Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Post-procedure calm

I have successfully weathered my first (and hopefully only) angiogram and am back home to report about it. Nothing remarkable was found but I have been placed on an aspirin regimen and must watch my cholesterol. Short story...I'm okay.

As planned, I did not sleep through the night, preferring to sleep at the hospital during and after the procedure. Time seemed to speed up as it neared the hour of my departure from home for the trip to the hospital. As expected, the travel took forever in the early morning hours and there were more people in the trains than I would have expected. Everything went smoothly and without a hitch once I arrived at the hospital, and in short order I found myself in the recovery room calling my husband for a pickup. I was even given a delicious tuna sandwich and some ginger ale to eat. Once I returned home, I picked up where I left off at the hospital, that is, I promptly went back to sleep and didn't wake up until many hours later when my son called me to announce dinner was servd. (Yes, my son cooks. I made sure of it. I'm no fool.) Dinner was delicious and afterwards I watched television with my children. It's not often my children cater to me and if being a "patient" is what it takes, I'm going to milk it to the hilt.

I'm glad this issue is over for the present. Now it's back to holiday madness for me. After all, there are still gifts to buy, presents to wrap, decorations to put up, etc., etc., etc.

Boy, it feels good to be back.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pre-procedure Jitters

My father's father died of a stroke in his eighties. My father's brother died of a heart attack in his forties. My father, in his mid seventies, recently underwent an angiogram where a blockage was discovered, removed, and a stent implanted. He, thankfully, is doing well and is under medical care so he can stay that way.

Several months ago I underwent a routine stress test. Routine, that is, until abnormal readings showed up. My primary physician, who is also a cardiac specialist, recommended I undergo an angiogram to see if there was anything going on in my heart that may be cause for concern. Before agreeing to this procedure I sought the opinion of two other cardiac specialists. Both said the same thing my doctor said...my test results were not critical and may turn out to be nothing at all but they also recommended an angiogram. Given the cardiac history on my father's side, this sounds like good advice.

I am scheduled to undergo the procedure later this morning. It is a relatively simple procedure that should take less than half an hour to perform and will require me to lie perfectly still for several hours afterwards to prevent any bleeding at the entry site. I witnessed my father successfully undergo this procedure and emerge as good if not better than new. And my doctor performs angiograms on a routine basis so I'm in good hands. But I'm scared. Scared to death. Scared to take this test and even more scared not to. Moreover I haven't told anyone about my trepidations so I'm carrying this alone. I specifically didn't tell my parents about this. I didn't want to worry them. Worse than that, I didn't want to have my mother twittering about, calling me up constantly to see how I'm doing, giving me endless advice, trying to be very helpful but annoying me to no end in the process. That would have stressed me out even more. No, better to keep this to myself. Only my husband, children and sister know about the angiogram but even they don't know I'm scared. Better that way.

It is now 2 AM. I won't be going to sleep tonight, preferring to stay up until it's time for me to go. I will leave at 4:30 AM to travel to the hospital by mass transit. During normal business hours this trip might take an hour or an hour and a quarter at best. At this unholy hour, when even the birds are still asleep and the trains are running at a snail's pace, I expect a much longer travel time. My husband will come to pick me up after my recovery period and bring me home where I fully intend to lay in bed and do a whole lot of nothing. At least that's the plan. Let's see how this all plays out.

To be continued...

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Friday, November 27, 2009

Some Words of Inspiration

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. - Wayne Dyer

While perusing the myriad Black Friday ads that had been sent to my email box, I came across the above quote in an ad by a company that specializes in scrapbooking supplies. It had been placed in the Community section of the ad. It seemed rather odd to find this quote there since it apparently has no relevance to scrapbooking or sales in general so it grabbed my attention. I am familiar with Dr. Wayne Dyer as a motivational speaker and author of self-help books and am a fan of his philosophy. Seeing his quote on this ad gave me pause to give this vendor a second look. After all, if the vendor subscribes to the principles espoused by Wayne Dyer, maybe it's a good company to do business with.

Hmmm, maybe the quote does have some relevance to sales after all.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

A Great Thanksgiving

I sit here in a post-Thanksgiving food coma, my stomach bulging and my mind reliving the great day I had today with my family.

I woke up late in the morning because I had gone to bed early in the morning...6:15 AM to be precise. I was up late writing blog entries and creating a card for my daughter's 17th birthday. The day I gave birth to her happened to be Thanksgiving day and this was the first time her birthday and the holiday fell on the same day in a long time so this Thanksgiving was extra-special.

She had prepared a list of things she wanted for her birthday, most of which concerned food. She wanted a special meal, she wanted her favorite treats, some funky socks and the latest books in the series she is reading. Between my sister and I, we managed to give her everything that was on her list and then some. My son surprised her with a red velvet cake, my mom made her special Jello mold, a family favorite and I ordered the gourmet Italian cookies that she (and I) love. There were desserts galore. My daughter felt very special and said that this birthday ranked among her top birthdays of all time.

The day was special for me, too, in a variety of ways. For one thing, I didn't have to stress over making a tremendous meal for a large number of people. I cooked just for the four of us. Getting the house ready for guests was not a frenzy of cleaning and polishing. Because I had been cleaning a little here and there over a few weeks, it was a matter of a little light dusting, a quick sweeping, a fresh set of towels and temporarily hiding the clutter. The best thing of all was that my husband cooperated without my having to say a word and my son did what was asked of him the first time it was asked. Wow! That rarely happens. After dinner we immediately cleaned up and put the extra food away. By the time my parents and my sister's family arrived, my dishes were in the dishwasher, my kitchen was clean and everything was so neat you'd never know there had been a grand dinner there only half an hour before. And I managed to do this without breaking a sweat or rushing around like a madwoman. The dessert phase was more of the same. Everything ran like clockwork from set up to goodbyes and final cleanup. My kitchen was again spic and span in less than half an hour and all the goodies had been safely packed away.

