Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year

A short story by Daniel Olivas

            “She doesn’t have to know, right?”
            Claudio held the receiver hard against his left ear as he caressed the granite by the kitchen sink with his right hand.  His fingers were still moist with perspiration from his workout.  Claudio rubbed the smooth cool granite that was interrupted periodically and randomly with miniature canyons that dipped down far enough to avoid the polisher’s tool.  His eyes traveled over its dappled black and tan surface following an imaginary line from his fingertips to the bone white lip of the porcelain Kohler sink.  Claudio remembered choosing the granite with his wife several years ago after the Northridge quake.  They were forced to live in “corporate” housing for three long hot summer months courtesy of their Aetna policy.  Their contractor had visited them at their temporary home schlepping six different granite samples.  He laid the small chunks of stone on the orange carpeting like they were diminutive Monets.  His name was Lionel—a former soap opera actor, or so he said—who decided on a complete change of lifestyle seven years earlier immediately after he and his second wife split up.  An attorney in Claudio’s office swore by him.  Lionel’s black curly hair and sharp tanned features looked too planned and he dressed better than any of the other contractors they had interviewed.  He proved to have a great eye for design but, as Claudio and Lois eventually learned, he stumbled a bit in the execution.  Lionel stood by the granite samples, one hand on his hip, the other at his chin, and he hummed a nervous little tune.
            “Well,” Lionel had said after the silence got to him, “which will it be?”  Luckily, Claudio and Lois have similar esthetic sensibilities so they chose the same sample almost simultaneously both pointing with their right index fingers.  Lionel exclaimed in an overly dramatic voice, “Lovely!  I would have chosen the same piece.”
            Claudio quickly switched the receiver and pushed it against his right ear even harder.  “I mean, look, she shouldn’t have to know.  Right?  I mean, where does it get any of us?  It isn’t really necessary, is it?”
            As the woman’s voice started again, he looked out the kitchen window.  The cawing grew louder and harsher.  Claudio never saw the bird but he knew it was a crow because his father identified its call when they first moved out to the west end of the San Fernando Valley ten years ago.  The whole family had come over for a housewarming.
            “Mijo,” his father had said.  “Sounds like you got a big ol’ crow living in one of those trees in back.  They’re such noisy and mean birds.”  His father took a sip from his can of Coors and added:  “I hate crows.”
            “Me, too, Pop,” Claudio had answered though he never really thought about it before.  Now, ten years after his father’s pronouncement and his unthinking agreement, he did indeed hate crows.  Especially the one who wouldn’t shut up just then.
            The woman’s voice stopped.  Claudio said, “Okay, then.  We’re in agreement.”  After a pause, a few more words and then a curt good-bye, he hung up letting out a long breath of air.  “Goddamn her,” he said softly, almost gently.  He headed to the refrigerator and scanned the bottom shelf.  He stood there mesmerized by the bottles and cans of Snapple, Diet Coke and various fruit juices in small rectangular boxes that his son loved.  Claudio suddenly felt dizzy from dehydration.  He grabbed a Snapple Peach Tea.
            Earlier that morning, Claudio woke at six o’clock with the obnoxious shrill buzz of his combination telephone, AM/FM radio and alarm clock, the Chronomatic-300 sold under the Radio Shack label.  His wife, Lois, bought it for Claudio’s thirty-eighth birthday last year.  It was a thoughtful and useful gift but he grew to hate that damn buzzer.  Lois was already showered and stood in front of her sink with a white towel wrapped around her head like the strolling Turk on the Hills Brothers coffee can.  She wore her delicate floral cotton robe and brushed her teeth with a Braun electric toothbrush.  He sat up at the edge of their bed and rubbed his face while listening to the soft hum of the Braun.
            “Morning,” he said.
            Lois didn’t turn around but answered with a muffled noise and a nod of her head.  She turned off the toothbrush and spat into the sink.
            “Morning, sweetheart,” she answered.  Lois then turned and looked in the general direction of her husband but because she didn’t have her contacts in yet, all she saw was a blur.
            It was Friday and that meant that Claudio could work at home.  A couple of years ago, they purchased a computer, laser printer and fax machine so that Claudio could telecommute at least once a week because his normal commute to downtown was pretty God-awful.  So was Lois’ but her office didn’t believe in telecommuting.  But, because Claudio worked for the government, his employer had an institutional bias in favor of parent-friendly flexible work hours and anti-smog programs.  So, if he didn’t have to be in court on Friday, he could work on his briefs in peace and quiet at home and check his voicemail every so often when he needed a break from the computer.
