Monday, October 18, 2010


Hello all! (All four of you!)

It's been quite a while since last I've written. Since I no longer sit in front of a computer for 8 hours a day, I don't have the patience to sit down and write posts. At first, when I started this, I did it to try to keep up the writing, then I started to do it because I was bored. Now? Well, I don't do it because I don't want to be stuck behind a computer for half an hour writing if I don't need to. Plus, I have to actually *stand* at this computer if I need to write. Good exercise, but sometimes I just don't want to do it unless I have to.

Ok, so done with the excuses, here we go:

Changes have happened since last you've read. Let's re-hash:

- I'm the proud visitor of Holland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England.
- I'm still unemployed, but slowly looking.
- I've started running again.
- I've started up Tango again.
- I now own a bike, so I've been biking.
- I help my mom twice a week taking care of a four-month-old baby. (!!!)
- Took a rock climbing going to pursue.
- I've met a boy.

So let's start at the top.

I learned a lot from my European Vacation. One: I get home sick after 2 weeks. Two: I get over being home sick. Three: My family is my home and I missed them dearly. Those were all very important lessons I needed to learn. No matter how far away I go, what amazing things I see or people, my family (and friends) are the only people I want to come home to. Even though Ireland and Scotland were GORGEOUS, there is nothing like Portland at night and Hood River in October. I love it here. And now, I'm starting to get more into the out door thing with hopes of going on a camping trip. I'm excited.

I've started looking for a job. I've been unemployed I'd say actively for almost two months. One month before I left, then three weeks now since I've gotten back. I must say, I like the way life is unfolding right now and I'm not really in a hurry to find a job, which means, I can be picky, which I suppose is a good thing. I do want to find the RIGHT job, but I also enjoy all this free time I have. I don't laze around on my butt mind you, but I get to do what I want when I want to...but I'm a creature of routine, so yes, I still have one. Everyday I get up at 8 or 9, depending on the night before, and I either go for running or biking for 20-30 minutes. Twice a week, I go help my mom with the baby, and once a week I have Tango, then another twice a week, I go to Tease and Tone and dance my little heart out. All the other free time? I make breakfast, take a shower, search for jobs or volunteer positions, have lunch with friends, and whatever else I want to do. It's nice. I've not had this freedom in a while and I feel happy.

I started running again. I figured that I'd been getting stronger from Bar and with the help of the chiropractor, I'd been able to keep my back in check. So I've stared out slow since I got back. I biked to NW, got me some new running shoes. I started at 2 miles for one week, the second week 2.5 and now I'm on week three and 3 miles. My goal is a 10k eventually, but I know that I can't do the distance thing, so I'll stop at a certain mileage and just hope to pick up speed. I really enjoy running, so I don't want to over do it.

I started Tango again and I'm so glad I did. It makes me happy.

My friend Kristin finally sold me her bike. If you'd have asked me last year if I'd ever consider riding a bike (or becoming vegan for that matter) I'd say NEVER! But, I saw how my friend Liz enjoyed it and over the year, something changed. I was tired of these old habits I'd developed over the years. They are no longer useful to me. Saying no to camping, biking, veganism...and I"m sure there are a few more. So now, instead of saying no, I say "Sure, I'll try it." So I've tried a few things and to my amazement, I've liked it. The bike is one of them. Eventually, I'll get everything I need for it to be able to go out at night, but so far, I'm just enjoying my ride around the Spring Water Corridor.

It's no mystery that I want children, like bad, like since I was 5. I've always wanted children. I got very close to having them but it would have all turned out bad. Right now, I'm in a good place. Yes, I still want children with all my little squishy heart, but I'm waiting out for the right person at the right time, so for now I'll satisfy myself with just taking care of them. My mom took on the care of a 4 month old baby, a family friend, in addition to my two nephews, 6 and 15, so I figure, I don't have a job, and I love babies, so I go over to my mom's twice a week and help with feedings and sleepings and play time. I'm in heaven.

My roommate has really been an inspiration for me trying new things. She's the one that encourages me to go hiking with her and talk to boys at bars. So a few months ago she said she was interested in rock climbing. This is something I NEVER EVER would have thought about...but I say "Sure, I'll try it." So we did, last Friday: Verdict? We loved it! We're hoping that in the future, we'll be able to belay each other ourselves and if *I'm* brave enough (cuz she's totally into it) I'll actually do it outside a gym.

I met a boy. I like him and he likes me. I am happy and excited. The end ;)

Well, that's it for now. I'll try to post some photos from Europe, but I'm tired of standing .... =D

Monday, August 30, 2010

In three days...

I'll be in the "old world" or Europe.

Sorry it's been a while since I've written. Since I got laid off, I've been on mini adventures hiking and baking and working out and dancing. It's not really anything to write home about, just doing the daily grind. I no longer sit in front of the computer any more (I stand at it, which leaves me little patience to write a blog) but I thought I'd check in before I left on my "Great European Adventure".

In three days, I'll be in Holland.

You see, I'm not a traveler, I'm a homebody. The only places I'd been to were Mexico (and its entrails) and Vancouver B.C. with my brother to see a Radiohead concert, that is pretty much it.

Then one year, after much talk with the ex of traveling here and there and never going anywhere, I decided I'd go visit that is. If I do travel, it never is alone. I don't like it. I know some people enjoy the thrill of traveling solo and meet new people, new friends, even new lovers. Me? No, I need a reason to go. It must be something deep down inside: I need a "reason" to justify why I'm going. Plus, I just don't like to travel alone and having to meet a stranger is just *not* that applealing to me. So a few years ago, I reconnected with one my best friends from high school who was living in Boston (or technically Alliston) Massachussettes and she invited me to visit. I said "what the hell, sure!" So off to Boston, Mass. I went one August. I'd never been to the east coast and I knew that Boston was quite the historical hub. I loved it. I went to visit an old friend AND I got to explore the city a bit. It was a good mix of sight seeing tourist and of seeing her every day life. We even went to Rhode Island so I can say I've been there too!

After Boston, it was LA. Sure yeah LA isn't *that* appealing but one of my best friends from college now has lived there about 4 year so we make it a yearly thing and honestly, she's made LA quite appealing. I even thought of moving there.

And of course, there were the occasional trips to Seattle and Bainbridge Island that I'd do every few months to visit a friend that has now moved back to Portland.

Another place I went to was San Francisco as a gift to my mom for Mother's day. We went last year in September and I fell in love. I didn't realize how wonderful traveling could be, how seeing how others lived could open my eyes, but of course, it also makes me very grateful to live where I live now.

And yes of course the trip to Mexico to visit family. Last year, it was for Day of the Dead in Mexico city.

But Europe? This was in a whole different category all together, the category of "go before I die" but really, "I probably won't do it". So many things held me back from this, so many silly little things until I snapped out of it. This is the first trip I've planned for now reason other than: I want to and I deserve to. People ask my "why are you going to Ireland" versus say Italy or Spain. And the answer? I don't know. My chiropractor said "Well, you'll know when you get there." And I do believe her. My whole life, I'd had this fascination with Ireland, Scotland...London. London appeals to me as a city girl, but Ireland touches me and lives within me on an emotional level, and I don't know why. I've always wanted to go but at the time that this trip was being planned or mulled around, I had no one to go with. Then as luck or the universe would have it, I got back in touch with a close high school friend (via facebook of course) who was an exchange student from Holland. We emailed, we chatted on the phone and then came the magical invitation: you should come. And I said to her, "you know, I think I will." That was almost a year and a half ago. After that conversation, so many changes have taken place, not just physically around me, but also mentally and emotionally with in me. Instead of feeling guilt for the pending exodus, I'm excited because this trip is for me, to celebrate me, to give ME a gift and stop waiting around for my life to happen because I am MAKING it happen.