I don't even know how I managed to do it. I just seemed to flow from one thing to the next without a worry. Wish I could figure out that magic formula and bottle it. I'm hoping for some more of that mojo to carry through the rest of this holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Physician, Heal Thyself

It is sometimes said that we teach that which we most need to learn. It would appear that I am a sterling example of that saying. I recently commented to a friend of mine that I was considering offering my services as a housekeeper in an effort to make a little money on the side while accommodating my freelance schedule. One would think that the housekeeper's home would be spic and span. Well, in this house that is not the case.

It's not that I'm a lousy housekeeper. Far from it, but let's face it... housework is drudge work, especially when there are four people living here and only one person doing the really dirty work. True, my children do have chores but they only accomplish the absolute bare minimum necessary to keep me from witholding privileges and generally making their lives miserable. As a result, the little things are left undone. Like the corners on the floors that hold on to all manner of dirt and debris. Like the laundry that gets folded but never distributed so it languishes in the laundry basket for days. Like the dishes that get washed but the dirty sink is never scoured. I could go on and on. Then there are those things that you look at everyday but don't see really see or perhaps you just look right through them as if they aren't there, like the dust that accumulates on the top edges of tall furniture, door frames and ceiling fan blades, yada yada yada. I won't even touch the issues of pet hair, oven cleaning and freezer defrosting. Those things are just downright depressing.

After a while those little things add up to one big load of dust and dirt. And as is the nature of housework, it doesn't stay done. As soon as you clean something it gets used or dirtied again and the cycle begins all over again. It's enough to make me insane so I take an approach that helps me retain some semblance of sanity...I ignore the mess. But that tactic only takes me but so far. The day always comes when, in a fit of misdirected energy, I'll begin to clean something and then something else until, before I realize it, I've opened up a housekeeping hornet's nest. It happened to me today. That's when I took stock and really looked at my house. I looked into the corners, on the ledges, at the windows and mirrors, into those little used areas that seem to welcome dust with open arms, and I'm disgusted. Disgusted and embarrassed at the sad state of my own home. How did I think I could clean someone else's home when my own is in such a shameful state?

Upon careful thought, I realized why cleaning someone else's house appeals to me more than my own. It's because after I have done the work, I can leave while it's still clean and I don't have to be around to see it get dirty again. I can enjoy the illusion that I have accomplished something worthwhile and not have to watch that oh-so-clean house of cards tumble down. Of course I know that the residents of the house are going to use and dirty whatever I have cleaned. I just don't have to watch it.

I've recently been doing quite a bit of cleaning around my home, specifically those things I tend to look through and not directly at. Who knew so much dust could collect on the top of a ceiling fan blade? You'd think the movement of the fan would be enough to keep the dust off but apparently not. My other recent cleaning attacks include the grout between the kitchen floor tiles, the mildew on the bathtub caulking, the dust in between the stair rails and the etageres that hold my plants. This is not even the tip of my housecleaning iceberg. This amounts to a mere snowflake.

I would still like to do some freelance housekeeping but first I've got to take stock of my own mess, at least a small part of it. While I'm doing so, I'm going to pay attention to what I'm doing, how I'm doing it and looking for ways to do it better and faster. That way when I do get that first housekeeping job, I'll come across as a professional instead of a harried housewife looking for some pocket change. If nothing else, my home should look great for the holidays.

Holidays? Oh no, that reminds me...I'm still finding bits of last New Year's Eve confetti. Here we go again.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Saturday, October 31, 2009

October 31, 2009

Here's the short story...I had a great day. If you're not interested in reading a long-ish blog post, stop here. Otherwise read on.

Today began pretty much like any other weekend day. My family and I slept in but no matter how late I sleep, I always wake up before anyone else. Today was a very late day for me. I didn't get out of bed until 12:30 PM and didn't leave my bedroom until well after 1:00 PM. As is my custom, I hit the ground running and immediately began working in the garden. The time has come to begin winterizing my garden and preparing for the oncoming cold weather. It really didn't matter to me what time it was or what needed doing, today I intended to do whatever I wanted, however I wanted. You see, today marked my 23rd wedding anniversary, an occasion which until quite recently I chose not to celebrate, preferring instead to focus on the traditions of Trick or Treat. This year, however, is a little different.

It seemed hypocritical to celebrate my wedding anniversary, an occasion that was a source of unhappiness, frustration and disappointment. As far as I was concerned I had nothing to celebrate. The details for this state of affairs are irrelevant now. All I will say is that I was living a miserable existence for a long time. It was the classic tale of "staying married for the sake of the children". Truth be told, I stayed married because I really didn't want to go through another bout of single motherhood as I had after my first marriage. It was stressful enough the first time around when I was a lot younger and stronger and only had one child to raise in those days. Staying with my husband was an exercise in sheer willpower and tolerance. Many of my friends don't know how I have been able to manage it and are surprised that I have been able to do so for this long. Even my children are surprised that we're still married. It is no secret that their father is demanding, unfair and exceedingly difficult to live with. They would have left themselves years ago if they had been able to.

So what has changed. In a word, me. I've changed. For some years now I have been on a journey of self-discovery, growth and development of my inner strengths and knowledge. I have become more attuned with the universal energies that influence everyday life and am learning how to move with the flow of that energy instead of against it. I'm not talking about religion; I don't do religion. I'm talking about wisdom and self-knowledge. Let me just say that knowing myself, my own power and my own potential have had a calming effect on me. This is not to say that I don't have my "screaming meanie" days. We all have those at some point. I'm saying that they are much fewer and far between. I'm now more likely to pass on an argument, choosing to be happy over being right. That alone is a major step for me. The payoff is that those around me seem less stressed and are less likely to fly off the handle. My family life will never be like "The Brady Bunch". It's more like "Roseanne" with a Latin twist. It's still a work in progress.

