Randomness

Something Good

One of the things I like most about sign-offs from weekly podcasts is when hosts share something they can’t let go, recommend, share a tip, etc. It’s Been A Minute with Sam Sanders has listeners call in to share something good that happened to them. It’s a nice reminder that even with everything going on in the world, good stuff still happens and joy and hope continue.

And it always makes me think of my good thing for that week. So, here’s my good thing, albeit a couple of weeks late.

I won the Super Bowl squares pool!

For several years now, my parents have been part of a fundraiser to support an orphanage in Tijuana, HOCATI. The organization and the children they serve holds a special place for my extended family. In the late 2000s Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni made the decision to donate their home in Tijuana to HOCATI. When I interviewed Papá Chepe in a StoryCorps booth in 2009, he told me it was his life’s proudest achievement.

This year was the first I bought a few squares for myself. Usually, my parents just buy them in the name of the grandkids. My dad is one of the coordinators and I gave him three lucky and favorite numbers. I thought I’d get one, but got all three. Once the numbers were picked, I forgot to check them.

During the game, my mom texted me that I was close to winning during the second half.

I had a 3 for the Rams and a 0 for the Bengals. Those numbers won me $250 at the half and $500 at the end. Bonus, my dad was happy to see his beloved Rams win the Super Bowl.

I’ve won some pretty cool things over the years. This one ranks up there with winning plane tickets to LA and a hotel stay through an Instagram contest.

Have you won anything cool? Have any good things to share?

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Libros

January Mini Book Reviews

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angelline Boulley

Angelline Boulley’s debut YA thriller focused on Daunis, a 19-year old non-enrolled Aniishinabe girl who loves hockey, is pre-med, and has a complicated relationship with her indigenous identity. I was quickly drawn into her world in the Michigan upper peninsula and hooked on the action. While there are many tough topics like missing and murdered indigenous women, I found that Boulley handled them with great sensitivity and care. I mostly listened to the audiobook which helped since Boulley uses a lot of indigenous words and I get stuck mentally on words I can’t pronounce. 

Dating You / Hating You by Christina Lauren

Christina Lauren romances are a constant in my TBR list. Evie and Carter work at rival talent agencies in LA when they meet at a mutual friends’ Halloween party. Evie’s company merges with Carter’s and soon they’re pitted against each other by a shady boss. I listened to the audiobook which had two actors for Evie and Carter.

The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren

I’m a sucker for an enemies to lovers romance and Christina Lauren puts a fun spin on the trope. Jess, a freelance statistician and single mom to a precocious 7-year old, reluctantly joins a dating app that matches people based on their genetic compatibility. She matches with River Peña, the standoffish guy she sees every morning in her neighborhood coffee shop. River is also the chief scientist behind the company. I listened to the audiobook and enjoyed the book. The premise is a little weird (um, why am I thinking of Gattaca and eugenics), but the authors address it without being pedantic.

Any Way the Wind Blows by Rainbow Rowell

I didn’t love the final book in Rainbow Rowell’s Simon Snow trilogy. It was too long and I got bored by the introspective Baz/Simon tortured love story. Simon and crew are back in England after their road trip in the US, but now they’re tackling adventures in duos. I missed the humor and action from the second book, Wayward Son. I also felt the ending was rushed, which didn’t make sense since this was nearly 600 pages. 

A Lot Like Adiós Alexis Daria

Alexis Daria takes us back to New York to the Primas of Power. Michelle, a freelance designer and marketing consultant, has unfinished business with her high school boyfriend, Gabe. They haven’t talked in 12 years but now he’s back in her life as she works on a consulting job for his business’s expansion to New York. Overall, it was okay, but not as enjoyable as the first in the series, You Had Me At Hola. I needed more tension and less of the fan fic Michelle and Gabe wrote as teens. 

Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature by Daniel A. Olivas (Ed.)

It’s been ages since I’ve read an anthology, but I’m glad I finally got to this one which has been on my to-read list for several years. I miss LA a ton and one of the ways I like to go back is through literature. I enjoyed many of the stories and liked the mix of genres. The stories that struck me most were by Daniel Chacón, Estella González, Manuel Muñoz, and Rigoberto González. I enjoyed how these writers explored the inner lives of their protagonists. I now have more writers and books to add to my ever-growing TBR list. 😬

If you want more, find me on StoryGraph or Goodreads. For past mini-reviews, check my Instagram highlights. I’m cindylunares on all those apps.

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Cuentos, Familia

The Beginner Zone

I tried skiing. It was fun and I think I want to do it again.

I never thought I’d write those sentences. Growing up, I didn’t know anyone who skied. My experience with snow was limited to sledding during weekend trips to Big Bear or Lake Arrowhead. My siblings got into snowboarding, but I never went because they scared me with their tales of how much it hurt when they fell. Plus, the cost turned me off. I didn’t have much disposable income as a grad student.

Seeing the kids do their never-ever lessons, I was intrigued. Plus, Archie kept asking me to ski with him.

So I signed up for the 90-minute learn to ski program last week. For $59 I got the lesson and equipment rental. While the kids had their lesson, I learned the basics.

My instructor started off by asking me what sports I play in the summer. It’s been a long long time, but I’ve played baseball and was a runner. I also mentioned that I used to roller skate and had been ice skating a couple of times. Both were good as they helped me get the hang of a basic stance and also being familiar with the weird feeling of sliding or gliding. As he assured me, having two long sticks and a bulky boot feels very weird and counterintuitive, but you get used to it.