I have all the ingredients I want in it: money saved up, time off, awesome friend to go visit and the countries *I* want to see because something within my squishy pink heart tells me to. I've not planned ANYTHING, which is also unlike me. All I know is when I'm getting there, what countries we plan on visiting and when I leave. That's it. The rest will come as we go along and no matter what happens, where we go, what we miss, it won't matter because I was in EUROPE! Me, this Mexi-Merican will be IN EUROPE. I'll be in the place where it all started, La Nina, La Pinta, La Santa Maria, where most of my mestizo mixing ancestors are from, where yours are from, where it all started and continues. I will be there. I will be in Europe and I truly can't believe it.

But I can't wait.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Vegan update and other things

Well, I was successfully vegan shy of three days, for two weeks. Is that grammatically correct? I dunno, I only got a 75% in grammar for journalists. And what was my impression? FANTASTIC! I love it. My new favorite thing? Veganaise! YES! I've always liked the tangy taste of mayo, but my tummy did not. And now, NOW? I can eat veganaise with no problem! Even my mayo connoisseur roommate said she didn't smell the difference. Wow, that impressive! And what else? Um, I totally love vegan ice cream, either coconut milk or soy milk, both equally delicious! I had no idea how much I loved ice cream until I had those two things.

Why did I not complete the two weeks (and more)? Two reasons. The weekend I didn't stay vegan I had a bachelorette party to attend so I had alcohol, cheese and some non-vegan voodoo donuts (I can't resist!) and a wedding and I'm sorry, but I could NOT say no to cake...I had two slices...But I easily could have stayed vegan minus the cake because the wedding food was a fantastic variety of vegetarian, vegan and meat, but heck, I had chicken and salmon. I indulged. I did avoid cheese though.

Then this week I went to a naturopath because I'm really wanting to know exactly what I'm allergic to and to what degree so she told me to go ahead and eat as I'd normally do, dairy, meat and all and my blood will be drawn in a week. So far, I've had cheese, half and half, pizza, etc... And what has been the result? Every morning I wake up congested. Interesting...I wonder what else I'll be allergic to? But come next Wednesday, I'm back to my beloved use of veganaise and all things non dairy. It's actually been quite interesting and I'm learning a lot. What I like the most, the way my body reacts, so that's great!

And in other news...I was laid off from work due to budgeting issues. I won't get into the details but I'll just say everything happens for a reason and one door closes and others open. I'm really excited to see where I'm going to end up after all of it. So far, during my unemployment, I'm wrapping up some admimistrative things, but also doing my Bar, and hanging out with some friends and learnign new skills that I just kept telling myself "I have no time." Now, I have AAAAALLLL day.

Last week I finally finished reading Kristin's manuscript and wrote out all her notes for her. Next, I'll research some issues for her that are pertinent to the novel.

Yesterday, Kristin took me on a bike ride along the Spring Water trail from Hawthorne to Waterfront and back over and down to my area of Sellwood. I'm really excited to start exploring Portland on my new (her old) bike! And yeah, a little nervous, but I've got good friends to turn to!

Today, I went over to Liz's house so she could help me bake my first loaf of wheat bread. Success! You see, I'm a pastry baker. Give me a cake, a pie, a tart or a cupcake. I'll bake it without a second thought, but bread? With yeast? Let it rise and punch it, and wait for....hours?! No way. The only bready thing with yeast I've ever made were Pioneer Woman's dinner rolls for Christmas (that was fun!) But no bread. And I'm totally inspired by Liz's homemakering ways (see her blog here) and I want to learn to make my tortillas, bread and english muffins from scratch and so far, I now know how to make a loaf of bread. I'd love to have a little garden like her, but well, we're renting and I think we don't get any sun in the area where we could have one. I might think of doing a winter garden... but we'll see. I actually do have time now... =)

So that's my update.

So although I don't have a job per say, I'm quite busy learning all these new things, helping my parents around the house and spending time with my friends and just enjoying this time right now, especially before Europe!

Friday, July 9, 2010

The home stretch

Here it comes, this is my last weekend as an omnivore until who knows when. Starting Sunday at 7pm, I will go on a 24 hour juice fast, then begin my life as a vegan on hour 25.

I feel bad saying I'm going vegan. Most people who go vegan do it for moral reasons: they can't fathom eating animal products, their religion tells them, etc. Me? Well, I have no problem eating meat, eggs, wearing leather...I grew up on it, but I do try to be conscious of these decisions. I try to purchase "cage free" eggs, "range free" meat, etc. I also try to be a localvour as much as I can and summer really helps for that, so I think my cleanse/detox/diet change is perfect timing. So, I don't want to disrespect the vegans that do it for that reason, I respect their choices as I hope all will respect mine.

So what should I call myself? An immoral vegan? I dietary vegan? A "for health reasons" vegan? Why am I doing this you ask? Well, for that very reason: health.

As I've grown older, I've grown intolerant to many foods that I used to have no problem with, case in point: milk. I LOVE milk. My favorite food used to be just plain cold cereal with any thing from Lucky Charms, to Bran Flakes. As long as there was cold milk, I was all over it. Then in college, I noticed things started to change. My tummy would get upset with all things lactose: yogurt, sour cream, cheese and my beloved milk. I finally made a conscious effort so stave off milk and go for soy. With all the research done on soy, I kind of freaked out, so I limit my use. Now, for cereal or smoothies, I use oat milk. I've tried rice, and I've tried almond, but oat milk (from Trader Joe's, holla!) is the best consistency I've found. I still however use half and half in my coffee. I've tried, soy, soy silk, oat milk, but nothing is quite like the creamy thickness of a cow's half and half cream. But since I had the 24 hour hour stomach bug, I've been off caffeine and half and half as well as sugar. But what did I do today? I had trouble sleeping last night and I swear I didn't hit REM sleep, so I thought "might as well get one last coffee before I ban myself", so I did the works: half and half, iced coffee with simple syrup. And boy, am I paying the price. Goes to show that this change of diet will do me good.

This time, however, I'm trying not to over do it. When I did the master cleanse, I had burger king for dinner. Probably not the best idea. Right now, I'm still on fruits and veggies and last night I had my last Dr. Pepper and this morning my last coffee and for lunch, I thought I'd treat myself to one of the new Subway subs, either the BLT or the Chicken one. But I suspect the chicken has tons of mayonnaise and if history is proving correct, I really should step away, so BLT it is. Tomorrow, my roommate is insisting on BBQ food, so I'm prepping for that and come Sunday is my sister-in-law's birthday dinner so there will be some sopes heading my way. I'll try really hard not to gorge or over do it, so wish me luck.

So what do I hope to gain from this experience? Well, it would be awesome not to have any tummy problems. Also, I just want to eat better. I'd love to learn how to make tried and true recipes and make them deliciously vegan. I want to explore all the options I can right now: veganaise, fake cream cheese, fake chorizo. And if I get good enough, perhaps one might not suspect a different? But my real goal is to finally get off milk, in all its glorious forms. I just know it's much better for me. And I'd be lying if I didn't say I'd hope to drop a few pounds while I'm at it. I like challenges and I really want to learn how to cook better and healthy and deliciously.

How long will I do this? Well, as long as I can. I will be introducing meat protein back in to my diet slowly, but I could easily forgo red meat all together, no big deal really so we'll see.

So on the agenda is hitting up food front (*eh-hem*) for some produce and some vegan products, the probably trader joes for the rest.

I'm really excited for this! Here's to my last few meaty meals!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Birthday Reflection: The start of 30

Thirty started out in a whirlwind of family, friends and time off, immediately followed by a cold, stomach bug and hopefully this weekend, a relaxing stroll through the Lavender Festival in Hood River with my mom and roommate.

It's been a week since I've turned 30, and what have I learned so far? Well, for one, people, more specifically, guys DO like me. I've been on a few dates with really nice men that just didn't work out. I have a fear that I'm not attractive to men. Sure, I may have ginormous boobs, but my old self asked, what else do I have to offer. Apparently, a lot. I've gotten things like "you rock" "you're very interesting" "you're very pretty" "you like WWII, that's awesome!"...a good mix physical and emotional attraction by said men. Sadly, there was just no spark but it taught me a valuable lesson: they DO like me.