            Claudio went to his son’s room but he wasn’t there.  He then heard muffled voices from the downstairs TV so he walked to the staircase.  As he went down, the sounds of Scooby Doo became clearer.  Before going to the den, he headed out to the driveway to get the Los Angeles Times.  It was chilly and a bit foggy.  The week and a half between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur had been particularly difficult this year.  Claudio reached down and grabbed the paper.  As he stood up, he saw his neighbor across the street reach down and get her paper.  She was wearing a short nightshirt that exposed plump and very white legs.  What was her name?  She gave birth to a baby girl a month ago and she complained that she would never get her figure back though she really never had one in the first place.  Claudio waved and she looked up, clearly embarrassed by her outfit.  She waved without a smile and scurried back into her house slapping her fleshy bare feet on the dew-covered cement.
            Claudio went back in and headed to the den to check on his son.  Jonathan still wore his Goosebumps glow-in-the-dark pajamas and was, as usual, doing several things at once: as he looked up to the TV every so often to keep track of Scooby Doo’s exploits hunting ghosts, he was using his kid’s scissors to cut an old T-shirt to make a cape for his new Spider-Man that his Grandma bought him and, every few minutes, he reached over to his box of apple juice perched on several books on the floor and took a drink from a tiny straw.
            “Morning, mijo,” Claudio said.
            Jonathan just stared at the TV.
            “I said, good morning, Jon.”  Claudio grew annoyed.  Still, Jonathan didn’t answer.  Finally Claudio put himself between the TV and Jonathan and said again:  “Good morning, I said.”
            This broke Jonathan’s trance and he looked up to his father.  “Good morning, Papa.”
            Claudio reached down and kissed his son’s hair.  It smelled like blueberries from Aussie Land Blue Mountain Shampoo.  Jonathan’s hair was soft, straight and dark blond like Lois, but his skin resembled Claudio’s and had an olive glow about it.  He had long dark eyelashes like his father.
            “Jon, I’m making Pop Tarts for you.  What kind do you want?”
            After a moment of contemplation, Jonathan said, “One strawberry, and one cinnamon.  And cut them up in funny pieces.”
            Jonathan looked puzzled.  “That’s all.  And milk, too.”
            Claudio looked at his son and said again:  “And?”
            Finally, Jonathan got it.  “And, thank you Papa.”
            Getting the answer he wanted, Claudio walked to the kitchen and got his son’s breakfast ready and got the coffee going, too.  Lois came down and pulled a bowl out of the cabinet and poured some Quaker Oats granola.  She opened the refrigerator and said, “Honey, you gotta’ get some milk tonight.  We’re almost out.”
            Their routine that morning was well set.  They ate breakfast, each glued to their respective portions of the newspaper: Lois read the movie reviews in the Calendar section, Jonathan earnestly worked through the funnies, and Claudio scanned the front page.  After putting her bowl and coffee mug into the sink, Lois went upstairs and threw down their son’s clothes and then went to finish doing her hair.  Claudio made Jonathan’s lunch and then went up to put on some sweats, a ragged Stanford T-shirt, and his cross-trainers while their son got dressed, made his bed and then brushed his teeth with a miniature version of his mother’s Braun electric toothbrush.  Lois kissed them good-bye and left first.  Within ten minutes—at exactly seven forty-five—Claudio loaded his son and his son’s Star Wars backpack into their Honda Accord and headed towards school.  They chatted about silly things and listened to “The Wave”—the local soft jazz station—during the seven-minute drive.
            As they entered the school’s driveway, the teachers signaled the cars to keep on moving after dropping off the children.  Jonathan pointed to one of the teachers and said, “She’s Mrs. Horowitz.  I hate her.  She has really bad breath and she breathes on all the children.”
            “Maybe she’s a nice person with bad breath,” said Claudio trying not to laugh.  He made it his quest to teach his son that you have to look deeper into people to really know them.  “Maybe she doesn’t know that she needs to brush more.  Or, maybe she needs to floss.”
            “Oh, she knows she has bad breath.  She’s mean so she doesn’t care.”
            When Claudio could stop safely, he unlocked the doors with the master switch and said, “I love you.”  Jonathan said, “I love you, too,” and opened the door and dragged his backpack behind him.  Claudio locked the doors and headed to the exit as he changed the radio station to hear the news on NPR.  There was something about the ethnic Albanians.  Claudio didn’t understand what was going on over there even though he knew that he should care more.  But he decided that he simply couldn’t listen to that story right then so he pushed the button preset for KUSC.  Ah, Bach.  The Goldberg Variations.
            Claudio drove north on Shoup and then turned right on Sherman Way.  He aimed his car to the Spectrum Club for his usual half-hour on the recumbent stationary bicycle and half-hour with the weight machines.  As he turned into the parking lot, he tried to decide whether to bring the paperback edition of Bless Me, Ultima or the latest Ploughshares to read while pedaling.  Claudio always kept books and literary journals stashed in the armrest and glove compartments so that he never lacked for reading material.  He decided on Anaya’s book.  When he majored in English back in the late ‘70s, Chicano writers weren’t studied the way they were now.  So, last year, Claudio made a list of classic Chicano authors to read like Anaya, Morales and Rechy and then he added the “newer” ones like Cisneros, Soto and Villaseñor.
