Crying In My Car

It finally happened. In May of this year, after 34 combined years of service as a U.S. Marine and in the U.S Postal Service employee, my father retired! It almost snuck up on us, to be honest. He’d worked so hard for so long to get to this point, which always seemed an eternity away. But he made it. We made it. Free at last, free at last…

My mother, brother and I planned a surprise retirement party in secret that took place just a couple of weeks later. We invited tons of friends and family and hired a taquero like the good Mexicans that we are. For entertainment, we brought in an act that my dad had seen and loved at a family party long ago: a comedian and musical impersonator who takes on the likes of Vicente Fernandez, Juan Gabriel, Antonio Aguilar, Paquita la del Barrio and more. All you paisas out there are with me so far and would have gotten a kick out of it; the rest of you are probably lost as f*ck, and there really isn’t much I can say here to clear things up for you. Sorry, dude.

Dear ol’ dad was absolutely blindsided, totally believing the lie we told him about taking my mom out to dinner the night before Mother’s Day to avoid the crowds. The party was a success; the food was delicious, the company great and the entertainment was a huge hit. The entertainer apparently woke up with a terrible cold the morning of the party which could have been a disaster; however several shots of hard liquor supplied by my brother seemed to help the guy hit the high notes, which in all honesty probably made the Chente experience that much more authentic.

Señor Diaz dove into retired life, scheduling visits with friends and family, heading to a Dodger game in LA with my brother, even jet-setting off to Guadalajara with my aunt for a quick trip to see some extended family. It all seemed like sunshine and roses with one minor thorn in his side: he’d recently been diagnosed with osteoporosis. To make a long story short, my obstinate father convinced himself that certain digestive issues he’d suffered for years (you read that right: years) were a perfectly normal occurrence in the life of a perfectly healthy person. They weren’t, of course, and we unfortunately learned that in suffering through this condition for so long, my father had essentially gone years without properly absorbing much nutritional content from his food. It was time to seek treatment and make some major changes to his lifestyle; though begrudgingly, he made the adjustments.

Then a few weeks ago at 5:57AM as I was loading my gym bag into my car, I received a text message from my father that read, “Call me asap.” I dropped the gym bag on the floor and onto my foot as I dialed, toe now throbbing and stomach uneasy as the dial tone rang in my ear. I know my dad, and he wouldn’t ask me to call him early in the morning like this if it wasn’t urgent. I quickly learned that he’d been in the emergency room for hours waiting to be seen. He’d been suffering from pain in his abdomen for a couple of days and had reached the point where he couldn’t stand it anymore. 

I was relieved, to be honest. The more I probed into his symptoms, the more convinced I became that my father had appendicitis. Painful though it might be, it didn’t appear to be life-threatening. The doctor saw him, checked him out, sent him off for a CT scan, confirmed appendicitis, and scheduled a same-day surgery. His appendix was swollen but had not burst, so that was good news.

I sat with my mother in the waiting room and waited a couple of hours for my dad to get out of surgery. At one end of the room was a TV monitor displaying a list of patient ID numbers each color coded for status; one color meant the patient was in pre-op, another that he/she was in surgery; a different color meant the patient was in the post-op recovery area, another that he/she was being moved to a bed within the hospital. There were throngs of us packed into the same waiting area, each staring up at the screen with impatient eyes like DMV patrons waiting for our number to show up. My eyes were glued to the monitor when my mother touched my arm- my father’s surgeon had entered the room and wanted to speak with us.

Dr. Poon pulled us into the hallway and said the surgery had gone well. The appendix had been removed without much difficulty but the mass was in a difficult extraction spot, so he ended up having to excise both the mass and a chunk of the colon entirely. He kept on talking, explaining that since he’d cut open the abdomen instead of the originally planned and less invasive laparoscopy, the recovery would be more complicated. We’d know in a week what the pathology of the mass was; the results might further explain some of my dad’s recent digestive issues.

Wait - mass? What mass? I outwardly maintained my composure as I politely asked what mass he was talking about; in my head, the questioning went more like, “What the f*ck do you mean, ‘the mass?’ What mass? This mass and I have not been properly introduced. We aren’t bloody familiar, Dr. Poon!” My mom wasn’t as surprised; she knew there was a blockage in his colon. She knew because my dad had told her, but only very recently; he’d kept it to himself for some time. I made a mental note to slap the taste out of his mouth once he recovered.