Second: I need to lose weight. Oh ok, yes yes, you're all "but you're not fat!" ok fine, I'm not fat, but when I see myself, that's not who I see. I want to be fit so I can dance with ease and not get so tired. I want to have sharp lines and movement and honestly, you can't see that if all my muscles are hiding behind a nice layer of fat. It's nothing drastic really, I don't wish to be 100 pounds, I don't even wish to drop 20 pounds. I was 10 pounds lighter at this time last year and even though I wasn't the thinnest person around nor could I wear a bikini, I still felt great and I thought I looked great and for the first time in my life, for a WHOLE month, I didn't think or talk about my weight in a negative way, I finally saw myself the way others had seen me for years, plus or minus twenty pounds. I'm sure I'm all hypocritical as I write this, but this is what I want for me. I know people love me no matter what weight, I know the person I end up with will love me no matter what weight, I know that I love me right now regardless of whether I lose those 10 pounds or not, so I might as well try and go for it. It's just one of those things I'd like to accomplish for myself, give to myself.

Third: On that note, I'm going to try to go vegan for a week or so, a kind of cleanse. It's been a long time coming for me to cut back on certain foods, mainly dairy, so I need a kind of detox for my body from all the crap I had during my birthday festivities. After that, I plan on going pescatarian for a while, then maybe start adding in some chicken. I'm not sure if I'll go back to red meat, but we'll see. But for now, for sure: I gotta cut out the dairy. And after having the 24 hour stomach bug, it hasn't been too hard. So we'll see how this goes. I'm really excited though, I love new challenges!

So basically this is the year to continue the upward trend of being nice to myself, both physically and mentally. No more bashing, no more eating crap just for the sake of it. I want to be physically fit for my dancing and hopefully that will help me run a few miles a week again. I want to have a positive out look at least 90% of the time, I want to let my family and friends know that they are loved and appreciated. So my journey onward continues. There are a lot of things I want to do, but I just gotta put my mind to it because so often it is easier to watch 30 Rock on Netflix, than it is to learn how to sew or cook.

And just for giggles, here are a few photos of the surprise. I hadn't even seen these yet! Courtesy of Payal's video camera, hence the pixilation.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The surprise of a decade!

Because that's probably how long it will take me to get over the shock... I still can't seem to believe it happened.

I'm turning 30 this Wednesday at 10:06 am. I love my birthdays. Every year, I look forward to the one time the whole year where I can put together all my favorite people (my friends) and all my family (also my favorite people) under one roof for a few hours just for me...with all the selfishness that entails. It's MY birthday. It's what I want.

I never quite see my age as a factor to worry about. Ever since I was very young, I've always wanted to be older. I've never really looked my age, probably until now. Finally, I feel that my real number age is starting to catch up with how I've felt for the past, oh, 20 years? Exaggeration? Perhaps, but very close to reality.

However, this year, I was kind of done throwing myself my own birthday. Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed every birthday party I've planned for the past five years: beer and dinner at Lompoc, drinks at the Bitter End. Dinner at Noodles followed by drinks at Touche, dinner at la Calaca Comelona followed by dancing at Mambo Lounge. And finally, the scariest of them all: Kareoke! This was the tough year, however, after having been with the same person for 5 years, my first birthday with out him. I was lucky enough to still be on speaking terms with him, but at least I had my friends to distract me from his absence, not to mention cute boys to flirt with.

Now comes 30. I thought it nice to do something big and over the top, but I felt that I'd pretty much already done all I could do to top myself...except a surprise party. I always had this Romantic notion that my significant other would plan this elaborate party for one of my birthdays and we'd all laugh, and I'd cry and the night would be tied up in a fantastic fushia bow with dancing. After 5 years it never happened, but that is also A LOT to put onto one human being and a lot to expect on my end. So when my friends and sister-in-law started to inquire about my birthday plans for the year, oh in APRIL, I said, "Eh, no big deal. Perhaps something quiet. I know thirty is a big year, and I'm not afraid of it, I'm just don't feel like throwing myself a huge party." A surprise party, I was asked? Yes, I've always wanted one, I replied.

That was April.

Fast forward to last Saturday. Things had been coming together nicely for me. My cousin finally gave me the go-ahead that he and his gf Karla were visiting. I rounded up a few of my friends for some beers and pool the Friday following my actual birthday, dinner with the family on my REAL birthday was finalized so I was pretty much set. I was really excited too because my SIL was planning a cocktail party just around the time my cousin and his gf were gong to be here. Perfect, I thought! What a great way to celebrate a welcome to Portland. Little did I know...

Saturday rolled around, and my best-friend Kelly drove up from Corvallis to take me out for a pre-birthday breakfast. She can't make it to my celebration cuz she's busy being an amazing DIY bride! We hit one of my favorite breakfast spots, Byways Cafe in the Pearl and proceed to wonder around for the next couple hours, talking weddings, family, boys and getting older. We have so much history together that if I'm in a foul and negative mood (which I totally was! Thanks for putting up with that Kelly!) she's just tell me I'm wrong. Ha! It was great. She even held back a bit of banter, all in my honor!

Finally, our lovely day was coming to a close and I had to get ready to go to a cocktail party at my sister's, (you can read her account of my party here )but I really wanted to get a pedicure. And because I'm so anal, I had all my clothes and jewelry and set out for said party and good thing, because I was running late! When I got home, I was a frantic mess! Ah! I thought, but its ok, its just a few friends. Usually I primp and prim for about, oh, an hour to get things just right. Not this time. I threw on my strapless brown dress, which incidentally caused a little bit of a mini-drama: I finally broke its zipper. Morgan helped me pin it closed because I knew I'd have to be cut out of it, oh well. But no fear. Off we went: pin-ed dress, vintage jewelry and hot pink flip flops. It's just a small get-together I kept telling's not like its that big a deal. (This is what I tell myself to stave off the freak out...little did I know.)

My friend Kristin texted me just as I was getting into Morgan's car. When are you heading out, she inquired. I told her we were on our way. So I'm in the car telling Morgan how hungry I was and trying to steer clear of any negative thoughts to do with my dress, or how I didn't really do my hair or that I didn't re-do my make up. I just chose to be positive about the whole ordeal. It's ok, it's just a small get-together...

We get there and I start looking for Kristin's car. Ok, she's not there yet. Then I grab my stuff (right, I had a change of cloths because I knew I'd have to get cut out of my dress) and walk up the stairs. I try the door. It's locked. Ah, the 2 second frustration. I knock. Paulo screams (as usual) "IT'S OOOOOOPEN!" and I think to myself "no it's not" then *poof* magically the door *is* open. I push through and to my surprise there's a group of people that look vaguely familiar all standing in the entry way screaming "SURPRISE" at me. At first, I thought "what? for who?" and then I saw streamers and I sign that said "30" as well as a few familiar faces that weren't *supposed* to be there, and being the smart cookie that I am, I put it together. The surprise is for ME! They're here for ME! (I'm actually shaking as I write this right now, haa haa, reliving it!) And in true Navarro form, I start crying, crying and shaking and laughing and crying, and more shaking. I didn't know what to say. Krista hands me a drink to calm my nerves, but no matter, I can barely get it to my mouth without spilling! And in true Navarro Mom form, she comes rushing up to me as I'm basically weeping and just hugs me for a while. I'm her baby you see, her little tiny baby who is turning 30 this year. I'm so overwhelmed with happiness that all I know to do is laugh and cry, all at the same time and one by one my family members come and give me hugs. Man, if this is how I get at a surprise party...imagine a proposal and then my wedding? Future husband be warned =)

So as the crying finally subsided, hugs for everyone. There some new faces (Z and G) and some old faces (Kelly, you totally lied, Kristin, Golda and Bruno) and some faces I'd not see in months (Diane) and of course, my tried and true (Payal and my family, (Tom and David are pretty much family).)