So what did I do on my anniversary? I raked the leaves in the backyard, cleaned the old kiddy wagon that I use as a makeshift wheelbarrow, polished it with ArmorAll and stored it in two heavy duty black plastic bags for the winter, then clipped some cut branches into smaller pieces for disposal. When my husband finally awoke and came downstairs, I wished him a happy anniversary, gave him a kiss and we had a little impromptu dance in the kitchen. I checked email, gave out Halloween candy to some cute trick-or-treaters and generally just did whatever I wanted, however I wanted, with no stress, no hurry, no expectations. Later in the evening, my husband took me to a fancy restaurant where we were treated like visiting royaly by a waitstaff that wished us a happy anniversary at every turn (even personalized our menus to read "Happy 23rd Anniversary" across the top!). We "danced" in our seats while we waited for our meal (which was delicious), smooched a little like a couple of school kids, and had some laughs. A complimentary anniversary photo was taken by one of the staff and we even got a free piece of key lime pie to take home as an anniversary gift. Not too shabby.

We got home in time for me to help my son with his Halloween make-up before he left for a party. My husband, having done his husbandly duty for our anniversary, promptly tended to his priority, to wit, sitting down to watch the World Series game. He had gone out in the afternoon and bought me a bottle of my favorite libation so I poured us a drink, we clinked to our health and had ourselves another little anniversary smooch while my daughter looked on.

Okay, so maybe my day wasn't all chocolate and roses, and maybe the earth didn't move the way it did 23 years ago. Just the fact that I'm sitting here at my keyboard telling you about it is a clear sign to me that it was a good day. Better than my husband and I have shared in a long, long time.

Yep, it was a very good day.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Things, they are a-changing

Around my home, things don't seem to happen in a calm, easy manner. They happen in frenzied clusters of activity, one behind the other, followed by relative inactivity for months at a time. In my last two posts I mentioned the stair renovations that took place inside and outside my home. Well, those weren't the only changes around here. Since October began:

1) My son earned his bartending certificate on the last of three tries. Perseverence wins out.

2) He also passed his road test and is our family's newest driver. He's already developed the habit of asking for the keys and registration to the car. Unfortunately for him he hasn't been very successful in getting it.

3) Triple header: My son celebrates his 20th birthday this month. He is officially no longer a teenager.

4) I finally ended my years of procrastination and purchased a new printer that can better serve my graphic printing needs. You can go here to read some more on this.

5) I successfully completed a large custom invitation order and received a check with lots of zeroes after the number. You can read about this in my artist blog here.

6) The pine tree that has graced the front of my home for years is being removed. Unfortunately the roots have infiltrated and are clogging the sewer line from my house. We've had to have it snaked out three times in less than a year but it was on this last visit that the serviceman was able to reach the (literal) root of the problem. The choices were scrap the tree or prepare to replace the sewer line when the roots eventually cracked it clean through. The tree lost that coin toss.

7) The apple tree in the back of the house is also coming down. After years of lackluster apple production (with the notable exception of the 2007 season - 137 pounds of apples -- whew!) I've decided to bring the tree down. It is so large that it literally sucks the light out of the backyard. I can't get a decent vegetable to grow because the tree takes up all the light, water and nutrients. It's time to bring more light and warmth into my yard and my life so the apple tree goes.

With these two large trees gone, my home and gardens will be filled with light. This is a good thing. My gardens should flourish and my clothes should dry very quickly when I put them out on the line next summer. This is something to look forward to. Next year should be very interesting around here.

There is still a week left to the month of October. With all that has occurred so far this month, I can't wait to see what this last week has in store for me.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Renovation Continues

Now that the exterior entry steps and foyer have been renovated, attention is focused on the interior stairs. The stairs leading to my basement workshoop and laundry room were squeaky and really ugly due to layers of paint and who-knows-what that had accumulated with previous owners. There were gaps between the treads and risers that allowed dirt to fall through into the room below. All these steps were removed and replaced. Unfortunately my camera was down in the basement and I was trapped on the upper floor unable to retrieve it during the construction process so the only photo I was able to take was after it was all done (aoove right). Next order of business...the main run of stairs leading to the upper bedrooms.

The main stairway was the focus of my attention last year when I set about to stripping them of no less than four layers of paint. My intention was to expose the original wood grain and varnish them. What I discovered was that those multiple layers of paint were not only hiding dangerous cracks but the house had settled so much that the treads no longer fit properly into the risers, allowing them to shift. Essentially all that old paint was holding the stairs together. When I stripped it off, the real deterioration began. One tread had actually cracked completely from end to end and was being held in place by a couple of mending strips and a few screws in an attempt to prevent someone falling right through the stairs. Most of the treads and risers in this run of steps had to be replaced. As with most renovation projects it was noisy and messy but it was finally completed.

It took four days to complete the entire series of stairs, interior and exterior, in my home. I wonder how long its going to take me to clean up and put everything back in place.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fixer Upper

Every year we try to renovate something in the house. It might be a large project like last year's new fence and new garden shed, or it could be something as simple as rescreening the windows. This year we're tackling a number of projects, all of which have to do with the major thoroughfares within our home: the stairways. The brick entry stairs that lead to my front door were old and showing their age. The many cracks and openings in the mortar had allowed ants and termites to enter our house over the years, not to mention it was a shabby entry to our home. Those steps were removed and replaced yesterday with new brick steps and limestone treads.