            He slid his car into a spot, turned off the motor, pulled the paperback out of the armrest compartment and stuffed it into his gym bag.  Claudio got out and locked his car and walked slowly to the entrance of the club.  He felt stiff.  At the front desk, he handed his membership card to a young woman who wore a gleaming white uniform Polo shirt with a large nametag that said DONNA.  She smiled and exposed large and very straight white teeth that matched her shirt.  Donna stared at Claudio with translucent blue eyes
            “Got your braces off,” said Claudio realizing that she wanted him to notice.  A tall skinny young man, another gym employee, leaned against the wall near Donna and glowered.
            Donna smiled even wider.  “Yes,” and she looked down at his membership card, “Claudio.”  Donna swiped the membership card through a narrow plastic trough and the computer let out a little beep.  She then leaned forward on the counter and brought her face closer to Claudio’s.  She smelled like almonds and honey.  “I was totally sick of them but now, you know, it was totally worth it.”
            Claudio smiled.  “Yes.  You look nice.”
            Donna bounced a little on her toes and tossed her blond hair away from her face.  “Have a good work out, Claudio,” and she handed the card back to him letting it linger in Claudio’s palm before releasing it.
            “Thank you.”  Claudio headed to the locker room to dump his bag and glasses in a locker before going to the weight room.  By this hour, there wasn’t much of a crowd.  Claudio shuffled by an obese older man who stood naked, hands on his hips and legs spread in a pyramid like Balzac, while an electric wall dryer blew his sparse stringy white hair into a frenzy.  The man’s belly hung so low that his private parts were not visible.  Claudio quickly averted his eyes, found a locker at the far end of the room and put his bag and glasses away.  He snapped shut the lock, looped the key on his right shoelace and trotted to the weight room taking a different route to avoid the fat naked man.  Once out of the locker room, Claudio slowed and walked the long hallway of racquetball courts, his head hanging down.  He came to several older men and women who were laughing.
            “Beat the shit out of those two little punks,” snorted a man who looked like the little guy on the Monopoly cards but without the top hat and tails.  “Didn’t know who he was messin’ with,” and he shook his fists from side-to-side like a bear showing his strength.  The younger vanquished couple slunk away towards the showers.
            “Yes, sweetheart,” said a short stout woman whose plump legs were covered with a maze of spider veins.  “We showed him and his girlfriend.”
            “What do you mean ‘we,’ white woman?” her husband answered and their two other friends burst out laughing.
            Claudio tried to pass them but they blocked the way.  “Excuse me,” he said still holding his head down.
            “Sorry,” said the Monopoly man.  “Didn’t see you with your head down so low.  Cheer up.  Can’t be that bad, can it?”
            Claudio looked up and smiled a small smile in appeasement just so he could pass without getting into a conversation.  He learned that the retired people who used the gym loved to talk it up with anyone because they didn’t have to get to work.  Claudio smelled stale perspiration and some kind of medicated ointment.
            “Now, that’s better,” said the Monopoly man’s wife and they let Claudio pass.  In a few moments, he got to the safety of the weight room, grabbed a little towel from a plastic shelf and wandered over to the stationary bicycles.  Since the remodeling after the Spectrum Club bought out Racquetball World, everything was newer but in a different place.  Claudio liked the greater variety of weight machines but hated learning a new floor design.  He looked at the six stationary bikes.  The one to the far left by the StairMasters was occupied by a stroke victim and his trainer.  The stroke victim looked as though his body was once a magnificent specimen of strength and agility.  Now, his left side dragged and he used a cane.  The trainer said, “Good, Howie, good!  You’re moving way better this morning!  Pedal, pedal, pedal!”  The trainer was probably a sophomore or junior in college.  His flattop made him look like a Marine and he had a serpent tattoo on his right forearm.  Howie pedaled slowly staring up at one of the five large TV screens that hung suspended from the ceiling.  He didn’t acknowledge his trainer’s presence and wore what appeared to be a sneer on his face though the expression could have been the result of the stroke.  When the trainer wasn’t around, Howie liked to flirt with the young women.
            Claudio approached the bicycles.  A very thin woman pedaled on the one to the far right.  Large splashes of perspiration covered three of the four unoccupied bicycles.  Claudio chose the dry one near the thin woman.  He adjusted the seat, chose the program, set it for thirty minutes, opened his paperback and started pedaling.
            After a few minutes, Claudio felt the thin woman staring at him but he kept his eyes on his book.  Finally, the woman said, “Excuse me.”
            Claudio turned, “Yes?”
