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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! 

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.  

M’s boho mama

“…what she gave instead was her own DNA, her own boho mama-in-the-black-stockings self, and she trusted that this would be enough.” Lisa Jones, Bulletproof Diva

Five months ago, one of my dance sisters approached me via social media inbox. An outspoken woman, she prefaced her comments by saying she likes to say things directly to folks. What followed was a discussion about my relationship to M.  The conversation truly touched me. It not only made my day, a typical busy weekday at work (which has provided endless writing material, nuff said!), but it helped me reflect on my motherhood for weeks and even months.  How unlikely and yet so necessary that I had the opportunity to do so. 
Motherhood happens.  My choice to have M and the million choices I have made in raising her have sometimes been unconventional and non-traditional, but never irreverent or irresponsible. Because while parenting is intuitive and flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants spontaneous, it is also a huge undertaking. It is THE big deal. No amount of writing and talking about tiger moms or helicopter moms or free range moms or any combination of these can change the fact that motherhood and fatherhood matter.  Yes, I don’t often plan how situations will play out; I can’t.  My seven-year-old has been her own person for as long as she could speak and stand up on her own; basically I’ve been dealing with this independent-minded individual since she was 10 months old. Every day I am learning something new about her, about myself, and about the world through our relationship.  When I get a rare opportunity to really think, reflect, and plan for our relationship, I take it and revel in it. 

About a month and a half ago, one of my closest friends asked to interview me as part of her women’s studies project. She had decided to focus on the parenting choices of the children of immigrants. We enjoyed a deep discussion on motherhood.  I wasn’t discussing writing or dance or education and yet all these folded into the conversation.  That is how my experience as a mother has evolved.  M experiences the vast majority of my experiences with friends, culture, food, and the arts. What we miss from traditional play dates, I hope is more than made up for in making memories.  
Post samba class selfie 

Red carpet ready

Tradiciones.  I wanted my daughter to experience traditional celebrations from an early age. Quite a few we established as our own family though neither Rambo nor I had experienced them as children including setting up a Nativity crèche during Advent, building an altar for Dia de los Muertos, and celebrating SuperBowl Sunday with our extended family of college friends.  Some I inherited from my own childhood: celebrating Nochebuena, honoring El Senor de lo Milagros in October, and being aware that 28 de Julio was as important to my folks as 4th of July.  Some I continued from my single days: participating in the Dance-Along Nutcracker and hosting an Oscar party.  These are our traditions. We celebrate them year after year with our loved ones. They help us savor the seasons and make the most of moments.
The kiddos approved of the 2015 host
In recent years, the Oscars have gotten increasingly disappointing. They have always been god-awful long. They have always had their share of too-long speeches and ill-conceived musical numbers. They have always been really white.  I have watched the Oscars since I was a junior in high school and the Oscars have rarely featured folks who look like me. Now I love J-Lo but she don’t look a thing like me. Besides, she is nowhere near winning one of the coveted gold statues. In any case, the closest someone I can truly relate to was even close to an Oscar was when my man crush por siempre and once-upon-a-time dinner mate Benjamin Bratt was escort to Julia Roberts.  So, yes, #Oscarssowhite and yet here we are, a household of brown people and our multiculti clan of friends and family still gathering over a feast to watch the damn awards.  You may wonder why.
Sometimes I ask myself that question. Rambo pleads with me at least once a year to give up and host an Alma Awards party.  My one-word answer: tradition.  When I was a misunderstood artsy high schooler, film became a passion.  I would hop on BART and head to the Embarcadero or downtown Berkeley and check out all the Best Picture or Foreign Film nominees. Once I could drive, I’d make my way to the Piedmont.  As with books, movies became a vehicle to unwind or an opportunity to let my own creativity be inspired.  So, watching the Oscars became a way to celebrate some of those films and performers.
Before the New Parkway opened in Uptown, we mourned the loss of the original
The annual Oscar party became a way to share my pastime with my friends but more importantly to bring folks together.  Now, in our 13thyear, my close friends expect my Oscar party. They know I will choose a theme, that I will cook main dish and sides in conjunction with the theme, and that we will roll out our own red carpet. On occasion, I have given out Oscars for best movie-themed costume. My brother is our Meryl Streep, having won the award the most times (twice). Now that the little ones are older, they will cheer for the Best Animated Film nominees and maybe admire a dress or two.  The grown folks will vie for the award for best commentary. With Rambo in the mix, even more shade is thrown. If I was more Twitter –savvy, I’d live tweet some of our zingers.  We have a great time, even when the awards show is a fail like the time poor James Franco and Anne Hathaway nearly killed us with their ill-advised co-hosting gig.
If throwing an Oscar party in light of all the boycotts this year makes you question my ability to think critically, then question away. Folks have been questioning my “wokeness” for years.    It’s my party and I will cry or laugh if I want to.  I’m well aware of how race and ethnicity have played out in Hollywood and it is maddening and frustrating.  But canceling a party that loved ones remember fondly won’t change that mona que se viste de seda.  Chris Rock and I will be holding it down. Besides, maybe Queen Bey will crash the party and let everyone have it with more “Formation.”  One can hope.
M’s 2011 red carpet look

Not about me

My mom once told me that Mother’s Day was not about me, despite my role as a mother. She said it was a day to celebrate her and the women who came before me.  See, my momma doesn’t play; don’t let her sweet grandma demeanor fool you. She’s more a whoop your butt with the cucharon type of mom with an occasional Mommy Dearest moment. (What, like you don’t have those?)
Tina, bring me the axe! 
Momma will tell you what is what.  So when she checked me on the Mother’s Day situation, I listened. She explained that is a day to honor the hard work and effort our mothers make.  She added that M and Rambo had to honor me.  So, instead of viewing Mother’s Day as a new holiday in my honor, it continues to be a day where I thank my mom.
Mom and M’s first picture together
Despite all our battles, Momma is my role model. I know no other woman who has worked so hard outside and inside the home for her children.  I know no other woman who has parented siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, even play cousins by marriage(who are so trifling they don’t deserve her) with so much patience and generosity. No one keeps a clean house like my Momma. No one can cook a dinner party for dozens of people like my Momma.  No one best take on my Momma because she will let you have it.
My mom has shared that her own mom, mi abuelita Chelia, has always been tough and brutally honest.  She has told me stories of Chelia’s harsh discipline. Mama Chelia is known for her blunt rants on everything and everyone.  I remember a trip we made to Churin.  My mom, who suffers from chronic back pain due to a slipped disk, was miserable during the bumpy bus ride back to Huacho.  She gritted her teeth and braced herself to no avail. Tears of pain flowed silently down her cheeks. Chelia leaned over and asked, “Que le pasa a esta mujer? Estas llorando? Te voy dar un lapo si sigues llorando.”(Translation: Woman what is the matter with you? You crying? I will slap you upside your head if you keep crying.)A few moments later, she wiped my mom’s tears and rubbed her shoulders without another word.
Chelia sharing her wisdom with me 
Because motherhood isn’t only nurturing and caretaking, it’s butt-kicking, name-taking, history-making, and barrier-breaking.  To be a mother means to be a woman of strength and character. So to the assertive warriors who came before me, my models of strength, Feliz Día de las Madres.