Today the tiny foyer between the front door and the living room was given a new floor. The floor that was there when we bought the house 19 years ago was old, dark and cracking around the edges. As long as the brickwork on the front steps was being done, we decided to have the foyer tiled at the same time. We already had the materials and only needed the labor. Having a mason already onsite greatly simplified that. When he removed the old top layer he found that the underneath layer was of ceramic tile. It had been given a coat of black tar-like adhesive and tiled over with regular floor tiles. Those floor tiles were removed and new marble tiles were placed right over the old ceramic ones. These tiles have the irregularities of the mother marble in them (in other words they are not polished), giving them a rustic, aged character.

The next order of business is the main stairway to the upper story of our home. These stairs have settled, cracked and have threatened to give way under our feet for far too long and repair is mandatory. The smaller stairway that leads to the basement has also seen better days and is scheduled for repair.

The original renovation contract stipulated that all the work (brickwork, tile work and carpentry) was to have been completed over two calendar days but the materials vendor for the wood to be used on the stairs was unable to deliver in time. Bottom line: my two day schedule is now a four day schedule that includes this Saturday and Sunday. This complicates matters somewhat because the entire family will be home all day as opposed to being out at school or work, so there will be a lot more in the way of inconvenience happening this weekend. No matter. In a few days it will be over and things will settle back to normal, whatever that is in this household.

Here are a few pictures of the work done on the front steps and the interior foyer. With the number of repairs needed in this old house I feel these repairs are like placing a bandage on a bullet wound but I'll take my blessings wherever and whenever they come.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Expect the Unexpected

I received two very interesting and unexpected telephone calls today. One of them came from a client of mine for whom I have designed invitations to her annual Client Appreciation Event. When she didn't contact me in early August as is her custom, I assumed that the economy had caught up to her and she would not be using my services. Fancy my surprise when her assistant called to ask what information I would need to begin designing the card and how quickly I can turn the job around. Aaah, the joys of doing what I love and getting paid for it.

The second call was even more unexpected. I was contacted by a recruiter for a benefits firms seeking managerial personnel to accommodate their company's expansion. Apparently the resume I had posted on Monster.com last week received a nibble. After some discussion I determined that the job and I were not a good match and declined to interview for the position. Nevertheless it was gratifying to know that my experience is still worth something in today's market.

Hmmm, maybe I should get my business suit drycleaned just in case.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Steely Resolve

Last year I had embarked on an elimination diet intended to free my body of toxins for the purpose of eliminating the various recurring infections I was suffering from. The diet worked very well. The recurring ear infections that were haunting me disappeared as did the maniacal vaginal itching that my gynecologist could not effectively treat for three years. It also took care of the peskiest and most embarrassing problem I suffered from...flatulence. I was as gassy as a blimp day and night. As long as I stayed on the diet none of these issues recurred. The ancillary benefit of this diet is I lost weight due to its strict nature. During the time I followed this regimen I lost 17 pounds and was able to wear clothes I hadn't worn in years.

In time I grew lazy and went off my diet. The pounds crept back and my flatulence and vaginal itching returned. I once again steeled my resolve and returned to a modified version of the diet. In the two weeks since I have been on the diet I am happy to report that I have lost five pounds and the bloating and itching are gone. I have passed a weight benchmark and am fixing my eyes on the next level down. Only 8 more pounds until I get there.

Years ago I had promised myself that when I reached 55 years of age I wanted to be remembered for the fabulous shape I was in. My mantra is "55 and fabulous". Well, my next birthday is number 55 and I'm on my way. Now if I could just eye that exercise machine with the same resolve.....

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Long Haul

It has been nearly three months since I've posted here. Believe me it wasn't for lack of things to write about. On the contrary, there was waaaay too much to write about. I have been kept so busy that I have to schedule time to breathe. My garden has been a big time and labor intensive venture. There has been so much rain this summer that the flowers AND the weeds are growing like wildfire. No sooner than I pull a weed that two grow in its place.

Then there's Marla, our adorable beagle. We have been acclimating to her presence as much as she had been acclimating to us. It hasn't always been an easy row to hoe. She demands lots of time and attention, something else that has to be wiggled into my schedule, like it or not.

Getting my younger daughter ready for her summer activities was another time eater. She spent two weeks in North Carolina with my older daughter, then returned to immediately take off for a month as a camp counselor. I met her in North Carolina during her second week and we both returned at the same time. Then my son went to NC upon our return. The travel arrangements alone for the three of us took up a big chunk of my time.

The clothes dryer motor burned out and needed replacing. The stair steps leading to the second floor are cracked and need replacing. Cooking, cleaning, washing, folding, shopping, gardening. Whew, it's been an exhausting few months. I guess that why it's called houseWORK. I can't imagine how anyone has the time to watch television. There's just too much to do.

Now if we stay-at-home moms who work like animals 24-7 could only get the respect we deserve (and the paycheck to match), we could truly rule the world.

I'll try to be more diligent about posting. Maybe I could find some time in the mornings...right after I pull those weeds.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Once an Artist, Always an Artist

In retrospect I realize that I have been an artist my entire life. You might even say it’s what I was born to be. Even as a child I loved all artistic pursuits and would spend many hours coloring, drawing, play acting, sewing and dancing. It was dancing that first ignited my passion and I trained for many years in different forms of dance, eventually becoming a professional belly dancer. Along the way I took traditional art classes and continued my crafting.