            “Could you do something about that noise?”  Claudio noticed that the young woman was so thin and white that he could see what appeared to be most of her circulatory system throughout her face, neck and shoulders like algae-filled canals.  She reminded him of those pictures of Auschwitz and he wondered if she had cancer or an eating disorder.  Perspiration rained from her face and arms.  Claudio worried that there’d soon be nothing left but her tiny tank top, shorts, and Nikes sitting in a pool of liquid.
            “What noise?” said Claudio.
            She shifted in her seat and looked annoyed.  “Your shoe.  The plastic tip on your shoelace keeps hitting your bike as you pedal and it makes a noise.”
            Claudio hadn’t noticed the sound before the woman mentioned it.  “And?” he asked betraying a less than charitable tone.
            “Can you please stop it?”
            Claudio took a deep breath and tried not to get angry.  “Okay.”  He stopped pedaling, double knotted the offending shoelace and started pedaling again.  No more noise.
            “Thanks,” she said with a smile.
            “Don’t mention it,” Claudio answered and he tried to find his place in the book.
            After working out, Claudio came home and walked slowly into the den from the garage when he heard the phone ringing.  He hurried and got to it before the answering machine picked up.
            “Hello,” he said still out of breath from his workout.
            “Oh, hi.  It’s Doctor Kayess.”  She had a heavy and deep voice punctuated with an Israeli accent that didn’t match her petite body and elegant face.  She couldn’t have been more than twenty-eight years old.
            “Hello, Doctor.  A belated Happy New Year.”  Claudio tore a sheet from the roll of Scott Towels that stood on the counter and wiped his forehead.  Though he had converted from Catholicism ten years ago, he still felt ill at ease with the Jewish calendar and didn’t want to sound foolish.
            “L’Shona Tova,” she answered half-heartedly.
            The crow started to caw and Claudio looked out the window vainly trying to spot it.  “Do you have any news?” he asked as he pushed to one side several of the plastic vertical blinds.
            “Yes,” she started.  “Yes, the tests came back.  Should I call your wife at work?”
            Claudio sighed.  “No, she said that you could tell me if you called here.”
            On Rosh Hashanah, Lois miscarried for the fifth time.  Each time, she carried for only eight or nine weeks.  Getting pregnant wasn’t an issue.  Keeping it became the battle.  Dr. Kayess and her older partner, Dr. Mizrahi, also an Israeli, had run every imaginable test on Lois and Claudio but they produced no answers.  The team had come very highly recommended from two moms at their son’s school who had tried to have babies for years but couldn’t get pregnant until they went to these doctors.  Dr. Mizrahi was about fifty, trim and dapper, with a medical degree from UCLA and a very kind demeanor.  Dr. Kayess studied at Harvard but, because of her youth, she still had not mastered the nuances of the doctor-patient relationship.  Lois’ miscarriages stymied both doctors.  But this time, they had some fetal tissue from the DNC and ran some tests.  Was there an anomaly in the DNA?  Maybe they would have some answers.
            “Well, the tissue came back normal.”
            “Oh,” Claudio said as he threw away the sopped paper towel in the trash can under the sink.  “Anything else?”
            “Yes.  Though she was only eight weeks along, we know that it was a girl.”
            Claudio suddenly stiffened his back and looked up to the ceiling.  It was as though an unseen attacker had shoved a long knife between his shoulder blades and held it there just for emphasis.
            Claudio took a deep breath trying not to raise his voice.  “She doesn’t have to know, right?”
            There was silence on the other end.  Doctor Kayess stumbled on her words.  “I’m so—so—sorry.”
            “I mean, look, she shouldn’t have to know.  Right?  I mean, where does it get any of us?  It isn’t really necessary, is it?”  He looked down to the piles of medical bills and insurance statements that covered a full third of the kitchen counter.
            “You mean the gender, right?” she said.
            “It would be devastating.  We’ve been hoping for a girl.  We even know that we’d name her Rachel.  There’s no reason for her to know that we lost a girl.  Unless that’s part of what you need to tell her for a complete consultation.”
            There was silence.  Finally, she said, “She doesn’t have to know.  I’m very sorry.  Have her call me so that we can set up an appointment and we can talk about your options.”
            Claudio said, “Okay, then.  We’re in agreement.”
            “Yes.”  Her voice sounded very small as though she felt stupid and inexperienced.
            “Thank you, Doctor,” Claudio said and hung up.  “Goddamn her.”  But he didn’t mean it.
            The crow’s sharp squawking grew louder and he looked out the window again searching for it.  The morning fog already burned off and the bright sun blinded him momentarily.  The fig and lemon trees displayed deep green leaves though one of the six cypresses that lined the back wall and was dying from some kind of orange fungus.  They had to get a tree doctor out there, sometime.  Claudio finally gave up resigned to the fact that he would never see the creature that tormented him.  He moved his hand from the vertical blinds and they waved back and forth making a hollow clacking sound.  Claudio slowly walked over to the refrigerator to get something to drink.

