Cuentos, Familia

Cry Now, Smile Later

When I was a junior in college I took a creative writing course called bilingual autobiography. We wrote daily in the class and I still have my journal. Some of the prompts were things like “describe the last time you heard a mariachi.” Our final story for the course was something that stemmed from the prompt, “write about something that you can laugh about now, but was tragic or very upsetting at the time.”

I wrote about getting caught cheating on a test in eighth grade. My co-conspirator was my crush. It had everything a YM Say Anything tale of woe and embarrassment was made of: humiliation in front of peers, a kinda scary authority figure, bad judgment, even worse luck, and a crush there to see the whole thing. In my case, my crush was also getting in trouble. I worked on my story all quarter and was very proud of the final draft. I still have it in a box put away somewhere.

The tragicomic story has been on my mind a lot lately. I grew up hearing my parents tell stories about their childhoods in ways that made us kids roar with laughter. When my dad’s family migrated from Guanajuato to the US they settled initially in Texas. There, my grandpa Bartolo was a ranch hand on a farm. My dad’s tales of the time involved busting up bales of hay to find snakes and going to a school where all the white kids talked about fun summer activities that were foreign to him. They didn’t stay in Texas too long. When they left my grandma’s brother came to help them move. My dad was forced to part with his beloved dog, Blue Boy. The dog didn’t fit in his uncle’s station wagon. The car was already full of the family of 8 people. Perhaps it was 9. I don’t remember if my dad’s youngest two sisters were born yet.

I had my own recent situation that I could only laugh at because it’s too ridiculous to cry over. After finally rebooking some flights from last summer, I had to postpone a family trip to Disney World because of COVID. Coincidentally, the first cancellation for an LA trip in August 2021 was also due to COVID. After 2.5 years it finally got me in mid-September. I wasn’t too bummed although I had to spend my anniversary weekend isolated and feeling crummy. We were able to postpone a few weeks and save some money by altering our hotel plans.

As our trip approached, I started looking closely at the news about Hurricane Ian. Ultimately, we opted to cancel the trip. The kids understood, knowing that it was all out of our control and ultimately cancelling a trip is not a big deal when others are suffering the impact of the storm.

They’re clamoring for when we’ll reschedule this family vacation. I don’t know. Maybe the fourth time will finally be the charm we need.

For now, I’ll just make TikToks, laugh, and be thankful that although we didn’t take the trip(s) we’re safe and have recovered from mild bouts with COVID (yay for all being fully vaccinated and boosted!). I realized long ago that I need to be able to laugh in these situations to cope. It’s what my parents taught me.

Parenting, Sentimientos

It’s Not A Competition

One of the things I frequently do to speed up the kids is make a simple task into a game.

Who can put away their things from school the fastest? Who can get all their winter gear on first? Who will be the first to get ready for bed?

Sometimes it works and other times someone gets distracted and leaves a backpack strewn on the floor, como salero, as my mom would say.

And still other times the kids object and remind me, “It’s not a competition!”

That little phrase comes to mind frequently. On the playground or school hallways it makes sense. Teachers don’t want kids tripping over themselves or fighting.

To me it’s a good reminder that I’m on my own path. So are my kids. It’s okay if my comadre’s daughter is reading well beyond grade level and my child is still learning sight words. It’s okay if my younger brother bought a home before I did. And it’s okay if a good friend gets a well-deserved promotion. Their success and talents have nothing to do with my own efforts.

Still, saying “it’s not a competition” – and believing it – hasn’t come easy. In graduate school I struggled with this. I always said my congratulations when a friend achieved an important milestone, but I didn’t feel very congratulatory. At the same time they were ticking off their goals I was struggling with motivation. I was unsure if it was the right path for me. As I saw their announcements it felt like others were finishing the race and leaving me behind.

Then I started running. I came to understand races differently. Of course there was a winner, but most of the people in the race had different goals. We wanted to finish, PR, negative split, avoid injury, take fun race photos, or just enjoy the process.