I began card making in earnest about three years ago when I was sidelined by single sided deafness (SSD) and no longer able to dance professionally. It became my therapy of sorts, allowing me to express myself on paper as I had once expressed myself on stage. As I become more involved in the various techniques, materials and applications of the craft, I find myself incorporating the more traditional art methods in which I had trained in my youth. Syncretism is a very organic process for me and is something I employed very successfully as a nightclub dancer, marrying my belly dancing moves with my strong jazz and salsa background. I feel grounded when I mix the “old” with the “new”. I feel renewed and more vital.

The newest iteration of my “old” artistic techniques is pictured above and can be seen in my artist blog, The Creative Diva, under the title “Full Circle”. I’d be pleased if you would take a look.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Make the Plan, Forget the Plan

Today was one of those days where I had a very specific outline for what I wanted to accomplish. I had to go grocery shopping, do some gardening, clear out old papers from my file cabinets, etc. The day began well enough as I ticked off at least one or two of the things I had on my plate. Then I opened my email to find a message from my son. He had forwarded to me a webpage featuring a beautiful beagle that he was interested in adopting. Upon seeing the dog I made the comment that I could look at that adorable face forever. This took place at sometime after two o'clock in the afternoon. By 3 PM, after having confirmed that that dog was still available, my son and I were on our way to the ASPCA adoption center, having decided to adopt immediately. Keep in mind I'm driving from Brooklyn, New York into the deep recesses of Manhattan on the Friday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend. Can you spell T-R-A-F-F-I-C?

Okay, let's cut to the chase. Her name is Marla. She is a year and three months old and by 8 PM she had already firmly installed herself as a member of the family, complete with collar, license and a favorite furry chew toy. Beagles are high energy dogs that like to sniff, lick, jump, play and, oh yes, bark. This particular one just recuperated from surgery for a fractured pelvis sustained in a car accident and suffers from separation anxiety so she howls if left alone for more than 10 seconds. She is a sweet dog and I have no doubt she will settle down into a routine in short order. My son, who will bear the major brunt of this dog's care and feeding, will no doubt have quite a bit of adjusting to do. He is used to sleeping in late and lazing around. That will all come to a screeching halt now that he's got a dog to feed and walk every day. Already he realizes that he has to pick up all the small toys, socks and other clothing he leaves strewn around his bedroom otherwise the dog will get into them. Just imagine, this dog may very well accomplish what I have failed to do...get my son to clean his room. Heck, I'll take my blessings wherever I can get them.

Today I also received another welcome surprise. After nine months of waiting I finally received my certificate of trademark for the logo I have used for all my work since approximately 1995. I can now officially add that tiny circled "R" after my logo on all the papercrafting work I do. Now I have to make the move to set up a website and put my work out there for sale.

No, today was not at all what I planned it to be.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Reaching Out

Any parent can tell you... you never stop being a parent. No matter how grown, how capable, how accomplished your children grow up to become, you always carry a kernel of concern inside. It's the part of parenthood that becomes embedded in your soul the moment that tiny hand clamps around your finger. And as any parent can also tell you, parenting isn't easy. All the technological advances of our time still have not discovered a way to adequately deal with a two-year-olds tantrums or their adamant pronouncements of "NO!". Kids don't come with an owner's manual. No matter how much advice we receive or how many books we read, when it comes to raising our kids we're pretty much on our own.

My first born daughter is the mother of my soon-to-be 11 year old grandson. Scott is an inquisitive and incredibly intelligent boy with an angelic smile and a devilish twinkle in his eyes. Like most children (boys in particular), he can be headstrong and quite a handful for my daughter and her husband to handle. Unlike most children, Scott has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism. The behavioral issues inherent in autistic individuals, even high functioning ones like Scott, present daily challenges that can be extremely trying. Recently my daughter, who lives many miles away from me in North Carolina, called me for advice on how to handle some of Scott's extreme outbursts, noticing that some of his behavior reminded her of her own behavior as a child. What I heard in her voice was not just a request for advice but a plea for help of the sort that she was unable to get from the myriad of professionals who have evaluated her son over the years.

My daughter is an extremely resourceful, intelligent person and a devoted mother. She is also an army veteran so she has received rigorous training in how to handle difficult situations. She has proven herself to be a survivor over and over again. She can deal with just about anything. This wonderfully capable person was calling me for help and I was totally useless, or so I felt. I told her many things about her behavior as a child that were similar to that of her son but the context was totally different. She is developmentally normal, Scott is not. Any perceived similarities are only superficial. I wasn't able to offer any sort of comfort, any sort of concrete answer to her request.

Here is where it becomes very difficult for me as a parent. My child asked me for comfort and assurance and I was unable to provide it. Because of the distance, I couldn't even reach out and hold her like I used to when she was little. As I hung up the phone on our conversation, I felt bereft and empty. I had flunked Parenting 101.

So what to do? All I could do was find a way to let her know that she was not alone and that she was still loved, even if I wasn't able to help her in that moment. As is my custom, when I want to connect with someone, I give them something of myself. In the case of my daughter, I created a card for her in which I wrote a personalized note and sent it to her with my love. You can see a small image of it above. It may be a small comfort but I hope it is some comfort nonetheless.

(For a tutorial on how the card was created, as well as the symbolic meaning of the dragonflies, click here to go to my artist blog.)

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Sights and Sounds of Mexico

As mentioned in an earlier post, my family and I spent a week in Ixtapa, Mexico where the weather was wonderful, the people were friendly and the exchange rate was favorable. My husband and I prefer to mix the typical "tourist-y" activities with striking out on our own and mixing with the locals. After all, who knows the area better than the people who live there. (Of course, knowing the local language helps immensely.) We were introduced to great restaurants, attractions and out of the way places that we might otherwise have missed had we limited ourselves to what the hotels had to offer.

