Monthly Archives: January 2010

La nena tiene tumbao.


I woke up this morning (ok, this afternoon) wanting to listen to Celia Cruz’s song “La Vida es un Carnaval.” (“Life is a Carnival.”)

It just has so many good lines… like “La pena se va cantando” (“The sadness goes away by singing”), which somehow sounds better than something like “Sing your blues away.”

Anyway, I didn’t feel like looking for the song on iTunes and we don’t own any Celia CDs (I know, travesty for a Cuban), so I pulled up the video on YouTube:

Mariel was sitting on my lap and when she saw Celia in all her outrageousness, mineando with her ample hips and bobbing up and down with her shellacked helmet of peroxided hair, she just started laughing. I’m talking full body giggles.

So after “La Vida es un Carnaval” we listened to “La Negra Tiene Tumbao”:

and the giggles continued, along with full body lurches toward the screen.

Here’s to tumbao- hope these songs make you as happy as they make Mariel.


Some thoughts on saying no to South Africa


A few incredible travel opportunities have rolled into the inbox in the past few weeks: London, Glasgow, South Africa, Istanbul. They’re all places I’d really love to go and if the opportunity had arisen a year ago, I’d have been all over it.

It was hard to leave Francisco behind at home as I traveled to Chile and Brazil and St. Kitts last year, not because I’m some needy, co-dependent spouse (ok, well, kind of), but because we really spend all of our time together and all of our experiences and thoughts bounce back and forth as if we were one person instead of two. So when I’m out there alone in the world, I really do feel like my other half is missing. God bless Skype.

Anyhow… it was hard to leave him behind, but I could do it, the main reason being because he was so happy to see me out in the world. He embodies the peculiar Cuban trait of being genuinely happy for others without envy or anoranza.

This year, we’re in a different place.

It’s not just the fact that we have a daughter now, though that’s a definite factor; it’s also that Francisco’s immigration status problem (a drama I’ve written about or around here and here) remains unresolved and isn’t likely to change anytime soon. I could leave Mariel with him and travel, or I could find a way to bring her along and leave him at home, but neither feels like a true option.

A few weeks back, we talked about all this under a piercing blue sky while standing on the subway platform and made the decision easily: We won’t travel unless the three of us can travel together.* That decision leaves us with the United States and US territories as our potential stomping grounds. No offense to my home country, but that could make me feel really sad: There’s so much of the world to see and I’m really happiest in Latin America… Mexico, specifically.

But absolute happiness isn’t ultimately about where I am. It’s about who I’m with.

I could go to London, Glasgow, South Africa, or Istanbul, but I’d spend a good chunk of my time there wanting to be sharing the trip with them or wondering what new experience in Mariel’s development I was missing.

And so, for now, I can say no to South Africa and not feel all torn up about it.

I’m exactly where I want and need to be.

And when everything gets sorted out, Mariel’s ready:

*One potential exception being a trip to Cuba so I can take Mariel to see his family.

Another benefit to having a child


I’ve always thought there’s something terribly misguided about couples who have children in an effort to hold their relationship or family together. If you’re not relatively healthy as a couple, adding a third party to the mix isn’t likely to help.

That certainly wasn’t our motive for having Mariel. And our relationship has never been on the rocks.

But I have to say that, at least in our case, having a child is a major incentive for Francisco and myself to stay centered in our marriage. We’re far less prone to argue now than we were before. Though I’d classify both of us as conflict avoidant, we’re also both (as Francisco’s mom would say) “medio locos con cabezas duras” (“half crazy hard heads”) and strong opinions. Neither of us likes to argue, but with the kinds of personalities we have, it’s happened.

Now, though, I’ve noticed that we both go to exceptional lengths to address and resolve any differences without arguing, which makes a lot of sense because 100% of our disagreements are petty anyhow. Without going all New Age on you, we both believe that babies absorb the energy of their environments, and it’s really important to us that Mariel not be exposed unnecessarily to any negative energy. We’ve talked about our first memories and want her first memory to be pleasant and positive. God forbid her first memory be an argument.

We also believe that experiences get imprinted in our memories and have lasting impacts… that a single moment of your childhood–however inconsistent that moment may be with the whole spectrum of your childhood history–can endure. Who wants to remember the time their parents had a verbal duking out? Not pleasant.

So this is a fabulous added benefit of having a child. If I wonder why he used the crappy lens to shoot photos or he wonders why I made plans for us without asking him, we’re much more inclined to let our gripes go, to choose love and what our friend Nancy calls “pre-forgiveness” over a verbal duel.

And that feels good for everybody.