These days I still struggle with feeling like I’m behind. I talk about it with my therapist and we work on it by focusing on my strengths, accomplishments, and resources. I also remind myself that I have amazing family and friends who will support me when and if I want to work on a goal.

It’s not a competition, but that doesn’t mean I’m not moving forward and meeting my own goals on my own time.


February and March Mini Book Reviews

I’m a few books behind to reach my overall goal of 60 books for 2022. I blame getting slowed down by books that felt like a chore to read. I’m hoping to get out of a rut in spring.

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams book cover

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams

Wow! Leonor recommended this in her newsletter and she didn’t let me down. Eva and Shane are at the center of this teen lovers reunited romance. As teens they were both misfits, but as adults they are successful literary fiction and fantasy/romance writers. While there are really heavy themes and topics (self-harm, addiction, generational trauma to name a few), Williams handles these with sensitivity, wit and humor. I also liked how she also poked fun at literary genres and divisions in publishing.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley book cover

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

I was hooked on this thriller/mystery from the beginning. I was reminded a bit of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies. Both books start with a dramatic murder at an event, but the victim isn’t clear. The timeline shifts to a few days before and multiple narrators share their perspectives. I liked the kinda supernatural elements (real or imagined) on the remote island, pacing and satisfying ending. I read some of the book, but mostly read via audiobook.

Midnight in Mexico by Alfredo Corchado book cover

Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey Through a Country’s Descent Into Darkness by Alfredo Corchado

This book reminded me why I gravitate toward narrative non-fiction. Midnight in Mexico is part memoir, part history of the drug war in Mexico. Although he is a reporter, he becomes a character in his own story when a US investigator tells him there’s a contract on a US journalist and Corchado is on the short list of possible journalists. That wasn’t even the first time his life was threatened. Recommend this if you want to learn more about recent Mexican history and enjoy memoirs mixed with narrative non-fiction.

Book cover for L.A. Weather by Maria Amparo Escandon

L.A. Weather by María Amparo Escandón

I saw a description of this book as “fun and fast-paced.” Um, no. I was stressed from the very beginning when Escandón matter-of-factly describes how two three-year-olds fall into a backyard pool while under the care of their grandmother. Throughout the book, which is set over a year, we get to know the rest of the wealthy Alvarado family, Oscar, Keila, and their three daughters who are professionally successful and in seemingly stable relationships. The pacing is a bit slow and overall the book left me feeling stressed and uneasy. That said, reading this made me want to go back to and re-read Escandón’s previous novels which I liked at the time: Esperanza’s Box of Saints and Gonzalez & Daughter Trucking Co.

Loving Pedro Infante by Denise Chavez book cover

Loving Pedro Infante by Denise Chávez

It took me a while to read this and found myself getting bored and forgetting plot points. Ultimately, I found it okay. Tere is a single woman who lives with her mom in a town near El Paso. Her social life revolves around a Pedro Infante fan club, her best friend, and an ill-advised relationship with a married man. She’s messy and she knows it. I may have liked this more if I knew Mexican Cine de Oro better or was a Pedro Infante fan myself. Tere frequently recounts major plot points and analysis from Infante’s films and those sections were distracting without really advancing the story.

Song of the Shang by Jeffery Renard Allen book cover

Song of the Shank by Jeffery Renard Allen

When I first heard about this novel several years ago, I was intrigued. Allen tells the story of Thomas Green Wiggins, an enslaved man born in the nineteenth-century with prodigious musical skills. Once I started the nearly 600-page novel, I found it difficult to follow and the pace frustratingly slow. Allen writes from multiple perspectives from Tom’s parents to guardians and those profiting off his skills in a fictionalized US (which was weird, because Tom actually lived). If I had not listened to the audiobook, I probably would have abandoned the book. 


Reflecting On Reflections

A few weeks ago I rushed out on the way to work. I was running late and didn’t have time for makeup. At the time my workplace still required masks around others unless I was in my office. No one would see my face, I figured. The KN94 mask would cover the dark circles under my eyes from staying up too late to watch TV. I didn’t factor in Zoom meetings where I’d have my camera on. It was like sitting in front of a mirror for an hour.