[“New Year” is featured in Assumption and Other Stories (Bilingual Press, 2003).]

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Thankful! New Year Good Wishes From Amelia M.L. Montes

Visiting mi tierra de Los Angeles
At Avenue 50 Studio Art Gallery in Pasadena, Califas
On the 21st of this month—a day marking a rejuvenation, a renewal toward transitions, I started the day not in the Midwest (where I’ve been living for the past 12 years), but back in my hometown, “mi tierra” de Los Angeles, chanting and breathing deeply in tantric meditation (gracias for the invitation from writer Terry Wolverton!).

Meditation and Yoga class on December 21, 2012.  Thank you Terry Wolverton!
Pictured left to right:  Bobi Behrens, Yvonne M. Estrada, Terry Wolverton, Amelia M.L. Montes
It was necessary for me to leave the Midwest for a bit—to go to the pacific coast, re-connecting with friends/familia as well as finally meeting Michael Sedano, one of the founders of La Bloga.  So grateful to Michael and all my fellow bloguistas:  Rudy Ch. Garcia, Lydia Gil, Ernest Hogan, René Colato Laínez, Daniel A. Olivas, Melinda Palacio, Manuel Ramos, and a special spiritual “gracias” to Tatiana de la Tierra for the initial invitation to join La Bloga.  It’s a pleasure being a member of the La Bloga familia.  Orale! 

Amelia M.L. Montes and Michael Sedano finally meet!

On the 27th of December, I traveled from Los Angeles to New York where I am presently visiting and writing (grateful for the space and time to write/share writing!) with artists/activists/writer friends before the Modern Language Association (MLA) Conference begins on January 3rd  in Boston.  A note on the MLA Conference in Boston:  If you are going—don’t miss the following panels, especially the first one which features “La Bloga!”  Yes—“La Bloga” will be discussed/analyzed at the MLA in Boston.  More on this next Sunday--

1.     Jennifer Lozano (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) will be speaking about “La Bloga!”  Her paper, “Convergence Cultura?  Reevaluating New Media Scholarship through a Latina/o Literary Blog, La Bloga” is set for Friday, January 4th at 5:15p.m. in the Sheraton Boston (room:  Fairfax A).  Check it out! 
2.     Also on Friday, January 4th, the panel “Life Writings and Invention in Latina Memoir and Fiction” features the following writers reading and discussing their work:  Norma Elia Cantú, Joy Elizabeth Castro, Lorraine Lopez, Amelia M.L. Montes.  Time:  1:45p.m.  Where:  Sheraton Boston (room: Liberty C)
3.     Thursday, January 3rd, María Cotera, Olga Herrera, Lorraine Lopez, and Ricardo L. Ortiz will be speaking on “Teaching Chicana/o Literature in a Latina/o Context.” Time:  5:15p.m. Where:  Sheraton Boston (room: Independence East)

These are just three of a number of Chicana/Chicano and Latina/Latino panels offered at the MLA this year.  Check out the 2013 program:  CLICK HERE. 

New York City!

