Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hola, hola!

I've been at my new job for a little over two months and just when I was beginning to think that I would never make friends at work (besides my boss), I got invited to join a book club. Then on Monday the same girl - my new friend - came to my cubicle and gave me a goodie bag with Christmas cookies! That is almost as good as a Facebook friend request for friendship confirmation right? I mean only friends get holiday cookies? I will take your scrolling as a yes. Anyway she gave me these delicious shortbread cookies and it got me thinking about what I usually do for new friends or co-workers around the holidays.

Normally, when the holidays came around I knew exactly what to get. The perfect gift was a tin of my Tia Nelly's alfajores (delicious, melt-in-your-mouth, Peruvian cookies). These cookies were ideal for thank yous and for holiday and birthday gifts. We always had a batch for the dessert table on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter (and really any occasion we could pass off as "special" or "holiday-like"). It was my Mom's go-to gift for my Dad's doctors, her Chanel makeup girls, or for the people who do our get the picture, I could go on forever about these being the ultimate gift.

However, this year will be a little different. Tia Nelly passed away the Sunday before Thanksgiving. (I know... a little heavy...kind of like those movies you think are going to be really funny, but then someone gets sick or dies or whatever..... but aren't blogs here for people to express all types of emotions?)

When my mom moved to the U.S. from Peru, she left her family there. So, she built up a new network of family members who would be our substitute aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. Tia Nelly was not blood-related, but I knew her since I was born, and blood does not a family make.

My aunt was the queen of reinvention. She was a wife, a widow, a Spanish teacher and a business owner. She was strong and positive, hilarious and generous. Whenever she called her voice rang out with a sing-songy, "Hola, hola!" right before she went off telling you a long-winded, hilariously over-the-top story about her business, her cat, Sushi or her dog, Reina. Every time she came over, she would tell us a new beauty remedy she was trying out (lathering up her face with Crisco to reduce wrinkles) or bring over samples of a new recipe she was trying out (all just as delicious as her alfajores).

She was a grab-life-by-the-balls kind of lady and never apologized for who she was. And although her company and her cookies will be missed, the lessons she's left behind will keep her alive in my heart forever.

That being said, I like to think of her making bank up in heaven, selling her cookies to everyone. :)

P.S. And in honor of my aunt's business savvy and her love for a good plug, regardless of where it was. Her website is still up so you should check it out and see if you can order them from her children:

Monday, December 14, 2009

Let the rain sing you a lullaby. ~Langston Hughes

As a fledgling New Yorker I know that preparing for a rainy workday means setting my alarm clock at least 10 minutes early, getting my dusty wellies from the back of my closet and looking for one of my 50 umbrellas (that always seem to go missing when I know rain is coming). But as a native Long Islander I see rainy days as perfect reading days.

Imagine waking up, the sky is a crisp light grey, you can hear the fat raindrops splashing on the roof, tapping on the windows, swirling off the tires driving by your house; you are cuddled up in your warm bed wrapped in a fluffy down comforter, snuggled with your perfectly placed pillows. It is the ideal morning for a steaming cup of tea and that book you've been putting off because of your busy schedule. Days like these are gifts from the biblio-gods. It is an opportunity to excuse yourself from your hectic life and slow down.
What I love about rain is that it has multiple layers that peel away with each season. Fall is wet and cold, damp autumn leaves crunch under your shoes. Winter is cold, protective icicle-armor forms on tree branches. Spring is wet and warm, re-birth breezes through the tentative leaves. Summer is hot, the humid sky sighs forming puddles to cool us off. Each instance is unique.

Heavy downpour = sexy rain kisses like in The Notebook.

Summer rain = warm day and cool raindrops; flashbacks to running up and down my street with friends when I was younger.

Thunderstorms = cuddling and candles....or hiding under the covers.

Sleet = harsh winds and achy bones

But regardless of the type or style of precipitation, next time it rains (and it isn't a work day, even though we all know how hard it is to get out of bed when it's raining), don't curse the weather gods, curl up in a comfy chair or your warm bed, and let the melodic drip-drops lull you to lose yourself in those pages and relax.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

"Families are like fudge - mostly sweet with a few nuts." Author Unknown

I've only read two David Sedaris books: Me Talk Pretty One Day recommended by my sister and, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim recommended by a girl at my new job, who invited me to join her monthly book club. ( Yes, you read it right! I was invited to join a book club!) Both times I was quickly sucked in by Sedaris' self-deprecating wit and both times he re-kindled my interest on my own family stories.

When I read Sedaris, my immediate train of thought was: "Couldn't I also exploit my family's crazy quirks and hilariously unique anecdotes and get paid $$$$$$$$$$ to do so?"

So many times, after hanging out with any one of my many family members, I've opened up that blank word document, fingers poised on my ergonomic keyboard anxiously waiting for the words to flow. I sit there as the glowing screen taunts me, challenging me to write something reader-worthy. It is a staring contest that can go on for hours, until my eyes blur over and I am the first to blink, leaving my victory for another day.

Then I ask myself, does everyone think their family is worth writing about?
Why do only some share their stories with the world?
Is it just that some are writers and some are readers or is it actually that David Sedaris' life is more interesting than mine?

With two foreign parents and four older siblings (the youngest, only 8 years older than me), you'd think that my writing would be overflowing with exciting and embarrassing stories. But even if inspiration hits, as soon as I open up that word doc. my creativity shuts down and I am left staring in frustration; grasping at the disappearing wisps of revelation. But I will not lose faith.

Maybe I can put this on my list of New Year's resolutions for 2010. So far, I've got:

1. Write on my blog more often - if not everyday, at least every other day.

And now...

2. Write a least one story about one of my family members each month.
(Two working titles are: The Year of the Pineapples* and Brunch.)
Wish me luck!