Grandma goes to CUNY

For one hot moment I returned to college. Forget about the fact that I have a PhD. A degree that had more to do with my writing than my nursing career but I’ve never given it much credit. Research and theory development? What could be better for a writer? Instead, I pined over the ever elusive MFA in creative writing. I applied for that degree a year ago in the CUNY system and was rejected. I was disappointed but since I believe the Goddess knows much more than I, I thought I let it go. I didn’t.

The pangs of I-must-be-missing-something continued to be strong. As an over fifty Latina there weren’t many opportunities for us to pursue art and writing degrees back in the day. Many of us stuck to school programs that would guarantee beef in our sopa de fideos. Our families dictated our choices. A few of us were able to pursue those creative degrees and I have no idea how.

I drew creatively as a child and the drawings helped me to make sense of lonely days without my sister by my side. Pencil and paper constructed the worlds I lived in after school. I believe my pictures were early attempts at storytelling. I had a friend in grammar school who pleaded with me to help her enter into her first choice of high schools. I did most of the illustrations for her application portfolio to Art & Design. It was meaningless to me until I met her years later and she told me that she designed baby clothes for a living. Then it mattered a bit more. I realized how out of touch with myself I’d been as a teen and felt the first pangs of regret.

To fill that longing I recently registered for an editorial processing course at CUNY. These  in-person classes took place for me after a nine hour work day. I thought I could overcome that. I decided to ignore my fear that the professor would call on Ashley… Jordan… and then me, Grandma. My grey hair was a beacon among the twenty year old blondes, candy apple reds, and brunettes.

I hesitated to share with my spouse the two episodes when the security officer asked to see my ID or some proof I belonged in those hallowed corridors. She loudly asked me whether I had an adjunct faculty badge and when I said no, asked if was I a professor. No, I am a student, I replied. Twice.

I shared my tale with my spouse, in spite of my ego. It turned out that during her recent return to CUNY for undergrad music courses her experience was worse. She’d been escorted out of the music room when she’d attempted to practice the piano by security officers who couldn’t believe she was a student. Twice.

I found I was exhausted in the morning without the pleasure of a real hangover. I didn’t have time to create in my mind the lovely stories that tend to bubble up there when I am calm. The informational sheets the professor handed out covered either something I already knew or my real-life-editor had discussed with me. I didn’t need to spend two and a half hours in class with two and a half hour commutes for validation or to revisit an old dream that had already been fulfilled.

I didn’t go back to class last night. I’m finally a college dropout and I’m proud of it. I ate dinner with my spouse, worked on my new novel outline, and chatted on the phone with my dear Uncle Louie. I woke up this morning refreshed.

I am a writer. An author. I’m growing my creative life as I hadn’t for years. It’s never too late for us. This growth is something that I’m now sharing with like minded individuals who have also woken up and said, it’s my turn. The kids are grown. The parents have been satisfied. We’ve survived and now we will flourish in creating those parts of ourselves that have been patiently waiting for us to reawaken.

What is your dream?

xoxo
Theresa

The Full Worm Moon

 

almanac.com

It’s hard to believe that we’re already gazing up at the last full moon before the vernal equinox. Spring is almost here again. There was no full moon in February but March will have two moons. The blue moon will shine its glory later in the month.

The Worm Moon is also known as the Crow Moon for the murders of crows often seen at this time of the year, as the Crust Moon for the changing soil, and the Sap Moon for the maple sap that oozes from the trees just as the worms slither out of the soil aerating it for a flourishing spring growth.

What a great time for reflection. The Lenten moon is another name for the traditionally called Worm Moon. The holidays are behind us. That school break that pops up between Christmas and Easter is done for many. It’s the perfect time for looking within and deciding what doesn’t serve us in our lives and what we might discard. That may be different for all of us. It might be time to be rid of the old and declutter that hall closet. It could be time to add healthy veggie or fruit smoothies into our diets. Meditation opens the gateway for your spirit guides to whisper your individualized plan meant especially for you.

