Sunday, September 11, 2022

And Just Like That... I Live Alone

On the first morning that I woke up all alone in my house I lay in my bed for a while and I could clearly remember bringing my youngest home from the hospital. It really does seem like just yesterday. How can I still remember the feeling, how he looked, and how exhausted I was those first couple of weeks? I can remember bringing Miranda home too, but I mention Seth because he's my baby and the last one to leave the nest. Almost two weeks ago he set out on the 1,600 mile road trip with his sister and father and I flew out to meet up with them in Brooklyn. 

First we moved my daughter's things out of storage and into her dorm at LIU Post on Long Island. She's a senior this year. I got this gem of a photo of the three of us at LIU Post. My babies!

So now I'm alone and although I know it's not permanent until they are full blown adults, who don't come home for the holidays and summers, it's still Phase 1. It's also the first time I've lived alone in my entire life. How can that be? 

Well, I grew up in a traditional Hispanic and religious home with older parents. I wasn't allowed to go away to college and even when they let me go to St. Petersburg, Florida to do a summer internship the stipulation was that I had to live with two older Jehovah's Witness women. So that wasn't really living alone, although the women were nice, didn't enforce a curfew, and I had my own private entrance to my room. 

I lived at home, through college, when I started working, and until I got married at twenty-seven. I went from my parents' home to being a wife and then a mother. When I got divorced at forty-one I had two young children and not too long after that my elderly father came to live with me. Although we had reversed roles now that I was the caretaker, it was still my father and there's a dynamic in that relationship where you're never really the adult. 

Here I am four years since my father passed away, and my kids are both in college. I went grocery shopping just for myself when I got back from New York and it was strange to only shop for one. Then I remembered that this was actually the first time I have ever lived alone, even if it's just for four months, until the winter break. 

I also know that if my daughter ends up in medical school in Houston she will live with me again, so this new experience may only last for a year. I'm okay with that because it means my girl will be a doctor and that's way more important to me, because being a mother never ends. Of course if she ends up at NYU or Tulane that will be a different story and this adventure will continue. I just have to enjoy it while it lasts. 

So what's the plan for this empty nest? Write, read, exercise, make art, go to readings, go to art exhibits, go out with friends more. The list goes on, but writing and exercising are my two main goals. I also want to create more art, like collage art and zine art, something I've really wanted to try.

Life is beautiful and I have a lot of time ahead of me to do the things I love. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

My Half Birthday and a Colonoscopy on the Side

Nobody likes to talk about their colon. Nobody likes the idea of having a colonoscopy and many people don't.  Yet colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Tomorrow I'm having my first screening.

Me and Hilda, early 1970s

Tomorrow also happens to be my half birthday, halfway to fifty-three. Something of significance, that I may have mentioned before, is that my half birthday always falls a day after the anniversary of my sister Hilda's death. It's always a time of introspection for me. A time to take stock of my life and where I'm at in this journey. I'm glad I'm doing something as important as getting screened for colon cancer.

First let's talk about the colonoscopy and why I've been putting it off. I really haven't been avoiding it completely. It's really been the circumstances and yes, I haven't been in a hurry to do it. My first excuse was that I turned fifty during the Covid pandemic. When my OBGYN asked me about it I told her I would do it but I let another year go by and I didn't make an appointment. She asked me to do it again and she referred me to a doctor in her building. I made the appointment, which wasn't available for a few months, but I still wasn't in a hurry. The appointment was scheduled for May and then the doctor's office called me because the doctor was going on maternity leave. 

In the middle of all of this back and forth I found out in May that a friend from elementary school and middle school passed away from colon cancer. He was fifty-two. I'm not going to lie. Finding this out and going to his funeral was another reminder that I needed to get this done.

So here I am three months later on the eve of both my first colonoscopy and my half birthday and on the 27th anniversary of my sister's passing. I've been doing a lot of planning and plotting my goals lately. I have two notes in my phone. One is "Three Month Goals" for all of my immediate goals, like getting the kids off to college. The second one is called "5 Year and 13 Year Goals," and that one has all of my longer term goals for writing and moving towards retirement. I am trying to make it a habit to look at these goals every single day to keep myself on track. 

One of the most important parts about my long term goals is my health. I've said it again and again. My health is the bedrock on which I must build all of my goals for the last part of my life. If I don't have my health I won't be able to go on any of the adventures that I have planned. So starting with this colonoscopy tomorrow, here is to prevention and doing the things to keep me alive.