2013 will be my third year since being diagnosed with Diabetes. Not too long ago, a friend I hadn’t seen in a while told me how sorry she was that I had Diabetes.  Without skipping a beat, I immediately said, “I’m not!  I’m thankful!”  I couldn’t have said that even a year ago. A significant change had to take place and education is the key. During my first year of diagnosis, it was tough trying to figure out what to eat, how to manage all the various facets of this disease.  Just figuring out a work schedule with added time for exercise was quite challenging. 

Diabetes has given me the opportunity to delve into the workings of the body, to understand the metabolic function of the pancreas, to think about living my life in ways I never thought about before—mindfully, creatively.  I have a heightened awareness of  how our U.S. food industry has kept us from the truth: that sugar, not fat, makes us sick.  This month's issue of Mother Jones features the article, “Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies:  How the Industry Kept Scientists from Asking:  Does Sugar Kill?” , a carefully researched (included is a timeline from 1934-2012 revealing the sugar industry take-over of our U.S. diet) and clearly articulated explanation on how we’ve been duped into thinking non-fat processed foods are better than fat.  The truth: “non-fat” and even some “low fat” products are more often than not injected with sugar and depleted of fat.  Fat does not cause obesity.  Sugar causes obesity.  Another fact:  cancer cells need sugar (carbohydrates) to grow and multiply.  The more sugar, the happier a cancer cell will be.   

As a nation, and within our Chicana/Chicano and Latina/Latino communities, it’s going to take a long time to make significant dietary changes because the sugar industry is as solidly stationed within our grocery stores, as the tobacco industry had been (and still continues to be although not as strongly).  I don’t know yet, what will break the hold on our mindset and diets, especially because sugar is so very addictive. Sugar is a drug.  Just ask people to stop eating it, and you will receive very strong reactions.  It’s very very difficult.  And then, of course, there is the challenge to exercise.  How to take the time to keep the body moving so the pancreas will be stimulated to function?  Diet and exercise are vital to the lowering of glucose numbers. 

For the past two years, I have led a Diabetes Support Book Group and the members in the group have been able to manage their glucose levels successfully by sharing stories and recipes.  We share our not-so-good days (and there are many) and we also share our successful moments (and there are also many of these).  We bring to the group delicious low carbohydrate dishes to try and we also discuss our doctor visits.  We talk about our exercise.  Research has shown that support groups are extremely helpful.  Maybe you would like to begin your own support group in 2013. 

Thankful that after three years of reading, researching, writing about Diabetes, I can tell you that I have made friends with my imperfect pancreas.  I can tell you that I’m not afraid of this disease anymore like I was when I was younger and watched my aunts and uncles go blind, lose limbs, go on kidney dialysis, etc. I am thankful that there is much more information available to me and the information continues to pour in as more medical researchers (who are not affiliated with pharmaceutical companies or the sugar industry) are conducting important experiments/analyses to seek out answers.  We know much more about this disease, about how our pancreas works, about how we can manage it on our own than we did even 10, 20 years ago. Testing your blood is so much a part of the management, yet glucose strips remain quite expensive, especially for those without health benefits. This must change.  The only way an individual with Diabetes will know if glucose levels in the bloodstream are too high or too low is too test.  It's impossible to judge glucose levels by how one feels on a daily basis. Testing also helps when you're trying new foods or your usual routine is interrupted.  As mentioned, I have been traveling cross-country and some of these days have been more challenging than others (not being able to say "no" to homemade buttered croissants at a holiday gathering, sitting more than usual due to travel days). At times, I've had to compensate by walking up and down stairs or running/walking in place. 

I am thankful to friends and familia who have helped me (or been patient) through mood changes due to Diabetes.  When first diagnosed, I had no idea how powerfully glucose fluctuations directly affect one's mood.  And those of you with Diabetes know what I'm talking about. The terms "sugar high" and "sugar crash" are in our vocabulary because most everyone has experienced glucose fluctuations.  The problem with having an impaired pancreas is that it can take much longer to recover from that "high" or "crash." Sometimes the "high" or "crash" is not due to eating sweets/too many carbohydrates.  It could be a stressful day, lack of sleep, or illness that will affect glucose levels.  Meditation can be quite helpful here along with diet and exercise.  The best gift you can give to your loved ones/your friends is to become aware of your body, monitor where you are chemically, and let people know if you're having a bad day.  Diabetes does not give us permission to behave badly and then simply blame it on the disease.  