The worms have been here for millennia. They go along churning the Earth in preparation for growth for our continued existence. I want to do the same. Maybe I won’t blindly spin my way though fertile soil but I will do my part. I gladly take part in toiling the Earth because she is the Mother, Gaia, and I want her to prosper abundantly. My relationship with the Earth tells me that she is grateful for my work as I am indebted to her.

How will you celebrate the Full Worm Moon? 

xxoo

Theresa

 

Corkboards and cash

The couple standing on line behind me at Whole Foods were annoyed with me. I could tell by their body language and the energy of disdain that seeped out at me. I can understand why. It’s because I was paying with cash. We’d just bought a cartful of groceries and I pulled out my old-fashioned purse with old fashioned greenbacks and began paying with them.

The cashier cheerfully chatted as she counted out the bills, returned my change, and gave me my receipt. I get it. I sometimes seethe at the deli counter when someone pays for their bagel and coffee with a credit card. I usually have a dollar in my pocket for my roll and often resent the time it takes for them to sign for their two-item purchase with a debit or charge card.

It may be passé to use cash but when I do I can forget about the purchase and not have to look at it again at the end of the month. Questioning myself as to the numbers of rolls and bagels I’ve eaten is not appealing.

I’ve just put up a cork board on the wall at my desk at home. There are colorful tacks to go with the pastel index cards I’ve placed on the corkboard. It’s taken me a while to accept that I function best the old-fashioned way. Using electronic calendars and to-do lists are okay but in the case of lists I like to know what I’ve accomplished. Call it silly, but I feel a certain joy when find one of my old index cards that show what I’ve done. The delete button erases all traces of my work unless it’s a novel.

My feeling of being busy is confirmed when I see that I made four phone calls for my Dad’s health insurance, worked on a poem, sent a gift to a loved one, and on and on. When it’s wiped out in cyberspace, the feeling of being overwhelmed is there but I need evidence that I’ve done something. Otherwise, I tend to forget. That’s just who I am.

I’m thrilled with my corkboard. It’s right next to my vision board. Everything I’d like to do is in front of me. I don’t have to open an app to find it. Index cards rock. Cash rocks. There’s something in the use of paper and pen that is solidifying to me. Knowing what works for me is especially soothing. I promise not to judge your debit card, if you won’t judge my cash. 

There’s a whole world of corkboard ideas out there. Hmm, I wonder about cash!

https://www.pinterest.com/explore/corkboard-ideas/

XO

Theresa

 

 

 

 

A Lunar Trifecta

new.nationalgeographic.com

A super moon happens only once in a blue moon. This time coinciding with a blood red moon. Coinciding with an eclipse. Like, really? What do I do? What’s important about this for me? I’ve read a few posts on social media about it.

The takeaway is that if you think last February or August along with their eclipses and other lunar influences undeniably impacted you,  that this one will too, in a different way. Whew! I don’t think that I could handle another last year.

I’m one of those people who doesn’t believe that when the countdown commences on Times Square and the ball drops that the New Year ushers in newness. I’m a One Day at a Time gal. But this year I secretly hoped that 2018 would bring in lightness that was hard to find during the previous year.

Last February’s eclipse shone the light on scary illness in my family. August cast the dim light on my family placing my Dad who has Alzheimer’s disease into an Assisted Living facility. We’ve shouldered our way through and have some balance. Sad but balanced.

This lunar trifecta almost elicited a bloodcurdling scream from me until I read the posts. I was glad to read that a wrapping up or resolution may be afoot. I’ve been ruffled and my feathers need settling. I’m hoping this will happen. It’s time. Breathe in. Breathe out.

My morning meditation reminded me that although sad things may happen, I can still be a happy person. It reminded me that I have a full and wonderful life. It also told me that in happiness is prosperity. Serenity is more about the state of mind than outside issues. Acceptance is the answer to all of my problems. Just for today.

XO

Theresa

Enter Ego

 

via GIPHY

Ego elbows its way into my writing and promises to sabotage everything I’ve worked for in my latest novel Coney Island Siren. The manuscript is ready for its next trip to the editor. I’ve made the revisions and added the new sections she suggested would enhance the book. Ego’s sharp bones cut open the perfect gateway for fear to come waltzing through.