Monday, July 18, 2022

An Empty Nest and the World is My Oyster

We are more than halfway through 2022 and I've only blogged two times this year. My biggest personal accomplishment this year has been that I ran several 5K runs and my first 10K. My second biggest achievement has been that I finally put my 25 year old novel out into the world. The third goal I've accomplished is to do well in my career, chiefly making my goals consistently. My current and most pressing goal is to get these kids off to New York and for them to find an apartment. I picture them living over a deli or restaurant in a building like this is Queens. This is a photo of a building in Brooklyn, but same idea.

I am at a very interesting point in my life. Both my kids will be gone to college now and I'm going to be somewhat of an empty nester. I say "somewhat" because they will still be coming home for holidays and the summer. (There's also the possibility that Miranda may go to medical school in Houston next year.) Other than those times, I will be alone for three months at a time to do more of the things I want to do. 

I wrote about this a year ago and how I felt like I was on the cusp of something amazing. I still feel like that and that I'll be open to more opportunities. I feel like I did in 1993 when I had just graduated from college, started working, and I had my whole life ahead of me. I was free to do anything I wanted to do. I wish I had really appreciated it then. But I'll be there again soon, except this time I have a lifetime of experience that I didn't have back then and I know what little time I have left on this earth.

One of the great things about being where I am in my life is not having the desire to procreate. I wrote about this freedom a while ago when I turned forty-seven. It's a very freeing feeling when you don't really care what men think of you. I'm not out to impress a potential mate any more because I'm done with that biological phase of my life. 

With all this in mind I've created five and thirteen year plans for the things I want to achieve. For these next few years that the kids are in school I want to take in as much art and literature as I can and in turn I also want to create as much as possible. I want to write earnestly and I want to complete a few books, not just this one. I have more personal goals and I want to dream big. I want to be like Grandma Moses and other people who have successfully achieved their goals in the last half of their life. Those people inspire me and are my heroes. 

However, in order to do any of these things successfully I need to be sure I'm around long enough to do them. Exercise and eating right have to be the bedrock on which I build the rest of my goals. If I don't have my health it will be harder to achieve my goals. That's a whole other conversation and post, but one I've blogged about several times over the years. All I have to do is read my blogs from 2021 and I'm reminded of all the reasons why I need to do better before I run out of time. 

Speaking of running, I've been physically running a lot for the past year, but I have realized that nothing works as well as riding my Peloton. I had my blood drawn on Friday for some doctor's appointments coming up and I can literally see the difference in some of my counts during the time that I was riding the bike. It's what works for me and I need to stick with what works. Back to the Peloton drawing board!

Sunday, July 10, 2022

My Painted Churches of Texas Mini Tour

The May issue of the Houston Chronicle's luxury magazine "HC Magazine" has a great article about the Painted Churches of Texas that I loved reading. I recalled reading something about this a few years ago, but I had forgotten about them. I'd been thinking about going to visit some of them, at least the ones close to Schulenburg, for the last few weeks. I decided that I would set out on a solo road trip on Saturday. 

Catholic Shrine of Sts. Cyril & Methodius in Dubina

I am SO GLAD I took this trip. I can't say enough great things about it. I drove to six churches around Schulenburg and I was able to go inside of five of them. It would have been only four, if I hadn't been patient and killed time at the first one. I lucked out when a tour came by, a family of four at their last church of the day, which happened to be my first. That was at St. John the Baptist, German Catholic Church in the hamlet of St. John, between Schulenburg and Moravia.

Besides visiting these beautiful churches my second favorite part of the trip was the drive. And my favorite drive between two churches happened early on when I left St. John the Baptist, the German one, to drive to Ascension of Our Lord Mission Church. According to the addresses they are both on FM 957 so I figured, "Oh, just up the road!" and my Waze app seemed to agree with me. Well, it was up the road, but up a very long way. What probably made it seem like a much longer drive was that the road was so narrow so I was driving slowly and cautiously. It was unpaved in some areas, either rocky or red clay. 


At one point the road was really narrow and drove through a wooded area. Sometimes it was curved and I especially had to be cautious about someone driving fast from the other direction, not expecting me to to be traveling on this lonely road. I did see houses all along the route, but I literally did not see another car on the road the entire four mile drive until I arrived in Moravia near this general store. 


Unfortunately the second church was locked so I had to proceed to the third church near Flatonia. That was almost 12 miles away and I enjoyed that drive too. The roads rose and dipped. The area is definitely not flat like Houston. It's amazing that the landscape can be so different just an hour and a half outside of my city.

