Four years ago, I sat down to have dinner with my husband and two of his friends. It was my first time meeting them. We had not yet ordered, when one of them asked, âWhere did you graduate from?â When I told them I had not finished college, their eyes widened as they turned to each other and whispered something in Hindi. In the Indian culture, if you donât have a college degree, itâs code red.
I come from a background where education wasnât the first priority. Independence and learning to make the buck was. And though Iâm grateful to have been inculcated with these virtues, I am taking a different path in my role as a Mother. Iâm making a generational change for my family. Moving away from one paradigm to the other end of the spectrum is not necessarily anxiety free. Â Therefore, my sonâs education will be one of my biggest investments. And I donât necessarily mean financially, but my time, my support.
I have been called, âuneducated,â âlazy,â and was once told, âYouâll never finish school.â But in spite of the irony, I am completely devoted to my sonâs education. And yes, Iâm sure my own personal failures are part of the drive, but this isnât a do-over for me. This is not me putting pressure on my son to give me a second chance. I want him to have his best most fulfilled first chance. And, I do admit, a college degree is not everything. (Says the girl with no college degree, huh?) However, I want my son to have one. I donât want my son to follow my path, I want him to finish college and continue a life of the mind. But not for the sake of saying he has one, not for the pedigree it provides, but for a deeper meaning. I don’t want him to get a degree for the diploma and pretty frame but rather for the journey and hopefully for the lesson that what one learns in college is but a fraction of what one should learn throughout oneâs lifetime. What college affords is a block of time in life where your priority is to better yourself and by extension your society through intellect, curiosity, ingenuity. There are college and graduate school alum who use their experiences to just check a box. (Many people have college degrees and do nothing with their lives, or are very successful individuals but never take a step back and enjoy the journey, always obsessing on what is next) âŠâThe world doesnât care what you know. What the world cares about is what you can do with what you knowâ (Wagner, Forbes Magazine). Â So with that in mind, I donât want him to go to school to be stuffed with knowledge and memorization, I want him to gain knowledge, sure, but with that knowledge become an innovator. Do something with it. To be curious and let that curiosity propel his imagination. And learn to see multiple perspectives. I will allow him the space to learn to be, himself, a thoughtful citizen of this increasingly divided country and world, someone who will chart his own path even if I may not be on board with all of his choices, he will learn they are his choices to make. Â
And I may not have graduated but I read critically, I write and organize my world in a thoughtful conscientious manner. Isnât that being an educated person in the world despite what a diploma says or doesnât say?
The loteria game – Itâs like BINGO with no letters and you bet money. The bets range from a few cents to $1 if you’re feeling lucky. I learned the game when I was four or five, but despite your age you better bring a few cents to join the pot. It was our version of family game night, and I donât remember any phones on the table!!!
The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop. Let’s be real…even if you love to read and love literature it is increasingly difficult to dedicate time to the solitary exercise.
Two memories come to mind as I engage with this new anthology published by Haymarket:
As an educator I constantly struggle with getting my students to be interested, to connect with and to see themselves in the literature we read.
Also, I remember a couple years ago chatting with my cousin who is now in college about Lil Wayne and how he has self-proclaimed ‘the greatest poet alive.’ My cousin could not reconcile how a rapper, artist, celebrity could also be a poet.
Happy Mother’s Day to all. We just wanted to share Family Magazine’s recent book review sponsored by
Mamaâs Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation
by Edwidge Danticat, illustrations by Leslie Staub
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Sayaâs Haitian mother is in jail because the âimmigration policeâ arrested her at work. Papa writes letters to judges, the mayor and congresswoman, and newspapers and TV reporters. But, no one writes back. Every week Saya and Papa visit Mama âat Sunshine Correctional, a prison for women without papers.â
Saya loves the Haitian stories her Mama tells her about the beautiful wosiyol, a nightingale with a sweet song (also Sayaâs nickname). She misses Mama deeply. And, there is some comfort for Saya when cassette tapes come in the mail. She can listen to Mamaâs voice telling stories and singing the nightingaleâs song.
After one sad time, Saya writes a story herself, to help relieve her sadness. When Papa mails what she has written, a newspaper reporter prints Sayaâs story for people to read. As a result, others get involved, helping to change this familyâs story.
Bright oil paintings convey a sense of island culture. Also, folk art touches â like blue and pink nightingales â easily combine dream symbols with images from daily life. And, the expressive face of Sayaâs stuffed animal, a monkey, both comforts and accompanies her.
Miami author Danticat was herself an immigrant from Haiti as a child. She writes with tenderness and conviction of a family torn apart because of a need for âthe right papers,â as Saya calls them. This is an important immigrant story for our time.
