This is the last week of the A to Z challenge, which presented me with (you know the answer)-
I’ve never blogged every day; at the most twice a week and lately twice a month. This endeavor tested my commitment and discipline which were good things.
Every once and a while test yourself, commit to something new, dare yourself to try what you haven’t tried before.
Now on to the letter S and T.
The words that begin with the letters S and T which I’m most familiar with are sábanas and toallas.
These words mean bedsheets and towels.
During my childhood we were poor. Living in the housing projects poor, state government food poor, no dryer poor. We hung clothes on the rope clothesline in our asphalt backyard.
My job was to hang the sábanas and the toallas. They were the large items and with a little struggle, I could throw them on the clothesline.
The smell of bleach and detergent hovered in the air around me as I made my way down the lines.
Mom came behind me, taking wood clothespins out of her blue gingham apron pocket, and pinned the sheets and towels.
I’d sit on the porch watching the white sábanas and colorful toallas sway in the breeze, feeling important because I helped my mom. I wondered when I’d grow tall enough to hang and pin the clothes myself.
By the time I turned nine, I could reach the clothesline. Hanging wet blouses, heavy jeans, and the families underwear (except Mom’s, who hung them in the shower during the night) was no longer a desire but a chore.
At that point, my daydreams switched to Mom buying a clothes dryer.
For the A-Z challenge bloggers pick a theme and each day we blog a new letter representing the theme.
My theme for the month of April is all things Latino, specifically culture, language, music, food, in my Mexican American heritage.
Disclaimer: My writing reflects me and my family not the entire Mexican American or Chicano or Latinx experience.
I hope readers learn a little something about a first through fourth generation American family of Mexican descent by the time I get to writing the Z portion of the A to Z challenge.
The letter may represent an English or Spanish word, so here goes:
Today’s letter is A.
A is for Abuela: Grandmother.
Non-Spanish speakers know this word as it’s very common. The word conjures up chubby, gray-haired grandmothers, like in CoCo, who wear aprons and twist their long hair into buns or braids.
Not so in my family.
In my family, not one grandmother likes being called Abuela or Grandma.
“Nope, ‘abuela’ sounds too old,” they say; “call me Nana.” Pronounced: Nah-nah.
None of them would dare expose their gray hair.
So there’s Nana Maria, Nana Debbie, Nana Robin. If we’re all together the grandkids have to specify which Nana they’re calling or talking about.
Alas, I’m not a nana yet, but I’m keeping hope alive.
The nana’s in my family do have aprons similar to the one in the photo, though. And all know how to wield a chancla like the abuela in the picture but that description will be described when we come to letter C.
The attribute my sisters, female cousins, and mother have as abuelas or nanas is their unconditional love for their grandchildren and the ability to make them all feel special.
Nana’s are proud of their grandchildren. They attend soccer games, track meets, plays, and can be counted on to buy/ sell their school fundraiser stuff to family and friends.
Every nana I know says they LOVE their relationships with their grandkids because they get to enjoy them at their best and when the kids are tired or cranky, back they go to their parents.
Nana’s always have something in their refrigerators or will cook up something for the grandkids.
Nana’s remember birthdays, even if they have ten grandkids.
Nana’s love to do stuff with their grandkids, things they may not have done with their own kids.
Last, but not least, Nana’s are the best storytellers. They tell the grandkids all the things their mother or father got into when they were young or mention their most embarrassing moments.
And for that, grandkids love their nana’s.
If you are involved in the A to Z challenge, let me know in the comments by leaving your link.
In preparation for our Thanksgiving gathering, we moved the living room sofa out, rearranged the coffee table and other stuff and fit in three tables so we could be all together in one room.
Halloween used to be one of the top holidays around my house until the kids grew up and moved out. Now, there are more Fall decorations than ever before.
Fall makes me think of harvest which makes me envision gathering and storing up. We can’t help but recognize the shorter days, cooler nights, moving faster toward bare trees, cold and winter.
This transition between seasons from bright to dark makes me think of the past year, globally and locally with terrorism, war, and mass shootings. We’ve had struggles, disappointments, and failures in our life or that of our own families.
How, then, do we get through so much disappointment and express gratitude?
If you want to take a Gratitude Quiz and compare this year’s results with next year’s, go for it. It might be an eyeopener.
But back to the original question: how do we express gratitude?
This isn’t easy, but with practice, it gets easier.
We remember the days of light. The getting up when we’re down. We look back at those times when we tried again or started all over.
We recall that we’ve faced the unknown before, and survived. We’ve had family and friends die but we talk about the memories and what they added to our life.
We remind ourselves that even in the dark, we can push through and grow.
With daily practice, we can feel gratitude. Hopefully, we can express this to our family, friends, or a stranger that gave us support or showed a kindness when we went through the valleys.
A “Gratitude Journal” can get you into the practice of feeling grateful and eventually expressing gratitude. Here are some tips on how to keep such a journal.