I was upset, but I still felt optimistic in spite of my flash of anger. The surgeon had after all parted by letting us know that the type of blockage he found ends up being benign more often than not. It was more the shock of finding out the way I did, from a stranger in a white coat with my father recovering from surgery nearby. I have told my father once, twice, if not seventeen hundred times that he needs to be honest with us about his health. He does this every time though: he says he doesn’t want to worry my mother, brother and I, but ends up giving us a cardiac episode when we find out whatever he's been hiding inopportunely.

He was in post-op and still very groggy when a nurse came by to tell my mom and I that we could see him one at a time for ten minutes each. Mom went in first but Dad was still pretty out of it: he kept asking for his wife when she was there holding his hand all the while. In the meantime, I ran to my car to charge my dying phone.

I took the opportunity to contact two of my best friends to cancel my plans to visit them in LA the next day. One of them was going to ask me to reschedule anyway since his girlfriend had tickets to see the Anaheim Ducks playoff game. He apologized and said he felt especially bad since he’d be leaving to Europe for almost three weeks shortly thereafter, a fact he swore he’d mentioned previously and I was adamant he had not. I knew I had to stay with my dad, I mean: duh. Not even up for discussion. In my emotional state though, given that he was only home for the summer from law school and for so many other stupid reasons, all of this news made me spiral into an emo fit. I sobbed right there in my car and he listened patiently. I missed him and felt stupid for crying about that when my dad was in the hospital, then cried because my dad was in the hospital. This was hard. 

After getting some good tears out of the way, I pulled it together and made my way back inside. It was my turn to see my dad, and I felt my hands start to shake as I approached. Lying there tucked under a blanket, hooked to an IV and breathing tube, machines beeping and booping every few seconds in that sterile room with curtains separating beds from one another, my six-foot-tall father looked so pale, so small.

I came close to the bed in silence as he appeared to be asleep, then felt a hand digging its way out of the covers before closing its grip on my own. He squeezed hard as he writhed in pain and it felt like a stab in my chest. The nurse watching over him told me she’d asked for his pain level on a scale from one to ten and that he’d given her an eight. She said that kind of pain level more than warranted at least a mild painkiller, to which he replied, “Then never mind, my pain is a four.” He hates taking medication, even when he’s been sliced open.

I lightened up a little when he whispered in his Godfather voice that I needed to help him break out of this place; I smiled through glassy eyes and told him he’d need to take it easy for a few days, then outright laughed when he replied, “That’s ok. I’ll get your brother to get me out of here. He’ll help me.” And later on, he really did try to conspire with my brother to stage a jailbreak. If you know my dad, this isn’t much of a surprise.

Then I was reminded what it’s like to feel like all of the air has been sucked out of the room and ice water poured down your spine. He opened his eyes for a few brief moments and looked straight into mine and said, “I just wish I’d gotten to walk you down the aisle. I’m sad I won’t meet your babies, my grandchildren. Take care of your mom. You and your brother, please take care of her.”

Panic. Panic, panic everywhere. My brother walked in at that precise moment when I felt like my eyeballs had been doused in hydrochloric acid, and I’m convinced that his arrival was Jesus doing me a solid: “Oh boy, she’s about to lose it. Quick! Send in the brother NOW!” I walked down the long hallway back to the waiting room choking back sobs that threatened to strangle me. My mom and brother’s girlfriend made conversation, and I engaged but only vaguely remember doing so.

Before long, my father was admitted to a regular bed up on the fifth floor. A slew of family members came in spite of my dad’s request to keep visitors at bay. Hours passed and he became more lucid. My mom would spend the night with him, so my brother, his girlfriend and I say our goodbyes and left to grab a late-night bite to eat.

What no one knew was that I’d stolen away to my car again earlier in all the commotion, shortly after my dad lamented, fearing the worst of his condition, that he’d never get to see his firstborn child and only daughter as a bride. I sat there in my Altima coupe with the windows rolled up and cried my F*CKING face off. My chest heaved, my mascara ran, my breath became elusive. He’d hit me where it hurt. There I was, Miss Love-Will-Find-Me-When-Its-Meant-To, the girl who believes that love can’t be rushed and is best when it happens organically, suddenly reevaluating all of my life’s choices. It was silly, really. He was just groggy and would probably be JUST FINE. But what if he wasn’t? What if for once my insistence on positivity in the face of his worrying was misplaced? What if he really was sick and all the time I thought I had was suddenly stolen from me?