My wayward anxiety has me believe that I am the great Creator of the innovative and imaginative works that I issue forth from my being. There are such things as skill in writing and the ability to tell a story. I can learn those inventions in workshops and in creative writing courses but for me, there’s also the knowledge that I should step aside and let Spirit channel whatever Spirit wants to come through me do so. When I hang on too long to my fears, my being becomes thick with ME  leaving no room for the creative juices to flow and develop into something that is not me.

Ego tells me that my work is not creative enough. It tells me that I don’t really know what I’m talking about. It tells me a million lies that attempt to keep me quiet and not share my voice or the voices of the story characters. I don’t need outsiders telling me grating and awful things about my work. I can do that all by myself.

Fertility needs a nurturing bed that is given tender care and eventually a new being is born. Angst doesn’t belong in this enterprise. The protagonists in Coney Island Siren, Maggie and Ellen, told me their stories and they were a challenge to write. They were both women who had been silenced too long and whose days were filled with the belief that they were somehow at fault for wanting lives filled with love and the ease of fulfilling their dreams. Surely, women aren’t the only ones to suffer the indignities of persons who harm them but this is the story of two women who did.  I listened to the best of my ability and now I share their words with my editor and hopefully, soon with you.

As a more seasoned author, I’ve chosen to publish my work through my company, Pollen Press Publishing. Just as the name of my company indicates, writers are meant to grow and to spread their creative works across many lands. My company isn’t meant to stifle the growth of new seeds of creativity or to brusquely step on tiny green shoots just emerging from the earth. I’ve experienced both and my ego was healthy enough to encourage my developing Pollen Press Publishing. It’s all a balance.

XO

Theresa

Wolf Moon howls in the New Year

dreamstime.com

The Full Wolf Moon has ushered in the New Year. It’s also the first Supermoon of the year. The image of wolves howling at the moon is one we’re all familiar with. My favorite howling wolf man was Bela Lugosi in Abbott and Costello’s the Invisible Man. He terrorized me as a child as I sat mesmerized in front of the black and white screen.

As an adult I’ve learned that wolves mate for life, have distinct roles in their packs, and howl to let their packs know exactly where they are, as well as their enemies. The Wolf Moon is also a time to reflect on the homeless and hungry. Of course! Images on television and in my hometown of NYC are chilling indeed. Many of us are well versed in what should be done for the homeless. I work in a mental health shelter and I come in contact each day with the loneliness, fear, hunger, poor health, and dire need.

I’ve been blessed with the basics in life and an abundance of more that I’m grateful for. That doesn’t mean that I stop here. Like many people, I decided to sit down on the old year and reflect on what I’m leaving behind in 2017 and would like to work on for 2018. Instead, I received a call from the assisted living facility that my father has been residing at for the last five months. He was transported by the ambulance to the emergency room. My spouse and I spent the entire day there until he received a bed last night. We’ll be going back today. I hadn’t decided whether I was going to spend the old or new year with him. Now, I’ll do both.

The Wolf Moon reminds me that I’m a member of a clan. I am there to let my Dad know that I’m here when he needs me.  That I’ll howl at the moon for him if I need to today. The priority of family supersedes me naval gazing today. There’s a saying that God laughs when you’re making plans. I’ve changed it to the Goddess winces when I’m making plans. She has something better in store for me all the time.  Acceptance is something I’m working at every day.

Today, my prayers are for all of us. We’re all in different chapters. Sometimes we meet on the same page and sometimes we don’t. I pray for acceptance, yet, the ability to howl when something needs change.

Happy New Year

XO

Theresa

 

Thank you, Latina Book Club

https://www.amazon.com/Answered-Silence-collection-Theresa-Varela/dp/1539371638/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1514667808&sr=1-4

A friend’s share on Social Media alerted me that my first volume of poetry Answered by Silence was included in the Latina Book Club’s 2017 listing of Books of the Year. It made my heart happy to be included with other Latina/Latino/Latinx writers, some of whom I know and many I respect. So cool!