I like what Jim Wallis says in his article “Gratitude as a Spiritual Practice” and share it here:
So in a year especially characterized by things that have made me deeply disappointed, concerned, worried, fearful, and angry, let me name my top 10 sources of gratitude at Thanksgiving 2017. (Not in any particular order.)
Parents who put their children’s lives and well-being as primary in their own schedules.
The indigenous people who led the way at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline and who demonstrated to us the vocation of stewardship for the earth.
The women who are standing up to tell their stories of sexual harassment and assault — and the men who have called out their peers.
Black pastors who are willing to speak the truth to power and protect their young people from increasing racism by finding themselves in the streets and not just in their pulpits.
White pastors who love their people enough to preach the gospel to them, even if their white parishioners are motivated more by the agenda of Fox News than the gospel.
Black and brown Christians who have called out their white brothers and sisters who say they didn’t vote for Trump because of his racial bigotry, but for other reasons, by saying I guess that wasn’t a deal breaker for you.
Global church leaders who are willing to exemplify the body of Christ as the most racially diverse community in the world in sharp contrast to the American bubble where racial geography trumps theology, and for American church leaders who are willing to denounce “America First” as a heresy.
Principled Republican conservatives who have been willing to stand up morally and politically to Donald Trump — like Mike Gerson, Peter Wehner, David Brooks, and Russell Moore.
Conversations with people who tell the truth like Bryan Stevenson, Michelle Alexander, William Barber, Brittany Packnett, Margaret Atwood, Valarie Kaur, Eboo Patel, Joe Kennedy III, and Mark Shriver.
Thanks be to the God who loves and sustains us while we try to figure out our strategy every day!
Five years after my youngest became a vegan, I now have another vegan son who has a wonderful girlfriend who is also vegan.
I began cooking vegan style for the youngest some time ago. My oldest son, David and his girlfriend, Laura ‘veganize’ all sorts of foods while educating people on their YouTube site titled “Hangry Vegans.” Their videos show their adventures shopping and creating vegan dishes. Recently, they created a Wix site, you guessed it: “Hangry Vegans.”
We made five types of tamales. And, this year I wasn’t the only one making vegan tamales. David and Laura sat at the table and learned from me and his aunt about the ‘how to’s” of making the masa (dough) and filling for tamales without lard or animal products.
They tried to manipulate the butter knife, masa to oja (corn husk) ratio, and fill the tamales without making them into fat burritos. I was impressed they kept at it, smoothing and fixing the ojas, laying on the right amount of chile and ‘cheese.’
A mother is impressed when her daughter cooks, but a Latina mother is doubly surprised when her adult son tackles a medium difficult project. For the trifecta, Laura said she and David would keep up the tradition. Maybe there will be some little ‘tamales’ in their future 🙂 (I’m going to get an OMG from them, but I’m joking!).
They both did well for first timers and now know why we complain of backaches the day after tamale making.
My mother stood by and asked what type of filling we’d use. When the words “Black beans” and vegan ‘cheese’ entered the conversation she gave us the familiar nose wrinkle. This is her polite way of saying “Yuck.”
You know millennials, they video everything. Here are the steps in motion:
Vegan Black Bean Tamales:
2 cups of Maseca Tamal corn flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Mix together in a large bowl and add:
1 1/3 cup of vegetable broth
In another bowl, use
2/3 cup of coconut or vegetable shortening.
Mix until fluffy. Add this to the dry ingredients and stir until batter is smooth.
Knead the dough like bread until it’s smooth and slightly sticky.
You can also buy store-bought masa at a Mexican supermarket. Ask for masa sin preparada (not prepared with lard). To this masa add the vegetable shortening and knead.
Spread a thin to medium layer of masa on the oja/corn husk, leaving 1/4 from the top clear.
Add a tablespoon or more of drained and rinsed cooked black beans, shredded vegan Monterrey style Jack cheese, and diced green chiles or strips of chile. A teaspoon of salsa verde or salsa roja can also be added.
Fold each side of oja to the middle and fold over the top of the oja. Press the open ends of the oja gently together.
Take a deep pot (tamale) which has a steamer bottom or put an overturned foil pie pan with four ventilated holes at the bottom of the pot. Add water until it reaches the rim of the pie pan.
Stack tamales into the pot about 2/3 full and around the edges, leaving a small funnel in the middle. Or, you can basketweave the tamales around the edges, also with a funnel in the middle. Water, when needed, is added in this space.
Wet and wring out a clean cotton kitchen towel. Drape it over the top of the stacked tamales, put a lid on the pot and place on the stove, at medium heat. Add water when necessary.
Set a timer for 90 minutes. Use a potholder to lift the lid and check the tamales. The masa will be cooked solid if it’s done. If the masa is mushy, set the timer for another hour.
Any vegetable filling can be used: lentils and corn, spinach and vegan cheese, peas and carrots, butternut squash are some examples.
For our sweet tamales recipes: Pineapple, Coconut; Cinnamon Raisin; and Strawberry go over to Hangry Vegans website. Check them out, they’re so cute.