Monthly Archives: January 2011

Money, money, money, money, and money again…

Dinero, monnaie, mulah, all of these boil down to…show me the money.

This morning (Sunday) while reading the newspaper, there was an article of this woman, her husband and one daughter that were going to go without shopping for food, gifts or other stuff, that we just buy on a whim, for the whole month of February.  She chose February because it has only 28 days.  ????    They are doing this to cut on their spending habits and save some dinero.  They do have a well stocked pantry.  Usually, when we go to the store, (even the Dollar store) because something is on sale, or it is only a dollar, we justify the purchase.  Well, let’s go back to that heroic family.  They are only going to pay the necessary bills, mortgage, utilities, etc., and  will try to go without buying gasoline (guess they make sure they have a full tank).  You get the point. 

I pondered on that one…you know, most of the time I am pondering.  Don’t have another immediate body to talk to, so I talk to myself in my mind.  Not crazy…yet.  Went to the pantry and my fridge, and this is what I found.

As you can tell, I am not a hoarder.  I have a simplistic approach to shopping, and to living.  The less, the better.  Really, I don’t buy in large amounts, because I like going out every other day to the grocery store.  When I was growing up, the lady with the basket of eggs on her head used to come to see us every day.  Also, the vegetables, meat, milk, bread were all bought for same day consumption.  I know the dynamics of society have changed, but some things I have control over, and after all, I am my own boss.  If I want to go twice a day or three times (it has happened) to the grocery store, I can do it.  Well, let me not get distracted here.  Stick to the point of the dinero issue.  When I looked at my very selectively stocked pantry, and fridge, I thought, that won’t fly in this house.  Too much discipline and I am somewhat of a rebellious individual.  Too much control and order and I start feeling oppressed.  So I decided right there and then, no way, I couldn’t do that project.  I could brain wash myself not to buy stuff I don’t need, just because it is on sale, or say to self the very popular phrase, “do I want it or do I need it.”  That won’t fly either.  Life’s too short for being so disciplined.  What happens if some idiot just decides on the road that it is my time to disappear and become just energy.  There goes all the rationalizing.  Too many idiots on the road to take me away just before my exact time is due.  Where was I?

Oh, yes, the saving dinero project.  I wish this family all the best in their endeavor, and anyone of you that might want to try it.  As to my life, I am a very thrifty individual and somewhat disciplined.  I was thinking about going to the Goodwill to buy a pair of jeans for $3.39 in light blue.  The one I have is too loose.  But, I am going to walk around like a woman clown for a little bit longer, so I can save the gasoline it takes me to go there and the $3.39 + tax.  I feel better already.

To all of us savings some money and having a fun and better life. 

Your Happy Contessa

P.S.  Even though my 72% cocoa candy bar is not showing in my pantry, it is there alright.  That’s one thing I must have.

The new and improved, for now, breakfast…

When I open my eyes first thing in the morning, first thought is “thank you Lord that I am still around, please give me the energy and enthusiasm I need today to make it a good one.  I cannot afford to be depressed.  Please protect and bless my family and my friends.  Thank you Lord, amen.”  Then I grudgingly pull the four layers of covers I have on top of me (sometimes it is a challenge to move underneath so much weight) and I deep breathe telling myself that it is not that cold.  Then,  I drag my heavy feeling body to the laundry room to weigh my slow motioned body.  Right there and then I decide that I need to get back to walking.  Maybe manana.  Then I go into the kitchen, warm a glass of water in the micro, start my coffee, (only can take 1/2 cup, otherwise I’d be bouncing out through the cardboard walls and my heart would be skipping beats) then I bundle up more yet and go out and get the newspaper.  I wear my sunglasses so no one can see the real me at that time of the day.

Come back inside, finish drinking my cleansing water (my mother’s suggestion to flush all the stuff out of your system, before you put back more stuff in your stomach), then go upstairs to publish my posting, (you see how I have all of you in my mind so early in my day) go back downstairs to peel my plantain, and get my breakfast going.  Add one egg to the water, and let it simmer for 1/2 hour.

The process is not that easy.  Hands get slimy and stained.  Nothing water cannot solve.  Then…the process continues.

Start to read the newspaper, get some of that delicious coffee (it really gets my day in a good mood), keep on reading the paper, and then the timer in the micro lets me know my healthy good for me breakfast is ready.  I cut the plantain in small pieces, put some xtra voo, sea salt and then it is ready to enjoy.  I only have eggs three times a week.  Cholesterol, you know.  All the rules change once you have reached 50.  After that, it is body vs mind.  And you know who wins most of the time.

Oops!  I started eating and then remembered that I needed to take a picture.  That’s why one piece of the egg is already gone.  In case you are into details.

