Family, Inspiration

An Inspiring and Compassionate Birthday Wish

Happy Birthday, creative commons lic.
Happy Birthday, creative commons lic.

 

Some of us approach birthdays with trepidation, others with a sense of joy, and some people really don’t think about being another year old.

My mother used to be in the first category, especially in the last two decades. Her image of youth and trying to maintain it seemed to be constantly on her mind. She took a glamor shot at 72 years old and at the time, we (her kids) rolled our eyes. Now I think, damn, I hope I can look that good.

Mom used to see her friends at work, after work, and at community functions. She marched with farmworkers, participated in strikes, rallied for parks in the neighborhood, and was in more civil rights organizations than I can remember. Sunday visits to relatives, birthday parties, wedding’s and baptisms filled the weekends.

I’ve called her my “Hurricane Mother,” in previous posts.

Now her brothers and sisters have passed on. She can’t drive. When she sees friends it’s at funerals and that number is dwindling because the friend is ‘in’ the funeral.

This reality bites. She’s been known to misquote Bette Davis:

“Old Age Ain’t For Sissies,” by saying ‘old age is a bitch,” pardon her french.

She’s mellowed out now and finds joy in most situations. She loves to have a good time, a great Bloody Mary, a cold Corona, or a moist chunk of chocolate cake. And two out of three is even better.

On Mother’s Day, she gathered us and the grandkids around the table in the backyard to talk about her upcoming birthday. “If you planned to give me a party, don’t. I have everything I need or want and I’ve been blessed more than I can say…”

She then told us a story about a young mother in our county who was burned in a horrible attack which left her with medical bills, without a job, and who is now struggling to keep her apartment.

Anything you were going to get me, give to her. Donate the money to her and her four children.

We were momentarily stunned. She loves parties and gifts. But then again, she loves helping people and that’s what she’s done all of her life.

I found the newspaper article on the victim and found out her husband committed the crime. He doused her with gasoline and lit a match. The evilness of this act can only be surpassed by the compassion of other people and by the mother and children surviving and thriving.

This is the link to the GoFundMe campaign set up by two women in the victim’s community.

https://www.gofundme.com/marthavenegas
Mother and Children, GoFundMe.com

I think this is an important part of celebrating another year. To pass on joy to others, to contribute to happiness, and to create family memories.

 

Inspiration

How to Fight Domestic Violence

If I can stop one heart... by Emily Dickinson
If I Can Stop One Heart by Emily Dickinson

Life between the sheets (of paper) is not always rosy. And I know people like to read about the ‘rosy,’ because there’s so much evil and trauma in the world that it can be overwhelming. I understand.

The issue of violence, domestic violence, is one of those non-rosy topics but it’s important to talk about.

Even after many years, my own experience is hard to discuss. Victims/Survivors feel judged if they talk about the topic, sometimes by others and other times by themselves.

Suffice it to say that domestic violence can be deadly at worse and traumatic at best.

I’ve heard it said that writers work out their own issues in story. There’s a lot of truth in that. In one of my novels (unpublished) the main character experiences violence. The opening lines:

I didn’t run because I killed him. I ran because I didn’t. He was alive when I left, but that wasn’t important to the judge who sentenced me to San Bueno Correctional Facility. He was sure of two things: Alek was dead and I was the one who did it.

These are the black and white statistics:

Nearly one in four women, one in seven men and more than 3 million children in the United States are affected by domestic violence.

You can help change those numbers.

Assistance is a used cell phone away.

HopeLine phones are refurbished phones equipped with 3,000 anytime minutes of airtime and texting capabilities. They come with Verizon Wireless Nationwide Coverage, Call Forwarding, Call Waiting, 3-Way Calling, Caller ID, Basic Voice Mail and texting.

They are available to survivors affiliated with participating domestic violence agencies. This program has collected over 10 million phones, while donating over $18 million dollars to domestic violence organizations.

A great explanation of the program can be found here. 