I am thankful for David Mendosa, a freelance medical writer, advocate, and consultant specializing in Diabetes.  He has the largest and most comprehensive website on Diabetes and if you e-mail him, he will reply.  (CLICK HERE for his website)  David's articles on managing diabetes while traveling have certainly helped.  

I am thankful for my sister, Emma Franco, whose experience and expert knowledge of the disease assisted me from the moment of diagnosis. Gracias dear sister for your help and support, for morning walks, for answering all my questions, for continued discussions.

I am thankful to mis padres who accompany me on short walks for their own health as well as mine.  This 2013th year, mi papa will be 96 and mi mama will be 90.  Orale.

Emma, Amelia, Joseph Montes (mi mama y papa!)
I am thankful to my daughter, Nancy, who was exercising much before I began an exercise regimen.  Thank you for your commitment to exercise, meditation, yoga.  It is always a joy to walk/spend time with you.  Gracias for you!  
Amelia & daughter Nancy Wolff
I am thankful to Mary Jo Kringas, the creator of ChocoPerfection bars.  These are chocolate bars that were voted the best tasting sugar free chocolate:  milk chocolate, dark chocolate, almond covered chocolate, mint chocolate bars.  They have saved me when I’m at parties/gatherings where sweets are plentiful or when I want a sweet snack.  Thank you Mary Jo!  (CLICK HERE for the ChocoPerfection website)

In 1958, there were 1.5 million people with Diabetes in the U.S.  In 2010, the number jumped to 18.8 million prompting the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to call it an epidemic.  Today (just 2 years later), the CDC reports that 26 million have Diabetes with an estimated 79 million having prediabetes. 
We know that Chicanas and Chicanos/Latinas and Latinos have higher rates of the disease. I believe we can get these rates down with education, with activism.  We want the best for our gente:  healthy and affordable food ideas, access to various exercise possibilities, and guidance.  If someone is working toward healthy eating, good exercise, support them. Encourage each other!  

New York friends/familia:  Amelia M.L. Montes, Danielle Abrams, Barbara Schulman

Los Angeles familia: Querida Pat Alderete and Amelia M.L. Montes
I am thankful for you, dear La Bloga readers and wish the very best for you in 2013. I wish for you important moments connecting with friends/familia, enjoying so many Chicana/Chicano and Latina/Latino writings published in 2012 and that will soon be published in 2013, delicious eating, enjoyable exercise, quiet meditation, significant writing and creative time, leading to a very healthy 2013. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ten predictions about La Bloga's future

by Rudy Ch. Garcia

I followed Ramos' advice from yesterday: "Let it all go. Sit back. Allow your mind to drift. Enjoy the slow passing of time. Breathe deeply. Follow the breath with your mind through your lungs, heart, gut. Chase it from your body, slowly. To help with the contemplation." Below is what resulted. Ergo, blame him, not me.

It's the end of 2012 and apparently not of the world. The clowns and uneducated "scholars" who used Nostradamus or the Maya calendar to misinterpret "el fin del mundo" scored a zero. Federal and financial-world "experts" predicting where the economic, so-called recovery is headed act like tea leaves and entrails hold the truth. And the needle gauging your retirement portfolio's prospects acts like you're running toward and then away from the Fukushima power plant. So what?

So, as my last post for 2012, I'll throw in my dos centavos and ten predictions of what the future holds, at least for La Bloga. I won't consult my deceased bruja abuela about what ths, since it doesn't work for others less wise than me. But I'll go for a more positive take and list what I, and possibly others, would like to see happen. To keep one foot in reality, I'll also acknowledge what may not develop as positively.

Uno. The first wide-screen film of Rudy Anaya's Bless Me, Última will win at least one Academy Award. AridZona Sheriff Arpaio will have his militia raid the Phoenix premier showing, arrest half the audience and provide U.S. born, Spanish speakers with vacations, south of the border. Obama will miss the premier.

Dos. Bloguero Manuel Ramos' next novel, Desperado: A Mile High Noir, will receive critical acclaim and garner more female followers than any latino since Pancho Villa.

Sheriff Arpaio will try to have it banned, but given his I.Q., will get confused and wind up banning the Roberto Rodriguez movie, instead. Obama will watch that movie.

Tres. My first novel, the break-through Chicano fantasy, The Closet of Discarded Dreams, will win two 2012 awards.

Following that, critics will brand it as "literarily deficient" and Sheriff Arpaio will have it banned in AridZona. Out of curiosity, readers will make it a belated best-seller. Obama will try reading the first chapter.

