Monday, November 30, 2015

"... in the grace of the world..." (and the close of the #MiracleTour)

Of course Wendell had to be a dog lover. Of course.

In the spirit of this month's gratitude zeitgeist, here is a tiny beauty from poet Wendell Berry:

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

"... in the grace of the world..." That line gives me goosebumps. There is so much gorgeousness around us, so much to be grateful for, and so much of it we miss because we're too busy with larger concerns, with the big picture, worried about things that will never happen, things we can't control—and, yet, things that would never be a concern if we all devoted our time to "the peace of wild things".

This year has taught me a lot, far beyond what I expected, what I even imagined. Today is the close of the MIRACLE tour, and awesome friend and blogger Damyanti Biswas is hosting me on her blog to talk about these unexpected lessons—of which perhaps the greatest is precisely this: Gratitude. To you.

Thank you. You've made an enormous difference in my life. From now on, every day, no matter where I am or what I'm doing, you'll be in my thoughts. Because you cared, because you had a kind word for me, because you went above and beyond (even though you may not realize you did... even though you didn't really know me).

I will never forget that.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Weekend #MiracleTour Stop: That Annoying Animal Advocate

I'm over at Michele Truhlik's awesome blog this weekend, on the next-to-last post for the MIRACLE tour, talking about the pitfalls of animal advocacy in fiction... And the work-around I found — at least I think I found. Readers will tell :) I'd love it if you came by to say hi, and to help me shower Michele with love and gratitude for being such a wonderful hostess.

Happy Saturday!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Gratitude is my religion

Join the Gratitude Circle!

I don't believe in much of anything, having grown up an atheist. Religion — of any kind — doesn't make sense to me. Neither does life after death, or the promise of rewards (or punishment) in some place beyond this world. I don't believe in a higher power, a mover and shaker that makes things happen or not happen. I don't believe in prophets or prophecies, or in angels, or in absolute good or absolute evil.

But I do believe in gratitude. I believe it's the single most powerful force we can harness to change the world. It's more powerful than hate, or fear, or even love. Gratitude is what makes a life worth living.

Which is why I love Thanksgiving.

No, we don't celebrate it in Mexico, or here in Curaçao, or pretty much anywhere else in the world other than the U.S. (and Canada, on a different date)—but we should. Actually, we should celebrate it much more often than once a year. Like every day.

We have so much to be grateful. All of us. There is beauty and wisdom and goodness and brilliance in every moment we're alive. Pain and helplessness and disappointment and fear and loss are also blessings; there can be no positive without a negative.

It's so easy to let the big stuff get in the way... It absorbs so much space, so much energy. But the choice is yours. I believe looking at the "big picture" may be a mistake. It's in the small things, the little pleasures and tiny details that surround me, that I've found the greatest joy.

Happy Thanksgiving. Today, and every day.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Mexico Trip (Part 2)

(Continued from Part 1)

The Plan was as follows:

- Fly out of Mexico City at 8 am, get into Miami at 11 am.
- Seven-hour layover in Miami. (I had a really great book to look forward to.)
- Leave Miami at 6:30 pm, get into Curaçao at 10 pm.

Inconvenient, with that incredibly long layover, but no more so than I'm used to.

And it all went according to plan. Until the last part. And it ended with me not sleeping (or changing clothes, eww) for over 48 hours.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

#BoTB Results: The Battle of the Genres (Ranchera vs Norteño)

It really did look like a slam-dunk there for a bit... Pepe Aguilar was keeping the Norteño guys down and wouldn't let them up for even a wild swing. And then there was hope... The band got in a couple of good punches, Pepe faltered—but, in the end, it just wasn't enough.

The winner: Pepe Aguilar

Pepe Aguilar (9)

Poder del Norte (6)

My vote? Dang... I forgot about that. Not that it would make a shred of difference either way... This is a hard one. The Aguilar version is charged with emotional context for me. Norteño music, in general, is not (again, for me). But if I stick to this which cantina would you rule I seem to have imposed on this battle, then the answer is the Poder del Norte dudes. So. Final tally is Aguilar with 9 votes, and the band guys with 7.

Not bad for what looked like a shut-out, eh?

They say it's impossible to please everyone all of the time, but—being the contrary soul I am—I'm still going to try. Here's Pepe Aguilar, plus daughter and son, singing a Norteño potpourri. On MTV Unplugged, no less.

Happy weekend, y'all!

(I'll be back tomorrow with Part II of the Mexico trip... Just haven't had time to finish that one. And on Monday, if you're in the neighborhood, I'll be up at Yolanda Renee's blog talking about indie presses, and I'd love it if you came by to say hi. No, seriously, I would.)

Monday, November 16, 2015

#BooktagsBlogHop: The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel

About the Author
About the Book

I just finished reading this one yesterday. At 4:00 am. Yes, it was that good. I've been hooked onto short stories since I happened, completely by accident, upon a collection of Roald Dahl's adult (and oh-so-twisted) short stories. I was thirteen. And I'd never be the same again.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

#BoTB: Por Mujeres Como Tú (aka The Mexican Chauvinist Anthem)

Welcome to another Battle of The Bands! Get your sombreros and your bottle of tequila, because it doesn't get any more Mexican than this.

Us Mexicans, we take the sombrero very seriously.