Through HopeLine, the public can help prevent domestic violence by donating no-longer-used wireless phones and accessories in any condition from any service provider at any Verizon Wireless Store, by mail or at special events held throughout the year.

How to Donate

If you donate your phone, erase any personal data from the address book, deleting call logs, erasing messages, removing stored photos and other media. As part of the refurbishing process, phones donated to HopeLine are scrubbed prior to distributing them for reuse to ensure all customer data is removed.

Three ways to help HopeLine:

In Person: Drop phones at any Verizon Wireless communications Store. Visit the online store locator.

By Mail: Print a postage-paid label , adhere it to the box/envelope and mail.

Organize a Phone Drive Suggestions and Tips

Now go find those old phones stashed in the junk drawer and help someone fight back.

 

poetry, poets, Strong Women

When Lemons Make Poetry

The last roses until spring-alvaradofrazier.com
The last roses until spring-alvaradofrazier.com

This morning I have bunches of pale yellow roses that are the last of the season from a bush I just pruned-a month late.

My rosebush was transplanted, to my backyard fifteen years ago, from someone who tore up their garden to put in kid friendly landscaping.

I also have a dwarf lemon tree.

Which made me think of that platitude, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” That cliché sucks-big time.

Lemons = Lemonade

 

This phrase makes a euphemism for disappointment, a sorrow, or a hurt seem so cheerily remedied. 

Life doesn’t give you lemonade.  

Life gives you lemons. You give you lemonade. 

 

The last lemons from my tree-alvaradofrazier.com
The last lemons from my tree-alvaradofrazier.com

Making the lemonade is not an easy process. There is a knife involved. Cutting, twisting, squeezing, and getting a sting from the lemon juice that found the microscopic cut on the side of your fingernail.

After that, you strain the pulp and seeds and pour the result into a pitcher. You’re still not done. Some people don’t want to go through these steps. You have to stick with it, be strong. 

You have to stay with the process, feel the pain, deal with the sting, the squeezing, the separating, look for the honey, the sugar, something to sweeten the tart acidic taste.

It’s a series of steps, it’s not a Lemon=Lemonade instant drink.

And when you stick with it, you have fantastic lemonade which you garnish, with berries or mint. 

I was mulling over all this when I came upon an email from a friend, Michelle Wing.

Michelle is the inaugural featured writer of a new website, Off The Margins, dedicated to women writers.

Her artist statement captivated me. Her poetry, this one in particular, blew me away.

Body on the Wall

They send me a slip of paper
Anger Management – Certificate of Completion
And his name.
As if.

As if twelve weeks of one-hour sessions,
of talking about his feelings,
of tips on counting to ten,
could make him into a new man –

could undo the damage.

I know too well he can con anyone:
Police. Lawyers. Landlords.
Me.

And this piece of paper is the last slap
I am ever going to feel.

I walk to my closet, and get my dancing dress,
the little black one that twirls when I move,
that reminds me of freedom and the time before.

Do you want to know what he is like?
I’ll need some tools.

Scissors to slash the hemline.
Blades to rip open sleeves.

A lighter to torch the fluttering strips.
Dirty boots to grind out the flames.

Then a razor, to nick my forearm
so I can smear blood across his name
and pin that piece of paper to my ruined dress.

I bandage my arm, find a hanger –

It is my body on the wall, bruised and battered,
and nobody, nobody, can say they don’t see.

 

After reading, my lips formed the word “Wow,” my head nodded. I thought of the lemons in my past.

Lemons didn’t only make lemonade, they made poetry.

 

Go and visit off the margins. Read more excerpts from Michelle’s new book of poetry, “Body On The Wall. It debuts May 15, 2014.

Authors, Book Review, Books, Boycotts, Cesar Chavez, Family, Latinos in film, Uncategorized

América and Anthony Quinn

America's Dream

Ever since I figured out how to use the Goodreads widget I’ve been posting reviews on books I’ve read.

Either the widget is dead, malfunctioning or my brain is on overdrive and I’ve forgotten how to use the darn thing, but the widget is not working. Hence, here are reviews on the two latest books I’ve enjoyed in the last month.