After I finish with my breakfast routine, I take my vitamin C, Centrum regular, and Vitamin D.  Then I go back upstairs to visit with my sunbeam, if the clouds allow it to show up.  If not, well, tough for me.  I have to get my happy mood some other way, maybe reading a book.

There you have it.  Oatmeal has gone south with the muses.  Hope they are getting lots of sunbeams.

Best wishes and until next Monday.

Your Happy Contessa

 P.S.  This is totally unrelated, maybe it is.  Did you ever considered the fact that the water in our toilet bowls is so much cleaner than the water (if they have any) some people have to drink in some parts of the world.  I am always counting my blessings.

How does an activist look like…

This was the day I became a very proud citizen of the United States of America.  September 28, 1996.  It is like my date of birth.  I never will forget it.  Sometimes I wonder if all Americans being born here shouldn’t go through a ceremony at 18 years of age, like the one I did when I took my oath.  It makes you realize that there are responsibilities and obligations when you say “I am a citizen of the United States of America.”

After 35 years of being a Permanent Resident “green card holder,” my daughter one day said to me, “mami you are such an activist, you get involved in some much stuff, and it is a pity that when it comes to make your voice count, you cannot do it.  She was right, I couldn’t vote.  I really thought very hard on that one.  I thought, this is my home, this is where I have made my dreams come true, I have been blessed so many times by the people of this country, with their generosity by allowing me to come as a guest and work, have an incredible life, be respected and most important of all, enjoy my freedom!  Remember that I grew up in the Dominican Republic under a dictatorship.  So freedom was and will always be of utmost importance to me.

Now going back to how does an activist look like.  There are no gender, age, skinny, heavy, short, tall barriers.  It looks like you and me.  I have to admit I have been too complacent recently, because sometimes I feel that it really does not matter my input into the system, because “they” are going to do what they want to do anyway.  But today I was watching a video on Face about protesting.  It made cry at first, and then it woke me up to the fact that “We are the People.”  We are our country.  I promised to myself right there and then that I am going to go back and get actively involved in a cause that I deem very important to me and that will affect the collective as a whole.

I have always been an activist.  It got me into a lot of controversy sometimes.  I believe in liberty and justice for all.  I guess that by being a participant in the outcome of issues that affect us all,  is the least we can do to fulfill our duty as citizens of this great country.  No excuses apply.

Let’s rock the boat!  Let’s get involved again!

Your Happy Contessa

P.S. I just downloaded the song “Wake Up Everybody” by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes.  It’ll get you going.  I promise.

My adventures as an antiquarian bookseller…

I remember when Milagros, Ron and I moved to Florida because Ron had retired.  After getting kind of settled in a fixer upper (it has potential , was what we decided when we looked at the house for the first time), I wanted to go out and get a job, because financially,  we needed the income.  After many interviews and realizing that the older guys I was interviewing with just wanted much younger looking chicks, I was so very much disgusted with the thought that I was being discriminated because I was much older than the others, shorter (much shorter) skirts, half-full-brain experienced candidates.  Sorry young things.  It is what it is.

I have always loved to read.  Books everywhere in our home.  I was reading one by the title of “Love what you do, and the money will follow.”  Yeah, right, I am going to make some money by just reading.  I kept on pondering on the title of the book and thought that I needed to expand my horizons and interpretation of the book.

One day, reading an article about used bookstores, the light bulb (energy-efficient, just kidding, there were none at that time, or maybe I didn’t know it then), went on in my brain.  Why not a used bookstore!  Immediately I felt I had something to look forward to and I could be my own boss.  That was on the list of things to accomplish, have my own business,  before I hit 50.  Getting too close for comfort.  Wow!  My own business!!

Started to do research, also started to buy lots and lots of books at garage sales, and started thinking where this store was going to be.  Ron (my always partner in crime, he was the guy with the reasons why things wouldn’t work, and I was the other one with the reasons why things  would work) and I started to take short trips around  where we lived and visited a couple of small towns in Seminole County.  Rent was always too high and not too much traffic. 

There comes into the picture Richard and Raylene, that just happened to come to visit us from North Carolina and we took them out that weekend to one of the towns we were considering.  Richard took a look around and very profoundly said “if you want to revive this town by yourselves and spend the next 10 years doing so, this is the place to do it.”  I didn’t like the sound of those words, because he had just burst my bubbles.

We decided then to go and have lunch in Mount Dora, considered the antiques center of Central Florida.  While we were sitting at a restaurant that had tall windows facing the streets, he said “now, this is the place you need to open your store.”  He must out of his mind, I thought.  Rents are so high here we’ll be out of business even before we started.  We finished having lunch and went for a walkabout in the town.  He had a good point.  Lots of traffic and people with shopping bags, an indication that people were shopping.

Probably all along you have been thinking, how could this woman who can hardly express herself in english think about opening an antiquarian bookstore.  That’s exactly what one professor told me one day in the store, because that had been his dream but he had not been able to do it.  I responded to him, you have the knowledge and probably the capital, but I have the guts.  We got along very well after that interchange.