Dial, $17.99 Interest Level: Grade 1-3Â (This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library; Main Library, Doral, Edison, Lemon City, Miami Lakes, North Dade Regional, Opa Locka, West Dade Regional. Also, may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)
by Timothy Knapman, illustrated by Patrick Benson
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Raju, a baby elephant and his mother, begin an adventure when the morning is still dark and cold. His repeated question (different from the familiar, âAre we there yet?), âWhen can we go home again?â receives a patient response from his mother, âSoon.â
Along this journey they encounter danger. First, they meet snapping crocodiles. Then, a snake comes slithering. And later, a prowling tiger roars toward them. Rajuâs mother, however, knows exactly how to keep her little one safe. She âstamped her feet so hard, it made the ground tremble,â and she âblew her trunk so hard, it made the trees shake,â and finally she âreared up so high, she was as big as a giant.â
When they come to the mountain, his mother tells Raju to hold on to her tail. At the top, the two share the beautiful view.
Watercolor illustrations show sun-washed details. Face and body expressions are expertly matched with skillfully written text. Together, carefully crafted paintings smoothly blend the rhythmic flow of language with the subtle emphasis of repetitive phrases.
Although the young elephant is tired and his feet hurt after returning home at dusk, Raju asks, âWhen can we do it all again?â Even the youngest children will know the answer.
Candlewick Press, $16.99 Interest Level: Pre-School â Grade 1 (This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library: West Dade Regional, West End Regional. Also, may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)
by Sandra J. Howatt, illustrated by Joyce Wan
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â A crescent moon anchors both the story and each picture in this beautiful bedtime book. Illustrations with rounded shapes curve and comfort in seamless combination, with reassuring âsâ sounds to lull little ones asleep.
Rhyming text steers readers through the moon-bright night. The featured animals are never named. But each one is called a âsleepyhead.â Such repetition quietly leads the child to name the creatures that inhabit this snuggly storybook.
The pencil illustrations are colored digitally and, while it is nighttime, the darkness is warm and welcoming, not scary. The gentle invitation to âLook!â is used again and again. And, the light from stars and/or fireflies lights up each open page spread. Itâs a comforting reminder that creatures and people all sleep under the same sky.
After following the rhymes and finding all the little ones âin houses and in barns,â the one still missing is âasleep in Mamaâs arms!â
(This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library; Main Library, Culmer Overtown, Doral, Edison, Lemon City, Miami Lakes, North Dade Regional, West Dade Regional. Also, may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)
Other great choices:
Henry Finds His Word
by Lindsay Ward
Dial, $16.99 Interest Level: Pre-School â Kindergarten (This book is available to purchase from local and online booksellers.)
by Liz Rosenberg, Illustrated by Stephen Gammell
Philomel, Interest Level: Kindergarten â Grade 2 (This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library; Doral, North Dade Regional, West End Regional.)
I am beginning to get a bit more comfortable with the whole blogging situation. At first, I was like gasp, hand on chest, I think I missed a comma…Everyone will see this and think Iâm an idiot. Now itâs more like I have this friend who is a really good listener and he or she never really interrupts my stories with their own. At times my very polite friend will drop a comment, but it is always directly related to me and my stories, so it is obviously important.
photo via Steven Depolo (https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/4613540568/in/photolist-82FASU-8EVhxf-nLtGt5-8pBHwu-7uePtF-6G1UqA-5EBYpm-a19fN7-z9swfA-pUJ8Ns-bK38Gp-pEnTta-deopzs-49J1FQ-qpnG7T-5S52nF-rYBbgs-oiAVt-65VDM7-4XVwNq-4j42D3-4Hsx3B-qdE5uE-7Lm5st-HydpR-HydpH-fMR14a-dwcdCb-7nBKXH-7nFEv9-qgQCP9-fyDsEY-f79RdZ-tNSCbv-ynbBcz-6ic8XM-5Mjr9o-7wF8TV-dWmf6N-a5L6iG-2TQPt9-8f2YS1-8eYPwD-8f358G-8eYFGF-4bBixt-8DsYYv-7uePuT-fx8Nyt-w77qry)
We’re several days late on this post, but this means so much to us we’re going with it! Therefore, in honor of Black History Month we share this poem with you. Because of its underlying depth. Because of itâs innocence and unvarnished honesty. Because of itâs controversy, as some people find this to be âracism in reverseâ, we hear the poet speaker grappling with how to transform observation into knowledge.