I spun out a little. I started to overanalyze every detail of my past relationships and asked myself if I would and should have been married by now if I’d done things differently. I thought maybe I should give an ex who keeps on contacting me a second chance, even though my heart isn’t really in it and never really was. Then I cursed that wretched, gushing heart for its insistence on loving a man who would not love me even when I told (and tell) it to quit that sh*t. I chastised myself for being so picky- maybe it wasn’t so bad if a guy used “your” when he meant “you’re,” and perhaps I should stop judging guys online so hard for their gym selfies. I resolved to give online dating a try for the umpteenth time; not a minute later, I saw that a self-proclaimed pansexual couple on a dating app had messaged me to compliment my exotic eyes and propose that we arrange a mutually pleasurable encounter. God has a sense of humor.

I fixed my face before heading back up to my dad’s room, no trace of a tear left as I joked with family about my dear dad’s stubbornness. With each day that passed, though my father was in pain and clearly stressing over the pending pathology of that stupid mass, things got a little easier. In typical fashion, he repeatedly questioned various health professionals on the possibility that his surgeon had removed the wrong organ; he kept sneaking down the hallway by himself even though he was on strict orders not to get up without assistance. He even got up and shaved when he wasn't supposed to, having to kneel down and take deep breaths between shave strokes to steady his dizziness. He could have fallen and knocked himself unconscious, but he'd sooner do that than go another day without a clean shaven face. His refusal to listen was maddening in the moment but of course made me laugh in spite of myself. I remember thinking that these were the types of behaviors that have always made my dad such a character, and how much I'd miss him if he weren't around to be a pain my ass.

You’ve all heard it before, you probably hear it every day. If someone isn’t telling you that life is short and unpredictable, then a Facebook post or some Instagram inspiration remind you to live life to the fullest and to carpe the sh*t out of each diem.  You’ve probably become desensitized to it by now, and I don’t really blame you. I’m still going to tell you though that it’s all true; life is precious, and I beg you not to wait to fully grasp that until your dad is saying his goodbyes, premature or not.

A few days later, I got another text from dad, this time with a much happier message. I stole away from the office I’m working at for the summer and practically ran to the parking garage, once again breaking down in my vehicle as soon as I’d shut the door. I cried harder this time, a cry that started way down in my stomach and exploded on my face in maniacal, tear-soaked laughter. By the grace of God, my daddy is going to be ok. His one-liners will continue to serve as writing material. He’ll proudly ask me to sign a copy of my first published book someday. He’ll continue to spend way too much money at the USC bookstore each time we head up to catch a game. He’ll walk me down the aisle someday, whenever that is, sporting a mixed expression of pride, joy and utter terror; he may or may not cry, but God knows I will sob. He’ll spoil my children rotten and feed them gummy worms and Cheetos even when I ask him not to, and he’ll love them in a way that he’s been waiting to do his whole life.

I recently told my dad that he is one of my greatest inspirations for writing, so now every time he does or says something ridiculous, he follows up with "Are you going to write about that? If so, please remember what my own dad used to say: 'No digas que soy terco, soy fino!' Hehe!" ("Don't say that I'm stubborn, I'm refined!")

So this one is for my padre fino, may he give me creative fodder for years to come.

When my brother had surgery last year, my dad brought a stuffed Ninja Turtle to the hospital as a good luck charm because my brother loved the TMNT as a kid. When it was my dad's turn to go under the knife, my brother got him this little guy. Excuse me while I go sob.

When my brother had surgery last year, my dad brought a stuffed Ninja Turtle to the hospital as a good luck charm because my brother loved the TMNT as a kid. When it was my dad's turn to go under the knife, my brother got him this little guy. Excuse me while I go sob.

Bookishly yours,

Vanessa

Chones and Champs

Buenos Diaz!

This post was originally drafted (to 85% completion, anyway) back in May. Yep, MAY. You know what I like about May? This.

Its Gonna Be May.jpg

But I digress.

May was… eventful. It signaled the beginning phase of Bridalpalooza (two of my BFFs are getting married next month, so shower and bachelorette season are upon us) and my father was hospitalized for acute abdominal pain. That pain turned out to be appendicitis which meant an immediate surgery. That surgery uncovered a mass in his colon, which his surgeon had tested because he thought it might be cancer. And then it wasn’t cancer. Sweet baby Jesus. There were a lot of ups and downs there.