Hungry? Yeah, that went away fast, so drinking it was. Krista, being the caretaker that she is, shoved a plate in my face and I began to fill it with a few things I thought I could down: some salad, roasted beets and mini sopes. Other than that, no food for me and there was a lot of food I regretfully did not eat!

I had a wonderful time. Better than I could imagine with great company, a great location and fantastic food and boos. I was in Andrea heaven. And the cherry on top? An impromptu dance party filled with Sir-Mix-A-Lot, Beyonce, and Christina Aguilera, just how I like it followed by an impromptu Argentine Tango performance with Bruno.

This year, I've come to realize and appreciate how lucky I am to have a family that loves me and I love them, and this moment was just an even bigger example of why and also of how grateful I am. And this even showed me how my friends are a big part of this too. I've never felt more loved. I've been through little emotional bits here and this past year and a half and am just so happy I have this support system.

I'm so happy (perhaps a little exhausted) all all those months of lying and my mimi freak out was so worth it all in the end. I'm not really sure how else to say it so I'll just say it simply: Thank you and I love you.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bar Withdrawl

Yesterday was my last day of my 30 day unlimited pass at The Portland Bar Method and already I'm having withdrawal. I miss the heat in my burning muscles, the super hard pretzl positions, the dance music, but most of all, I miss the feeling of accomplishment I feel after I've done it.

I decided that my working outs will consist of reshaping my body and helping my body to dance better. Obviously a wonderful side effect would be to lose some weight and trim up, but I'm trying really hard not to focus on that. SO about a month ago, I started going to The Portland Bar Method, which is kind of a mix of Pilates, Yoga and Ballet all in one. I knew that if I wanted to be a better Tango dancer, I needed to start strengthening my muscles and working on my posture. Well Bar has done/is doing just that for me. Not just for Tango do I need this however, I've been going to a chiropractor for a problem with my pelvis and she too was very adamant about needed to have better posture (core training) and stronger muscles to protect my joints. Mostly I can crack every bone in my body and usually there is *something* in my body that hurts or gets injured. When I run, my back feels like its going to snap a part and my knees hurt. When I bike, my knee pops, when I Tango improperly, my lower back aches. So I've been trying to correct this for the last year. So far, so good! And the last time I went to the chiropractor, she could tell the difference in my legs and glutes. My glutes are a big problem because although they are the largest muscle in the body, (are they? I should look that up...) I never use them. For some reason I taught myself to use my back instead. So these last few months have been all about re-training my body to use its muscles properly. That's where Bar comes in. We get into a bunch of contorted positions that make you REALLY think and focus: ok, use that not this, feel it here and here.... and that I do. My only regret, however, is pushing myself too hard to the point of injury. I was out for a week in total because of that and I felt bad. I pulled my hamstring last year and apparently, re-injury is quite common and quite easy.

So these next couple weeks, I'm taking a break from bar. I'm going to go to a massage therapist to see if she can get the scar tissue out of my hamstring and glutes. I'll still try to do some walking and perhaps some light weights.

So, my goals for this year: More bar to strengthen those muscles, more tango. I think I didn't go ONCE this month, start walking, maybe move back into running a couple miles a week or so and learn a new dance. Hip-hop perhaps?

Oh and also, after my birthday festivities and all the eating I'll be doing, I've planned on doing a vegan cleanse for a week. Not like the crazy one I did last time, NO THANKS! But this one is all smoothies and vegetables as well as grains. I think I can live with that!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Injuries SUCK

Last year, like most after ending a long term relationship, I decided to try some new things (discover who I am) and some old things (re-discover who I was.) I decided I wanted to stay active and I missed sports. The only sports I ever played seriously was volleyball. Soccer I touched upon (since we're a soccer family) but volleyball is where I stayed. I started playing volleyball in 6th grade. I've always been pretty athletic and can pretty much pick up any sport and be semi-good at it, so volleyball too came naturally. What didn't come naturally, was my parents having to shell out a bunch of money for me to get better. You see, 6th grade was probably about a year after we got back from Mexico: broke. So while all my other little 6th grade friends attended volleyball camps and clubs...I didn't. I played Winter Ball, which is the poor man's version of camp. So by the time I got to be a freshman in high school, everyone that was on the same level as me, or even below, got that much better...way better. My best friend from middle school was freshman starter for Varsity...I was on the freshman team. Then next year I made JV. I figured that was the case because I was in a car accident that summer and couldn't perform my best. I hurt my back. Junior year, my coach was SURE I'd make Varsity because I was the best on our team. Nope, back to JV. I also figured it was because I sprained my ankle bad that summer, so again, I couldn't perform my best. You see, I do better when I'm challenged, not when I'm on top, so I figured one year of Varsity under my belt and I'd be golden by Senior year. She had other ideas. Basically the head coach told me that there was and never will be a position for me in Varsity, would I like to be the towel girl? I said fuck that. ( upsets me, and no I didn't really say that but I was PISSED!) I had been going to her volleyball camps since 6th GRADE and she still didn't see me as Varsity material. My parents were finally able to afford a PSU camp where all the coaches thought I was already on Varsity. I was good. I wasn't great, but I was good and I knew I could get better.

After the heartbreak, I turned full force to theatre and music...and that's basically who I became...a singer and dancer. But I still wondered what would have happened had I continued playing sports.

So fast forward 9 years and I decide to join Kate's underdog Volleyball team and it all comes rushing back: the muscle memory, the competitiveness, the adenine rush...and the injuries. Obviously, I'm not as young as I used to be and in my naivete, I start playing without warming up and POW...pain in my butt, goes all the way down the back of my leg. Hmmm. I wonder, I've never felt this way before. I play one more game and it gets worse. The pain originates from the bottom of my right butt cheek, around the bone, all the way down the back of my right leg's knee. It doesn't heal. I can't turn over in bed, I can't get out of the car, I can't turn and twist my leg, driving hurts, sitting hurts. WTF. After a couple months of pain, I go see a sports medicine dude. He takes an X-Ray (which is for bones, yes.) And says there is no damage to the bone, but what might have happened was a bone to muscle tear, versus a muscle to tendon tear and that it takes MONTHS of recovery. Well, F. Here comes me getting fat.

Now, fast forward another year...and I hurt it again and again. Every time I think its healed up, Youch! I feel it again. The problem is that now, this is the muscle I have to use for all my dancing! It's quite depressing. I mean, I can recognize the first inklings of pain, but since doing bar method, I'm in sore ass pain every single day, so I didn't notice the difference. So, I decided I need to take a break, a one week break. THAT'S SO LONG! I'm super bummed.

So here I am, ice pack on my leg and butt, heating pad at night and mom playing physical therapist and massaging only the area I would have liked a boyfriend to massage: my butt. *sigh*

Here's to a speedy recover. Send good healing vibes my way so I can start up my bar come Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Weekend-Central O

I never have plans on Memorial Day. That's seems like almost a travesty and usually I think it is. How I'd love to be invited to go camping or BBQ with friends or the like. Instead, I slept, slept and did more sleeping. I did do a lot of thinking about what this day means, so it wasn't a complete waste of brain space.

My roommate had her best friend from Kentucky in from out of town, Tina. They were chalk full of plans: Beach on Saturday, Mt. Hood area Sunday, Central Oregon Monday. She's not seen her for about a year now and I know how that goes if I've not seen my bf for a year: I want her all to myself. So as much as it sucked to not hang out with them (cuz the roommie and I are pretty cozy and each others' wing woman in times of hiking and dancing) I totally understood. But then the roomie asked if I had plans on Monday. With a certain someone and his "perhaps" of a hang out looming in the air unresolved, I decided to take her up on it. She invited me to go with her and Tina to the Painted Hills in Central Oregon, Mitchell to be exact.

So off we went. I took A TON of pictures, but I'll only include a few. It's lovely to travel with the ladies cuz one or all three of us always need a pee break at some point ;)

Here we are at a rest stop almost there. You can see the terrain start to change.

Here we are at a res stop AT the painted hills. Man, its breath taking.

