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The Mystery of El Cucharón Quemado

 

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another Nancy DelaCruz mystery 

Because our weekdays tend to be busy, I like to cook several meals on the weekend.  One spring weekend, we did well. I made a pasta dish with M; she enjoys cooking with me. We also put a chili in the Crockpot.  The plan was for me to prepare another dish on the stove. I opened one of the drawers to look for my favorite cucharón. I found it, burnt in half.  Whodunit?

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I was more amused than irritated (yes I was upset) that it was placed back in the drawer as if I wouldn’t notice.  Though I have small hands, I wasn’t going to be able to cook with it.  I imagined it was left on the stove and the rubber tip started melting and/or the whole thing caught fire.  I didn’t know if my mother in law had asked Rambo to cut it in half but it wasn’t a clean cut. M had no idea. She thought it was strange it was put away looking like that.  Rambo was apologetic and offered to pay for it. He looked into the mystery himself. His mom tried to argue that it might have been my daughter and her friend during their playdate. M has been hurt in kitchen accidents during cooking camp so she has firsthand knowledge of kitchen hazards. My mother in law also offered to replace the cucharón. I was hoping I would get an explanation. After snapping a picture to document this hilarious moment, the cucharón went out with the trash. The mystery remains unresolved.

Living with in-laws is never easy. But my problems with my living situation are minutiae for the most part. I might find a plastic bag or container in my compost bin. A dish might still be wet when I pull it out of the cabinet.  This week, I located my misplaced library card in my child’s toy box. These are simple, silly matters that can add up, especially on a busy day.  Keeping a sense of humor and a knack for detective work is a must.

Fighting temptation

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Mama Mary will knock you out

The devil is busy.  Ash Wednesday was unbelievably tough.  After a challenging day, I was pushed to my limit at the very end of the night.

I am involved in an ongoing and tense correspondence which is a direct result of someone else’s actions.  The person responsible for the mess is someone who has created lots of problems for me in recent years.(An epilogue) While this person is no longer physically around me, I’m resentful I have to resolve the aftermath. In the latest exchange, the person affected by the poor decisions told me (and two colleagues!) how we should handle the situation. Though I was livid, I responded in my usual way. I was polite, clear, and firm as I clarified my understanding of the problem and how I would be handling the situation. I didn’t reveal that this was that other person’s fault. Why shift responsibility when I’m being held accountable? The good news is that my message seems to have been received both literally and figuratively.

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I’m often tempted to take the low road. There’s a part of me that fantasizes about telling people off and putting people in their place in the most explicit, vehement, and aggressive way possible to really mandarlos a volar. Yet that type of behavior goes against my nature, my upbringing, and the values I hold dearest:  integrity, compassion, community, altruism, and mercy.   I try not to be petty and passive-aggressive; this is one of my greatest sins. It’s very hard for me to express my anger with someone. I struggle to come up with a way that’s going to be in line with the rest of the way I live my life. So it’s kept under wraps.  My true feelings get expressed in my writing or my body language, the side eye, the tone in the email or in my voice.  I vent with others who may be removed from the situation but that type of venting (aka gossip, another of my sins) goes against the values of community, compassion, and mercy. I have to stay true to myself.  I can’t give in to my worst self. My evil Kermit may seem hilarious but in real life, that side of me will wreak havoc. Though I have struggled through years of emotional and spiritual work, I wrestle with this temptation every day.

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Lent reminds me of my mortality, my weakness, and my need for a clean heart. It’s my will power and my willingness to be part of the solution. I am here to do right.  There’s a whole lot of wrong in the world. Each day, I experience misplaced, misdirected, misunderstood, and misguided pain and anger that those around me do not know how to manage. Sometimes I don’t know how to handle their emotions or my own. Yet every day, I see love and compassion. I stay strong. I remember that my focus is to be a better version of myself for my own well-being but more importantly for the growth of my child. She has so much potential to be an amazing woman someday. I need to do what I can to help get her there. The Lord is testing me this Lent as He should. I am challenged to be strong and brave, and to take comfort in the Lord.  Miracles don’t happen without faith and discipline. That’s the truth about many tests that I have faced. They result in growth, peace, and happiness. At the end of this season of struggle, there will be resurrection.

A.D. The Bible Continues

An epilogue

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Caral, Peru. Photo by J. Calderon, 2014.

“..we found you lying

Choking on the dirt and sand

Your former glories and all the stories

Dragged and washed with eager hands

But, oh, your city lies in dust…” “Cities in Dust” by Siouxsie and The Banshees

A terrible situation I have experienced for many years recently ended. (Year of milagros) Though I claimed I would samba in joy, I didn’t. Nor did I throw confetti, pop bottles or make it rain.  Certain routines feel awkward. Certain places bring back memories.  The reality of victory is simply that, a reality. Life has moved forward quietly.