*The photos above are a farewell to soulconalas and a heartfelt welcome to doubts&desires.*
Several weeks ago I mentioned on my Instagram page that I was contemplating on changing my blog’s name. It had been something that I was thinking about for a while as I no longer felt attached to the name. I felt disconnected. Detached. I was completely evicted from it. Which is not an uncommon theme in my life. I have spent a large part of my life feeling evicted from life itself. Iâm no longer soulconalas. I was her at one point. Yes. I was her when I decided to move to New York and start the life I wanted for myself or at least attempt to live my dream. And NYCâs spirit can really give you hopes, big ones, perhaps at times unrealistic, but thatâs how insanely magical she is! The City streets make you feel invincible. It was the first time in my life I was able to freely be me. I was able to spread my wings and soar through the sky. How cliche! But Iâm talking about New York City here! These banal expressions are allowed.- And that was then. This is now. Iâm a mom. And married. I donât know if to see it as a bird who has settled in her cozy Brooklyn nest? Or if my wings have become stagnant? Or are these just rambles of a traumatic sleep deprived Mami?Â Â Whatever it was, I needed to make a change. It was undignified to write for soulconalas if I had (simply put) outgrown it. Though it has brought me a lot of joy and surprisingly courage; the courage to share my writing publicly. The courage to write the truth. Although I admit, I donât bare my soul completely naked yet. Those voices in my head, the voices, which arenât mine, still have some control over me. – But Iâm working on that. Therefore, I had to do something about it in order to be able to write again, in order to feel grounded, connected, and inspired. (Why is it that I battle a sense of disconnect at times from this world? Another constant theme since I was a child.)
Last night, as everyone slept, I went through my archives and came across a handful of primitive forms of what was once my writing. (My back-in-the-day writing.) In hindsight, a lot of what I wrote was very amateur-like, but filled with raw emotions, nonetheless. I was not surprised to find a constant theme in those pages: sorrow. Most of my writing then was inspired by a mean-spirited poignance. But, I had an unusual morose disposition then. Today, that theme has changed. However, there is something about this poem that I have always beenÂ drawn to. Â Maybe it’s because I know where my heart had fallen while writing it. Maybe it’s because I actually do feel at one moment in time it was a work of art. Would I write it differently now? I will not deny there are parts I would change and I thought about making those changes before sharing this with all of you. However, I decided against it because it wouldn’t be authentic. It wouldn’t be the drawn unfiltered voice of that 26 year old girl. This was/is a part of my many plateaus during my 20s. (I wrote about those years here) Hence, the poem remains untouched. And for whatever it’s worth, during those years, I wrote completely and truly unguarded. So here she is, the freehearted me.
While many were out celebrating last night, and toasting with champagne, we stayed in and shared a glass of Malbec. We didn’t even see the ball drop. (Honestly, the countdown gives me a great deal of anxiety.) Itâs no secret. We pushed our over exhausted bodies to stay up. Therefore, we laid in our sofa with our legs crossing each other, gave a deep and long exhale, and turned to our most reliable companion, Netflix! We haven’t slept! It just felt nice to lay down without a sense of urgency.
I am exhausted at being everyoneâs sounding board.
Writing in the Hamptons, working on a story.
Itâs my turn to speak. Now listen.
Writing is not a childhood pastime. Nor is it a hobby that I have impulsively taken up to fill my days. It’s not on a forsaken to-do list either.
Are you listening? Or have I lost your attention to your superficiality of what to wear tonight to Skybar?
(Sometimes I canât believe that these are the kind of people I choose to divulge my feelings to)
Iâm frazzled by the forty five minute conversation we just had about you. You are conscious of what youâre saying, but oddly distant from your own self-absorption. You forgot to ask, âHow are you?â Your selfishness is not surprising. The incredulity is provoked by the height of it.
I was lucky. I had the good fortune to have been given the opportunity (all credit to my husband) to resign last year from a life sucking J-O-B, leaving behind the envenomed Corporate America. Itâs a slow withering death.
I had that kind of boss, the one who never appreciates you, but greet with a smile and when given a task, it was always, “With pleasure, ” or, “I’ll get right on it.” (I played this game like a pro) When what you really wanted to say was “Kiss my ass and then f@#! off.” Maybe even spitting inside his /her Starbucks coffee was a thought that crossed your mind. Once? Twice? Ok. So I never did stoop down to that level, but I wanted to. In fact, my very existence didnât even leave a small mark on the work and institution to which I had so naively plead my loyalty for more than 8 hours a day. And yes, I suppose I have been fortunate to no longer have to listen to the constant mind-blowing girl banter and being everyone’s therapist. (I must have an invisible sign on my forehead that reads, “Free therapy sessions all around the clock, everyday.”) So on Monday mornings, when I begrudgingly walked into work and dragged my feet to my desk, turned on my computer, realized that I have 100 e-mails to read and you come, pull the chair next to me and ask, “Do you think it’s weird my boyfriend says he only wants to have sex on Saturdays?”, then you cannot question, not even for a moment, (as a matter of fact you are forbidden to do so) why I flirted with the edge of that cliff.