When I say serenade, what's the image that comes first into your head?

a) Moonlit night, starry-eyed Juliet on her balcony, starry-eyed Romeo below singing sweet songs of everlasting love with a soulful guitar?

b) A broken-hearted drunk with his staggering-drunk buddies shouting up abuse at an empty balcony?

A, right? Of course. That's the image perpetuated by Tom & Jerry and black & white movies of the 1940's. And, in truth, it can be like that.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Amid the chaos, let *your* voice be one of reason.

"Who would you be, if the world never gave you a label? Never gave you a box to check? Would you be white, black, Mexican, Asian, Native American, Middle Eastern, Indian? No. We would be one. We would be together."

Labels are at the root of the world's worst evils today. And they need to stop.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Mexico Trip (The Gory Details)

Divi-Divi airlines. (No, these don't fly to Miami.)

I've mentioned before that traveling from Curaçao is never a simple matter... It can be, if you're going to Caracas or Bogotá. Or Miami. Or Amsterdam. Or Dominican Republic. Or Bonaire. Or St. Maarten. Or Aruba. Or, nowadays—thank you, JetBlue!—New York City.

But not Mexico.

To the point that once I received an itinerary from a travel agent helping me with my trip (this was years ago, before online booking caught on) suggesting that I travel from Curaçao—in the Caribbean—to Mexico—North America—via Charles de Gaulle. Yeah. The Paris airport. You know. Paris, Europe.

(That's a good story. Remind me to tell it to you some day.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Driving Licenses: Mexico vs. Curaçao (+ The Metaphor of Prison, c/o @ArleeBird )

So. The Mexico trip. Man, that was a fiasco. I mean, it's not easy to travel anywhere from Curaçao. Even direct flights come with delays and cancellations and whatnot. But I've never had as much trouble going to and from Mexico as this time. I'm even down with a weird cold/flu virus since Sunday—and I blame the night I spent on the carpet at the Miami airport.

12:30 am Saturday morning, relaxing with a guilty-pleasure novel on the comfy carpet at MIA International.

Before I go into the gory details, let me tell you I'm over at Tossing It Out today, care of blogosphere's marvelous Arlee Bird, talking about prisons: of the mind, the soul, and the flesh. It's the latest stop for the MIRACLE tour in blogs, after a celebration of the book's quirkiness over at Corinne Rodrigues's place last week, and then the crazy author vs character interview argument that ended with me apologizing and Luis Villalobos in maudlin tears over at The Doglady's Den this past Monday.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Author vs Character @DebbieDoglady: Bring it on, Luis Villalobos!

This stop in the MIRACLE Tour in Blogs turned out a tad, uhm... emotional. It had to do with MacArthur Park, the song Debbie chose for her last Battle of The Bands—and one which has special meaning for Luis Villalobos, protagonist of THE MIRACLE OF SMALL THINGS. Emotional, teary meaning. And we'd love to see you over there, if you have a minute.

So. Inquiring minds want to know? A guy that cries with a Disco song. Is he a wuss, or a darling?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

#BoTB Results: La Llorona (Chabela Vargas vs. Lila Downs)

When I thought up this battle, back at the beginning of October when everyone was talking about Halloween, I made what turned out to be some pretty inexact predictions:

Prediction No. 1 (and I almost didn't do this Battle because of it):
Everyone—okay, at least the great majority of BoTB-ers—is going to hate this Battle.

Reality: not only didn't you guys hate it, but even loved it (with a few exceptions, which make the "Love It" ones all the more believable).

Prediction No. 2 
Sure, I'll be in Mexico Nov. 1, but my mom's place has internet... Nothing to worry about.

Reality: Internet sucks in Mexico. Not only is public wi-fi a rarity, but even in places where you get a password (usually one of those interminable 0ES45J2100KM5R443BE codes, impossible not to mess up), some devices just won't connect. Either the signal is not strong enough, or the router is set up with some sort of firewall that keeps out certain devices (my MacBook always has problems), or, when I did connect, YouTube videos took forever to load, and then refused to play.

Prediction No. 3
Lila's going to leave Chabela in the dirt.

Friday, November 6, 2015

On Quirks & Books, & Books With Quirks... #MIRACLEtour

The MIRACLE tour continues! I'm over at Corinne Rodrigues's blog talking about the quirks in THE MIRACLE OF SMALL THINGS. Take a hop over, if you get the chance... I'd love to know what you think.

Thank you so much for hosting me, Corinne!

P.S. — I'm flying back home today, so I'll be back online by Saturday morning. I'm so, so sorry for the BoTB posts I missed... I'll find a way to make it up to you guys.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

#BoTB — Día de Muertos special: Llorona

The Mexican fascination — some would say 'obsession' — with death dates back to before the European encounter. Most pre-Columbine civilizations had beliefs based on the concept of duality (twins, for instance, were considered sacred, as were homosexuals and hermaphrodites in many of these cultures)... And nothing embodies the essence of duality like life and death.

Mictlantecuhtli, god of the underworld (or Mictlan). Sculpted in raw clay in life size. Found in a building dedicated to the cult of death at El Zapotal, La Mixtequilla, in the Mexican state of Veracruz.
Photo: Carlos Blanco / Raíces / Arqueología Mexicana

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