There are far too many photos to post here and way too much to say. Instead, I'll let you peruse the photo gallery where I've loaded the best of our excursion. You'll find them here. Enjoy the view south of the border.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Swine Flu Hits Home (Humor)

The Swine Flu is all over the news. Having just recently returned from Mexico, my family and I have been bombarded with calls from concerned friends and family inquiring as to our health. I even received a call from my daughter's school principal when she was absent one day. Apparently her classmates began the rumor that she was not only had contracted swine flu but had infected several other students.

Fortunately enough we are all healthy and whole with nothing more debilitating than seasonal allergies. But just for those of you who may be curious, here's what a case of swine flu looks like, along with a suggestion for some stylish protection. Have a laugh.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Back from Mexico

My family and I returned from Ixtapa, Mexico this past weekend none the worse for wear in spite of thunderstorms in Houston that delayed our return flights for about three hours. Thankfully we all returned whole and healthy. I wish I could say the same for my luggage. Our bags were so beaten up, I swear those baggage handlers were tossing them out onto the tarmac before the landing wheels hit the ground. Fortunately none of our treasured souvenirs were damaged in the process. I'll be posting some of the vacation photos in future posts. Stay tuned.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My Three Kids

My oldest daughter lives in North Carolina. She can't come to New York very frequently so it's a rare occasion when the three of my children are all together in the same place. It is rarer still to get them to pose all dressed up. A recent family event featured a photographer taking free posed photos of any guest who wanted one so my children all posed for a group shot. Here they are. I'm just a proud mother hen showing off my three chicks.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Boyz In Da Kitchen

Yesterday was one of those days that came together in a random sort of way and just flowed. It started with a request from my son's friend for some driving practice. Knowing that I was giving my son driving lessons, he asked to join in. After a couple of hours of biting my nails and praying to multiple deities as these two young men practiced three-point U turns, parallel parking and negotiating left turns, we returned home. The day before, I had asked my son to bake me a cake, something that he had put off after he had taken all the ingredients out. When his friend mentioned that he had never baked a cake before, I seized the moment and commanded them both to commence baking. Oh my. What did I do?

These guys became very creative with chocolate cake. They began by tossing jelly beans and M&M’s into the cake batter. They frosted the lopsided layers that emerged from the oven and embellished them with more M&M’s, multi-colored sprinkles, Dunkaroos and anything else they could find. They even placed some birthday candles on the cake and blew them out, just because. It was the ugliest cake they had ever seen and were sure that it would taste just as bad as it looked. I decided to cook a big Puerto Rican soul food meal of arroz con pollo (chicken and rice), stewed beans and tostones (fried green plantains) and invited my children’s friends to stay and eat. When my husband came home, instead of finding our kids in front of their respective computers, he found a house full of lively teenagers and a huge pot of food on the stove. After dinner, I sliced into the cake and served it for dessert. To everyone's surprise and delight the cake was as moist and delicious as it was ugly. The abundance of candy-coated garnish these guys put in and on the cake did nothing to diminish the flavor, in fact I think it was enhanced. My husband raved about how moist the cake was.

After dinner I played chauffeur, driving people to their respective homes, picking up a nephew along the way and dropping him and my son off at the bowling alley. I got home after 10 PM. When I took stock of my day, I realized my time had been completely consumed by the needs and/or desires of others from about 1 o'clock in the afternoon. I spent the whole day driving, cooking and taking pictures of the goings-on. It wasn't at all what I had planned but it probably turned out a whole lot better. I know this is going to be one of those days that will come up in the future when my kids start reminiscing about their youth and it will be accompanied by smiles and laughter. How fortunate that I chose to photograph it. How blessed I am to have been a part of it.

Carpe diem. Treasure the golden moments.

Ballo ergo sum, - Gitana, the Creative Diva

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Technology - Love it or Leave it

Ok, this posting is nothing more than frustrated venting. You have been duly warned.

We've all had technology-related sob stories about computer's gone wild and the like. As of this writing, I am wrestling with two email programs, one I want and one I don't. It seems Microsoft Outlook has hijacked the messages from my main email account and now all my mail is being automatically forwarded to Outlook. I was in the middle of a live chat with technical support, receiving instructions on the simple change of settings needed to remedy the situation when the connection failed and finally timed out. I can not reach live chat again until tomorrow and in the meantime my emails are residing in a strange mailbox. I am not happy.

There was a time when all this computer stuff was so simple for me to understand. Now it seems everything has become so complicated and convoluted. I want things simple. After all, I'm not creating the next feature length animated film or calculating the number of times quantum particles can split. I just want to check email and do some web-surfing. These days I have to ask my son to help me out with computer related issues. Seems like only yesterday I was teaching him how to navigate around a monitor with a mouse so he could play learning games. This role reversal is uncomfortable...not the part about him helping me but of me being unable to help myself. I feel totally out of the loop.

That's it. Nothing else. Like I said before, just venting.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Reaching Back

My parents, and their parents and grandparents before them, were born and raised in Puerto Rico. They, like thousands of others from the island, came to New York during the Great Migration of the 1950's. I and nearly all my generation were born and raised in New York, either in Brooklyn or the Bronx. Being raised in a country other than that of your cultural heritage has one great disadvantage...you are physically disconnected from your cultural roots. All the daily routines, rituals and activities that are integrally tied to your culture are taken out of their natural context and must be adapted to your new surroundings. If you don't make an effort to maintain your culture, you can easily lose yourself in a new set of customs, losing your cultural identity in the process.