I do ask if it’s really over. I wonder if my work with this particular situation is done.(My second career as an exorcist)Call it PTSD (though I don’t like to, given my personal experience loving someone with true PTSD) or shock, I have moments when I brace myself for more fighting.  After years of experiencing abuse, it will take time to resolve these reactions.

I wonder about the other party. Has this person reflected on choices made and actions taken? Can this person heal?  I don’t have it in me to truly hate this individual. Deep inside, underneath layers and strata, yes strata, of God only knows what, this person is in so much pain. It is a pain so visceral and so overwhelming that it has terrorized others for decades. That’s some mierda.   I will continue to lift this person up in prayer. Fix this person, Jesus.

Though I say “icant”

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My secretary gave me this paperweight for Christmas. To know me is to love me.

or “I’m unable to can”

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Team Petty. T-shirt collection to prove it.

for a laugh or to keep from cursing on the daily, I know I can. Taking on a malicious individual has taught me that I can stand strong. I can fight back without compromising my better self. I can win.

Holding the door open

I am a woman of patience. Too much patience, I sometimes think, but in my line of work, it is essential. That being said, I grapple with my tendency to be mild with folks, even as they work my last nerve.  I can occasionally channel my #innermongoose.(A fearless favorite) On a day to day basis, I tend to keep my thoughts to myself.

Since Election Night, I have experienced many emotions. Grief is a messy process and it is different for everyone.
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Through social media, well-meaning friends and  acquaintances have posted, either in their own words or via shared images and articles, that it’s time for everyone to move on.  I have been asked to choose love, to hug more, to open doors for strangers, and even to pray for the president-elect.  I have been questioned about love for my country, regard for unborn children, and even the way I am parenting my child through this crisis.  And, sabes que, I have had enough.  Ya me tienen harta. Tu no me mandas!

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Not you, not anyone, other than the Lord and sometimes my mama or daddy.  Tu quien eres?
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Tu no me mandas.
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I can cry, rant, curse, laugh, and react in any way I want. I can take to the streets in protest. I can declare the president-elect #NotmyPresident.  If you don’t like what I have to say or do, GTFO.  Vete. Largate. Borrate.  Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. I am done.

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This morning, I unfollowed a fellow blogger. She’s likable and well-spoken.  I respect her enough to head out on my way. She’s entitled to her opinions. She is standing strong in them.  So am I. There’s nothing to be gained by trying to change her mind and sharing my judgments with her.  She will believe as she does. I will believe as I do.  With one difference. She has a privilege I do not.  It’s easy to tell people how they should be feeling and acting when it’s safe for you to do so.  The most dangerous of the president-elect’s followers won’t attack her.  While I can exit stage left on any conversation that makes me uncomfortable, I can’t escape reality.

In the days, weeks, months, and years to come, I have to be prepared for the worst that could happen. I have to arm (yes, I said “arm”) my only child with the knowledge and skills to grow up into an empowered woman of color. (Mothering a warrior)These are our lives.  These are our rights. If you can’t understand or respect that, then let’s wish each other well.

Two leaders

I have been doing a lot of thinking about power and leadership lately.  Given what I do for a living, it is often encouraged by upper management and professional mentors; given the kinds of people in my personal life, my wonderful ensemble of artists, teachers, life coaches, and parents, it is often inspired by positive influences.  Life is complicated so choosing how to be empowered is equally complex and multi-faceted.  I have previously reflected on the difficulty of being one of the good guys(Not so prodigal) and on my tendency to stay positive in the face of challenges(Kermit mode).  But I have owned the urge to be ruthless (Ivan Drago mode).  It’s been a helluva week/month/year.

Soy rencorosa.  Well I can be. I pray for my enemies, often sincerely.  But a friend who betrays me?  Jesus, be a fence!  An electric fence with barbed wire on top because it’s all bad. Chain-link_and_barbed_wire.jpg

It’s an #icant situation of epic proportions.  In my personal life, it makes great writing material.  In the professional realm, eso si que no. So I got checked.  I know I can pull it together. Recently my horror at Ben Linus’s cold, calculating despicableness has turned into admiration. guest16

Ben knows how to be cool, polished, polite, and articulate while he plots your destruction.  Ben takes a Hannibal the Cannibal approach to leadership.

Pero no te preocupes, I won’t be joining the Dark Side any time soon.487096_v1

I came across another role model several months ago when I read Grace Jones’  I’ll Never Write My Memoirs.  As a child, I saw Ms. Jones (that’s what I call her because I RESPECT her) as otherworldly, manly, even scary. grace-jones-crazy-diva-photos-4_2015-09-24_20-17-31-571x430

But I always admired her. She was powerful in ways my meek little child self longed to be.  In reading Ms. Jones’ story, my admiration for a cultural icon became deep respect for a strong woman.  What better birthday gift to myself than to see her in concert. With my dance sister and confidante at my side, we made our way to the front row of the Greek.