One of the other big happenings of that time period was my father’s retirement! After 34 combined years of service to the United States Marine Corps and the United States Postal Service, my daddy is now a free man (one recovering from surgery, but a free man nonetheless). In my next post, I will go into more detail about that whole situation. For now though, here is the post I meant to publish weeks ago right around the time of his surprise retirement party. Have a good one, folks!  

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Happy Thursday, y’all! Je suis currently house-sitting deep in Escondido and keeping tabs on two very energetic springer spaniels while their humans are off soaking in the Barbados sun. I’ve learned that they’re called springer spaniels because those mother f*ckers are springy as sh*t. They ate my sandwich clean off the kitchen island in the ten seconds it took me to pour myself a glass of milk. Hmmpf. How rude.  

I’ve been watching the house and pooches since middle of last week and invited my cousin/BFF Alexis over to help me put together a slideshow for my dad’s surprise retirement party.  We took a small detour on Friday and ended up visiting Orfila Winery down the street. Sure, it was the night before the party, and I had a lot of work to do since I’d accidentally deleted my first attempt at the slideshow, but hey! YOLO! Wine just begs to be tasted.

We each enjoyed a tasting, which at Orfila includes six pours of wines of your choice for only $12! Alexis favored the Sparkling Moscato Bianco which really did taste like bubbly peach perfection. I loved the Viognier, my favorite of the white wines, with its lovely floral bouquet and bright, crisp notes. I also really dug the limited release Petite Syrah- bold and big and delicious! The only bummer here was that the weather was crappy and cold and rainy, otherwise we would have wanted to roam the beautiful property some more and have a seat outside in the adorable courtyard. Orfila regularly features local musicians, like the amazing acoustic guitarists there that night playing everything from Gypsy Kings classics to Uptown Funk. The stupid rain also screwed us out of Food Truck Fridays, a regular occurrence at Orfila that was cancelled on account of the weather. Guess we’ll have to go back!

If the glass fits....

If the glass fits....

 

Before we knew it, it was closing time at the winery. We decided to keep the wine flowing back at the house and for Alexis to spend the night instead of driving 40+ minutes back home. She hadn’t brought an overnight bag though, which prompted me to flick her on the forehead since it is an unspoken rule that our visits end in sleepovers. Fortunately, I had 99% of the items she’d need to get clean and pretty in the morning. For that last one percent (you guessed it: panties!), we made our way to a nearby Target.

When we got to Target, we were hit with a moment of divine inspiration: Mother’s Day was just two days away, so this would probably be a good time to finish (read: start) shopping for our mothers’ gifts. We walked over to a department store in the same mall and also decided to call in a take-out order for dinner later.

All was going according to plan until we got in line to pay for our purchases. I glanced at my phone and realized it was 7:51 PM. Skrrrrrrr….. say what!?! We now had only nine minutes to pay for our merchandise, run back to Target, grab a pair of underwear (and more wine, of course) and then jam over to grab our takeout before the restaurant closed at 8:00 PM.

Picture then two Latinas running through a mall with shopping bags in tow bursting into Target like they were giving away money. Alexis booked it to the panty section while I took off in a frantic search for booze. I sprinted and scanned the aisles like I was a contestant on Supermarket Sweep, hearing that Chariots of Fire song in my head’s internal soundtrack. I turned a corner sharply and almost took out a small child, knocking over a few boxes of crackers instead. Alexis decided on a pair then gunned it for the cash register while I ran towards her with a bottle of almond champagne (cuz we classy). There we were huffing and puffing at Register Three, and the cashier was grinning in spite of her best efforts not to do so. Her last customers of the night were two flustered females: out of breath, in a hurry, and buying a single pair of cotton panties and a bottle of champagne.

We were able to get our food in the very nick of time, then went back to the house and enjoyed our delicious meal of chicken adobo and pancit while watching Scandal. We then settled in and cracked open the bottle of champs as I began editing the video for my dad’s party and Alexis studied for her Chemistry midterm. The video became a collaborative effort; I arranged photos and picked transition types and speeds, she helped with song choices and in converting You Tube videos to MP3 audio clips. We picked captions for the slides and broke into booze-fueled fits of laughter as we cruised down memory lane. I’ve included some of those photos for you below. Yeah.

Brother had an opinion from the jump.

Brother had an opinion from the jump.

Why do my bangs start at the top of my damn head??

Why do my bangs start at the top of my damn head??

Rhythm in a dancer. 

Rhythm in a dancer. 