I loved the landscape! I loved passing farms and animals, cows, goats, and horses along the way. The land and trees looked so beautiful and it was surprisingly still semi-green, despite the extreme heat and little rain this summer. I passed all kinds of houses, large and small. I went by really big beautiful homes, modest medium sized homes, tiny shacks and trailers. There was one house built into the side of a hill of dirt. 


As I drove past I wondered about the people who lived in the houses. I always wonder what people in small towns do for a living and why they choose to live there. Some of the big pieces of land, that were either a farm or had their business on the same property, had signs announcing their business. However you don't know with all of them. You can only wonder about the people inside like I did. I loved how so many of the houses had chairs in the front yard to look out at the road and the land.

After I finished going to all six churches I wanted to go somewhere good to eat. I asked a local woman dropping off flowers at the church in Dubina. Sadly she said there aren't any real good restaurants in the area. I saw that there was a vineyard with a winery nearby, but little did I know that I was about to make a full circle back to where I started at the first church. 


I ended the day at the Majek Vineyard and Winery. I did a wine tasting and I highly recommend it! I had a Greek salad and I wish I'd tried the bread. The couple at the table next to be raved about how good it was. Next time! Also, there's another vineyard right next door that I'll have to try, the Moravia Vineyard & Winery. They're only open on Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. 

I overheard another conversation about the lack of good restaurants nearby, from a group of visitors and the couple, who were residents, at the next table. Apparently there's a need for a really great restaurant if anyone is interested in opening one in the Schulenburg area. 

I didn't go to the three churches north of Round Top, so that's the plan for next time, and I don't mind revisiting some of the churches I've already seen. I'm also interested in spending the night in a bed and breakfast. Plans for the future!

Sunday, May 01, 2022

The Novel That Started This Blog

Almost eighteen years ago I started this blog to help me write my novel. I remember my colleague's then husband not agreeing with the idea. He thought it would keep me from writing. I always remembered that in the back of my mind.

My thoughts were that having a blog would keep me writing regularly and would sharpen my writing skills. I did in fact finish that novel, despite having this blog, but then I proceeded to sit on it for about six years before pulling it out and dusting it off again. 

A young woman whom I had mentored through the University of Houston's sales program in the business school also worked as an editor in the university's writing center. She was kind enough to volunteer to edit the novel and I was grateful to her for her commitment to the project. She edited each chapter and sent it to me for review. This was between 2012 and 2013!

The truth is, I started this novel well before having children with a word a day writing exercise. That means I started it around 1997 and periodically added to it. Then I picked it up in earnest again when I started this blog in 2004, when I was 34 years old. I don't know what happened to me over the years but it was as if I got tired of this novel. I got tired of adding to it, editing it and reading it again. 

Around 2006 I tried in vain to find an agent. I sent queries with a description of my novel and I received seven rejection letters. I know, because I recently went back and counted them. I know seven is nothing, but I didn't keep trying. Maybe it was because I had a two and a five year old at the time and a busy career. The years just passed me by and I wrote little things here and there and read in public. Sometimes I read parts of the novel. Friends would ask me when they would be able to read my novel and I always made excuses. 

In 2020 I was lucky enough to be invited to join the Central Nebraska Writing Group and I started writing a new novel in April 2021 with this group as my sounding board. I finished this novel that I love a few months ago and I'm in the editing phase now. 

My writing partner, friend and author Mari Beck recently told us in our writing group about a really cool new Amazon/Kindle platform called Kindle Vella. I went and checked it out and briefly considered writing something new, specifically for Kindle Vella. 

Then I had an Aha moment. The novel! The first one. The one I got tired of looking at but that has been edited. I need to revisit it one day. I can't keep pretending it doesn't exist. I need to put it out into the world, for better or worse. I read parts of it now and cringe at my 30 year old writing. I know it's not my best writing, but I wrote it and it's my story. 

It was like ripping off a Band-Aid and I had some anxiety before deciding to do it. My working title was Primas Hermanas, but I always worried that people would dismiss it if they didn't speak and/or read Spanish. My sister helped me come up with the title Broken Cousins because the story is about secrets, tragedy, and broken relationships in a family. 

I posted the first chapter on Kindle Vella today. Amazon takes about 72 hours to review it so I probably won't be able to share the link on social media until Tuesday or Wednesday. I am so excited that technology has made it possible for me to finally publish this long-awaited novel that I originally started 25 years ago! I'm excited and terrified all at the same time.