América by Esmeralda Santiago

América Gonzalez is a hotel maid at an island resort off the coast of Puerto Rico. She cleans up after wealthy foreigners who look past her as a non-entity. Her married boyfriend, Correa, beats her and their fourteen-year-old daughter thinks life would be better anywhere but with América. When a wealthy, too busy, family asks her to work for them in the United States, América plans her escape from Correa and her old life.

Domestic violence, family dynamics, fear, and choices are themes in this novel. The ongoing violence that América endures is sometimes difficult to read. One feels like yelling at her to drop the bastard and make better decisions, however the author illustrates that this is no easy task. 

Reading about a character who makes poor choices can often be a turn-off, however the author engages the reader by describing the protagonist and her backstory effectively.

Beautiful descriptive prose keeps you reading but the redundant descriptions on setting is sometimes too much and the eye wants to scan for the forward movement in the story.

I love the dialogue, the emotional reactions, and interplay between the maids. I loved how the author gave us the dialogue between the mother and protagonist. The villain in the story was well played.I learned some things about Puerto Rico, the culture and language which is a plus in my opinion.

I didn’t like the way the daughter’s character was written. She had the same extremes of reaction over the entire book.

These glitches may be because this is the author’s first novel (1996). I would definitely read Esmeralda Santiago’s other books.

one man tango

One Man Tango by Anthony Quinn and Daniel Paisner

Description from publisher:

“While bicycling near his villa in Ceccina, Italy, veteran actor Anthony Quinn begins a remarkable journey of self-discovery through a varied and colorful past–and delivers one of the most fascinating star biographies ever written. Resonating with Quinn’s own passionate voice, an infectious zest for living, and a wealth of juicy anecdotes, One Man Tango is by turns resilient and caustic, daring and profound. It is a memoir as bold as the man who wrote it. Includes a 16-page photo insert. HC: HarperCollins.”

Anthony Quinn was a hero of many Latino’s, being that he was a well known actor in the ’40-’70’s when few Latinos were on the big screen. Not only did he come from Mexico, but he grew up in East Los Angeles. He was associated with the Kennedy’s, Catholics, Cesar Chavez, laborers, and California politics which further endeared him to the Mexican American community.

I couldn’t help loving this book.When I read the memoir it was as if Anthony Quinn himself was in my family room recounting his memories. He lived as passionately as his many love affairs.

Remember Zorba the Greek? Well, Anthony Quinn had that enthusiasm for living. His early life was one of extreme poverty in Mexico, with his Mexican Irish father who fought in the Mexican Revolution, and his Mexican Indian mother. 

The memoir is as fast paced as his bicycle ride through the hills of Ceccina, giving the reader an insight into the hills and valleys of the actor’s life, which is fascinating. Besides being an actor he was a laborer, boxer, artist, vintner, writer and philanthropist.

His memory of the movie stars, producers, and directors that he worked with is fascinating, juicy and very entertaining. He worked with Marlon Brando, Laurence Olivier, Mickey Rooney, Carole Lombard, Maureen O’Hara, Rita Hayworth, and numerous other memorable actors. His memoir reads like a Who’s Who of Hollywood and the world, with all the side dishes that go along with these characters.

Particularly interesting was his experiences and conflicts with mobsters, politicians, and movie moguls, including his father-in-law, Cecil B. De Mille. Their family dynamics were extremely interesting.

Anthony Quinn often reminisces about his poor choices, the emotional turmoil he put his wife and family through, and looking back it seems he regrets some of his decisions. But what also comes through the memoir is that he loved his family like a ferocious lion.

This memoir is one of the most well-written, insightful, and candid story I’ve ever read. There are many beautifully written phrases and visuals that make you feel you are on that bicycle ride through the towns and cities of Mexico, East Los Angeles, Hollywood, and Italy.

as Eufemio Zapata with Marlon Brando's Emilian...
as Eufemio Zapata with Marlon Brando’s Emiliano Zapata in Viva Zapata! (1952) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)