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Ms. Jones did not disappoint. She was a force of nature. She was funny, quirky, sassy, and badass.

And though my little arms weren’t long enough to touch her hand, I definitely got close.  Weeks later,  her songs remind me of the power of love of life and self.

So how I lead will depend on the circumstances. I can be Ms. Jones or I can be Ben or I can be both. I will continue reflecting on how to be my best self when others simply cannot.  I will continue making others laugh, dancing with others, and being good to myself.  I will definitely be asking Jesus to run interference for me.

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The Curse of the Witch Doll

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Nancy Drew doing her thing 

Before Nancy De La Cruz(the Latina Nancy Drew) could hop in her hybrid and head to the farmers’ market, she found her elderly Italian neighbor, recently subject to religious persecution(The case of the missing memento), was unconscious and lying behind a wall.  Nancy questioned the poor woman but the victim had no memory of her removal from her home.  After questioning potential suspects, Nancy’s worst assumptions were confirmed.  The longtime accuser had been joined by another religious zealot so the old woman went into hiding.  It was time for Nancy to get chola on these fools!

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Must find this shirt!

Unfortunately, neither Nancy De La Cruz nor Nancy Drew is about to throw down in the streets.  She uses logic and seeks understanding. So while the ongoing drama over witchcraft allegations may resurface now and then, it will be handled rationally and civilly.

It has taken me years to cultivate a sense of calmness. It’s one thing to have a game face. It’s another to calm the hurricane within your mind. But with time and quality moral support from family and professionals, I have mastered the art of keeping it together.   In the face of varying levels of tomfoolery, both personally and professionally, I keep my cool and take time to think about next steps. It takes effort, sometimes a monumental effort to not lower the standards I have set for myself.  I work.

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La befana is back in place at the mantel.  She is harmless, as are the close-minded people who shudder when they see her. I have no control over others’ thoughts and actions. I’m not about to do wrong by losing self-control.

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Pray for me, y’all! 

Surreality check

Lynchian: refers to a particular kind of irony where the very macabre and the very mundane combine in such a way as to reveal the former’s perpetual containment within the latter. David Foster Wallace

It has been a while since I needed to escape reality through television shows.  Usually I watch TV shows that parallel my family life like Blackish or Fresh off the Boat (TV show parallels), serve as bonding time with M as with Top Chef or Chopped Junior, or feed my craving for intelligent horror, The Returned
 Definitely in my Top 5 of Best TV shows EVER
Last week offered the return of my beloved The X-Files

Rambo met me at my parents’ house so we could watch the premiere with my dad.  Due to recent events
(and nope,  not at home), I decided to Netflix and chill with one of my all-time favorites, Twin Peaks. 
You may wonder how a spooky, surreal telenovela (folks who are insulted by the comparison need to check out Cuna de Lobos and El Maleficio; telenovelas aren’t always big hair, big fights, and big weddings) from the 90s could serve as an antidote to reality. 
Bad but badass villain; she’s my secret Patronus
Ernesto Alonso serving in El Maleficio; must find on Netflix stat 
Twin Peaks hasn’t lost its edge over the decades; it is as creepy, funny, and mind-boggling as ever. From its lovely yet nightmarish soundtrack to its iconic images, I felt transported to that small town where not one thing is as it seems.  On a Saturday afternoon following what has been a mentally challenging week at work, it was the right counterpoint. 

I have learned, after years of hard work (and, as I like to joke, thousands of dollars), that my thoughts and emotions are best checked.  In other words, I can’t let my mind wander.  #icant.  So after this week of bizarre and confusing events, I could not sit around and think about them for too long. I seriously compromised my health and my career at one point in my life.  I realized I had to learn how to heal. I committed to change.  I know I thrive through routine, discipline, and spiritual practice.  I train for half-marathons. I train for Carnaval. I pray the rosary daily. When I’m really good, I pray the Liturgy of the Hours. My schedule and calendar, sometimes the cause of controversy with certain family members and friends, is full, mostly with cherished events and activities.  This is on purpose. This is deliberate.  I made a commitment to health that will not waver.  So, when faced with others who haven’t yet learned that important lesson and perhaps never will, I need a break.  Why not be entertained while being comforted? 

Reality can be daunting.  Indulging in some fiction that is somewhat stranger than the truth helps me.  As for confronting those strange truths, I am grateful that I now have the mental strength to face them all.  I also  have the experience to know I can’t do much to help those who do not.  (Marsupium crotalus epidemic)