Have I lost you? Is the topic of me quite the bummer? Are you itching for me to finish so we can get to whatâs important, you.
Ah. I see. You think somewhere, deep down inside, I miss it. The way one misses their childhood, with a subtle nostalgia?
Which part? Having to get up in the mornings? Being assigned a new role in hopes of a promotion you will never have? And all this is compounded by the clock that does not tick fast enough. Â Having only 2 day weekends to regain some sanity? Â -That’s if you have managed to do so before jumping offthe cliff.
Do I rest my case?
Although the stupefaction was gratifying, in that it confirmed the felt gravity of my decision, the truth is, my decision did not come without apprehension. But who said making leaps was easy?
The fear factor: I have been working since I was 16 years old. Financially reliant on three people: Me…myself…and I.
However, if I didn’t take this chance, the chance to write full-time, then I did not learn anything in my 20’s. (The indolent years) And I do not understand what it takes to reach a dream much less do I understand what my dream means to me. So I took the chance! Bid a good riddance! And I have never looked back. Itâs my turn to sing my song and not at the beat of your drum. Capiche?
Now let’s come to the present and let’s work on getting rid of misconceptions, assumptions, and your ego.
As a stay at home writer, I do not struggle with guilt, boredom, and feeling overwhelmed. I’m doing what I have always wanted to do. Write. And this happiness is coupled with moments of intense gratitude towards the fact that I will have the opportunity to be there for my child.
What you fail to realize is that when I say, âI have to write,â or, âI am writing,â itâs not a burden, or like saying something as banal as âI have to go to the supermarket.â No. Itâs a lot more complex, stimulating, and colorful. Me expressing that, as many times I do, itâs me letting you know that I need to breathe, as writing for me foremost is an escape. Or, because I came up with an idea which deserves to be on paper, worked and dissected. Writing is Freedom, a Privilege, and a journey, an interminable trajectory. Itâs my chance at stripping away all reservations and revealing to my reader the authentic me, and that is accompanied by Fear and Sacrifice. In this exhilarating quest, I have epiphanies, breakthroughs, and at the conclusion, some clarity. Itâs undoubtedly therapeutic, as I hone each word, each sentence. Thereâs Pain too. After all, I have always believed that most artists are tormented one way or another, which is why we plunge our souls in these different forms of art (writing is that too). Whether youâre a singer, composer, photographer, painter, we are perceiving and living the world isolated by some definition from the rest. Itâs mostly our pain that compels us to submerge ourselves in art form with the hopes of finding the connection to this world.
Writing is power. With that power I am able to create another realm, and allow the readers to disengage perhaps almost as much as I, the writer. With every passing word, different emotions are evoked, some strike chords, as the reader either smiles, recoils, or becomes enraged.
And in spite of being home, it does not mean that you can call me and disturb my time with your problems or issues. I donât want to hear it. Do I call you while youâre at work? So why do you feel that only because I am home you have that right? Who gave you that right?
And yes, I’m home. But I’m involved. Engaged. My fingers will not stop typing to pick up your call. Leave a message.
Your e-mail can wait and will wait. My dream cannot.
I’m a hermit and a stubborn one at that.
And so I write in spite of the condescending comments and looks of naysayers, and the jeers of those who doubt my ability or think Iâm wasting my time.
Although I did not think I would be dedicating anything in my blog to anyone, even if they did it deserve it, as I want to stay away from that, I think I need to do it.
Here’s to two people who fully understand the path that I’m on, the hardships I have faced while writing, who are always eager to read not only my first, second, and and third draft, but my final one too. Who tear apart and critique it word by word, sentence by sentence. Who aren’t afraid to tell me it’s “rubbish.” But at the same time, aren’t too proud to be amazed and happy if they came across a good sentence or point I made. They read it with no biases, eyes open, heart untainted, and learn something about me. They hear my voice, even if they don’t agree. They are doing what you are incapable of, and that is this, they listen. These two people set aside time for something that is not required of them and they don’t get paid for it either. I am not sure why they do it with such enthusiasm and arms wide open, but I’d like to think it’s because they deeply understand my ultimate destination and want to be a part of this journey I’m on. They not only share their lives with me, but in return, ask me to share with them mine, especially my writing.
So a profound thank you, I could not do this without you, and the journey would not be what it is if it werenât for the both of you. My husband and my friend, Josie.