To shorten the process of the birth of The Old Towne Bookshop, we decided that Richard and Raylene were right.  We needed to be in Mount Dora to succeed.  We found out that there was a building right on Donnelly Street (main artery of circulation) that had a second floor and one of the spaces (just under 300 sq ft.) was for rent at around $315. a month plus utilities.  Perfect, I thought.  After twisting Ron’s arm, I signed a lease and voila, we were in business.  Well, not exactly like that, but I need to edit, otherwise we’ll be here, me writing and you reading forever.  Ron went to his favorite hangout place, Home Depot to get wood to build bookcases, and I continued to buy books at garage sales.  We had one month to put it all together.

This is a picture of a new location after one year of being in a pigeon-hole, but that first year’s experience was priceless!

We must always have big dreams, go for them, and never, never give up, because this time it is not a rehearsal, this is it baby.  Make it happen, whatever your dream is.

I will continue later in other postings with the real adventures after we opened the store.  Met unbelievable people, learned so very much about this fascinating world of antiquarian books, but most of all, had an incredible journey.  I think it was Ron’s best time of his life.  Amen.

A toast to all of us making our dreams come true.  I have one in mind and I can’t wait to make it happen.  Will keep you posted.

Your Happy Contessa

My other fearless leader…My City daughter…

My city-daughter has always been fearless and very daring.  I have learned so much more about life and how to go or not go about things from her.  Where do I start?

Her name is Milagros, which means miracle.  That’s what she was.  Back when I used to live in the U.S. Virgin Islands, my doctor told me that I needed to have a hysterectomy because of some other issues.  Then the weekend before surgery, my young doctor had a heart attack and died.  Right there and then I decided no surgery for me.  After some time, Milagros’ father and I moved to New York City and making the long story short, look what happened over a year after we arrived in New York.

She was the most beautiful baby ever.  Big black penetrating eyes.  So much black thick hair.  That’s one comment one of the nurses said as soon as she arrived into this world.  The picture above is one of my favorite photos of her.  Isn’t she just a doll?

She has always been very competitive and challenges anything and everything that doesn’t make sense to her.  When she was a little girl, she learned to play the clarinet on her own.  When she got to middle school, she asked her music teacher what she needed to do to win the top award at the end of the year.  She called me at the office and told me exactly what “we” needed to do for her to win that award.    Her first significant award was the Presidential Academic Fitness Award when she was a sixth grader.  She went on to win many more award in math, music, and any other thing she set her mind to do.   Yes, she won the award at the end of that year.

Why is she my other fearless leader?  When playing sports,  a little bit of blood coming out of her nose would not stop her from continuing to play.  I have to admit that my telling her to go back there and continue playing that she was going to be ok helped her to continue playing.  

She was always challenging,  on middle and high school orchestras for first seat, in the clarinet session.  I remember one day she asked me for help in algebra.  Remember, I was totally absent from any knowledge of the sciences of math.  I looked at the book, analyze it, then told her I was going to get some water, that I would be back, but instead I got on my knees in my bedroom and implore the good God to pleaseeeeeeee help her.  I was in absolute darkness about algebra.   A few minutes went by and she said, “mami, don’t worry, I figured it out.”  Praise the Lord!

She has a very analytical mind.  She says that life is like algebra.  You have some parts of the equation, you just need to find the missing factor.  What?  But she is right.

If ever she has had any fears, she hides them very well.  She is very confident.  In Paris, she took one look at the Google maps, and folded them and said to me “let’s go this way, it will put us there.”  She also said, “Washington D.C. was modeled after Paris, so there is a lot of rotundas that converge in one place.  She was right all the time.  Also, I have learned from her to follow the signs.  The signs are your friend she told me at the Charles De Gaulle Airport.  Right again.  She is a great listener.  I am always half listening and half on another planet, I think like most us.

On my 61st birthday, that morning at the hotel in Paris, I got up first and went to the bathroom and I thought I heard a knock on the door.  I told her not to bother that probably it was for the room next door.  When I came out of the bathroom there was a silver tray with a bottle of champagne and two glasses.  Life does not get any better than having champagne in Paris even before you have breakfast on your 61st birthday, or any birthday.  She had ordered the whole thing the night before without my knowing.  That’s one of the unforgettable moments my Milagros has made possible for me to make my life worth remembering.  Whenever I am in a Nursing Home, I have lots of great memories to keep me good company.   

 In conclusion, what most impresses me about my-city daughter is that she recovers from challenges and comes back even stronger than before.  We all need someone to look up to whenever we need some motivation, and Milagros is certainly one of those people. 