Once I got the hang of gliding down a very small half pipe in the beginner area, making the pizza wedge, moving around on the skis, and starting to turn we made our way to the first slope, the Magic Carpet. There I’d have a longer slope to practice the turns.

Soon the kids joined me after finishing their lessons. Xavi shared his tips and Archie was excited to hold my hand at the top of the first slope. At one point I kinda crashed into Xavi who had fallen ahead of me. He was fine and getting knocked out of a ski didn’t hurt. My instructor used that as a reminder to point out how to turn in case of an obstacle. Most of all, I didn’t panic and didn’t fall. That came later.

I joined Xavi on the bigger slope in the beginner zone, the Boardwalk. I fell on the lift and had to wait for the lift operator to help me get out of my skis. At the top it looked way more steep and I said a little prayer. It didn’t help that by that time lots of snowboarders were around and they kept falling. I took the route with some gentle curves and made it down okay, but no one saw me. The next time I went down the straight part of the slope after Archie and made it okay.

We left after that since everyone was hungry and kind of tired. I was sore for a few days, but it was worth the rush of trying something new and challenging. It reminded me of the adrenaline rush from zip-lining, climbing the high elements of a ropes course, finishing a run or race and seeing great views, or rafting in the Kern River. They make me feel thankful for my body and what I can do, even as I grow older and my body changes.

The adrenaline was cool and all, but I was way more happy to join an activity with the kids. They were proud to see me try after a few weeks of being their cheerleader. That was the best part.

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Blog/tech

One Good Thing – Giving Blood

It’s not lost on me that I’m coming back to blogging at a time when I don’t read blogs regularly. In the old day, I had a number of favorites and kept tabs on them by Google Reader. These days, I read updates as they share them through FaceBook or other social media. Now I get newsletters to my inbox and can’t always keep up.

Here are a few of my favorites. Go subscribe!

  • Leave it to Leonor – One of the highlights each Thursday. I always come away with a new book recommendation, topic I may want to write about, or article I missed.
  • Terryngrams – Lately, Terryn has focused on cooking and it’s a good reminder of how fun it is to cook for yourself.
  • Wandering Ephemera – One of Taz’s recent newsletters was an entertaining review of Christmas rom-coms from her perspective as a Muslim woman.

This all brings me back to the inspiration from Leonor in last week’s newsletter: one good thing from the week. I’ll start with last week.

I donated blood.

I used to give blood a few times a year pre-kids. Sometimes I’d extend a lunch break and drop by the UCLA medical center’s blood donation site in the student union. I always thought of my family members who received blood transfusions. I liked the idea of paying it forward. The snacks were a nice bonus. There were times I couldn’t give. I’d feel well, but then get turned away due to low hemoglobin levels. Once I had kids, I stopped donating. I couldn’t find the time. When there was time, I had a cold. Babies and toddler pass on all their germs.

My motto is just like my bloody type: be positive

Last Friday, I gave without an issue and got that feeling when you do something good. I also am thankful for being well enough since we’re still in a pandemic and a cold isn’t just a cold anymore.

I donated through the Red Cross. In a few weeks, I’ll get an email telling me where my blood was used. In recent months, it’s been in neighboring states and I joked that at least my blood got to travel. This time, I wonder if it’ll be used locally since there are severe shortages everywhere. A few days after I donated, I got an email from a local listserv. The midwife who delivered Archie advocated for donating and talked about the impact of the sever shortage locally. It was a nice reminder that even though I may be helping people who are far away, I can also have an impact in my own community.

I’d be remiss to note that like everything, being able to donate blood is political. I didn’t know as much about the FDA’s policies restricting gay men from donating until more recently as the national blood shortage has gained media attention and there have been calls to end the discriminatory policy.

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Bebe, Ithaca

Moving the Goal Posts

In 2018, one of my goals was to get more local. I wrote it down in my bullet journal and even drew a cute little waterfall to illustrate what I meant. At that point, I had been living in Ithaca for 2.5 years and still adjusting to the area. By being more local, I wanted to commit to my current home and community and not just long for LA. Instead of embracing winter and getting more involved at church, I went to LA four times. No regrets.

I looked back on this goal a few weeks ago when Sean and I took the kids to a local ski resort for their school’s ski and snowboard club. For a discounted rate, kids in K-12 schools can sign up for a six-week pass. They get two weeks of lessons and can ski one afternoon a week. I had never signed up Xavi because it’s in the middle of the week and working around our schedules was tough with two kids at different day cares/after school program sites. Also, I’ve never been skiing or snowboarding and had little knowledge of the mechanics.

Things have changed since fall 2018. Due to the pandemic, both Sean and I have a more flexible work schedule. Both kids attend the same school and after-school program. We have the funds to commit to a pricey activity. I’m more adjusted to the weather and enjoy playing in the snow with the kids. I don’t love winter, but can appreciate the breathtaking winter wonderland views.

In the fall the PTA sent out info on signing up. Sean and I talked it over to see if we could adjust our Wednesday afternoon schedules. We asked the kids if they were interested and which sport they’d prefer. They both chose skiing. I added ski club as an “experience” gift to the Christmas list we share with the grandparents and siblings. My brother Adrian and his wife, Alexis, pitched in. Then I covered my eyes as I paid and prayed they wouldn’t hate it because winter sports are not cheap. (Aside: I thought that by limiting toys as Christmas presents and focusing on experiences we’d be saving money. Joke’s on me!)

Two children on skis dressed for the sport in snow pants, jackets, buffs, and goggles.

The kids are halfway through their ski club and both are getting the hang of the basics thanks to the patient and knowledgeable instructors. It’s been really cool to see them learn. I may even be inspired to sign-up for lessons myself.

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