Answered by Silence was such a personal project. It started without months or years of planning. My muse told me that I’d healed enough regarding the death of my sister to share some of that experience for not only myself, but for others too. There’s a saying that no matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. I believe that. Losing my sister at the age of eleven shaped my life that and included some very raw and dark days. Those days are behind me, and my profound love for her remains unscathed.

I haven’t marketed the thin volume as I have my other books. But I’ve loved that book and it has loved me in return. My daughter, who is named after my sister, created the simplest of illustrations for it exactly as I envisioned. I am grateful for today and the people in my life.

I’m glad to be on the list with the others who all have their stories behind their stories.

Check out the other selections at www.latinabookclub.com

XO

Theresa

Holiday Traditions

The holiday season is often referred to as the Trifecta. How possible is it to really succeed a win when contending with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year? Add a sprinkle of Kwanza and Chanukah and we have the perfect storm for expectations. Last week I had composed a wonderful tale of my woes that have to do with holiday traditions and expectations. In a couple of days, we’ll be ringing in the New Year, so I thought I really should post it. It was a personal post, and those aren’t my favorite kind. I couldn’t find the post on my pc when I finally decided to post it.

I’d written about my mother’s yearly traditions, my father’s barely cooperating with them, and my own struggles with coming up with my own traditions. The whole thing started at the job holiday party when one of the psychiatrists asked the rest of us what were our holiday traditions. He said he had to create his own when he arrived here from another country and decided to dive into the holidays. I had a few they were all bound up with family. The constellation, therefore my traditions, has changed.

One of my mother’s New Year traditions was to make certain our nuclear family was together at the strike of midnight. That meant we’d have good luck and we’d all be together throughout the coming year. My father didn’t feel strongly about it. He’d pick up sometime between Christmas and the New Year and take a trip to Puerto Rico to visit family. Spontaneous. Seriously- no preplanning. Unless of course he’d been planning it along. Invariably, he’d stroll in two minutes before midnight and we’d all live happily ever after. Us girls would be tucked into bed wearing new yellow pajamas after we toasted with a thimbleful of anisette. Life changed of course, but the expectation remained that I’d toast in the New Year with my mother yearly. This tradition was non-wavering until the year I called her to plan our arrival. No, she said, this year she was going to sleep. She didn’t want to stay up late. What! I was dumbfounded. What about all those years I made sure my plans didn’t ruin our family plans. What about our family luck?

That psychiatrist was clever, wasn’t he? He had turned our traditional holiday gathering into a group process. At least it did for me. No one else seemed the least bit disturbed. I brought the topic up the next day at a second holiday party. The one similarity I noticed was that mothers really had a say in how the family traditions were planned. One person spoke about their father and how his birthday was on Christmas. The family celebrated his birthday first at midnight on Christmas, and then Christmas was celebrated after they cut his cake.

I’ve had traditions, but they’ve changed so much over the years that my spouse and I have decided to create new traditions. Ones that we can still celebrate whether we have other folks visiting or not. I missed my mother so much this Christmas that I decided to make a tasty bread pudding that was one of her traditions. My spouse made a wonderful flan that was one of her mother’s traditions. Our mothers may no longer be here, but they left us with traditions that we can keep and make our own. For the New Year we are thinking of going out to dinner. Just the two of us. It’ll be a time to reflect as a couple on the old and the new that will be coming into our lives.

I wish you some of the old and some of the new as we enter the New Year. There are blessings in each.

Happy New Year

XO

Theresa

Read that baby

My editor has made many “suggestions” like get rid of all the quotation marks I use (like that one), stop all the ellipses, learn the difference between using “the” and “my” (there I go again with the quotation marks) and many others (like not using the word many twice in one sentence). It’s a lot for me to ponder when all I want to do is get my story going and done! Impatience is one of my faults.

She revised my manuscript for Coney Island Siren and I not only received advice but mini-lessons regarding more incisive writing. One suggestion was to read my sentences aloud. Okay, I thought. I can do this. This isn’t the first time that I’ve heard it but this time I figured I would actually do it. Wow.