Finally, we drive up to the Painted Hills view point and this is what we see:

I, in all of my 30 years (almost 29 more days, yay!), have never seen anything quite like this. I felt like I was not only in a different state, but on a different planet. I was in awe. Sadly though, it was raining during most of these photos but we took it like champs. Here we are at the trail that explains the painted hills. I was too busy trying to stay dry and take pictures, as were the girls.

That there is Morgan, doing her best to hide.

Our next stop was the indoor John Day Fossil Museum then back home.

We decided to take a different route back than the way we came in and so glad we did. Apparently through Condon, Oregon there is are wind turbine farms. I have been this giddy since Jurassic Park came out when I was 13. I'd never seen anything like it, especially up close! It's my new favorite thing. It's such a contrast between serene landscape and technology. It's just so awesome.

Back at another rest stop in Biggs. Across the river is Washington and to the left is Portland. We're on our way home!

Finally, a beautiful sky to such a wonderful trip!

*click to enlarge photos.

Friday, May 28, 2010

On immigration

Oh no, she's getting political on us. Actually, not really. I hate politics and I hate discussing politics with anyone but my inner circle. I have this problem with seeing things both ways so it's hard for me to make a decision. I suppose I respect the other person and their opinions so much that other people might get pissed off at me for not being pissed off enough.

Immigration is a touchy, sensitive, divisive and personal issue for me so that's why I never comment on it.

I shall give a little background on my family, but keep in mind, this is all oral history.

My dad came to this country in the 1960s on worker visas. His dad came to work as a bracero in the 1940s. (Side note: my siblings and I are trying to find any documentation on this at and we might have, very exciting.) He did not stay here. He decided to move back to Mexico once his visa or arrangement had expired. My dad, however, had other plans. My dad only has a middle school education even though he loves to learn and one day dreamed of being an architect. But of course, his situations could not accommodate that. He lived in a room with my grandmother and 4 other siblings. There were no beds and barely any clothes. To this day, he'll never go camping because he grew up sleeping on the floor. His dad was absent most of his life. He decided that there is something more and better in life so he came to the US for his "American Dream". He got his paperwork in order and crossed the border....legally. Now this is where it all gets fuzzy. My dad is the type of guy that puts a sunny disposition on things. He doesn't like to talk about the darker parts in life, or the struggles unless there is a lesson to be learned. So my dad came here, year after year, with visas in hands to try to get legalized papers. He'd overstay his visa until he got kicked out, but would continue the process once he got a new visa. They were tough times. He showered in a bucket and had one meal a day. He lived in LA. He hated it, but he knew there was something more. Finally, the day came when my dad got his green card. By then, he'd moved up to Portland (I think). My pops LOVES to play the lottery, so he bet on the horse races and won. That was enough money to furnish the apartment and go marry my mom. So that he did. He headed back down to Mexico, married my mom, impregnated her on the honey moon and headed back to Portland. A year or so later, when my oldest brother was 8 months old, my dad came back with all necessary papers to bring my brother and my mom back... Legally.

Ok, so that's our story.

Now, this is what I don't understand about the debate. I honestly don't know how difficult it is to be a "legal resident alien" here in the United States. I know it took my dad YEARS, but still, he did it. Now, I'm not saying its not hard, but my dad didn't go into detail about HOW hard it was.

So now we have this debate going on (which is not new.) Illegal immigrants are invading. Unfortunately, they seem to want to put a color to those illegals. What about the Canadians, or the Europeans or even the white South Americans from Argentina, Chile...? I have not statistics, I'm not researching, this is all just my opinion and my questions. I'm not saying illegal immigration a long the border is NOT problem. I'm not, I sympathize. I can understand how scary it must be to feel like a stranger in your own town. But what gets me is the black and white view of either your illegal or a citizen. The reason I bring this up is becuase I read this article where US senate canditate Rand Paul says "... But I think what we should do is we shouldn't provide an easy route to citizenship." The "easy" route to citizenship is being birthed here. That's for another time though.

So my question is why is it either or? Either your illegal or your a citizen. Where is the "legal resident alien" status of people. In my opinion, the problem is how difficult, how many hoops it takes to come to this country LEGALLY.

Not everyone who comes here or visits wants to be a citizen of the United States. It's a big deal. It's like telling one parent you love them more. If you think about the lyrics of the pledge of allegiance, that's a big deal. You are pledging allegiance to a country you're suppose to love, honor and respect. I take that seriously. When I lived in Mexico for two years, I couldn't say their national anthem. I loved my country. I think that's how a lot of legal residents must feel during that limbo time. Do I really want to go ahead and turn my back on my country, one might ask? It took my parents 40 years to decide to become citizen, not because they couldn't, but because they still hoped to one day go home. But by being legal residents all these years, they still payed taxes, yet they couldn't vote. That was privilege that was not granted to them as non-citizens. After much thought though, they decided it was the right time and an historical time at that. It's small price to pay for the allegiance to another country.

I don't know. That's just how I feel. I have statistics, no studies, no research done. I just have a lot of heart, a history background and a lot of questions pertaining to why people can't try to step in other shoes and ask themselves, if I were in this situation...what would I do?

I guess its the historian with an Ethnic Studies emphasis (don't get me STARTED on that one) in me that makes me ask all these questions, because as you've all heard, history repeats itself and this topic is no exception.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dance videos

Ok, so this is what I've been up to...

I've been going to Vega Dance Lab in on SE Water for a few months now. After deciding to quit going to the gym (because I can't run any more) I figured I'd supplement my Tango with work out dance classes. My friend Kate was the one that recommended this place to me after I mentioned I wanted to try out something a little bit different than standard partner dancing, but also needed to get a work out. Our first classes together was something called Burly Q. It's basically a Burlesque dance class and I LOVE it! The music, the moves, the instructor Evie. Sadly, she is on maternity leave, and I am on leave from that class right now too. The sub-instructor is super talented but leans heavily toward hip-hop which I TOTALLY suck at, and therefore does not make the dancing enjoyable, so I shall wait. In the meantime, my roommate had been going to Tease n Tone, so I decided to join her. And man, did I get addicted!

Tease n Tone is a one hour class. The first half hour is intense cardio, but dance style, the second half hour is a dance routine. Below is one of the dance routines. Usually, they'll change after 2-3 weeks. On the last day of class, the instructors tape the routine. If you look closely, you can see me and my roommate in the way back.

Now, here is a taste of what Burly Q is like. Man, I love it! Can't wait to start it up again.

Seriously people, these dance moves are so sultry and easy to learn and adaptable to any dance. Also, its a teeny little routine that I'm sure you can use for other times...if you know what I mean ;)

So, not only is Vega awesome because it has cool people and cool dance classes among other things, they also have workshops! As you know, I dance Tango. Even though I've been doing it about a year now and I know many moves and steps, I think my technique is bad. I know what to do with my feet, where to put them, how to stand, but I think I just lack proper technique in *how* to hold myself up, how to hold my legs, etc. Also, in Tease n Tone and Burly Q, there is a lot of hip shaking and leg turning and I figured I'd take a Beginners Technique to advance my understanding of how my body should feel when I do certain moves and what it should look like. So last weekend was my first day. Our instructor is awesome! He's adorable too and I think probably 10 years younger than me but I love him! He's so sweet and positive and its EXACTLY what I need stepping into this new realm. I'm scared of dance, but I want to learn and be good so bad, that I don't let it get in the way. And having an instructor that's all "hey, be positive, allow your body to move and learn and don't be afraid" is just that much better.

And just because I can't get enough of moving my body...I'm doing the Portland Bar Method five days a week. I'm on day two, so come next week, I'll have a little review of what's going on with that. But I will say: it's totally helping with my technique too.

So...enjoy the videos and maybe one of these days you'll join me at one of the classes. Seriously, its fun!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

On Dancing

I'm kind of a walking contradiction of sorts. I'm a reserved person, but I like attention. I like to perform, but I feel overwhelmed in groups of people. I like being one on one, but too much of that kind of solitude leaves me antsy for being social. Quien me entiende!

Growing up, I was an EXTREMELY shy kid. I didn't like the spot light, I didn't want people to notice me. As I grew a little older, apparently I grew a little bolder. I'd performed in choir since I can remember, and I even lip sank "Catch Me I'm Falling" for our 2nd grade talent show. Who the F was I back then!?

Then it all changed...I moved to Mexico. Why the move affected me so much, I honestly have no idea, but I can now pinpoint that I became a different more frightened person. It was also the time that I got my period and placed me a part from all the other little girls. I guess that was it. I was different, always have been and always will be. I embrace it now (to an extent) but when you're 9 years old in a foreign country, held back a grade, speak with a funny accent, have no friends AND start your period...ya goddamn do feel pretty different. Compound that with coming FROM a country where you just stick out like a sore thumb being the only Mexi-American...Yeah, I had issues...still do to an extent. I'll get to that on some point.

I didn't really have friends growing up in Mexico, but I did discover that I REALLY loved to sing. The dancing? Not so much. Why did I hate the dancing? Probably because my dad LOVED the dancing. At weddings here in the states, my dad would drag me on the dance floor and we'd dance rock 'n' roll songs. I did really enjoy it, but in Mexico, I dunno, something changed. I wanted to disappear, I wanted to hide, I didn't want to be noticed so I tucked the dancing away for a very very long time...a kind of rebellion I could control of sorts.

I think I'd always had the performer's bug. When we got back from Mexico and I entered middle school here in the states, I began to seriously think I could be an actress. I could really get wrapped up in emotions, "act" it out, cry on cue. I thought "this is it, I could do it." My mom did indulge me here and there and even took me on a few auditions. I'd look through the yellow pages for talent companies and such, but I think deep down inside, I knew the money to put me in a program like that would be too much, so I just started to give up. I did stay involved with choir in middle school and auditioned for a play here and there. I loved it.

I didn't start dancing, formally, until let's see, sophomore year in high school. I was in the musical "Little Shop of Horrors" as one of the 17 doo wop girls. (Yes, in the original there are only three, but our director decided it best if 7-8 girls sang the one part.) So I had to learn choreography and what better choreography to learn than music from the 50s. It was so much fun! It was a thrill to be able to express this silly, theatrical side of myself because for so long, even still, I keep it at bay. The for one of our multicultural assemblies, I volunteered to perform the Mambo with the only other Mexi-American (who happened to be also my psedo little brother) and it all came flooding at me like a side-ways flash from Lost (you like how I did that?) I thought to myself: "omigosh! I love this music, I can actually move, look at my hips? I can *feel* it..." So it was no surprised that when I was exposed to Salsa my freshman year in college, I was hooked.

Now, I'm not saying I wish I was all "Jazz hands" and such (I love "Bring it on"!) because I don't. I like who I am, but I could use a few self-improvements here and there. I love performing, singing and dancing, but that's just my performer self. Then there is the real me. The self-contained, quirky Andrea. But ms. quirks sometimes REALLY wants to cut loose and that's where performer me needs to step in. And what does that for me? Dance.

So this sounds so dramatic. No, I"m not going to Julliard, I don't care for ballet or Jazz and the thought of needing/wanting to learn hip-hop makes my tummy convulse. But the thought of just letting go and doing what I love half an hour every day, is quite appealing. I like my life, I like how its going (for now) and there are some areas that I definitely could change, but dance makes it that much more tolerable. It gives me a space to vent and to just be. And an added bonus? It's given me quite the ego boost...and I really need it. When I look at myself in the mirror while dancing to the latest routine in our burlesque class or tease n tone, I realize: "dude, I'm not as fat as I thought" or "wow, I actually DO look sexy doing this" and it gives me that extra pep, that extra confidence if I were to EVER go up to a guy and say hello, because regardless of what that guy might say or think, I can look back at the memory of my gyrating my hips and thinking "too bad for you guy, you're gonna miss out".

And what prevented me from taking dance seriously? Fear. Fear of sucking, fear of what others thought of me, fear of liking it even... So like many, after a 5 year relationship, I looked at myself and said "what do YOU want to do?" I told myself: I want to learn how to Argentine Tango. And the same answer popped up. "Oh you can't, you're terrified of physical contact with strangers, plus you always said you wanted to dance this with a boyfriend." (this is the third Andrea speaking, the one that kind of doesn't like me.) And so I told her "Fuck it. I don't care. This is what I want so shut your face." And her face did shut.

And yes, I'm one of those odd birds who only likes specific physical contact. Dancing at clubs was always very difficult and traumatizing for me. Can you blame me? I was raised Catholic. Being touched by someone that was NOT your husband is kind of no no. So I've developed this love/hate relationship with touching and hugging. And three months into Tango came the close embrace. Yeah, the embrace where you're basically boob to boob on the guy. It took me that whole month not to cringe. Not cuz the guy was smelly or inappropriate, but because I wanted to turn and run. But I wanted to learn and be good at Argentine Tango more. And now, almost a year later, I'm a close embrace whore. "Would you like to dance? Close embrace? Thank you!"

Now, why Argentine Tango over Salsa, you might ask? Salsa is fun and flowy and out there and in your face and sexual...Does that sound like me? Ok, maybe in the bedroom (did I just say that?!) Tango, in my opinion, is more like me: quietly passionate, self-contained but bubbling below the surface. The sexuality is not in your face, but in the subtly of the movements and the look in your eye. That's more how I am on an everyday basis and even though hugging complete strangers "titty to titty" as they say is TOTALLY out of my comfort zone...well, I like to do things that challenge so go figure. Salsa is fun, but that's all it will ever be...just fun, like that hot guy you flirt with but would never consider dating.

I know I may not be the best, most talented or graceful dancing, but I'm willing to put the work in to try. So what I've decided is to start working on strength training and flexibility versus just cardio. I can't run any more *tear* so most of my work out will solely benefit Argentine Tango. In addition to Tango, I also do burlesque dancing (really more of a work out) as well as tease n tone. I like moving my body in those sexy, sultry ways, but I like to move them in a safe environment and what better than a class full of women. Ok, sure, there might be some lesbians but I choose to ignore that. I guess I know my own power and don't want some dude coming up to me and humping my leg ;) Yes, I've had that happen before...Ah college.

So dancing? Check. Work out? Here I come. I've decided to join the Portland Bar Method. I've not started yet but it sounds like something that will be right up my alley. I've tried yoga and it just never worked out for me. I tried pilates and its OK, but I'm hoping the Bar will be more of a dancer's work out than anything and if I end up losing a few inches here and there, well fantastic. All I really want to do is gain strength in my legs and back so I can do turns and bend.

So off to my next journey. On the schedule for today? Argentine Tango. Practice makes perfect.

No wonder I've always liked dance movies...

Monday, May 10, 2010


This past Sunday was Mother's Day and I made reservations at Springwater Grill in Sellwood for us at 10:30am. It was all of us except for Dimitri (he's was with his mother) and Kim (who sadly had to work.)

I know families have their ups and downs. I know families can be close or far apart, but what I took away from my family this past Sunday is this overwhelming love I have for them.

I think when I was younger, I worried that if I didn't have someone, a partner, I'd die a very sad and lonely death. I feared the day would never come when I'd get married and create my own family. I want what my parents have (a 40+ year marriage), I want what my oldest brother has (an almost 10 year marriage) and I want what my older brother has...his media naranja, a marriage. But I now I know, whether I am single or with a partner, my family will always have my back. Being loved and part of a family does not mean I have to find one person solely, I'm loved by many friends and family and I'm finally starting to see, feel and believe that. I am no longer scared of living my life not within a marriage or childless because I have my nephews to love and its such a relief to no longer be scared.

It's really hard for me to articulate exactly what this all means to be, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that I am happy. I am so lucky to have a family this awesome and this close knit. We are not without our faults or our bad days, but I'd rather hang out with them all day, than a whole week with out them.

