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Party girl

M turns 8 in two months but I’m already planning her party.  Actually, we started planning her party in April, a full five months in advance.  I have a list that breaks down guest list, location, and favors.  No, no soy one of those Pinterest moms.  My gluing skills are limited to dance and Carnaval costumes.  While I love to cook, this year we’ll be offering all-American burgers and chips.  Like every frazzled parent I know, I sigh and say I’m done with the big birthday parties every year.  Then the cycle starts anew. 
As a child, my parents always threw us huge parties. My dad’s entire soccer team and their families, my godparents and my brother’s godparents and their kids, and any relatives would come. There would be tons of Peruvian food, a giant sheet cake, a piñata for the kids, and dancing to salsa and merengue.  Because I was an introvert, I found all the people and activities overwhelming. But memories were made.  Like the time the big boys decided to tightrope walk around the fence in the backyard and were threatened by the mean next door neighbor  Or the time we realized we could Tarzan swing across the garage.  I especially like how happy my mom and dad always looked. And still look. Because you best believe mi mama isn’t letting a birthday go by without some sort of gathering. 
Celebrating my 44th. Notice the look on my mom’s face(she’s on my right). 
Unlike me, M doesn’t seem uncomfortable at her birthday parties. In fact, she says she loves the attention, the little diva. Ever the assertive leader, M has helped pick a theme for her celebration from the time she was 4.  They have been often been tied to a favorite TV show.  Lately they also incorporate her Halloween costume (yes, we are a family of planners.)
Yo Gabba Gabba  Dancey Dance Party
Princess Costume Party 
Wonder Woman party 
Wizard of Oz theme. Notice her tee. Her dance recital had the same theme. Why not stretch out a good theme? 
So while I may balk at the work and expense that goes into planning birthday parties, I do love the memories we’ve shared.  They are moments that remind us of what truly matters.  
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Mananitas for my mentor

“A las muchachas bonitas se las cantamos asi…”

Feliz dia, mujer,
Tu, mas que nadie, have been my mentor
though we’ve spoken only three times in the past twenty-five years,
through your wisdom, your poetry, your stories, tu voz.
The first time I read your work,
I thought I was reading my own.
Tu eres maestra
and I am always your student.
Though my life has led me across dance floors
and into my own little casita,
though my obra maestra sleeps with dolls and teddy bears,
I know that deep within me, my own books wait,
my own voice draws strength.
You sowed those seeds and
someday they will bloom
like girasoles.

JAC
December 20, 2014

Happy birthday, Ms. Cisneros!

Measure of a year

“Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life?

How about love?” “Seasons of Love” by Jonathan Larson, Rent

I had big plans for 40. I was going to reach my weight-loss goal.  I was going to sign up and train for my first triathlon.  I was going to write more, perhaps weekly.  There was a time in my life when I might look back on this year, realize I didn’t meet some of these goals, and feel a sense of disillusionment or wistfulness.  But my true goal, the one that has been central to my daily life since my recovery, has been to live and love as much as possible. I met my goal.  

In this wonderful year, I revisited Rome,

 helped my daughter begin and grow to love school, 

ran three half-marathons, 

made a major career shift in returning to administration, 


and performed in Carnaval. 


I gained a niece, 

a godson, 

and a stepdaughter.  


I couldn’t help but grin while preparing to blow out the candles on the cake at my pre-birthday family dinner last night.  I smiled because I don’t really have any wishes.  I have everything and that has nothing to do with material objects or bucket lists or even goals. 
I have love.


  And that is my life. 

Song and dance of myself

“If you are single, after graduation, there isn’t one occasion where people celebrate you…” Carrie Bradshaw, “A Woman’s Right to Shoes”, Sex and The City
I did not want to have a quinceanera. But my parents threw me a house party and got me a beautiful white gown for the obligatory portraits, one of which still hangs in my parents’ living room for all to see. When I was an awkward teen, I winced at all that attention, at having to dance with all of the dads, of having to smile in my braces.  It was a rite of passage I did not anticipate or appreciate.
When I was in my twenties and in my first healthy long-term (and coincidentally, long-distance!) relationship, I dreamt of my wedding. My girls would wear royal blue. The favors would be bookmarks since the boyfriend and I were avid readers. I would wear Manolo Blahniks and buy a pair for each of my bridesmaids.  But I probably spent more time planning an event that was destined to never happen than investing in a social life close to home. 
In the months leading up to my 40th birthday today, I decided I would host my own birthday bash. It’s my own version of a quince, a gathering in a rented hall for 110+ of my relatives and friends for dinner and a show. In a little over twelve hours, I and some of my dearest friends will perform on stage for the guests before we all dance to a couple of my favorite songs. I will be reuniting with friends from high school and my club days and introducing some of my Dance Party companions to the rest of my blended and extended friendship family. I’ll be wearing my only pair of Manolo Blahniks. This is one rite of passage I have long awaited and plan to fully enjoy.
It has taken nearly four decades and plenty of heartache and hard work for me to finally love me.  So this is one hella happy birthday!  Feliz cumple to me!