Cuatro. Sci-fi bloguero Ernest Hogan and vampiristo novelist Mario Acevedo will co-author the first gay-vampire space-opera, featuring aliens who look like celery stalks.

With its bisexual antagonist, Constable Apio, it will win no awards, but will produce several writing clubs devoted to obscure chicanada humor.

Sheriff Arpaio will take personal offense, and be arrested for shoplifting hundreds of WalMart copies for his book burnings. Obama will watch the YouTube trailer of that.

CincoMelinda Palacio
, Lydia Gil and Amelia Montes will co-author Fifty Latina Shades of Questionable Worth, based on Wikileaks material from Sheriff Arpaio's ghost-written diary.

It will receive a XXXX-rating, and the royalties will allow the authors to hire publicists, secretaries, and hunky, personal-massage therapists. 

They will establish a literary commune in the Taos Mts. where Sheriff Arpaio will be arrested on the grounds as a peeping Tom and stalker. Obama will give him a pardon.

Seis. Bloguero René Colato Laínez's fame in children's literature will lead to his being declared school-board Emperor of the LAISD, where he will institute massive reforms outlawing standardized tests and empowering teachers' unions.

L.A. will surpass China and India's academic standards, resulting in the adoption of thousands of latino orphans who relocate to Asia. Colato will use his book royalties to establish a psychiatric clinic for impeached sheriffs, and Obama will donate two cents to its funding.

Siete. Bloguero Dan Olivas will retire from the law profession and become a full-time writer. He'll readopt a dream he relegated to Garcia's Closet-of-Discarded-Dreams world and be nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Sheriff Apaio will put out a wanted-poster on Olivas, and Obama will send him a letter of support, promising to read something Olivas wrote.

Ocho. Bloguero Michael Sedano will open a chicken stud-farm and devote his acumen to producing his first book. It will win more awards than any other bloguero.

He will belatedly enjoy belated acclaim at the side of Tezcatlipoca, who will give it his five-demons endorsement. The god's night-soil collector, Sheriff Arpaio, will spill a bucket upon hearing this and be banished to gringo Hades to smoke cigarettes with Obama.

Nueve. Rudy Ch. Garcia's second novel, the dark YA prequel to The Closet of Discarded Dreams will incite a bidding war between corporate publishers, but the author will instead opt for a latino-friendly mid-list publisher.

It will win the 2013 Newbery Award, and every Anglo child in AridZona will keep it by their bedside. This will inflict Sheriff Arpaio with apoplexy, and Obama will text him his condolences.

Diez. Lastly, the Chicano literary website La Bloga will win no awards, but it will expand to a 12-day week to accommodate more authors to its ranks. It will adopt a logo depicting an AridZona sheriff and a dark U.S. President engaged in some disreputable coupling. La Bloga will be sued by the U.S. gov't and its $40 of assets will be seized. Los blogueros and the blogueras too will go underground to continue publication. Sheriff Arpaio will never locate them. Obama won't bother looking.

Merry, and happy, and feliz and próspero to my colleagues who work to make me more literary than I am. And to La Bloga's readers, our dear, tolerant supporters.

by RudyG, aka author Rudy Ch. Garcia of the upcoming 2013 YA prequel to The Closet of Discarded Dreams that everyone prays will be funnier than his posts.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Cell Phone Photo Exhibit - Immortality

One way to top off a crazy week (admit it, this has been a wild few days) is to let it all go. Sit back. Allow your mind to drift. Enjoy the slow passing of time. 

Breathe deeply. Follow the breath with your mind through your lungs, heart, gut. Chase it from your body, slowly.

To help with the contemplation, I offer a dozen photographs from my homemade collection of used book store images. (Or here are just a bunch of pictures for your quick glance.) Nothing fancy or flashy, just straightforward, static shots of buildings that house a hundred dreams, a thousand journeys. Here is where that fantasy life ends up, forever available for the next adventurer. Here is where the stories are, the characters live on, and the words never stop.This is immortality for the writer.

[click on fotos for a larger image]

Denver: The Broadway Book Mall

Denver:  West Side Books

Denver: Paperback Patti's

Pueblo: Rex's Books

Lamar:  The Book Depot

Manitou Springs:  Black Cat Books

Colorado Springs:  Books For You

New Orleans: Crescent City Books

New Orleans: FAB

New Orleans: Arcadian Books and Prints

New Orleans: Faulkner House

And here's my favorite.

Denver:  Downtown Bar, Coffeehouse, and Bookstore

Peace in the new year.


all photographs copyright Manuel Ramos 2012