As an adult, I have made it a priority to learn as much as I can from my elders so I can pass that information on to my children who, as second generation Latinos born in the US, are even further distanced from their cultural roots. So it was a rare treat when my father recently brought me a coconut. Not only had I not eaten fresh coconut in many years, I had never seen one opened before. For me, a coconut is not just a tropical delight...it is something that I associate with the Caribbean, in particular Puerto Rico. I took the opportunity to photograph this cultural lesson for future preservation. My father bored holes into the soft "eyes" on the top of the coconut, afterwards handing it to me with instructions to insert a straw and drink the coconut milk. Mmmmm. Delicious. He took pains to show me the proper way to crack the coco without shattering it. With measured and deliberate strokes, he rapped around the coconut with a hammer until it cracked into two halves, exposing the creamy white flesh inside. I never knew that fresh coconut was so soft and tender. My father told me that the flesh hardens slowly after it has been exposed. My parents and I ate fresh coconut together, as they had done with their parents back in their native country.

Cracking a coconut is not a big deal but it was for me. I was reaching back for a piece of a past life that I did not participate in. I was looking at a page of my unknown history. The experience was priceless.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Saturday, February 28, 2009

"Tis a Puzzlement

For my recent birthday, my daughter gave me a 1,000 piece puzzle featuring a photo of thousands of colorful jelly beans. She knows I love puzzles and I love jelly beans and she managed to combine them both in one brilliant stroke, so I spent most of this past week engaging in an activity that I love but haven't done in many, many years. If you have ever done a jigsaw puzzle, you know how challenging they can be. Imagine trying to sort out one thousand multi-colored jelly beans pieces. This was a daunting task, one that required lots of patience, observation and concentration to complete.

Funny thing about puzzles. If you are really determined to assemble one, you have to give yourself over to it, stay focused, and follow a deliberate series of steps in order to make sense of the jumble of pieces. First you turn all the pieces face up so you can see them all, then you separate the edge pieces because they are (usually) the most recognizable and you assemble the outside border. Then the work really begins. If you're smart, you start categorizing the pieces by color and slowly begin piecing the puzzle together, all the while referring to the picture on the box, until eventually your puzzle is complete.

If you're like most people, you admire your puzzle for a while then disassemble it and put it back in the box until the next time you want to challenge yourself. At least that's what I used to do. But this time my process was a little different. For starters, I did most of my puzzling at night, after the family was asleep, and would work well into the wee hours in near total silence. I find that when I work quietly in a very focused manner, my mind opens up to remarkable insights. As I assembled the puzzle, it suddenly dawned on me that puzzles are a very accurate metaphor for life. Life, like a jigsaw puzzle, can sometimes seem like a disjointed jumble of events that seem to make no sense. If you try to sort it out without a plan, you'll get nowhere fast. Sometimes all it takes is stepping back, looking at all the pieces laid before you and slowly putting it all together.

As I neared completion of the puzzle, I noticed that the pieces began to fall into place faster and faster. At times, as if by magic, I would look at an empty place in the puzzle, then look at the loose pieces and my hand would immediately fall on the piece needed to fill the space. I also noticed that sometimes the piece that fit into a particular place was not at all the one I expected it to be. Life is like that, too. When things start falling into place, everything starts coming together faster and faster, and sometimes the thing you need to accomplish your goal comes from the unlikeliest of places.

There's one more thing I learned...that when you look at something from a distance you can't appreciate the beauty of the details but if you focus only on the details, you lose the the beauty of the whole. Focusing in on the details of those little beans...the colors, the speckles, the highlights...were critical in my being able to complete the puzzle. Without those details, the grand picture would not have been nearly as rich and beautiful. They go hand in hand, the grand and the minute, and create balance.

The more energy you put into accomplishing your goal, the more energy you draw to yourself and things will almost magically present themselves before you. All you have to do is stay focused on the image you are trying to complete and work towards it one little piece at a time. Life, unlike a jigsaw puzzle, doesn't come in a box with a picture on it. You have to create that picture yourself and keep your eyes on the prize.

I'm not going to disassemble this puzzle. I'm going to glue it down and place it where I can see it often. I want to remember the lessons I learned assembling it. And I'll be eating jelly beans when I do.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and All Ways,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A New Blog

As if I haven't got enough things to do, I've created a new blog. This one is dedicated to the pleasure and inspiration I get from my gardening. When my flowers start blooming and I'm eyebrow deep in loam and earthworms, that is where I'll be posting my pictures and my musings. I hope you will join me there. It is called Nature's Conversations and you can access it by using the link in the right column under More About Me. Thanks for your support.

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Friday, January 30, 2009

25 Random Things About Me

I was recently tagged by another Facebook user in a round-robin type of activity. Each person had to write a list of 25 random things about themselves and send it on to (tagging) 25 of their Facebook friends. Reading other's lists and writing one of my own was an interesting exercise so I decided to post my list here.

1. In the Western zodiac I am a water sign, but in the Eastern zodiac I am a wood sign.
2. I love to sing show tunes and patriotic songs in the shower (anyone for a round of "America the Beautiful?)
3. I wrote, casted, directed, choreographed, and played a leading role in a children's play at the age of 21.

Me as Jack-in-the-Box in the original children's play I wrote called The Magic Toyshop.

4. I appeared in two amateur films, one of which used my children's play as an element of the storyline.
5. By the age of 16, I had won several first and second place trophies in city-wide sewing contests sponsored by the Police Athletic League.
6. I never have to look up at the night sky to know if the moon is full. I can feel it in my body.
7. Thunderstorms are the sexiest things ever...the more thunder, lightning and rain, the better.
8. I meditate when performing repetitive tasks such as housework, gardening, sewing, crocheting, etc.
9. In the mid to late 1970's, my dance teacher arranged for me to have a private audition with the director of a dance company that was about to go on a US tour. I passed the audition, was offered a spot and turned it down
10. In the mid 1980's, I was offered the opportunity to dance in the nightclubs of Tokyo, all expenses paid for six months. Turned that one down too.