She was my inspiration in starting a blog.  Without her motivation and her  “I can do anything I set my mind to do” attitude you would not be reading this right now.  We would have never met.  That’s a terrible thing to think.  I always think, if Milagros can do it, so can I.  We feed on each other’s strong qualities.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been moments of great disagreements of the way she sees and does things and the way I do.  But that’s the way things are between moms and daughters.  Remember the sweatshirt you gave me Milagros?  I still have it.  You painted on it “I am the Mom.” 

I love you sweetheart and thank you for the memories.  All of them.  I remember when you used to tell me, “mami, in the grandeur scheme of things, this bad moment is going to be so insignificant compared to the whole picture of our lives.”  Si, Oui, Yes.

Thank you for allowing me to send my daughter a love note.  Let’s not take each other for granted.

 

Milagros and me at Le Grand Colbert Restaurant in Paris, celebrating my birthday.

Merci beaucoup!

Your Happy Contessa

It’s a hair thing…

You will never look at your hair the same way again after you finish reading this post.

Am happy with my hair?  Somehow, it depends on the feedback I get from the mirror.  I cannot ignore it, because it is one of the first things I look at in the morning.  Have a big, big mirror in the bathroom, so it is impossible not to look at it.  Right now my hair is too long for a many happy birthdays gal like me.  As we get….. long hair is not too becoming.  It makes us look much….  That’s why I need to go and get a cut.  That’s when my stomach turns upside down.  I hate going to the “cut shop.”  For the past few years,  everyone I go to (and I have had a different one every time I get a cut) is in a bad mood.  I rationalize it thinking that these women are going through the same stage I am going through.  Well, not really, I am post menopausal, they are in the middle of the process.  Just imagine.  I think they look at every person that comes through their door as someone just to make their day, and I don’t mean giving them your well-preserved and saved dinero.  I mean, you are what they have been waiting for to get even with their husband, if they have one, their children, the daughter-in-law, you get my point.  I dread going to the “shop.”  I feel like the cattle going to the slaughter-house.  I do try sometimes at home to do my own trimming, and that’s when the baseball cap will have to do until I go and surrender to these amazons with scissors in their hands.  I can feel the bad vibes.  And you know that I am all for keeping my blue aura.  My aura gets so much out of alignment, that as soon as I leave the butcher I have to come home and take a shower to let go of so much antagonism and the hair left all over me.  Probably you have never analyzed your trip to the “shop” this way before.  Or maybe you are very fortunate to have someone who really cares about your hair.

Only one time, in New York City, in August of 1978 I had the best hair cut in my entire 62 passing through.  It was in a real beauty shop, on 57th Street, between Park Avenue and Madison Avenue.  I remember the date, because it was a real treat.  It cost me plenty, but it was a pleasure departing with my dinero.  I think that woman took each strand of my hair and dealt with it as if she really cared how it was going to look after she had finish with me.

I am not going to continue to traumatize you with my hair issues, but now you have an idea of some of the pondering I do whenever the mirror on the wall tells me “hey, you, who do you think you are, a young punk?  Go and get a hair cut as soon as you can, so I can do a better job of giving a nice image back to you.  Get it?”  Life is not that pleasant and easy in Happyville sometimes.   I could continue talking about the provenance of my hair, its other issues, etc.,  but the word counter in my computer is telling me I am talking too much.

Have a good hair or beard day.

Your Happy Contessa

P.S. FYI I had not yet combed my hair when I took this picture with my ccc.

My sunbeam…

This gift from above I relish every day that the clouds allow it to come through and bathe me with its benefits.  Vitamin D, a tanned skin (during the winter that is not that easy to come by, unless you go and insert yourself in one of those plastic coffins). Let me continue listing the joys of having my sunbeam.  After a while of being under the magic spell of my sunbeam, I feel very energetic and ready to conquer the world, I mean, the day.

It starts (my sunbeam) on one corner of my winter retreat and goes around the room until around 4:00 pm, when it starts to recede and then becomes a beautiful sunset.  You saw two pictures on last Saturday’s posting.  That is the gift of nature I get when I am in my kitchen or living/dining area.  I am very fortunate indeed.

I have a very bright and sunny house.  It is in my favorite color.  Yellow.  I love my house, but as I am getting to have so many happy birthdays, the winters are becoming less tolerable for this Caribbean DNA body.  That’s why I would like to move back to Florida, and even then, if I find that that’s not where I want to be,  I just pack my few belongings and keep on moving.  The less you have, the easier it is to move around.  Flexibility, my friends, flexibility is the name of the game at this stage in our beautiful lives.

Going back to my sunbeam, it amazes me that the best things that life offers are free.  Fresh air, our sunbeams, being able to see, hear, etc., etc., and being able to laugh freely into the wind,  and enjoy the warmth it gives you to know that you have people in your circle of life that appreciate and love you just as you are.  Priceless!

With that in mind, let’s see what else I can come up with tomorrow to philosophize about us and life.

Your Happy Contessa