I guess I know where I get my resting b*tch face from... what a photobomb, Abuela! 

I guess I know where I get my resting b*tch face from... what a photobomb, Abuela! 

Just Dad being Dad. 

Just Dad being Dad. 

Why yes, that is a bucket. 

Why yes, that is a bucket. 

The champagne had long run out and my contacts were grappling my eye balls when I realized the room was getting brighter. It was the sun, because it was past 5am. I looked over at Alexis and felt very thankful that God gave me a cousin who is also a best friend, one who isn’t just down but chones-and-champs down, because that’s, like, as down as it gets.


Items of Note:

Orfila Winery

13455 San Pasqual Road, Escondido, CA 92025

760.738.6500

A view of the vineyard from Orfila's website. OMG.

A view of the vineyard from Orfila's website. OMG.

If you ever find yourself in northern inland San Diego, visit Orfila Winery! Just be warned: you’ll probably think I’ve sold you the bill of goods until just moments before approaching the winery when this lush little vineyard just sort of emerges out of nowhere in the middle of the some of the underwhelming hillsides of the San Pasqual Valley. You can also opt to visit their tasting room in the lovely and quaint town of Julian. Get some apple pie while you're there! 

Like I mentioned above, the winery regularly features live music and food on Food Truck Fridays and also on Sundays at their Tunes on the Terrace event. Go here to see the complete calendar of events (including trivia nights and painting parties)– I am personally looking forward to the Grape Stomp on August 29th!

Want to buy their wine? The sparkling moscato and viognier I mentioned above are available for online purchase! Click here to get yours- both are perfect for summer!

Lastly, they do indeed host private tastings, tours, corporate events and of course- weddings! A friend of mine got married here a few years ago - I can see why! 

Almond Champagne from Wilson Creek Winery

35960 Rancho California Road, Temecula, CA 92591

951.699.9463

www.wilsoncreekwinery.com

I love me some champagne; dry, brut, sweet- bring it. If you’re more partial to sweeter champagne or just feel like switching it up with one not as commonly available, try the Almond Champagne from Temecula’s Wilson Creek Winery. I love this for summer as well - the almond infusion gives it that extra something special.

The winery itself is beautiful and their wine selection is impressive. They feature a lot of sparkling wines if that is your jam, as well as a very popular chocolate port.

The almond champagne is available at many local grocery stores, or click here to purchase online.

Carin di Ria – Filipino cuisine

This is the name of the Filipino spot from which we got our take-out. It’s located near Westfield North County off the 15 Freeway at Via Rancho Parkway. We had the chicken adobo, the pancit and the leche flan for dessert. All delicious, and the service was great!

3440 Del Lago Blvd, Escondido, CA 92029

760.781.1340

http://thecarinderiacompany.com

That's What Friends Are For


Buenos Diaz! So, remember those awesome friends I touched on last week? About this one particular group of them...
It all started a couple of years ago in early December: a group of friends found themselves in San Diego on New Year’s Eve. This group of 10+ descended upon the Hilton San Diego Bayfront for a big fancy NYE celebration. After a few get-me-while-my-makeup-is-still-fresh photo shoots, bottles of 5 Hour Energy were passed around to rally the masses. The air was filled with shouts of “Dude, I only want a little bit! How about like 17 minutes worth?” or “Hey! Hit me! I need a full three hour swig!” Because once you’ve reached or are approaching the ripe ol’ age of 30, you need staying power to keep the party going till midnight.
Once adequately fueled, we entered the hip hop ballroom and got down like fools without cares or fear of camera phones and Facebook. We ate pieces of cold pizza and washed them down with tonics and liquors of choice.  At one point, someone set their drink down in the middle of the dance floor and we all danced around it Flamenco style to Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop.” Why? If you have to ask, you don’t know my friends.

Before anyone expected it to, the clock struck twelve. We went until our livers and feet allowed us to before heading to lobby where we found a giant line of people. Clearly someone was giving away some free shit, or a Kardashian or One Direction member was hosting a late-night meet and greet. Alas, no- this stupid queue that went from here to mother-effing Whoville was the line to catch a freaking cab out of this place. Neither my feet nor my spirit were prepared for this nonsense. My feet hurt. I was thirsty. I was tired. I wanted a bed.