I’d finished all of her suggested revisions and then started reading it aloud for my daughter who listens to me when she visits from Texas. My spouse, goddess bless her, was in the room too. Half way through the page I realized I had no feel for the protagonist. Who the hell is talking here? My structure was off and sounded way too formal. No easy-listening rhythm here. Back to the drawing writing board.

This time around, I’ve read it aloud sentence by sentence. Would Maggie say this? Does Frank really sound like this? Am I letting my characters speak or am I speaking for them? It’s slow-going but fun. I’m pleased with the results. I’m accepting the fact that my revisions still may need more revising.

Recently, I read a few pages at Bluestockings with La Pluma y La Tinta. As Raquel Penzo puts it, I’m an OG. Vet of the reading force. We’d started that workshop group in my living room about eight years or so. I have lots of writing and reading experience but am always open to learning more about the craft. While my other two novels are good friends of mine, my new work requires nurturing of our relationship. No matter how long it takes.

This short video is me reading some of Coney Island Siren. See you on the boardwalk.

IMG_3718.MOV

Nightmare in Haiku

Sweltering in sheets

Night is thirst, betrayal, fear

I pray for the dawn

It’s Autumn but the sweat pours off me. I have the odd mix of the air conditioner on low and the pair window wide open. I’m hoping for the perfect mix. The bed just doesn’t feel right.

I’m dreading the morning but it’s equal to my desire to remain under the sheet, thermal blanket, and spread. I need some weight on my legs. Otherwise, I might fly away in the night. Maybe enter a dream and never leave. That would be the antithesis of entering a nightmare and not having the choice to leave.

My people in Puerto Rico have done the latter. They can leave if they want, you might say. There’s only thirst, rot, and maybe death waiting for them. Some have boarded planes and ships to Florida- that place across the water that is an extension of the island except for everything.

I’m up here. Sending packages. Collecting money. Calling my family and neighbors.

Do you need anything? Anything at all? I’ll send it.

What we need, you can’t send.

Electricity

Running water

We laugh across the again running land line. Hollow and crackly co-exist like old friends.

My house is okay. No damage. I won’t be there for a very long time. I’m not the sort of person who manages without electricity. I was there last Fall. The cables across the way blew fiery sparks and the copper wires didn’t apologize to the bananas they scorched. The phone calls to the electric company seemed to be ignored. I later found out that they too didn’t have power.

I worried about my Dad who the previous night worried about the shiny lights that were on at his neighbor’s house. They should be off, he said. Go inside, I encouraged. I worried that he wouldn’t pay attention to me. He did. There was that moment he hesitated. My gut told me that he wouldn’t always listen. It told me to fly him back up to NY with me. I did.

I’ve had many nights drenched in my pouring anxiety. My silver hair matches the fox that steals into my room and wakens me to every odd sound and the jingle of the bells that I placed on his doorknob. I’ve listened. Coaxed him into returning to bed. Midnight isn’t safe when you’re eighty-six. Go back to bed, Pop. I’ve prayed that the nightmare would end and I’d be released.

My Dad’s in an Assisted Living Facility now. They call him Papa, speak to him in Spanish, and I take him out to eat and we sit together on the Coney Island Boardwalk or at Emmons Bay watching the swans propel their large bodies with tiny black feet. My Dad forgets what he was going to do a second after he sets out to do whatever it was, but he’s okay.

I still wrestle with my sheets at night. Worried. I think of my Dad and how Alzheimer’s quietly slipped into our lives. I think about my house with the balcon and the hammock in the back under the tin roof. I think about my family and all of the neighbors and the sazon and the mofongo and Ketty blasting Tito Rodriguez LPs on Sunday afternoons. I think about the lizards and the dogs and the kids playing basketball under the cancha.

At night, I plan when I will get to BJs to buy more pampers, baby food, and batteries. BJs- where a young teen laughed at all the Kotex we stored in our cart. I plan on when I can do it all again on my way back from visiting my Dad who has no inkling he got out of his island at the nick of time.

I worry, plan, take action, and pray. I repeat as I pull the covers up and then throw them off again. My bed is just not right.