I also didn’t account for Facebook memories which highlighted a photo from December 2011. In the photo I sat beside Sean at a friend’s birthday party. The golden hour light lit up our smiles. I wasn’t wearing any makeup, but I liked the way I looked.

It was such a stark contrast to how I looked and felt on that Monday.


I didn’t wear makeup on a daily basis until a few years after moving to Ithaca, an area that has as many cloudy days as Seattle. I don’t know if it was lack of sun, lack of sleep as a mother of two small children, or just age, but I started to feel like just moisturizer with SPF wasn’t enough. I began using the products my sister hooked me up with a few months after we moved. Since I couldn’t rely on her to do my makeup for special events, she gave me what I needed and added in a lesson. I got into the habit of a simple makeup routine and I liked the way I looked after applying some bronzer, blush and mascara.

A conversation came back to me later that day. In my twenties, I flippantly said I didn’t wear makeup because I didn’t need it. My tía Luisa heard me and kindly pointed out that my comment was rude and could be hurtful. Did I think she needed makeup, she asked? Of course not.

I’m not even sure I need makeup now, but I like it. And that’s enough.


If You’re Bored, You Can Clean

As the kids get older, I find myself sounding more and more like my parents. Thing I have said or wanted to say:

If you’re bored, you can clean.
I learned quickly as a kid that if I said I was bored, one of my parents would respond with “hay está la escoba, ponte a barrer”. It used to frustrate me, but now I get it. I didn’t have nearly the same amount of toys, books and other entertainment options as my kids — so many streaming options! But still, it must’ve been frustrating for my tired parents to hear that after they’d been working all day int he home and outside the home.

Church is only about an hour a week.
Before the pandemic, we went to Mass most weeks. That stopped two years ago with the pandemic when everything moved online. With Lent beginning a few weeks ago, I wanted to incorporate that into our family routine once again. The kids have a lot of complaints. I find myself using the same approach my mom did when I was a kid by rationalizing that we spent about an hour in church out of a whole week.

No one is in here, why is the light on?
This bugs me and I’m constantly turning off lights around our home. I can hear my dad’s voice. I’m also the one who opens all the blinds and curtains to allow the most natural light. I’m like my mom in that way.

Either comb your hair or you’ll have to cut it.
This is the phrase that inspired this post. I overheard Archie whining as Sean detangled his hair and added leave-in conditioner. He’s never had a haircut and also prefers for it to be loose, which means lots of tangles and occasional surprises (see: coming home with a nasty bur trapped in his hair). That would be okay if he didn’t complain about washing, detangling, etc. When I was 6 or 7 my mom made me get a haircut because I no longer wanted her to put it into braids or pigtails.

Felt like my mom once again right now when I just told one of the kids, “if I go and look and find your Batman, then I’m keeping it!”

— cindy mosqueda (@cindylu) December 23, 2021

If I go in there and find ___________, then I’m keeping it.
I’ve heard from friends with teens that the constantly losing things and not being able to find them phase continues well after early childhood years.

I guess we have a ghost.
There are times when I notice something like a scribble on the wall. I’ll ask both kids but neither one will ‘fess up to it. They stay silent and shake their heads just like my own parents used to do when something similar happened. Many years later, I still don’t think any one ever admitted to breaking a glass figurine on my mom’s dresser.

You think I like spending Saturday morning cleaning?
Sometimes the kids grumble when it’s to clean up.

Sana, sana, colita de rana, si no sana hoy, sanará mañana.
I still use this gem with the kids and offer arnica for bruises and bumps. I also use my mom’s “cure” for hiccups.

Te calmas o te calmo.
I have wanted to say this so many times, but usually stop myself. For me, it implies using some kind of corporal punishment and we decided to use other methods of discipline. Plus, neither kid is bilingual so it wouldn’t mean anything to them.

Hay comida en la casa.
Okay, I say this more to myself or Sean than the kids.