Right when the crowd appeared to peak at both its inebriation and lack of patience, out rang like a shot in the dark, “NAAAANTS een-VEN-YAAAAAA ma-ba-GEE-chi-ba-va!!!!” A friend I’ll call Espiderman was belting out the intro to Circle of Life. You know what else? He sang the *whole* gosh damn thing. The rest of the group chimed in and at full throttle volume much to the amusement of some and the sheer and utter annoyance of countless others. Why? Again- if you have to ask…
It didn’t stop there. These weirdos transitioned seamlessly to “A Whole New World” then slid right into “Friend Like Me.” They crooned out “Part of Your World” then moved right on to “Under the Sea,” complete with some impressive onomatopoeia for the sounds of that steel drum intro. All the while a bottle of Fireball was passed around like a canteen. I tried to dodge the bottle but someone got me like one of those rude sombrero and zarape clad dudes in TJ, rudely tilting my head back and accosting my mouth and throat with cinnamon-flavored octane.

For reasons that should be obvious by now, I joined a group of these same friends down in Baja California for wine tasting in the Valle de Guadalupe for NYE 2014. A few of us headed down a day early to stay at the Rosarito Beach-adjacent home of my friend Celina’s family friend, who happens to manage 15 or so properties down in the Las Gaviotas community. The house was an amazing ranch-style home with gorgeous terra cota detail, a courtyard begging for an outdoor fiesta to be had, and views of the ocean could fool you into thinking you’d been teleported to Santorini. We dined on a delicious and simple meal of (AMAZING) beans, guacamole and quesadillas, all with locally sourced ingredients and with bottomless refills of a lovely red wine. I slept comfortably by a toasty fireplace on a very fancy air mattress with blankets aplenty. It was delightful- property managers are excellent hosts.
This courtyard tho...
 
 Santorini Poptla, BC, Mexico
   
 Hugs from Baja
 
The next day we headed to the wine valley and went in search of our B&B, a property out in San Antonio de las Minas. Right as we made the turn from the main drag on to the road that would lead us to our destination, it became apparent that the route to our destination involved a wet, uneven and muddy road. We braced ourselves and drove forward in Celina’s low-riding old school Lexus…
SKKRRRRRRRRR went Celina’s poor gas tank as it scraped against hard-packed dirt, reminding us that a Lexus sedan doth not an off-road vehicle make. Celi slowed to a mere roll and tried to maneuver around the uneven patches, but the weight of a driver, four passengers and all of their luggage was not helping the cause. There was only one thing left to do: lose some passengers. Imagine, if you will, the odd Chinese fire drill of sorts that ensued each time we came upon a puddle:  three of the five vehicle occupants getting out of the car then using sticks as puddle-depth measuring tools to determine which way to best navigate Celi’s car. Now throw in the appearance of some very hungry and fearless dogs that sent us running back to the vehicle every so often. Adventure time!


Still onward we went, only partially convinced that we hadn’t been sold a bill of goods. We drove for some time, proceeding semi-confidently only because of the occasional 8 ½ X 11 signs nailed to some fence or tree stump assuring us that the property was indeed still ahead. The terrain was rough and there just didn’t appear to be anything remotely resembling a bed and breakfast nearby, to the point where we half-kiddingly joked that an abandoned warehouse, a dilapidated shack or a Fisher Price playhouse by the side of the road might be our illustrious place of lodging.

We did eventually arrive and met up with the other 10 or so of our friends. Soon after checking in, we hopped on a shuttle en route to wine country, and though the number of stops was limited due to New Year’s Eve winery closures, a good time was had. I mean, with that many people and wine flowing freely, we were going to enjoy ourselves one way or another. I knew this when we were poured some Grenache and someone in our group said, “St. Grenache is a dog, right? Like what Lassie was!”
 Ready!
 
Really ready.
 
Remember us? La Gitana y La Bookworm
 
Celi enjoying a snack of Takis with her red wine, trying most unsuccessfully to convince my friend Leandra that this constitutes a delectable wine pairing.

"Quick, Vane! Before someone sees me!"
 
All the Single ladies.
        