A picture from my professional bellydancing debut in 1984.

11. I used to be very shy in front of people other than my family.
12. I like liver.
13. If I had my druthers, I'd druther live alone.
14. My mother once told me I had magic hands (because of my artistic ability). It was one of the nicest things she ever said to me and I'll always remember it.
15. The names of all my children begin with the letter "A".
16. My siblings and I were named for prominent individuals. I continued this tradition with my children.
17. I twice auditioned to be a Playboy bunny. I was turned down both times. :(
18. I am one of those maladjusted individuals who really gets into housework. I love a clean house.
19. I was once a contestant on the $25,000 Pyramid and met Dick Clark in person.
20. I used to be the kid that always got picked last to play games.
21. I used to be the girl that none of the boys would date. (That was before my Latina curves kicked in.)
22. I have more sexy lingerie than Victoria's Secret and Fredericks of Hollywood combined...but my husband doesn't like lingerie so it's wasting away in my drawer and now I'm too fat to wear it.
23. High heels and mini skirts were my uniform from the ages of sixteen to thirty-something (I'm so old now I forget).
24. Red and black are my trademark colors, with white for occasional contrast.
25. My favorite childhood singing group was the Four Seasons.

TAG...your turn!

Ballo ergo sum
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sifting Through the Rubble

I have once again embarked upon a mission to rid myself and my home of unneeded, unwanted 'things'. I'd like to say junk but much of it isn't junk...it's useful stuff that I have no use for. I have concentrated my first wave of attack on the laundry room, having been named so because that's where the laundry gets done. It is so much easier than calling it the "I-have-no-idea-where-to-put-this-so-let's-stick-it-in-the-basement" room. It's a bit on the small side but it has lots of nooks and crannies, one of the reasons so much stuff has accumulated there over the years.

Over the past couple of days I have moved boxes and installed a steel shelving unit. I have unearthed things that have literally not seen the light of day since I moved in over 18 years ago and that I had forgotten completed about. It is embarrassing to see how much dust had accumulated in those forgotten corners. I have only tackled about half the room but already there is a noticeable difference. For one thing I can actually see the floor. It was there all the time, I just couldn't see it past all the schmutz. (For those of you who are Yiddish-challenged, it's a technical term that means junk, trash, garbage, etc.) Just clearing off the floor, taking out the trash and putting the rest of the stuff up on shelves lightened the atmosphere in the room. I feel as if I can breathe easier in there. In a few more days I will have cleaned it all out. Then it's on to the opposite end of the basement where I have metal file cabinets harboring obsolete information, tons of now-useless papers and who knows what else. My goal is to have the basement reasonably cleared of detritus by spring. Once the warm weather rolls in, I'm outside in my garden where a different sort of unearthing takes place.

Yes, it's hard, heavy and dirty work. Yes, I'm dog tired and achy when I'm done. Yes, I'm doing it alone. Yes, I'm enjoying it and am finding it immensely satisfying.

Now I ask you...is this a sign of a totally maladjusted woman or what?

Any comments?

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creaive Diva

Friday, January 9, 2009

A very short note about spring...

The growing season has already begun.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and all ways,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A New Year begins

On January 1st I hosted a New Year's Day gathering of the East Coast division of my family. To my surprise and delight, everyone showed up with one exception. As I had predicted, the gathering was crowded, noisy and boisterous but no one seemed to mind at all. It had been such a long time since we had all gathered together that just being together was enough to create a jovial atmosphere. We were 36 people strong crammed into the first floor of my home. It was a festive, happy, energizing gathering.

It was a potluck affair with everyone contributing a dish. I spent over an hour in the kitchen frying tostones, the traditional fried green plantains that are so common in the spanish-speaking Caribbean. I couldn't cook them fast enough and people were snapping them up as fast as they could hit the platter. I actually had my young cousins waiting over my shoulder, like pups hoping for something to fall on the floor so they could pounce on it. My uncles all made out like bandits, grabbing the biggest and crunchiest ones for themselves.

At one point I called everyone to attention to thank them for being a part of this family gathering, to wish my cousin Frankie a happy birthday and to raise a toast to his parents, my dear aunt and uncle, who would be making the trip back to Florida with him to relocate. I choked up at the thought of them leaving and it was all I could do to hold back the tears. One of my cousins from Arizona had sent me an email that she wanted me to read to the assembly, which I did. It was great to have a "virtual" representative from our West coast division present in the room with us.

Then my cousin David, my aunt and uncle's youngest son, took the floor. David was known to be more than a handful as a child and was a source of concern as a young man, causing more than a few gray hairs for his parents in his day. With all of us bearing witness, he spoke to his parents, acknowledging the headaches and heartaches he had caused them, thanking them for the wonderful job they did in raising him and expressing his love and affection for them. It was a totally unexpected, heartfelt and emotional outpouring that was captivating, endearing and left more than a few onlookers teary-eyed.

My uncle Paco, as I said in my last post, has been suffering from and is being treated for depression. On that day he ate, he drank, he danced, laughed and smiled in the way we all remembered him to be. This was no small feat considering he did little more than lay in bed for the last several months. It was a welcome sight for all, especially his wife Norma and their children for whom his condition is most distressing. This fact alone made the day a huge success. It was a day of love, laughter, food, family and fun. It was the meeting of past, present and future. It was a healing of great magnitude.

The pictures taken that day have been uploaded to my Photobucket account and I’ll be sending notification out to the family to check them out, particularly those who couldn’t be there. These images are more than just a chronicle of the day; they are a part of our history.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and all ways,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva