
This is not about locating a man who walked away from me. It’s not about the past. It’s about the present and getting to know a person who will help me complete the puzzle.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Lunch Remark

Sitting at the Olive Garden Restaurant the person in front of me looked straight at me and said I should send my work to a real editor. “You might be told that your work sucks”.  A frequent visitor to my blog, she felt blogging didn’t make me a writer and my “followers” and visitors comments were no evidence that my writing was any good. 
The comment came unsolicited. I was not looking to publish. I didn’t consider myself a good or bad writer, I simply enjoyed writing, posted essays often and thought of myself as a writer. 
I looked at her and smiled while picking at my salad, dumbfounded, unable to find any words to say. The remark was not only unsolicited, it was shocking and demoralizing.
After a while, persuaded by the encouragement of a professional writer, I did send my work to an editor. Hesitant at first, I submitted my essays to a private company on the opposite side of the country.
The initial quote doubled when the editor learned English was my second language. Months later when the editing was completed, the bill arrived. To my astonishment it was far lower than what it had initially been quoted.  As explanation to the low bill the editor added a comment praising my work. 
The work submitted for editing turned into my first self-published book. Although I fell short on marketing, the book was met with good reviews. I was subsequently asked to collaborate on two projects led by another author and recently I was approached by a newspaper to write a weekly column. Wanting to keep some time for my own writing, I declined weekly and settled for a three-week rotation. The experience has been fulfilling.
The remark made during lunch that time could have dented my self-confidence. In fact, it did. Had it not been for the reinforcement of a writer I respected who liked my work and encouraged me to continue, I would have missed the experience of holding my own book in my hands…
It has taken a while to embrace the simple fact that I write because I can and whether a person likes it, thinks it sucks, or is indifferent doesn’t change the fact that I am a writer, and that’s all that matters.  
“I carried on and kept running, realizing just then that sometimes the toughest part about achieving something and succeeding is realizing that maybe not everyone is going to be happy for you.  But, you must remain positive and remain driven.   Leave the negative people to the cold frustration of complaint.  They inhabit a lonely world best left to themselves.” – David McGillivray Motivational Speaker.