After the wine tasting, we shuttled back to the B&B for a dinner prepared by the staff, which started around 6pm and was intended to stretch out course by course through midnight. We ate the soup appetizer and main dish but at 9pm ran out of enough patience to sit and wait around for dessert or midnight. We went back to our rooms for a little while and some of us made it back downstairs later for a toast and/or bachata dance-off at midnight. Several members of our group went on to stage yet another Disney Sing Along in the property’s communal dining room. I held on till around 12:30 before throwing in the towel.
It suddenly hit me that it was cold. SO cold. So gosh-damn bloody COLD! Colder weather than the property manager was prepared for, the kind of cold that made me, the girl who hates sleeping in bulky clothing, go to bed wearing leggings, two pairs of socks, a sports bra, a thermal top, and my big USC sweatshirt with the hood pulled so tight over my face that I looked like Kenny from South Park. I covered even my head with the blankets when I realized I could see my breath if I left my face exposed. When the girl I was sharing a bed with finally came to bed at 3am once she was all partied out, I thanked sweet baby Jesus for the gift of body heat. If she’d asked me to cuddle, I probably would have. Warmth is warmth, yo.

The next day, we all roused slowly but surely (I of course was up at 5:45 am reading on my Kindle) and enjoyed a delicious, made-from-scratch breakfast before parting ways. My friends were kind enough to get me back stateside by noon so that I could book it to the airport to hop a jet to Vegas where my girl Karina and I saw the second to last show of our boo Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience Tour. Oooh child, that man can sang! I danced sexy in my seat to that little but of “Don’t Hold the Wall,” swayed in an emo haze at the outro to Love Stoned, screamed out “Yeeeeesssss!” to “My Love” (I STILL love that choreography) and closed my eyes and vibed to my beloved “Until the End of Time.” Karina and I sang our faces off the whole night and loved every minute off. JT can get it.

 V + K

Go 'head, be gone with it.

I caught a flight at 7am the next morning back to San Diego, which means that when all was said and done, I was in Vegas for about 12 hours, the same amount of sleep I’d had in a span of four days. Exhaustion is an understatement, but I’d do it again tomorrow. The lesson here is not to take yourself too seriously. These friends of mine are spread across the continental US but come together at random just when I might need to lighten up. They break up my tendency to overthink things and slap me in the face with some fun. They force me to delight in and appreciate the awesomeness that comes with laughing out loud and not giving a smooth f#%k about how you look to the world as long as you’re enjoying yourself. They also build me up and remind me how loved and supported I am at every hour of the day, I am so thankful for each and every one of these crazies. They’re the shit.

Do more of what makes you happy in 2015. It’s sometimes easier said than done, but MAN does it feel good when you pull it off.
Bookishly yours,
Vanessa

Words Mean Things

Buenos Diaz!

I’d like to first thank each and every one that “Liked” my Facebook page! Last week I reached the 100-like benchmark (pops collar), which to a more seasoned page-owner may be kids’ stuff but for me was cause for a full blown dance party in my car (to Beyonce’s Grown Woman, in case you were wondering). I got the news from a weekly email from the good people over at Facebook reporting on the overall status of the page, i.e. number of likes, popularity of individual posts, and figures on reach and engagement. It made me think. Well, it made me dance, but then it made me think. 

As a good friend put it earlier this week, “Every post, every like, every share, every comment reflects its creator and become his or her brand.” That brand has enormous visibility thanks to the power of social media.  It would seem that more often than not, people are aware of their primary brand- i.e. the one they actively manage at work, at church, amongst loved ones in everyday life, etc. It is the secondary brand, the one created on social media whether consciously or not, that is too often not considered or given enough weight. 

It used to be just the young’ns that I thought needed reminding of this concept. I try to give these kids out here a lot of leeway because I was young and silly once too. I for sure posted more than a few questionable photos in my late teens and early twenties: pictures of my “face” or my (yikes, blonde) hair but hey! look! boobs!, shots of me getting’ low on the dance floor of some house party with a beer in hand and a giant sombrero on my head and other ratchetivity. I’ll also be the first one to tell you that a) I was young and young people do dumb things, and b) I had major self-esteem issues as I suspect many of today’s youth do as well. Still it seems like the images filling all of our timelines and feeds are increasingly revealing, attention-seeking and sexualized, each day a little more than the one before. It’s all about the “like,” all about the Vine, all about breaking the internet.

Case in point: after-sex selfies. Yeah, you read that right. Selfies. After the sex. Online. I spent several minutes last week asking myself whether or not it would be super creepy to look up the hashtag. Alas, a certain disgusted curiosity got the best of me, and as my mother would say, “Santa Madre!” It’s real, it’s disturbing, and it’s a good thing I’m not a mother with a kid trying to pull this crap or I’d be forced to coin #aftermymamakickedmyassintonextTuesdayselfie.  Go ahead- look it up. Behold aaaaaall the users who know nothing of privacy settings (or propriety, or life). You’ll find captions like “Guess what we just did?” and “Sorry not sorry.” You’ll also find some hilarious jabs at this stupidity like one of two cats lounging by a fire. As for the ones that truly appear to post-coital shots- Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. These kids need Jesus. 

It’s not just people’s own photos or videos either, but those of other groups or individuals that they turn around and share. I realize a lot of people spend their day gawking at adult film stars making real friendly with plumbers and pizza delivery guys.  I’m sure tons of folks got a kick out of Floyd Mayweather’s trashy-ass video where he’s posted up in his draws amid 10 strippers twerking. To the guy that came across a photo of three US soldiers who appear to be brutalizing a Middle Eastern woman, you should absolutely feel disgusted by this atrocity if it is what it looks like. 

It’s the part where you say, “By golly, I will share this with everybody else!” that demands a second thought. Yes , you are the scum of the earth if you violate a woman. Blasting the photo of the act on the internet to bring shame to the perpetrators, however noble your intentions, is insensitive on multiple levels. Would she want that photo to be seen, or would it force her to relive the horror and the pain and the shame? What about other victims of abuse that are unexpectedly accosted by this image in their feed between pictures of friends’ babies and cat videos? There are primary and secondary affects to our actions, as well as a time and place for them; just as we should think before we speak, so should we think before we share and know both our audience and platform.

Then there are the actual words that people post, and I’m not even talking about proper use of the English language (Girrrrrrrl, please. Don’t get me started). Some of this I write off to immaturity- the way too many drunk or soon-to-be drunk photos captioned with some variety of “turn down for what?!?,” the frequent rants airing out child-support woes or baby-mama drama; the “fuck this, fuck that, fuck you and your little dog too” tirades. I like to think that these are the follies of youth, but too many of the guilty here left youth behind many a moon ago.

This brings me to a major pet peeve, one that forces me to contemplate hitting that “Unfriend” button a few times a day: people who insist on sharing articles and commenting on them passionately when it is blatantly clear that they read only the headline and not the actual body of work. As a lover of words, this feels like an attack on my spirit. Leave my spirit alone please. What’s that you say? You did read it? Oh, then you just don’t care what words mean. Got it. Well, you and the folks who only read the headline can go sit in the same corner together because you’re both equally working my nerves.

An example- if you’re going to make political commentary, please, oh PLEASE try not to live up to the stereotype of the ill-informed American. Just a couple of weeks ago, I came across numerous posts slamming the hell out of Barack Obama, unleashing the sound and the fury on this man for saying that moms choosing to stay at home with their kids is not a choice he wants Americans to make. Pero…. no, dude. I watched that speech! What he really said was:

… Moms and dads deserve a great place to drop their kids off every day that doesn't cost them an arm and a leg. We need better childcare, daycare, early childhood education policies. In many states, sending your child to daycare costs more than sending them to a public university.  And too often, parents have no choice but to put their kids in cheaper daycare that maybe doesn’t have the kinds of programming that makes a big difference in a child’s development. … And sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. And that’s not a choice we want Americans to make.”

Make no mistake: I am not telling you that you have to like ol’ Barack. I’m not saying you need to agree with his views or support his policies or get a dog like his or dress like Michelle.  I am only saying you should be well informed before you go on a hell-bent rant that holds no water. He did not say that mothers shouldn't choose to stay at home; he spoke on the unfairness of current policies affecting mothers, the often exorbitant cost and sparse availability of quality childcare, and the difficult choices that mothers are forced to make as a result of these contributing factors.  I respect any cogently formed opinion whether in line with my own or not, but please for the love of all things holy-think, read, digest and understand before you hit “Share.”

As Crissle from one my favorite Podcasts “The Read” will tell you- words mean things. Your words, other people’s words, words in general. And as my favorite blogger Vanessa will tell you, so does everything else you put out into the universe. You’re free to like what you like, hate what you hate and do what you do- these are some of the many wonderful rights afforded to you in this great albeit imperfect nation.  There is however a consequence to your every action, that’s just a fact of life no matter who you are, where you live or to what deity you pray. What you say and do on social media is a reflection of you. Not just the other party-goers, not just your deadbeat baby daddy, not just the lady at Sprint that may or may not have just been doing her job when you cussed her freaking face off- YOU. Craft thine image carefully, and don’t be afraid to make changes.

Bookishly yours,

Vanessa