What's even luckier is that not only are they my family, I like each and everyone that's married into it...even their siblings. Man, my bros did a good job!

Anyway, I'm an inarticulate mess expressing how much I love my family and how lucky I am to have each and everyone of them...even if ONE of them drives me bonkers ;)

*note* These pictures are from Thanksgiving of 09 courtesy of Morgan Matthews.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Karaoke, and past reflection

Since I was a little girl, I've always loved to sing and dance. I was never trained in either, but I loved it nonetheless. I think I have a natural ability for both, since my mom and dad were avid and natural dancers back in their barrio days in Mexico. Looking back at my childhood, I realized that even though I did what was expected of me, what was good, I really rebelled against a lot of what my parents loved. My dad LOVED to dance, so I decided I would NOT dance. He wanted me to learn how to change my oil...I refused to listen. "You need to learn how to cook so you can get a man" I heard early on from him. F that, I thought. I'm my own woman. And what still gets to me is that my dad says "Your mine." Ok, I don't mean to paint my dad in a bad light. He's actually quite an awesome dude. He's super outgoing, funny, not afraid to shake his "bote" to the music and always willing to give advice. All these things were early on in his life and he's become more loose in his old school beliefs as time goes on. He helps my mom around the house cleaning, he folds laundry...but the food he leaves to my mom, but he is by no means helpless. I guess, when I was younger, I just felt like if I had to conform to all these rules about being good, I will rebel in other things and that was just doing the opposite of what my parents like. Also, I went through a brief identity crisis in middle school, so to me being liking what my parents liked made me that much more Mexican...which I did NOT like. Thank GOD I'm over that! Hence why I think little Mexi-American kids need teachers that look like them, yada yada yada...

So anyway, I got really into singing in 6th grade and hadn't stopped until my Freshman year in college. I sang all through middle school, all through high school, took some cheap ass voice lessons from an old crabby drunk emotionally insensitive old lady who would fart all the time, and I was on my way. I competed for regionals and my senior year I made it to state. I didn't with, but at least I finally got there after competing for 4 years. Also, since I was a senior, I could sing a solo at our winter concert. They wanted me to go with the usual, English or Italian, but I rebelled and went with Spanish. My teacher was really upset but I fought and worked hard on my song! When I graduated, I didn't think I would be a singer, but I just enjoyed it far too much. I loved being in the musicals because it allowed to express a side of myself that I don't reveal every day: Performer Andrea. I don't feel comfortable carrying her around in my skin, but she's there and I like her. I think a lot of this has to due with my culture and of course my family.

As a Latino, the best trait you can have is being humble. Never inflate yourself, you'll be seen as a pompous ass. So I never did. Sure, my parents told me I was smart and pretty, but I never felt like I was allowed to say that about myself. I'm still working on that....
So I suppose my point is that I like to be the center of attention. It's a weird mix though. I LOVE to perform and have all eyes on me and I can't wait for the day I get married because that's MY day, which is why I LOVE my birthday. Its the one day I'm allowed to be selfish and want everything to be about me...But, in my daily life, I don't allow myself that luxury but at the same time, I wouldn't want that. I'm not the life of the party, nor do I want to be. I'm not a social butterfly. Hosting parties makes me a bit nervous...but if I were to perform...that's another thing. It's my job, it's what I'm doing, I have a gig.

I've only Karaoked a handful of times. One time in HS, once in college, a couple times post college. For some reason, I get this weird stage fright that makes me unable to sing in front of family and friends, but strangers, bring it on! But a couple years ago, I decided I needed to change that. Singing was something I was good and I want to share it and I want other so see this skill as well, cuz by golly, I'm pretty good!
After college I took three years of voice lessons with an awesome teacher, but I quit because I felt like I wasn't going anywhere with it. I had no recitals, no musicals, no band to perform with. It was all kind of pointless, but I do realize now, my voice is MUCH better thanks to those three years. So on my 29th birthday, I decided I would have a karaoke party with all of my friends and loved ones. I was SO scared! They were ALL THERE (ok, except for you Kristin!) and all I could think about was, what will they think of me. I've hyped this up so much, they're going to think I suck. I think that's the other thing...the pressure. They know I've been singing since 6th grade so they expect Christina Aguilera up there! Ay!

But whatever, I got up there and I did it and I did it again and again and again... I loved it! I told myself this is something I wanted to do, that I loved singing.
Fast forward almost a year and I'd not returned to a Karaoke bar since. Not because I don't want to but, I don't really have friends who do it and I got really involved with dance and I have friends that do do that. But a friend of a friend was having auditions for this dancing girl group and the auditions were at a karaoke bar.
So, I gathered my two songs, a ballad and an upbeat tempo song, and off I went with a friend. I was so nervous cuz not only was it kind of last minute, I was getting over a cold so my voice was about 95 percent. I had to choose songs that fit with my voice, not that I necessarily wanted to sing, but I went with it.

The first was a miss. I was so nervous and I had to sing after this guy that sang a heavy metal song. So here I come with my ballad by the Dixie Chicks, "I believe in love" to a room full of drunk hipsters. Ah! I had nothing witty to say, so I just started singing. I couldn't find my voice, I couldn't hear my notes, but as the song went on, I got better and loosened up. Thank GOD. The next song was my uptempo, but as the hours dragged, then two, then THREE HOURS, I just wanted to get it over with, so once they called my name I was all "FINALLY!" and just got up there and went with it. Bonnie Tyler's "Holding out for a Hero" was a hit with the now 12 member audience. I know I faltered just a bit, but I even did a little choreographed arms mimicking the video. This is an audition anyway, right? It was so much fun. At times, I closed my eyes and that helped so much, but I just felt like a dork doing that, so I'd open them once in a while.

After it was all said and done, my friend said I did a great job, that he was blown away. A couple other people came up and complimented me. And since I'm new Andrea not old Andrea, all I said was thank you. I didn't down play or make excuses, just "Thank you".

So, I probably won't find out if I made the girl group until this weekend, but regardless of what happens, I'm going to start singing Karaoke. I know I'm a good singer, I have tons of fun and people enjoy my singing, I just need to gain the confidence to get up there and make it look effortless...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

First hike of the Season-Klickitack

It's been a while since I posted a book review or well anything as of late. I've been really into self-help books and honestly, no offense, but the social commentary I'd have on those is a little too personal for public blogs, so I'm keeping those nuggets to myself. I need to finish up The Greatest Generation and then I'll start on Hero Street. I'm sure I'll have something to say about that one.

But in the meantime, the weather is finally getting nice here in Portland, Or so a few friends and I have been trying to get out and enjoy with with a few weekend hikes.

A couple weeks ago, by the magic of FB, a friend posted about going on a Sunday hike and if anyone was interested. Luckily, I was actually awake that early enough so I said I'd go. By 11:30am I was at her house and ready to go. I hadn't asked her any details about where we were going, how long, or if I should bring food. You see, I'm a newbie with the whole hiking thing. My family did not go hiking nor camping. Pop always said "Why would I pay to sleep on the floor when I slept on the floor when I was young because we were so poor." Good point. So we never did that and I grew accustomed to indoor activities: movies, dancing, drawing, singing, driving. There was the occasional walk around the neighborhood and maybe trip to the park, but never a full blown day of hiking somewhere beautiful, so when I met my roommate, who is super into the outdoors (except for the camping part!) I made a vow that I was going to get into it too. It's just not one of my default activities, but I'm trying.

So as mentioned, two weeks ago, my friend Kate and I ventured 1.5 hours east to the lovely area of Mt. Hood and crossed the White Salmon bridge into Washington. It was just the perfect temperature and perfect sun light. I even got a little sun on my neck.

Here is a shot of us driving toward Klickatack on the Washington side. Even in a car, its just beautiful

Afterward, Kate mentioned this beautiful rest area with a view. And that it was!

From there, we started. This used to be an old railway area. It was a very easy hike that was a long the river. I couldn't have asked for anything more. I was so happy it wasn't a hard hike either!

