Sunday, April 22, 2018

Spring Routine

I’ve stayed away from this spot because a) I hadn’t made much time for personal writing until recently, b) I received judgment from people who read this space before getting to know me, and c) life + health have kept me plenty busy. But spring seems to be the time I come back to space after a hiatus. After Mr. First and I broke up (10 years ago…yikes!), I restarted my young blog in May 2008. I moved out on my own and brought my family and friends through that new phase along with me. When my relationship with A. exploded, I hid for months and was reluctant to reopen what was essentially a digital diary of a five-year-long relationship. In May 2016, I had things I wanted to share again. And now, in the twilight of another significant relationship, I find myself here again.

Since I last wrote:

• I started sharing my illustrations on Instagram and pushing myself much more with my art. The goal of publishing a children’s book/memoir is back on.

• I started a new position as senior editor at Parents magazine’s sister publication Parents Latina. It’s been a wonderful challenge and I’m happy to work alongside people who are as compassionate as they are talented.

• I recently had my exchange surgery…the final step (I hope) in my breast reconstruction after 2016’s mastectomy. The worst of it is over. I promise I’ll follow up on part 2 of the mastectomy blog post.

• I bounced between hopeful and hopeless on the romantic front. I won’t say where I stand now, but in the meantime I’ve been doing what I do best: filling the void with creative pursuits. Journaling, drawing, painting, guitar playing, on, and on.

My sister, who was this blog's first (read: only) reader back in 2007, keeps nudging me to blog again. If you ask me, I think she just misses those nights we'd stay up reading each other's diaries, but I'll take the push where I can get it. Let's see what stories and observations sprout this time.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017


When was the last time you checked in and did something nice for yourself? I suck on that front. I'm quick to do something thoughtful for others and neglect doing something just as kind for myself. "Later," "I don't need to waste the money" and "Too lavish" are just some of the excuses I give myself against stopping and saying, "F it, I'm worth it."

It's Breast Cancer Awareness month and I haven't really taken stock on what I've survived in exactly one year. Two surgeries, including a double mastectomy, with a third to go. Radiation every day for five weeks. Hormonal therapy as monthly injections that will continue for years to come. Osteoporosis from medication that made my joints ache whenever I moved. And a reconstruction process that feels like a pile of bricks on my chest. What don't I deserve again?

The past few weeks have been trying to say the least, a sad mental state compounded by a physical pain that took me out for days. At times it's been overwhelming, but usually I just keep it moving. Again, without taking stock.

I was recently gifted a treat to a spa, which I'd foolishly scheduled for its expiration date right smack in the middle of a crap storm. The last thing I wanted was to be felt up by a stranger who might freak out at my scars or feel the stiff expanders embedded in my sore chest. She was kind though, and I was happy to have a towel covering my eyes so she wouldn't see me tightening them in fear each time her hands crept closer to that area. I still feel damaged.

But I survived. That innocuous 60-minute massage and the past year. To celebrate I bought a small bouquet of flowers. Ramos de flores, you say in Spanish. Pink ones, of course, and I kept those stems clutched tightly in my fist all the way home.

I haven't looked at them since. Later. I just haven't made the time.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Animated Short Alive: When Society + Monotony Kill Creativity

A good friend of mine shared this mini film on Facebook weeks ago and it’s stuck with me ever since. Alike is an animated short on what happens when society kills creativity with its standards of success, productivity and “proper adulting.” It starts early on when schools focuse on test scores and passing marks and continues on to the 9-to-5’s and cubicle jobs. Wake up, work, repeat. Education and making money are important, but so are creativity, the arts, music, free writing, expression. Coloring outside the lines! Or within the lines if that’s what makes your heart happy.

How many times haven’t we forgone the chance to pursue creativity or measure success by our own out-of-the-box standards just because someone else has dismissed how much it could nourish our soul? Or because they tease that we’re just goofing around or wasting our life? (Lord knows I’ve felt that way myself.) How many schools haven’t closed down arts programs when funds start to dwindle? Kids need the space to imagine and create without being forced back into the box and adults need the chance to brainstorm and tinker on the job instead of only pushing themselves to complete daily tasks on time. Who knows what innovative things we’d dream up during those opportunities? And how much more nourished would we feel?


Friday, July 28, 2017

{Travel} What to Do in Tarrytown, NY

For Fourth of July weekend, I wanted to get away for a bit because I hadn’t been on vacation since the cruise April of last year. While I wanted to leave the whole country behind in search of seas and sand, I ultimately decided to keep things more local. So I chose a town north of New York City, hopped on the Metro-North, and got off at Tarrytown, NY.

The town, though much much smaller than NYC, is full of nice and calm things to do. Would I live there for a stretch? I don’t know, maybe? It definitely has its draws when NYC stress is wearing you out. Regardless, Tarrytown makes for a really nice day trip.

The current issue of Time Out New York has my tips on where to go and what to do while you’re there, but below are a few other spots you should check out that weren’t included in that story.

I saw a sidewalk sign outside Silver Tips Tea announcing it sold $1 lemonade to go and I couldn’t resist. I sat down on a street bench under a tree sipping my juice and watching the people walk by. I liked that this town actually had a pedestrian life with people milling about, popping into shops and eating outdoors.

Yogurt La Crepe, a self serve fro-yo place around the corner offered crêpes so I chose to have lunch here, opting for the imported prosciutto and fresh muzzarella with a mini salad. It wasn’t the best, especially because it wasn’t a true crêpe at all, but rather some type of panini pocket, but it was good enough. Also, I might have been really hungry by this point.

A 10-minute walk from Main Street will take you to Tarrytown Lakes Park, a 72-acre preserve with bike paths, hiking trails, and two lakes. Because its trail head was closer to the road and I didn’t want to venture too deep into unknown territory on my own, I walked toward the smaller lake. A few yards in, I found a clearing right along its shore, sat on a fallen tree trunk and just looked out at the water. All you could hear were birds or leaves rustling in the wind. I wish I could say I was inspired to write or whip out the sketch pad I’d brought along, but nope. A person or two would walk by, some would go, some would stay, but for the most part, that slice of land and water was all mine until I got up and walked away.

I can’t lie, I was still attached to my phone more than I would have liked. I took photos of the lake, messaged friends, sent them photos of this piece of serenity I’d found, and while walking and texting, a deer ran right in front of me! Had I been looking up, I would have seen it coming. Luckily, it stopped just a few feet away to hide and eat behind some bushes. I stood and stared and slowly walking closer to it until it’d had enough and walked deeper into the woods. And what did I do? I immediately text my friends, “A deer just ran right in front of me!”

A search for a comfy seat, air conditioning, a snack and WiFi led me to Coffee Labs Roasters back on Main Street. I enjoyed a hot chocolate—on which the talented barista drew a cute bear!—and did a bit of writing. It was starting to get later and I didn’t want to stay in town until dark. Also, my phone battery was getting low and I also didn’t want to be in town with a dead phone. So I went for my final treat of the day, a scoop of blood orange sorbet at Lighthouse Ice Cream and Coffee right by the Scenic Hudson RiverWalk. I stared out onto the water and the new Tappan Zee Bridge just until the sun set. Then I walked up the road to the Metro-North station and headed back home. It was a good day.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

What It Was Like to Have a Double Mastectomy [Part 1]

I never wrote about my mastectomy surgery and recovery. Probably because I wanted to put it behind me as quickly as possible instead of explaining how difficult and terrifying it was to approach it. Funny enough, it was my reluctance to sit and face the change that made it all the more frustrating. When I couldn't do certain things on my own, I wanted to kick things or break down and cry. I hated everything about this.

In the week leading up the surgery, I was an emotional mess. I'd hide and cry on the bathroom floor, heaving because I was scared and I didn't want to go through with it. Deep down I knew it was the right choice, but that didn't offer much comfort—this was all a gamble in the hopes that the cancer wouldn't come back a third time, possibly, maybe, in the future, fingers crossed. It's not like I'd know then and there that it worked, and before all that I'd have to go through the pain of recovery and learning to accept my body's changes from here on out. I was scared of looking mangled and ugly, as superficial as it was. Everyone would remind me that my health and being alive was more important. Some people get to have that without giving anything up though. Why did I have to?

The night before the surgery, my sister asked me over to her place and when I got there, her and her boyfriend presented me with the most heartfelt gift I have ever received: a compilation of video messages from friends and family near and far. Each time a new face would pop up on the TV screen my eyes would well up all over again, completely floored and amazed that these people would take time out to wish me good luck and tell me they loved me. That was seven months ago and I haven't been able to look at it since because I know that big lump in my throat will come right back. Just thinking about it is enough to stir up the feels.

On surgery day, December 2, 2016, I woke up, climbed into the shower, took one last look at my breasts, and just lost it. Alex came and gently pulled me out, helped me get dressed and we headed down to the hospital.

My family was already there in the waiting room. When I'd gone in for my last lumpectomy, I'd had time to sit with them and settle in for a few moments. This time, I was taken in immediately. I changed into my gown, brushed my teeth as required before surgery to minimize risk for infections, and tried to pee into a cup. I was way too nervous to do so, way too nervous to have drank any water and after all that crying, I was way too dry. Vitals were taken, forms were signed and more tears were shed. I kept waiting and asking for my family to be let into this area because I couldn't handle being alone. My parents came in first, they kissed me and reassured me that everything would turn out fine. Then my sister and Alex came to spend those last few moments with me.

Except I couldn't pee. And they couldn't operate on me until they knew for sure that I wasn't pregnant. (I wasn't pregnant.) So they had to rush blood samples to a lab and wait 20 minutes for the results to come back. I don't know if it was better or worse to have that extra waiting time. On hand, I calmed down a bit as my sister and boyfriend joked around, but I also wanted to get it over with; if they'd told me to go home, I might have never returned. Luckily for them, the test came back negative and it was time for the show to go on.

I kissed them both goodbye and when I started panicking, Alex held my face in his hands so that I could really look at him as he told me that I would be alright. A mixture of no's and mhhmm's was all I could muster between shaking my head and wanting to be brave. I was pleading at him with all my silent might to please take me away. I didn't want to walk down that hallway a third time, I didn't want to lie down on that scary table as the surgeons swarmed around me, I didn't want them to console me or dab at my temples as the tears dripped into my ears, I didn't want them to cut into me. In my past surgeries I might have stifled the sobs so as to not embarrass myself in front of these doctors, but this time I didn't care—I didn't want to hold back how scared I was.

But five minutes later, I couldn't care about anything anymore. It happened and I was asleep.