We did see a ton of wildlife including a frog, a variety of butterflies, vultures, herons and even seagulls, which I found to be quite funny.

Finally, we were coming to the end of our hike and off in the distance you could see Mt. Hood.

Perfect ending to a lovely day. I'd never hung out with Kate alone, as she is my best-friend from college's childhood friend (think about it...) so it was nice to have a wonderful background to a blossoming new relationship.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Good bye Ugly Betty

It's been 4 years since we first heard and began watching the weekly escapades of Betty, the "ugly" assistant to a high fashion magazine, played by America Ferrera.

It's hard for me to put into words what this show means to me. I kind of see America and Betty as synonymous. First, America starred in Real Woman Have Curves (a movie that spoke to me on multiple levels), then she continued on a road of independent and commercial success (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Under the Same Moon.) So it is hard to disassociate her from my love for Betty Suarez.

You see, growing up a Mexican-American girl a white suburb of Portland, Oregon wasn't necessarily hard but it also wasn't that great. I was the only Mexican/Latina girl around for years. Everywhere I turned, no one looked at me. To an extent, I didn't even look like my own mother, who's light skin and dark hair set her a apart from other dark skinned Mexicans. To further put the space between us, my brother told me I was picked up from the garbage, so that didn't really help my sense of feeling a part from everyone.

Now, I do know what its like to be in the majority, rather that the minority and that feels weird too. I lived in Mexico for 2 years when I was younger. Everyone around me looked like me...but I was American and it was almost like they could sniff it out. Something about the way I walked, talked, carried myself, was different from those Mexicans.

Finally back in the states, it was more of the same for me. There was no one on tv, at my school, in movies or even in history books, that I could identify with. No one looked like me, and I think people really underestimate the power that can have on a child. I think this is why I love history so much. It's a constant investigation on looking for myself.

When I went to college, I finally began to meet more Latinos who came from a variety of backgrounds. Those who were recent immigrants, first-generation, or sixth generation and in all honesty, the ones I could identify the most with was with the first generation: our parents spoke Spanish, we were bilingual, we tread the waters between our two cultures with a heavy heart. We don't want to make one feel less...

So years after middle school, high school and even college (a few years that is) comes Betty, this Mexican-American pretty, but dorky, fashion senseless, smart, confident and hard working gal on the television screen. I was blown away. I finally saw myself. I kept thinking "how can I look up to a gal that is 3 years younger than me?" but I did. I looked up to Betty as I look up to America.

The story had multiple layers to it: young woman making it her professional career, Latina woman, ugly duckling, immigration, etc.. but for me, what really struck me was that a family that finally looked like me, was made to seem normal. A family that had their oldest daughter still living at home, was normal. Sitting around the family table chatting and eating, normal. Being so close to your family, normal. All of this was always seen as a joke in other shows, something to be made fun of, but the truth is, this was very much how we grew up. My brother had to move back in and live with us after his divorce. Numerous time my other brother and I moved back in with my parents after college or lay offs...Normal, regular, fit in was all I ever wanted. I guess I just wanted to feel part of this country that I love so much. And that's a bit of what Ugly Betty did for me.

But now its time to move on. I've had her Bettyisms buzzing in my head for four years now. I've had examples of her confidence, and vulnerability taking her to places she wants and deserves to go. Now its my turn. Now its my turn to find my inner Ugly Betty and figure out what life has set out for me.

And for all of this: the "ugliness", the laughter, the vulnerability, the doubts, the love, the warmth-I thank you Ugly Betty, I thank you for making me feel like I belong.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Greatest Generation By Tom Brokaw

What I've learned from reading a variety of non-fiction books is that journalists say it best and Tom Brokaw is no exception.

I've been reading "The Greatest Generation" by Tom Brokaw for a few months now. One might think its taken me this long because I'm either a slow reader or it's boring. Well, one out two is correct. Usually, I have a tendency to devour books. I over compensate my slow reading with skimming and end up missing most of the point, so I deliberately decided to take my time with this book and only read it while I'm at the gym. Plus, its a hard back so its easy to prop open.

A few months back, my mom had a stack of books my brother was giving away, kind of a purging of his collection. I saw the book and remember hearing good reviews, this however, was before I discovered my love for all things WWII. I picked it up and asked my mom "How can Renato be giving this away?!" she said his wife had a copy, so if I wanted this one, I could have it. So I snatched it up. It sat on my bookshelf, along with all my other anxious books (yeah, I totally just anthropomorphize my book, what?! They're excited to get read, I know it!) until I felt a pull toward it. In the meantime, I read a few books of fiction, a non-fiction book about past lives, some short stories, many self help and finally, I was back to WWII and I settled in for this epic story, as if I were sitting at the feet of my grandfather (note to readers: I've never met any of my grandfathers, and even if I did, they wouldn't have been in WWII, they were both Mexican. More on that later.)

I often wonder why I have this "draw" to WWII or history in general. I love all things history. If I narrow it down, I come up with US History as my main focus and if I look a little deeper, I have a swelling heart for Ethnic Studies, any US History related to people of color. Within US History, what draws me the most is WWII, the Civil Rights movement, the civil war and the contact, in no particular order. But yet, time after time, I'm drawn to WWII, the greatest generation. Perhaps (and seriously, I'm just throwing theories out there) it's because my family wasn't here yet. I find it odd that I'd be drawn to something I'm not a part of. I think its also looking for this sense of belonging, looking for faces like mine during "The Greatest Generation" just so I know, I belong too. As I've mentioned, my family wasn't here in the 40s. My family's US history begins in 1969, after my parents got married and my dad moved back to the US. In history class, we'd have projects where they said "go ask your grandparents about WWII or where were they when Kennedy got shot?" And I never could. For one, my grandfathers were both in Mexico at the time and had no involvement in WWII, not even as the Aztec Eagle (Mexican fighter pilots that helped the US during WWII). I suppose, I always felt out of place, like I didn't belong. I think legions of immigrants post 1950s might feel that way, not having a kind of connection to the toddlerness that was our country at the turn of the century. I constantly fight for a sense of belonging here, even though I often see myself as an other. And the thing is, I am an other, but that doesn't make me less of an American than any one else. And I don't say that because someone has outright said that, I think I say it because I too am trying to convince myself that I belong in this country, even if sometimes it doesn't feel that way. I've lived in Mexico, and although I blend in, I still feel different. I live here and even though I've slowly started to not stick out like a sore thumb, I do sometimes feel like an other. So again, that's why I look through our US history to try to find myself in it, why during WWII? Perhaps because it was one of the most important times in our country, one of the most complicated times in our country, a kind of schizophrenia was going on. We must save the Jews from Nazi persecution, but yet, we had segregated armed forces. African-American, Indian-American, Asian-American soldiers all fought one enemy over seas, but came back to find themselves fighting another one: prejudice, Jim Crow etc. I find all this fascinating in a disturbing kind of way, but still I search, I search for a face that looks like mine through all the historical rubble.

Another side to this coin is a sense of responsibility. I feel our generation has lost touch with what's important in life. We're all about instant gratification: twitter, Facebook, pop culture. I want, instead of I need, right now, instead of patience. Rash decision, instead of carefully thought out plans. I'm not sure I'm making much sense on this, but all I can say is that reading about what people had to go through to get to wear they are, especially woman, has given me more of a sense of responsibility to do my part as well as a sense gratitude for the crap they had to endure just so I could go to college and/or not have to avoid restaurants that had signs saying "No Mexicans or dogs allowed".

I guess what I'm getting to with this entry is that history is an important part in the global sense of connection and belonging. Through someones act somewhere, I am where I am, and I personally find comfort in that. My sense of belonging has been damaged for quite sometime now but slowly, I've been finding ways to chisel away at the those parts of myself.

I'm not yet done with this book. I probably have 100 more pages to go, but I highly recommend it, not just to a WWII lover, but a lover of personal stories, personal histories. We all have one, we are all important, we all belong.